what in the World?
Addiction, evil, and other matters
by Jane Greer
Living together. In her Forum essay, Joani Blank reflects on the dissonance that sometimes arises between respect for the individual and the value placed on community: “Yes, we all are genuinely seeking more of a sense of community in our lives. On the other hand, many of us are oh so reluctant to let go of ingrained notions of what we as individuals need or want in the place we choose to live.”
What do you find appealing about cohousing? What reservations do you have? What kinds of problems could arise from a conflict between the needs of the individual and the common good?
Taking sin seriously. Forrest Church writes: “Liberal theology doesn't take sin and evil seriously enough.” He asserts that sin is an innate part of the human condition and that civilization is only a thin veneer, easily removed under extreme circumstances. (“Choose your enemies carefully”)
Why do a few people retain their humanity under extreme circumstances while others lose it? Is there a way to resist evil under extreme circumstances? Can “sin” be a meaningful term in your religious understanding?
Spiritual smorgasbord. Kris Fikkan writes that the unending options of belief she has as a Unitarian Universalist can be unsatisfying: “In my religious journey, I'm glad to be free, but I am still hungry. I've read the menu, and I know it to be virtually limitless—but I want to sit down at the table and eat.” (“Still hungry”)
How has the absence of creed or dogma in Unitarian Universalism affected your spiritual development? When does this absence become a burden?
Seeking a higher power. In “Out of the Basement,” her cover story about addictions ministry, Michelle Bates Deakin observes that “alcoholism, drug dependency, and their cousins—overeating, compulsive gambling, and the full panoply of addictive behaviors—are frequently considered spiritual ailments.”
How would you describe addiction as a spiritual ailment? What is the relationship between addiction and spirituality? What role can spirituality play in recovery?
Suffering by association. Anne M. Fletcher, author of Sober for Good , writes that “for every problem drinker, there are five other people who suffer as a result.” (“You Can Help”)
If you have been in a relationship with a substance abuser, how did you relate to this person? Did you use any of the approaches Fletcher suggests? Were there approaches that were especially useful?
Educational isolation? In his article about UU homeschoolers, Donald E. Skinner cites the Rev. Dr. Helen Lutton Cohen, who acknowledges that there are good reasons for some UUs to homeschool but “also believes that children benefit by being in situations that are not focused primarily on them as individuals and by learning about the lives of students who are different from them.” (“No Classroom Walls”)
What are the advantages and disadvantages of homeschooling for children? Do you think that being homeschooled deprives some children from important knowledge and relationships that they could get only in a school setting?
Rediscovering roots. In his suite of poems “Homecoming,” Everett Hoagland reflects on two visits to Africa, where some of his ancestors were forced into slavery.
Think about your own lineage and the places that you or your ancestors may have come from, willingly or not. What would their journeys have been like?
Natural religion. Henry David Thoreau was not a conventionally religious person, gaining spiritual sustenance and inspiration from nature and eschewing membership in any church. In his Bookshelf essay Richard Higgins writes, “Theology and dogma left Thoreau cold, but imbibing nature through the portals of his senses moved him to religious rapture.”What role does nature play in your spiritual life? How important is your congregation in your spiritual life?