M a y / J u n 2 0 0 1
The November/December issue is a delight. The revised layout, the new features, and most of all, the articles on social justice, study circles, and the UUA Principles and Purposes really convey the dynamic and vital sense of our association.
Ron Malzerwhat soul?
La Crosse, Wisconsin
I am amused and bothered by the use of the word "soul" on the cover of the November/December issue ("Five Global Trends to Challenge the Soul"). UUs seem to avoid the "God" word and so do I because the word has too many different meanings. Now I notice "soul" being bantered about. David Hume and the Buddha taught that neither logic nor experience gives any reason to believe in a soul.
politically correct thuggery?
I feel obliged to respond to the barrage of strange responses to my article, "From the Mouths of Babes," ("Reflections," September/October). The article dealt with my experience at a high school choir awards banquet where I quietly but firmly chided a female student at the table next to ours who repeatedly, and in a very audible voice, made vulgar and inappropriate remarks about students going to the stage, suggesting they were promiscuous or homosexual. The words included "ho," "slut," and "gay," among others. Because my son was due to receive an award, I did not want to hear the same rude speculation directed at him. I turned to her, still seated, and said that I wanted her to stop and why. She chose to react by going off to the girl's restroom and crying for the rest of the 90-minute program.
The four letter writers disagreed and proceeded to accuse me of "eavesdropping," "politically correct thuggery," and contradicting UU principles and the democratic principles of freedom of speech. One writer said my article made him "sick to my stomach. He should apologize to the young woman." Another writer imagined me to be "a big angry man." Are only small women allowed to speak out against vulgar language, sexism, and homophobia?
The primary reason my wife and I joined the UUA was because of its longstanding policy of promoting positive attitudes toward gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered people and for fighting homophobic initiatives of the religious right. We are the parents of two sons, one gay and one straight.
Our gay older son, a young adult, has been a missing person for more than four years. A handsome, charming young man of many gifts and talents, he also has been emotionally troubled throughout his life because of reactions to his sexual orientation. When he was a teenager, his biological mother (not my wife) evicted him from her house because she could not accept his sexual orientation or continue to deal with his emotional problems. My wife and I are convinced that society's rejection of him as a gay person was one reason he ran away from his problems.
Since my son's disappearance, I have been increasingly angry at the way gay people are treated by the rest of the world. Knowing the agony that my son went through growing up, I have adopted a no-tolerance policy of homophobic comments, whether made purposefully, casually, or in ignorance. This does not mean that I go around looking for confrontation, but it does mean I speak up when the occasion arises. There is no interference with other people's right to speak. I simply tell them that I want them to stop. It is their choice how they react.
The student was not recognizing the inherent worth and dignity of every person; I exercised my own right of conscience and spoke up. Sometimes in our search for equity and compassion, we also have to mete out a little justice.
There is no reason for anyone -- big or small, male or female, old, middle-aged or young -- to hesitate when standing up to homophobic remarks or any other form of bigotry.
Clifton Spiresmore on drugs
The Rev. Mike Young ("Commentary: The Drug War's Failure," November/December) states "heroin and morphine continue to be withheld from terminally ill patients, even when nothing else successfully controls their pain." This is incorrect. When my mother was diagnosed as terminally ill with lung cancer at 94, she was given carefully worked out dosages of both cocaine (for her cough) and morphine (for the pain). The medical community routinely uses morphine and many other addictive drugs to relieve pain. Although I am an advocate for the legalization and therefore more easily controlled distribution of drugs, this glaring error makes the entire article suspect.
It was a joy to read the Rev. Mike Young's "Commentary." For almost 30 years I have been preaching and writing essays against the stupidity and brutality of our nation's war against drugs, which targets several relatively unimportant drugs while ignoring the chief addictive killers: nicotine, alcohol, and even caffeine.
Ernest A. Bragg Jr.,MDcompeting for office
Like many other UUs, I am concerned about our country's campaign finance system. John Buehrens put it well in "Horizons" (November/December): "In a democracy public forums shouldn't belong only to the wealthy and special interests."
It was therefore with some chagrin that I came across a full-page ad paid for by "The Campaign to Elect William Sinkford," and a smaller ad touting Diane Miller for UUA President. Each ad was eye-catching and slickly designed. Each campaign has its own Web site and, clearly, supporters with money.
This feels like a violation of our principles. I propose that candidates for UUA office receive a given amount of free space in UU World to express their views and a page on the UUA Web site, but that paid advertising be banned.
Pat Lamannagloom or revolution
Poughkeepsie, New York
Neil Chethik's "Global Issues" (November/December) describes five issues that call for work by social activists. The predominant tone is one of gloom, in marked contrast to an article in the November/December Utne Reader that describes "Five Signs of the Coming Revolution." The five signs are a resurgence of citizens' movements in our country and worldwide; the maturing of our population; growing resistance to corporate control of our lives; increasing interest in spiritual growth; and young people's desire for less violence and hate, more cooperation, true democracy, and connections to people all over the world.
Penn Valley, California
I am concerned about Neil Chethik's extreme anti-growth rhetoric. International corporations represent one of the most positive moral developments of our time because they are building the conditions necessary for international law and cooperation. By internationalizing their activities, they necessitate stronger international laws and institutions to regulate them.
Nike did not invent child labor. But it made child labor relevant to us (since we wear the products of their labor) and enabled us to help change a situation halfway around the world through legal sanctions and boycotts. Our efforts should focus on extending legal protections to women, children, and the environment, not on destroying the means that make those protections possible.
Stopping legal and technological progress would only condemn the Third World to unspeakable misery, women and children to continued enslavement, and the environment to unfettered degradation.
I am a bit taken aback that nothing was included about armaments and war in Neil Chethik's article, especially since our country is involved in many wars by supplying weapons.
East Syracuse, New York
A picture accompanying Neil Chethik's interesting article depicted ominous-looking nuclear cooling towers -- spewing harmless water vapor. On the same page, global warming is attributed partially to fossil fuel use. Nuclear power is part of the solution, not the problem. Nuclear plants discharge neither carbon dioxide (a greenhouse gas), sulfur dioxide (an acid-rain contributor), nor ash particulates. They even emit less airborne radiation than is found in the smoke from boilers fueled by coal. Nuclear power provides 80 percent of the total electric power needs of France, where the picture was taken. Its citizens enjoy some of the cheapest electricity in Europe as well as cleaner air.
Missouri City, Texas
The truism that "a picture is worth a thousand words" is alive and well. We see pictures of nuclear cooling towers, scars from clearcutting, and a young woman working in a garment sweatshop in Hong Kong. Nuclear power contributes nothing to global warming and replaces fossil-fueled plants that do. Clearcutting small patches of forest is sometimes better forestry than selective cutting. And it might be possible for the woman to be glad for her job.
These pictures present a shortcut to actual thinking. They are pretty and dramatic, but they contradict the text, which stresses the need to investigate issues before climbing on board.
Dave Johnsonpopulation explosion
A salute to UU Meredith Burke for her reminder in the "Global Issues" article that excessive immigration is the driving force behind the rampant population growth in our nation. Lately, our fellow UUs have become increasingly aware that continuing to open our borders will only exacerbate the degradation of our environment and quality of life and do little to relieve the suffering of most of humanity.
A call for a return to pre-1965 limits on immigration is not an attack on immigrants. We simply cannot cram more people into a finite area with finite resources without profoundly adverse consequences. Other advanced nations recognize this. Ours has yet to face reality.
Robert Stearns and Trish Judd
Santa Fe, New Mexico
Chethik correctly identified population growth as an important issue but dodged saying how drastic the US population problem is and how drastic our solution must be. Our population will double, perhaps as soon as 2044. More than 90 percent of that increase will be from immigrants since 1970 and their descendants. Over half a billion American consumers would be an environmental, economic, and social disaster for us and for the world, especially for those at the lower end of the socio-economic scale. We must reduce both the birth rate and immigration to no more than replacement level. That's 2.1 babies per couple and no more than 200,000 immigrants a year. How can we tell other countries to stop their population growth until we have done it ourselves?
Thomas P. McKenna
I have a difficult time accepting that Meredith Burke, a "UU activist," actually believes that one key to population control is to control immigration. For the earth's population as a whole, immigration results in no net change of population. If one considers the implications of immigration more deeply, Burke's view appears incredibly intolerant. Does Burke believe that people immigrate for fun? The majority of immigrants come to America for the improved living conditions -- the chance for fairness, justice, dignity, and democracy. I applaud Sanford Cloud. The racial and religious shift that will result from immigration will present a test for our UU tenets of tolerance and celebration of diversity.
Huntington Beach, California
Having spent more than half of my life working in the area of family planning and abortion, I was appalled that Meredith Burke proposed closing our borders to stabilize the population. That sounds impractical, impossible, and even downright un-Unitarian. Let's press our legislators to appropriate more money not only for education and family planning but also for helping women develop skills to support the children they have. If women have information, access to medical services, and economic stability, they will choose the right course of action.
Worldwatch Institute president Lester Brown is wrong that "the best way to reduce population growth" is to supply women "with birth control devices." The best way to reduce population is to have all boys get safe, virtually painless, reversible vasectomies. When a grown man really wants to raise a family, his vas deferens can be reconnected for that purpose.
John R. Spoffroth
I wish to correct a misimpression left by Neil Chethik's article on global issues. Controlling domestic population growth goes hand in hand with controlling global growth. Those who support environmentally responsible US population policy also support the international family planning and women-in-development programs essential to achieving third world population/resource balance.
We activists on the first Earth Day in 1970 sought to stabilize the US population in order to reduce both our contribution to world pollution and our resource demands upon other nations. Since 1970 two things have changed: the US population has increased from 200 million to 275 million and the source of population growth has changed from births to native-born women to immigration and births to immigrants. Neither adds to our carrying capacity nor makes it easier for a nation with less than 5 percent of the world's population to reduce its 25-percent share of global carbon dioxide emissions.
B. Meredith Burkebeautiful principles
Senior Fellow, Negative Population Growth, Inc.
Santa Barbara, California
Thanks to Warren Ross for the great article about our UU principles ("Shared Values," November/December). I'm cutting out the beautiful texts and pasting them on decorative paper for my family's wall.
Chagrin Falls, Ohio
"A vast entity, a unified reality outside us and within us in which we live and move"? (Lex Crane, "Some Assumptions Underlying the Seven Principles.") Now there is a principle worthy of Unitarian Universalist endorsement. The spirit of every great religious teacher that ever lived is within that reality, but only we would have the guts to call it God.
John Fervershallow principles
Sauk City, Wisconsin
Warren Ross reports that Beacon Press and the religious education department use the Principles and Purposes to dictate the publications they develop. The UU Church in Waterloo, Ontario, recites them in worship. I find this very disturbing. The preamble to the Principles and Purposes makes it clear that the document is a covenant among congregations, not individuals. When the Principles are printed in the hymnal and recited in services, our backsliding into creedalism is complete.
I find the Principles themselves lacking in substance, which is to be expected when one does theology by committee. Lex Crane's quasi-kabbalistic interpretation demonstrates the convoluted lengths one needs to go to in order to extract any meaning out of them. If we invested half the time we spend parroting the Principles and Purposes studying the writings of Adams, Skinner, Wieman, or Hart-shorne, then Unitarian Universalism would have some serious meat to it.
The Principles and Purposes have become the Unitarian Creed. They are not an adequate summation of our religion, nor do they come close to the "depths of human experience." Our tradition of free thought and non-creedalism has been violated.
The Rev. Dr. Joshua Snyder
Second Unitarian Church
I wonder how the people facing death in Nazi concentration camps would have felt about the inherent worth and dignity of Hitler, Himmler, or Goebbels. Do thoughtful UUs never have qualms about this remarkably kindly view of the beasts among us? Do we have some kind of rationale that justifies shutting our eyes to the realities of life so that we can say, "Everybody is really a nice guy underneath it all"?
Reynold Greenstonesome welcome
The November/December issue ("UU News: Welcoming Congregation Milestone") announced that 25 percent of UU congregations have completed the Welcoming Congregation program. We have analogous news from the Heart of Dixie. In November, 60 percent of the voters in Alabama chose to remove the prohibition against interracial marriage from our state constitution, which the media treated as a point of pride. We were saddened, however, by the lack of overwhelming voter support for the removal of the prohibition.
We had the same reaction to the news in UU World. we naively thought the of Welcoming Congregations percentage would be much higher. Maybe congregations are like voters. Some believe the right things quietly, but can't be bothered with making it official.
The steps in the Welcoming Congregation process and the subsequent certification do matter. We see the difference they have made and continue to make in the entire life of our congregation and as a visible statement for all who enter our doors. We hope that the next tally will show that many more of our congregations are "voting" publicly on this issue.
Alice Dilbeck and Betsy Applegateauto motive?
I seem to have missed something in "Living the Faith: The Seventh Principle Car" (November/December): the price. As a retired person on a limited income, I want to know how long it would take me to purchase one.
M. R. Eucalyptusnot that young
Kansas City, Missouri
When I read the story "C*UUYAN Picks Justice Coordinator" ("UU News," November/December), I felt 14 years younger. The story identified the Continental Unitarian Universalist Young Adult Network, which serves UUs ages 18 to 35, as a "youth" organization. Lumping young adults in with youth shows disrespect for the thousands of UUs who are working to make our denomination more welcoming to young adults and to UUs of all ages.
Meg Muckenhoupttwo cheers for accuracy
Facilitator, Continental UU Young Adult Network
The essay "Two Cheers for Democracy" mentioned by John Buehrens ("Horizons," November/December) is by E. M. Forster and not George Orwell and can be found in a volume of the same title.
UU World XV:2 (May/June 2001): 6-11.
magazine is the journal of the
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