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Good Journalism

 UU World May/June 2001 Congratulations on a great piece of journalism ("Unfinished Journey: Selma '65," May/June). The eulogy is Martin Luther King Jr. at his best — a great contribution to get it out for all to see. The several companion pieces set it off beautifully.

Worcester, Massachusetts

White Narcissus

UU World has a stated agenda of being an "anti-racist" magazine ("From the Editor," March/April 2000). In the January/February 2001 issue, John Buehrens wrote about UU martyrs in the Selma, Alabama, struggle for voting rights in 1965, and the May/June issue covered Selma as an "Unfinished Journey." In vain I searched all these words for anything other than self-congratulatory, white-focused prose. Where, I literally cried, was any mention of what was going on in Selma in the summer of 2000? "Unfinished journey," indeed, and one which UUs are apparently done with.

A suggestion for UU World: declare a five-year moratorium on white people — including me — writing about people of color. Publish, in an "anti-racist" magazine, anything other than articles having to do with race written by white people who can and do buy their way out of the struggles of people of color.

Oakland, California

Recycling King

Few will be surprised to learn that Martin Luther King Jr., like other busy ministers, recycled his material. Much of his March 15, 1965, eulogy for James Reeb ("A Witness to the Truth," May/June) was also included in his eulogy for the four girls killed in the September 15, 1963, bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama. What is interesting are the differences.

While on both occasions King criticized "the minister of the gospel who has remained silent behind the safe security of stained-glass windows" (an image from the April 1963 "Letter from a Birmingham Jail"), the Reeb eulogy continues: "He was murdered by the irrelevancy of a church that will stand amid social evil and serve as a taillight rather than a headlight, an echo rather than a voice."

Both seek consolation in the affirmation "that death is not the end." The 1963 eulogy relies on "Christianity's affirmation," while the Reeb eulogy refers to "the great affirmations of religion" and offers "immortality of influence" as an option.

Wallingford, Pennsylvania

Northern Racism

It was good to see UU World recall Selma. Certainly the sacrifices of the time awakened many of us to an America that our textbooks and upbringing had misrepresented.

Selma was not the main battlefield or the central struggle, however. Some people lived and stayed in the difficult places. They stood before segregated restaurants, drove in voters over and over again risking their lives, were intimidated at knife point, were threatened day after day. Those who kept the faith did not go back to safe havens.

Some are white folks who don't think of what they did as special, grateful instead to have done something small to help, but we all know who did the real suffering.

I hope UU World will follow up with what UUs are doing in Boston and other northern cities where segregation and racial understanding have yet to be faced. It takes intelligence to undermine institutionalized racism, much less correcting ignorance born of unfamiliarity.

Greenville, North Carolina

Unfinished Journey

Reading the May/June issue of UU World, I was impressed to be reminded of the martyrdom of Jim Reeb during the Selma march and grateful to be treated to the first publication of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s eulogy for this young Unitarian Universalist clergyman. You've done a good service in fleshing out this part of the history of the civil rights movement.

But that was 35 years ago. My question is, what have you done lately? How many of your clergy have put their lives on the line lately in the pursuit of social and economic justice?

King would be heartbroken today to observe that everywhere in America the streets of our cities are littered with people who have no homes — no safe place to lay their heads. The institution of homelessness did not exist during the '60s.

As a church that prides itself in getting involved with issues of social justice, what are you doing about homelessness?

Editor, Street Light
San Diego, California

To Do or Not To Do

Best reading in decades: Dr. Jeffrey A. Lockwood's essay on grasshoppers ("Good for Nothing," May/June). Good parable, good religion, good thinking, good science, good writing. I grew up with grasshoppers, on a southwestern Nebraska farm, and welcomed his illumination on what they do and don't do. He shatters my uncharitable attitude toward a creature that I had assumed could teach me nothing but an uncharitable attitude.

Lambertville, Michigan

I really don't care to be like the grasshopper, though I do love them for what they are. Jeffrey Lockwood implies that it might be desirable to imitate the grasshopper by simply being, rather than doing. I disagree. It seems to me that human doing is the fulfillment of our human being, as doing nothing is the fulfillment of a grasshopper's being. Doing, after all, is what distinguishes us as humans.

Houston, Texas

Fateful Break

The article about the UUA-Canadian Unitarian Council split was buried on page 45 ("UU News," May/June). In "Horizons," John Buehrens wrote glowingly of being "faithful witnesses for the beloved community," but did not mention the UUA-CUC split — something that will destroy my "beloved community." In the Pacific Northwest District (PNWD) we see ourselves as brothers and sisters in faith. Our international ties are indescribably precious, bringing incredible richness and strength. Yes, the relationship is sometimes a struggle, but we would not part with it for any price.

So the PNWD delegates overwhelmingly passed a motion asking the UUA to "negotiate to maintain the close relationship between US and Canadian Unitarians." Our voice was ignored. A week later, the UUA representatives said that no new financial agreement would be negotiated if the proposed agreement was not ratified.

We need continental leadership. The UUA has refused to provide it. The CUC should not leave the UUA, they should replace it. Change the name to the Continental Unitarian Universalist Council and welcome US congregations with open arms.

Kirkland, Washington

No Backsliding

As Minister of the First Unitarian Congregation of Waterloo, Ontario, I was dismayed to read the Rev. Joshua Snyder's letter objecting, in part, to my congregation's use of the UUA's Principles as a reading in worship ("Talkback," May/June).

Twice a year we recognize new members of our congregation in a ceremony in which we read a slightly shortened version of the Principles in unison, as a helpful reminder of what guides our life together. On other (infrequent) occasions, if the theme for the day seems to call for it, the Principles and Purposes may be used as a reading, nearly always with some discussion of their nature as a covenant between congregations rather than a creed.

I find these and other uses of the UUA Principles and Purposes to be no more a "backsliding into creedalism" than the regular use of favourite hymns or other service components. The characterization of our congregation (or any other) as one which unthinkingly "recites" particular words is inaccurate.

Waterloo, Ontario


I want to extend my appreciation for John Millspaugh's Commentary, "Swimming with Dolphins," (May/June). It has always seemed to me that our seventh principle, pertaining to our responsibilities as UUs for the protection and advocacy of our environment and the creatures with whom we share our planet, has all too often been neglected amidst the preponderance of articles in UU World pertaining to human civil rights and social justice.

While human-related issues are certainly of high importance, our mission as UUs is to extend our compassion toward the whole of the interdependent web. Working to protect our earth and better the lives of animals — both wild and domestic — increases sensitivity and ultimately works for the betterment of us all.

Plano, Texas

For too many years we humans have attempted to place a monetary value on life. We constantly compete for dominion of the "stream of life." Consequently, we have not developed a reverence for life. But Albert Schweitzer said, "Until we extend the circle of our compassion to all living things, we will not ourselves find peace."

Until I read John Millspaugh's commentary, I had the impression that my concern for animals had no place in our principles. The UUA's seventh principle has given me hope.

Athens, Georgia

Smells and Bells

Dan Hotchkiss writes that "the ritual lighting of the chalice in a worship service only became widespread in the last 20 years" ("Looking Back," May/June). As a humanist, I believe that the longer rituals are used repetitively their original purpose tends to be forgotten, even becoming meaningless.

I do not "worship," nor do I believe the chalice is sacred (as I have heard) or that the oil in it is holy. But I expect that those favoring this ritual will soon be ringing bells and burning incense, hoping to insure a more "spiritual" service.

Minneapolis, Minnesota


Thank you for mentioning Seeds of Simplicity in "Congregational Life" ("More UUs choose simplicity," May/June), which Donald E. Skinner described as a "voluntary organization aimed at helping children commit to living simply."

We work with more than young children. We recognize that simplicity is not a simple concept. It involves an intentional decision about one's lifestyle and involves understanding complex issues like responsible consumption, international trade, and poverty. Working with families and people of all ages, Seeds of Simplicity is building a nonprofit membership organization to create a strong voice among all ages for voluntary simplicity and its benefits. Call 1-877-UNSTUFF toll-free for more information.

Board Member, Seeds of Simplicity
Studio City, California

UU World welcomes letters to the editor. Please address to "Letters," UU World, 25 Beacon St., Boston MA 02108, or e-mail us at world@uua.org. Include your name, address, and daytime phone number on all correspondence. Letters are edited for length and style; a maximum length of 200 words is suggested. We regret that we cannot publish or respond to all letters.

The name of artist Norma Lewis was initially misspelled in "Creations," (July/August, page 16). The photograph of the march led by Vivek Pandit (page 25) was taken by Olivia Holmes. The photograph of the Paint Branch UU Church in Adelphi, Maryland ("Spiritual Landmarks," July/August, page 55) was provided by Twin Lens Photo of Silver Springs, Maryland. Sean Parker Dennison will be staying in Stockton, California, for a second year as interim minister ("Milestones," July/August, page 52). La Crescenta, California, is home to the UU Church of the Verdugo Hills ("Congregational Life," May/June, page 57).

UU World XV:4 (September/October 2001): 6-9.

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