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Letters, Fall 2012

Readers respond to the Summer 2012 issue.

Fall 2012 8.15.12

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Summer 2012 cover

Losing at Bingo

Sermon Bingo” by Cheryl Gardner (Summer 2012) seemed to start out ridiculing the use of buzzwords, then turned around and praised the idea of Unitarian Universalist buzzwords in sermons. Having sat through too many services that were obviously composed from a checklist of modern politically correct causes, I can say that being able to successfully play buzzword bingo in church is a good sign that the messages aren’t getting through. On the other hand, the services that picked a topic and stuck with it are the ones that have stayed with me. The others were fluff that drifted away the first time I sneezed. If you hear any of the congregation shout “Bingo,” then you’re doing something wrong.

Matt Lawrence
Austin, Texas
Free Souls Church in Round Rock

Why ‘skepticism’?

Glory be! Thank you for publishing “Primal Reverence” by Kendyl Gibbons (Summer 2012). A sincere, long-term Unitarian, I welcome an exposition in our national magazine of what happens to be in my own heart. But please drop the association with “skepticism.” What could be less skeptical than an embrace of our own world as it is? Must we associate this with traditions that—even if important to some others among us and therefore worthy of respect—are so entirely irrelevant to our own perspective?

Pat Nelson
Bloomingdale, Michigan
People’s Church of Kalamazoo

Planet in peril

Paul Rasor’s excellent article “Democracy and Empire” (Summer 2012) missed one of the most influential books on empire among UUs over the last decade: David Korten’s The Great Turning: From Empire to Earth Community. There’s much more going on than imperial overreach. In fact, The End of Growth by Richard Heinberg shows how the global economic order itself is living on borrowed time. The world is maxed on critical resources, like oil, and is accumulating serious damage to ecosystems, like the climate.

Empires on the wane become desperate, hence more dangerous. Civilizations on the wane also take desperate actions to maintain the old order, hastening collapse when they fail. Religions often serve to keep people in their place, as fatalistic subjects of empire or old economic orders. But they can also mobilize people to challenge an unjust and unsustainable system, as did the biblical prophets. That’s where our work for democracy, justice, and spiritual and economic sustenance will become critical for survival.

Rasor’s essay leads beyond democracy in peril to planet Earth in peril. The interdependent web is being torn and not repaired. UUs need to take Cornel West’s Socratic questioning to a much deeper level, then commit their lives to justice in a world headed for trouble, buoyed by his sense of tragicomic hope, despite the odds.

Dick Burkhart
Seattle, Washington
Rainier Valley UU Congregation

The writer is a member of the board of directors of UUs for a Just Economic Community.

I felt something was missing from Rasor’s article. Unless we’re willing to criticize “good” wars, like the Civil War or World War II, we’ll always be mired in arguments about whether a war is good. The Civil War followed the same pattern many military actions of the United States have: a war followed by a long occupation, terrorist activity in the occupied territory, a weary public bringing the troops home, and brutal ethnic cleansing afterward. If we can’t discuss the mistakes in the Civil War without being accused of being slavery apologists, then being accused of being a Saddam Hussein apologist when we criticize the Gulf War can’t be surprising.

If we want to make a change in how war is thought about in this country, we need the courage to take on wars whose aims we approve of. War is too complicated to be thought of as either good or bad, and it’s the simplification that the theology of violence creates that causes war to be too easy to do.

David Stanley
Manassas, Virginia
Bull Run Unitarian Universalists

Breathing free

I am a student at the local university in Ogden, Utah. Though sleep deprivation gets in the way of me attending the Unitarian Universalist Church of Ogden regularly, I absolutely love it every time I go (“We Know Why We’re Here” by Donald E. Skinner, Summer 2012). They are so warm and friendly, and a safe haven for anyone with an alternative viewpoint. Places where it is safe to be yourself are rare in this state. The Rev. Theresa Novak is just the icing on the cake. When I try to describe how different it is to other students, I just throw out the line, “The pastor is not only a woman, but also a lesbian.” That usually generates a lot of excitement.

Many of those who leave the LDS Church are ostracized, abandoned by their communities, friends, and sometimes even their own families. The UU Church of Ogden is another home, another community, another family, where you can breathe free and be loved.

Michelle Dowdle
Posted on uuworld.org, June 29, 2012

Whose UUA?

Why do I feel so disconnected from the UUA as represented in UU World? I read our national magazine with increasing alienation, despite my deep identification as a UU and my vital connection with my own congregation.

The UUA idea of “proactive leadership” is to wrangle the cattle in this balky herd and drive them in a particular direction. There’s a lot of shouting and dogs nipping our heels and neglect of the needs of the individual cattle once we’ve been branded and secured as resources. Thus we get inspiring stories in UU World about people and congregations that are moving in the “right” direction toward the failed utopian vision of multicultural, multilingual Unitarian Universalism, a vision that no longer moves or inspires me, or that I even consider achievable. As a college-educated, 30-year English-as-a-first-language UU of mostly Euro­pean background*, I feel not only neglected but looked down upon as not the demographic the UUA craves in our congregations. From my reading of UU World, the leadership appears to distrust congregational polity and consider themselves prophetic—more moral and farsighted than the mere congregations.

I wish that, rather than hammering on goals and directions hashed out in the ivory towers of Boston, our leadership focused instead on discerning, articulating, and manifesting the direction the current membership wants to traverse.

Ellen Lawrence Skagerberg
Santa Rosa, California
UU Congregation, Santa Rosa

The articles in the Spring issue about undocumented immigrants and the various “Occupy” movements are yet additional examples of UUs deciding that certain current events will become UU dogma, and anyone claiming to be a UU must agree with the UUA position.

This makes it especially painful for those of us who joined because of the UU openness to all of the various religions in the world but now find most congregations to be much more concerned with “social justice” than with helping members think about and work through all the complexities of spirituality and personal growth.

Jane Romeyn
Vero Beach, Florida
UU Fellowship of Vero Beach

Correction 8.29.12: Due to an editing error, a letter published in the Fall 2012 issue of UU World incorrectly identified a “30-year . . . UU” as a “30-year-old . . . UU.” Click here to return to the corrected paragraph.

This article appeared in the Fall 2012 issue of UU World (pages 58–59). UU World welcomes letters to the editor. Send to “Letters,” UU World, 25 Beacon St., Boston MA 02108, or world@uua.org, but do not send attachments. Include your name, address, daytime phone number, and congregation on all correspondence. Published letters with author’s name, city, and state will appear on www.uuworld.org. Letters are edited for length and style; a maximum length of 200 words is suggested. We regret we cannot publish or respond to all letters.

This article appeared in the Fall 2012 issue of UU World (pages 58–59). See sidebar for related resources.

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