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.
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.
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
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.
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
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
W. LARRY FOGG
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
EDWARD L. JAFFEE
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!
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
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.
THE REV. DR. SHIRLEY ANN RANCK
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.
LUCILE SCHUCK LONGVIEW
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
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
THE REV. ROBERT C. SWAIN
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.
KATHRYN M. BRAEMAN
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
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.
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.
MILES R. FIDELMAN
President, The Center for Civic Networking
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."
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.
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.
JOHN H. FOX