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Letters, Winter 2006
Readers respond to the Fall 2006 issue.
FIVE YEARS AFTER 9/11
I was disappointed by W. Frederick Wooden’s article, “What Will We Build?” (Fall 2006). Most of it boils down to essential UU beliefs in the search for truth, in community (with individuality), and in goodness.
His whole approach seems to be from the culture of the West. What about our “enemies,” those whose cultures we don’t know, who can’t conceive of some of our concepts? To them, we in the West represent the Great Satan, literally.
We need a new mythology that includes all peoples and nations, realizing that we all are interconnected and will be interdependent forever. This will be very difficult, and I don’t think God or the “universal mind” will help us. We humans will have to figure this out for ourselves.
The impact of 9/11 has been magnified, I believe, far beyond its intrinsic significance, by sensationalist media and by a calculated White House campaign to effect massive shifts in social priorities, civil rights, foreign policy, and the constitutional balance of power. Other events have been similarly transformative for those involved: Oklahoma City, Columbine, Pan Am 103, or any of the countless disasters, large and small, that reveal the fragility of life and the dark side of the soul. Without minimizing in any way the terrible toll of that day, or the pressing need for new religious vision, I believe that portraying 9/11 as somehow fundamentally different from other disasters plays into the hands of those who would dismantle much of what we cherish.
Michael L. Scott
Rochester, New York
SUV SONG NOT FUNNY
I thought Unitarian Universalists knew that it’s not OK to use body size or type as a put down, but that is exactly what Rozanne Gates, Suzanne Sheridan, Neil Miller, and you are doing with the song, “90 Pound Suburban Housewife” (“Drivin’ Their SUV Song,” Fall 2006). As a small-sized woman I am sad and angry in response. Even if it makes a catchy song, no one has the right to correlate body size—large, small, or in between—with selfish or wasteful behavior, and if they do, UU World should not ever celebrate or promote that message.
Your article about the 90 pound housewife and her SUV hit home. While I weigh a bit more, and I’m a working mother, I am guilty of owning an SUV. When I traded in my ’68 VW van for my first new car, back in 1999, I searched for the smallest sized, largest seating capacity, best gas-mileage vehicle available. I blessed my red Durango “mama truck” and thanked the stars that the car world finally made a truck for women. Alas, the euphoria lasted only a couple of months, until the stars changed and it became politically incorrect for a mother to own an SUV. Now I slink, metaphorically speaking, in and out of the church parking lot Sunday mornings.
We all agree that we should make intentional choices to have the lightest footprint on this earth possible—living in smaller homes, eating chemical-free food, and taking public transit to work. For that to happen in the spirit of our faith, we would get more mileage by taking the high road of support and affirmation of what’s good and right, rather than takig the low road of making fun of others’ sins.
Linda M. Jackson
San Rafael, California
GENERAL ASSEMBLY '06
I’m thrilled that delegates to the General Assembly supported the Statement of Conscience regarding global warming (“General Assembly 2006,” Fall 2006). But what is the world to do when less than one-quarter of a self-selected group concerned about climate change was interested in donating $6 to renewable energy and reforestation to offset the pollution created by the conference?
We all need to get behind change, or it won’t work.
How relevant, representative, and democratic are our UU annual General Assemblies? I raise this question for the simple reason that most of the delegates attend the GAs because they have the time and money to do so. In most cases, if my church is typical, they are not chosen by the congregation or even the Board of Trustees and then ratified by the congregation.
When the GAs pronounce on a particular issue after long study, how representative is the statement if the delegates voting on it are not elected by their particular congregation? Would it not be wiser for any UU congregation to at least approve who goes to a GA by election?
Electability and accountability would certainly help our movement, particularly when we engage in outreach to the larger community.
Gerald R. Adler
While I can appreciate the sense of urgency behind UUA President William G. Sinkford’s recent column advising UUs to “get relentless” about comprehensive sexuality education, I want to peacefully protest the vision of Unitarian Universalist religious life that equates our religion with a perpetual call to arms, generating one cause after another (“Our Calling,” Fall 2006).
We are an association of congregations. Speaking from a pastor’s perspective, I believe we really only have one cause, and it doesn’t change from year to year: to support one another in our human strivings and struggles so that each can best live out their call to incarnate love in the world.
Is it never enough to worship together, visit our sick, support the suffering, educate our young, share our struggles and joys together, put food on the table, celebrate sacred milestones, refrain from doing terrible damage to each other (or our churches) in times of conflict, and abide with one another in the bonds of fellowship and love?
I wonder, where do the quiet, the introverted, the chronically ill, the imprisoned, the emotionally debilitated, and the poor in spirit fit into our eternally save-the-world, activist-oriented vision of Unitarian Universalist life?
Our recent associational attention to the virtue of hospitality should include a serious assessment of how our constant “call to arms” communicates the inacceptability or inferiority of such persons within our beloved community.
Rev. Victoria Weinstein
First Parish Church
SEX ED FOR ADULTS
As the mother of a five- and seven-year-old, one of the many things that drew me into my UU community was the prospect of the owl program (Our Whole Lives sexuality education curricula). This year I hope to embark on this program with my daughter.
I am missing any mention of the “last” owl curriculum, which invites adults of all ages to reflect on, re-evaluate where necessary, and enjoy the growth of sexual expression throughout our life time! Why not open up the possibilities, often buried behind our own fear and shame, of a fuller and more nourishing sexuality? Maybe we have to challenge ourselves as well as others to bring about the transformation we are striving for in our hearts, homes, communities, and world.
Montclair, New Jersey
If UUs are hungry for democracy, to use Frances Moore Lappé’s phrase, there is a nearly untouched feast of opportunity waiting for you (“Hungry for Democracy,” Fall 2006).
Democracy requires an informed, engaged citizenry. Please start reading your news on the Internet, where you will get more than a sound bite and a slant that favors those already in positions of economic and political power. And please engage in a consistent, diligent way with your government by getting to know who’s who and what they are doing, and by meeting with them to express your informed opinions. In other words: participate, educate, agitate.
My area is advocacy against electronic voting machines, because they conceal election procedures that need to be observed to ensure that our elections do in fact produce a government elected by the voters. Many people worry about this issue, but few are informed and engaged. Those of us on the front lines could use some help. Feast, anyone?
New York, New York
The poetry in UU World is always a joy. “Poem for an Inked Daughter” by Jean Wyrick is no exception (“Reflections,” Fall 2006). The emotions and story it tells are as old as humanity.
Please find more room for poetry.
William H. Brown
Mary Pipher speaks to me with accuracy and depth when she says, “Once we have a label that doesn’t fit us, we can ignore the humanity of the labeled” (“Writing a New World,” Fall 2006). Being in prison, where guards only see “convicts” instead of human beings, I feel Pipher’s words: “Language is weaponized when it’s used to objectify, depersonalize, dehumanize, to create an ‘other.’” The proverbial icing on the cake for me is the way Pipher beautifully ties a language of labels in with the neglect of civilized behavior.
Her essay is a landscape of truth in the form of written words.
Pine City, New York
SECULARISM VS. RELIGION
I was dismayed to read in Doug Muder’s “Bookshelf” essay “Secularism and Tolerance after 9/11” (Fall 2006) the following quotation from Daniel C. Dennett’s Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon: “If what you hold sacred is not any kind of Person you could pray to, or consider to be an appropriate recipient of gratitude (or anger, when a loved one is senselessly killed), you’re an atheist in my book.”
I believe that I am not alone in Unitarian Universalism as a theist who does not believe in a personal God. The fact that I could not pray to God in the sense of expressing gratitude or anger does not keep me from viewing my life and the universe as permeated with and united with God. Our religion has a place for people of many faiths, including those theists (whom Dennett would call atheists) who perceive God within a grain of pollen or an idea—who try to pray with the processes of life, not to a Person.
I can understand Doug Muder’s dislike of Sam Harris’s The End of Faith since the book condemns liberal religions for ignoring the violence created when fundamentalist religions punish heresy with death. UUs try to keep from criticizing others and certainly do not recommend violence in return. Muder ignores the many quotations in Harris’s book from the Bible, the Qur’an, and the Hadith that explicitly command the murder of heretics. It is hard to refute Harris’s thesis that condoning belief in sacred books that command intolerance is little better than committing acts of intolerance.
In Warren Ross’s uuworld.org interview with Harris, Harris praises UUs as peace lovers and says that if everyone were a UU there would be no war (“Does Tolerance Disarm Religious Liberals?”). Unfortunately, not everyone is a lover of peace, and UUs seem unlikely to take up arms to protect the freedoms UUs now enjoy from those who consider us heretics and worthy of death. A world in which most people are UUs does not offer a guarantee of future peace.
A million thanks to Donald Skinner and UU World for keeping the immigration issue on the UU table (“Immigration Issue in Their Backyard,” News, Fall 2006). I found it a committed, and at the same time honest, article. The UU movement should be grateful to the mentioned congregations of Green Valley, Los Angeles, and El Paso for reminding us that we are part of the great human family, not the whole.
I believe there is much more to do by the UUA and congregations to make a difference in this area. If not us, who? We can bring a balanced approach with dignity, justice, accep-tance, and interdependence.
Dar es Salaam, Tanzania
We misidentified a photograph in “General Assembly 2006” (Fall 2006, page 39) as one taken during UU University, before the start of GA. The photo was taken during a GA workshop for congregational presidents.
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