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grateful fathers

 UU World Jan/Feb 2001 Parenting is the hardest role in my life. Neil Chethik's article [Fathers, Sons, and Loss, January/ February], full of insight and warmth, helps me in this daily struggle and helps me sort out the enormous baggage I carry from my own relationship with my father. The article moved me to tears, anger, frustration, and possibly action towards attempting once again to resolve things with my dad. Thank you.

New Rochelle, New York

Thank you for the two positive articles about fatherhood [Fathers, Sons, and Loss, and Reclaiming the Best of Fatherhood, January/February]. Many UUs who work as professional social workers or shelter volunteers see so many families with absent or abusive fathers that it almost seems like the norm. The truth is that fathers are very important in the upbringing of their children. Eighty-five percent of prisoners behind bars and 60 percent of forcible rapists were fatherless boys. Fatherless girls are 50 percent more likely to become pregnant than girls whose fathers live in their homes. I am glad to see that UU World appreciates the perseverance of the majority of fathers who, with little training or support, try to be the best fathers they can be for their children.

Oakdale, California

liberating men

The Industrial Revolution took fathers out of the home, depriving boys of their most important role model. Most boys of the last several generations have grown up with no one to teach them how to be men. The January/February articles on fatherhood encourage me to believe that we are finally rediscovering the importance of fathers--a rediscovery that offers the greatest hope for boys and may mark the beginning of a true equality.

Raytown, Missouri

Mary Pipher's comment, "It takes two people instead of one, or one person working very hard" to earn enough money to support a family these days [Reclaiming the Best of Fatherhood, page 27], reminds me of the Taoist parable about a man who decides he does not like his shadow anymore. He tries to run away from it at an ever increasing speed. He eventually collapses and dies from exhaustion. If he had found a tree, then he could have rested in its shade, and his shadow would have disappeared.

The man represents people employed outside of the home. His shadow is economic inflation. His efforts to escape his shadow are our efforts to increase per capita income. The tree represents our families; its shade is the "relationship wealth" to be enjoyed should we choose to be with our families.

The women's liberation movement should be accompanied by its perfect complement: the daddies' liberation movement. This movement would free dads from distant workplaces to work at home as full-time nurturers of their offspring. If all families had only one income, things would be more affordable for all families.

Carrboro, North Carolina

grateful daughter

I just finished reading Neil Chethik's article, Fathers, Sons, and Loss, [January/February] through a curtain of tears. As a woman, why did I cry while reading about father-son relationships?

First, because it brought back to my mind all I have ever learned of the wounds men carry around their whole lives because of undemonstrative, uncaring, demanding, or insensitive fathers. It also touched me deeply because, while reading it, I unconsciously assessed my relationship with my own father. He was the epitome of the remote, uninvolved, unavailable father. I always heard loud and clear the unspoken message, "You don't matter." I never took the chance to express any of my anger to him before he died 29 years ago, and I have been carrying it around with me for almost 60 years.

Sandy, Utah

amen and alleluia

Amen and Alleluia to Thomas Mikelson for his "Commentary" column in the January/February issue [On Extravagance and Direct Religious Experience]. We are not growing as a movement at the rate that we could because too many people believe that any display of emotion during a worship service is beneath us.

What makes a worship service a religious experience is the possibility of personal transformation that inspires people to want to belong to that community. We will continue to miss out on many people's gifts as long as we give out the signal that emotions are not welcome in our communities.

The Rev. Egbert Ethelred Brown said it best: "Religion is ethics touched by emotion. If the intellect dominates and there is no hint of emotion, a cold and barren matter-of-factness results. Conversely, if emotion leads, unguided by intellect, we are doomed to a wild sea of fanaticism. Yet mind and soul united create one music, grander than before."

St. Louis, Missouri

driven to golf

Recently I attended a service at a nearby church which featured a minister who was personable, warm, and engaging. His sermon on stress, however, was little more than an informational talk of the type one would find at an HMO workshop. This may be what passes for worship in more than a few of our congregations, but it's enough to drive you to golf.

Los Angeles, California

damping enthusiasm

I applaud the Rev. Mikelson's commentary. Our history is filled with traditions that have dampened enthusiasm. But do he and others have the wrong culprit? We are the church of the open mind, open hand, open heart--but the open mind sets us apart. What keeps the mind open is the very rationality that too many leaders suggest is the thorn in our side. Stuffy, inflexible people dampen enthusiasm whether they are logical lunatics, self-proclaimed charismatics, or hug-a-minute emotivists. Why use rationality, the jewel in our crown, as a scapegoat?

Braintree, Massachusetts

fabled reserve?

Thomas Mikelson's Commentary [January/February] surprised me. As a 29-year, two-state, three-congregation UU, I've never seen a church with the sort of onerous procedures for becoming a member that he describes. More than that, in each church people have spoken of how happy they are to have found a warm and welcoming church, and how eager they are to join with us. I'm a transplanted Mass-achusetts native, though I didn't come to Unitarian Universalism until long after I moved out of the Comm-onwealth. Have I missed something about UU churches in my native state, or is this simply an example of the fabled "New England reserve"?

Springfield, Virginia

My experience of UU congregations has been quite the opposite of Thomas Mikelson's. I have felt able for the first time in my life to "sing from the bottom of [my] heart, to weep openly and to shout when the spirit says shout"--and clap, too!

Tucson, Arizona

As a new UU--having joined Central Unitarian Church of Paramus, New Jersey, in September--I read my first issue of UU World with interest. The Rev. Thomas Mikelson's Commentary particularly intrigued me. Had I been presented with the dry response Mikelson quotes when I attended my first UU service, I probably would never have darkened the doorway of that church again. On the other hand, I would likely have been turned off by a display of "popcorn testimony," as I was not raised in a tradition that encourages spontaneous reaction to emotions of the spirit.

Rutherford, New Jersey

feminist genesis

As a woman minister and as the author of Cakes for the Queen of Heaven, I am painfully aware of how women's history has often been trivialized, distorted, or just plain erased. It is especially painful to see that happening to UU women's history of the past quarter century. In his article on the Principles and Purposes [Shared Values, November/December], Warren Ross trivializes women's early efforts to remove sexist language from the Principles by referring to those efforts as "manhunts." He distorts the history of how the Women and Religion Resolution came to be, and erases altogether the role of the Women and Religion Movement in rewriting the Principles and Purposes.

Here's the scoop. Lucile Longview initiated the Women and Religion Resolution, gathered support for it, and presented it at the 1977 General Assembly, where it was passed unanimously. UUA President Paul Carnes then appointed a Continental Women and Religion Committee to implement the resolution. That committee organized the Women and Religion conference at Grailville in Loveland, Ohio, where Longview offered the workshop, "The UUA Principles--Do They Affirm Us as Women?" The first tentative wording of a new Principles and Purposes document was drawn up at the Women and Religion Convocation on Feminist Theology in East Lansing, Michigan, in 1980, beginning the process that would eventually involve the entire denomination.

Olympia, Washington

I was there from the beginning of the long process of examining patriarchy and integrating feminist perspectives into our lives, and I offer the following corrections to Warren Ross's history of the UUA's Principles and Purposes.

Passage of the UUA Women and Religion resolution in 1977 laid the foundation for revision of the UU principles. I conceived of and wrote the resolution and sent it to 15 associates around the continent, soliciting feedback. They encouraged me to proceed, and offered suggestions. At First Parish in Lexington, Massachusetts, six other laywomen, one layman, and I sent personal letters to members of churches, with copies of the petition to place the resolution on the agenda of the 1977 General Assembly. We received more than twice the requisite 250 signatures. The Joseph Priestley District submitted the resolution directly, with some text revisions. Both versions were placed on the GA Final Agenda. We lobbied friends, GA delegates, and presidential candidates to support the District's version, which passed unanimously.

Ross writes, "In 1977 the UUWF and its supporters put forward the Women in [sic] Religion resolution." The reverse was true: the UU Women's Federation supported the resolution written, revised, and submitted by individual UUs working together. With one brief sentence, Ross makes invisible the work of dedicated laywomen and men outside the hierarchy.

Lexington, Massachusetts

translating friends

I read Kimberly French's Soul Mates [January/February] with great interest because I knew both Dana McLean Greeley and Nikkyo Niwano personally. I want to call attention to the role that Masuo Nezu played in the profound and mutually energizing relationship between UUA President Greeley and Niwano, co-founder of Rissho Kosei-kai. Greeley spoke no Japanese; Niwano knew absolutely no English. The remarkable friendship between Niwano and Greeley depended on more than these two giants' effusive personalities. As their interpreter, Masuo Nezu was the indispensable link--almost the glue of their friendship and cooperation. His persistence in conveying to each the other's openness and eagerness for friendship--to say nothing of the wording for each the detail of their ideas--transcended culture and nominal faith, and helped to cement two kindred spirits.

Nezu served officially in Rissho Kosei-kai's publishing division, but he traveled at Niwano's side for meetings with foreign dignitaries. Nezu was far more than an interpreter; he worked long and hard to implement the vision of personal peace he shared with RKK's founder, to draw parallels between that vision and Greeley's social vision, and to keep Niwano's focus on world peace when other compelling interests could easily have sidetracked him.

I was privileged to be a close observer from the start because I was the first of several then-young UU ministers sent to Japan to work at renewing our long-standing interest in Japan. Both the Universalist and Unitarian denominations had sent missionaries to Japan in the 19th century, but neither denomination had had more than a writing relationship with the churches they had spawned since before World War II. I was sent in 1964, fresh out of theological school, to see how our ecclesiastical progeny were faring, to find out if Universalist Service Committee endowment funds were being well-spent there, and to explore potential denominational friendships, particularly among newly founded faiths.

One of those possibly friendly faiths was Rissho Kosei-kai. I helped their interfaith staff express their Buddhist beliefs more effectively in English. Nezu was one of my best students. At the end of my year, the UUA had identified potent continuing cooperative relationships with RKK and the Japan Free Religious Association, then headed by another wonderful leader and friend of Greeley's, Shinichiro Imaoka. My immediate successor, the Rev. Bob Green, promoted RKK's involvement in the International Association for Religious Freedom and gave a far more substantial boost to the long-term friendship between our faiths than any of my suggestions. When Greeley finally visited Japan and met Niwano in 1968, there was a good grounding for the friendship which quickly flared. Masuo Nezu, however, played the pivotal role in making it possible for Greeley and Niwano to understand each other, to become friends, and to "get on the same wavelength" despite their immense linguistic and cultural differences.

Monroe, Connecticut


Thanks for the magazine's attractive new format. I especially liked Donald E. Skinner's outstanding story, "Walking a Labyrinth" [Congregational Life, January/February]. It's exciting to see the denomination recognize the cutting-edge work of the Arlington, Virginia, UU church and churches elsewhere that promote the use of the labyrinth as a spiritual vehicle.

Washington, DC

Since reading Donald Skinner's article about walking the labyrinth, I have discovered a way to repeat the experience that costs next to nothing, requires no layout, and can be done anywhere: I use prayer beads to duplicate the labyrinth. You could also use a notecard with notes on it, but nonverbal beads work better.

A labyrinth walk consists of walking around a circle to a compass point, and then turning either toward the outside of the circle or to the inside, and going back the other way, along a larger or smaller circle. If I keep track of the compass point at which I should turn, and which direction (outside or inside), I can approximate the experience.

I use four colors of beads to stand for the four directions, and two sizes: a large bead means turn to the outside, and a small bead means turn to the inside. If a person gets muddled, there's no harm done. Just head for the next compass direction and take it from there.

Loveland, Colorado

tax your enemies

The January/February UU World reported on the efforts of Project Freedom of Religion (PFOR), an association of Southern California UUs ["Religous Right Voter Guides"]. PFOR reportedly contacted conservative churches, warning them not to distribute partisan Christian Coalition voter guides lest they lose their nonprofit status. PFOR reportedly went further, collecting voter guides distributed by those churches and forwarding them to the IRS.

As UUs, we should be standing shoulder-to-shoulder with the ACLU, protecting the rights of those we disagree with, not using the IRS to persecute our enemies. UUs have long taken and advocated political positions. Indeed, social and political action is a major activity of many UU churches. For UUs to attack the free exercise of conscience by others is both morally abhorrent and inconsistent with the activities of many of our own churches.

President, The Center for Civic Networking
Newtonville, Massachusetts

Perhaps they were well-intentioned, but the actions of the group Project Freedom of Religion were mean-spirited, dangerous, and should be condemned. I would respectfully suggest that anyone who would suppress the free expression of their political enemies stands on a slippery slope that may lead to the destruction of their own cherished civil rights. Be careful, southern Californian UUs: you may be caught in a "glass house."

Stuart, Florida

We need the political activity of churches, or politics will become the plaything of the check writers. You are not going to fight institutional racism or any other institutional evil in this country without an institutional response, and that means collective responses of churches. What a UU church must do is foster collective action through democratic means.

Evanton, Illinois

might makes right

I was surprised and saddened by President John Buehrens' January 12 letter regarding President George W. Bush's nomination of former Senator John Ashcroft to be his Attorney General. Although Ashcroft's record shows no hint that he would do anything other than enforce the law, Buehrens condemns the man for what he might do given his religious and political views.

This type of thinking is precisely that which dominated mainline Protestant pulpits in 1960 when John F. Kennedy, a Roman Catholic, won his party's nomination for president: the Roman Catholic Church has used its authority over the conscience of its members time and time again; therefore, as president, Kennedy will have to obey the authority of his church and the Pope in Rome.

Most UUs, I am sure, disagree with many of Ashcroft's beliefs and political views, but we cannot condemn a person for what he might do.

Tullahoma, Tennessee

UU World XV:3 (July/August 2001): 6-11.

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