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Thursday, July 31, 2003

Thanks for stopping by!

It occurred to me a few days ago, looking at my site traffic statistics, that we just might crack a thousand visitors for the first time this month. As of 22:30 EDT on the last day of July, we're at 959 visits. If this were a public radio station, I'd appeal to you to help us meet our goal — "Pick up your phone and pledge!" — but what would be the point? I'm happy right now.

Thanks to my fellow UU bloggers, to all the Googlers (they love Jack Hitt's "Gospel According to the Earth" and the "Sabaean Mandeans" especially), and everyone else who has taken up the habit of typing "philocrites.com" into their browser. Drop me a line sometime and tell me what you think of the site.

Posted by Philocrites, July 31, 2003, at 10:43 PM | 0 comments

Wednesday, July 30, 2003

Ralph Waldo Emerson watch.

Talk about top billing, folks: John Updike mentions the Journal of Unitarian Universalist History in the second sentence of his New Yorker review of books commemorating the bicentennial of our most famous Unitarian ex-clergyman.

Click to continue . . .

Posted by Philocrites, July 30, 2003, at 05:44 PM | 0 comments

Is Chewbacca Christ your Lord and savior?

Chutney, the savant at MyIrony, has written a rip-roaring review of the way "brights" theorize about religion. So, they ask, if there are multiple worlds with intelligent life, does each world need its own Jesus?

But if there are not multiple incarnations of Christ, consider poor Chewbecca. He was born into flea-bitten Original Sin but has no way of finding redemption.

What are Chewie's options?

Posted by Philocrites, July 30, 2003, at 05:31 PM | 0 comments

All riled up.

Howard Dean is "the first Yuppie demagogue," concludes Jonathan Chait in his on-line debate with fellow New Republic senior editor Jonathan Cohn. (Their essays from this week's magazine have everybody talking: Chait offers the case against Howard Dean; Cohn presents the case against the case against Howard Dean.) Even the conservative Weekly Standard's Christopher Caldwell sees a real threat in Dean's extraordinary fundraising and campaigning successes.

(Counterintuitive conspiracy theory: If Chait is right, though, that Karl Rove loves the thought of a Bush-Dean matchup, might not Caldwell's fears be so much neocon spin? Just think: Gleeful Republicans, confident that Dean would be easiest to beat, publicly furrow their brows and rub their hands over the prospect of having to face the dread doctor from Vermont...)

Today's New York Times profile reassures me on one key point: Dean is a much savvier governor and politician than his angry tone or the exaggerated expectations of his more radical base would indicate:

Over 11 years, he restrained spending growth to turn a large budget deficit into a surplus, cut taxes, forced many on welfare to go to work, abandoned a sweeping approach to health-care reform in favor of more incremental measures, antagonized environmentalists, won the top rating from the National Rifle Association and consistently embraced business interests.

I find myself tempted.

Posted by Philocrites, July 30, 2003, at 05:18 PM | 0 comments

Knit this in remembrance of me.

I can't resist sharing Ship of Fools' latest gadget for God.

Posted by Philocrites, July 30, 2003, at 04:58 PM | 0 comments

Who would Jesus tax?

"According to our Christian ethics, we're supposed to love God, love each other and help take care of the poor," said Alabama governor Bob Riley (a conservative Republican). "It is immoral to charge somebody making $5,000 an income tax." So he's trying to fix Alabama's cruelly regressive tax structure. But the Christian Coalition is apparently reading a different translation of the Gospel. ("Tax increase a tough sell in Alabama," Phillip Rawls [AP], Boston Globe 7.30.03.)

Adam Cohen provided more context for this story back in June; see "What would Jesus do? Sock it to Alabama's corporate landowners," New York Times 6.10.03 (reg req'd).

Update 8.8.03: Check out Michael Bowen's blog, A Minority of One, for the surprising twist in this story: The national Christian Coalition has endorsed the governor's plan over the objections of the state Christian Coalition! Bowen's your guy if you want to keep up on this fascinating story.

Posted by Philocrites, July 30, 2003, at 01:25 PM | 0 comments

Sunday, July 27, 2003

Architecture as metaphor.

My home church — the First Unitarian Church of Salt Lake City — is in the news again, this time not for suing the LDS Church over real estate, but simply for being itself:

So, one opens the church — First Unitarian — to enter a white-painted light-filled, simple space, impossible to hide in. Every corner is apparent, clearly illuminated by natural light from the tall, multi-paned Palladian windows, recalling the light of reason revered by Unitarianism's great liberal forbears. The lines, the light, the absence of ornamentation serve as an invitation to introspection and meditation. There is no cross, no icon, no altar. Unitarians focus on this world, not the next.

In austere contrast to the colorfully ornate symbolism layered over ancient Christianity, the Unitarian aesthetic, like its gospel, is minimalist: "It's a simple, basic idea," says Goldsmith. "We believe in the unity of deity."

There are several amusing inaccuracies in the article, but it's a charming profile of a church I deeply love. ("Like the faith, Unitarian place of worship is geared to clarity and function," Mary Brown Malouf, Salt Lake Tribune 7.26.03).

More Unitarian Universalists in the news:

Click to continue . . .

Posted by Philocrites, July 27, 2003, at 10:27 PM | 0 comments

Documentary heaven.

Swimming boldly against the blockbuster tide, I saw two great movies this week, Spellbound and Winged Migration. Spellbound, which follows a group of junior high spelling bee champions to the 1999 National Bee, is a perfect movie. Funny, complex, suspenseful, completely unexpected — and an understated but rich portrait of just how multicultural the United States really is. It also reminded me of my own disastrous spelling bee performance — back in the fourth grade — when I botched one round on "bicycle" and then lost another on "alligator." Ooh, such painful memories.

Winged Migration, meanwhile, is visually spectacular — a bird's-eye-view of bird life that I would love to see again and again, if I could only mute the banal New Age-meets-world music soundtrack and the almost content-free narration. ("Year after year, it is the same. One season is so short. And then it begins again. The birds take flight.") Seeing them, though, is worth the price of a ticket. The Web site includes a brief account of the innovative techniques used to make the film.

Posted by Philocrites, July 27, 2003, at 12:56 PM | 0 comments

When does strong criticism turn into bashing?

Philip Jenkins says anti-Catholicism is raging these days. Although I'm grateful to learn about the sociological phenomenon he has studied — "moral panic" — I find this hard to accept:

Today, he argues, an unholy alliance of feminists, homosexual activists, and radical secularists—together with a fifth column of people who call themselves Catholics but who hate the church deeply—has seized upon the sex-abuse scandal in order to drive the church out of public life once and for all.

At Harvard Divinity School, where Catholics made up the largest denominational group (although Unitarian Universalists made up the largest group of students intent on ordination), it always struck me that Mormons were the readiest target for a cheap shot. I'll grant that liberals manipulate news for their own ends — usually badly — but I simply don't see anything distinctive to the left here. A lot of folks are trying to use the abuse scandals for their own purposes, but Voice of the Faithful — to point to the most important new group to emerge from the scandals — seems to me to be asking for entirely legitimate demands: greater accountability from the hierarchy and a real stake in the Church's goverance, just as Vatican II called for.

Conservatives unimpressed by Mel.

Tacitus thinks Mel Gibson's team isn't playing fair, either.

Liberia.

A more thorough national motto:

''The love of liberty brought us here because liberty was unattainable at home.'' And it would be more accurate to add that Liberia was ''founded in 1847 by freed American slaves on land obtained at gunpoint in 1820—and valued at $1 million but paid for with $300 worth of goods—by two white agents of the American Colonization Society, a philanthropic organization chartered by the US Congress and supported by Southern slaveholders who wished to avoid the mixed society made inevitable by emancipation, and to export the most dangerous byproduct of their economic system: free blacks who posed a threat to their power.'' ("Crying freedom," Sharifa Rhodes-Pitts, Boston Globe 7.27.03.)

Plus, read to the end for a great new example of President Bush's theology at work!

Posted by Philocrites, July 27, 2003, at 12:34 PM | 0 comments

Amen!

Matthew Gatheringwater, who facilitates the UU Books e-mail discussion group, tossed this gem into a recent post: "Persuasion is the method of Unitarian Universalism, but tolerance is its heart." I've been pondering it for a week. Thanks, Matthew!

Posted by Philocrites, July 27, 2003, at 11:51 AM | 0 comments

Saturday, July 26, 2003

D.J. Heaney.

"Seamus Heaney's top hip-hop picks." Steve Almond. Boston Phoenix 7.25.03.

Posted by Philocrites, July 26, 2003, at 05:33 PM

Subtitling the Gospel.

Is Mel Gibson just a goofball for Christ? Or is he also a dirty rotten scoundrel? We'll know the answer to the first question next Easter; we already know the answer to the second.

New Testament scholar Paula Frederiksen (author of Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews: A Jewish life and the emergence of Christianity) describes the earnest but naive interest she and a handful of other scholars brought to their attempt to save Mel Gibson's Jesus movie from floundering in neo-medieval anti-Semitism. ("Mad Mel," New Republic 7.28.03 sub req'd.; for a bit more context on the film, see Christopher Noxon's New York Times Magazine article, "Is the Pope Catholic... enough?" 3.9.03 reg req'd.)

According to Frederiksen, the film's producers knew about the scholars' interest in the film's content and supplied copies of the script to the working group assembled by the Secretariat for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Anti-Defamation League. They were in regular contact with the Jesuit who had translated Gibson's script into Aramaic and Latin (a curious choice: see below). But once the scholars completed their review of the script, things took an ugly turn.

Click to continue . . .

Posted by Philocrites, July 26, 2003, at 05:16 PM | 2 comments

Parochial cosmopolitanism.

"It's a great paradox of American life," Ms. Allen said, "that on the one hand we feel very cosmopolitan, with Mexican restaurants and cab drivers who speak Swahili, and we feel that we inhabit a mind-boggling multicultural universe, but at the end of the day, it breaks down to different ways of being American." Stephen Kinzer writes about the disappearance of foreign novels in translation from American publishers. ("America yawns at foreign fiction: Publishers, fixated on profit and blockbusters, offer less from abroad." New York Times 7.26.03.)

Dharma-based initiatives.

"A city turns to Buddhism to keep young Cambodians out of trouble." Katie Zezima, New York Times 7.26.03.

Church and state.

More on the first governor of Massachusetts and his contemporaries Roger Williams and Anne Hutchinson, from the author of a new biography of John Winthrop: "A lot of people think of Massachusetts as a theocracy, but one of the things that distinguished Massachusetts [and] helped shape it was that no church officials could hold political office." ("Shedding light on a forgotten founder." Rich Barlow, Boston Globe 7.26.03.)

Posted by Philocrites, July 26, 2003, at 11:42 AM | 0 comments

Friday, July 25, 2003

Sixteen words.

It's cheating, I know, but everything that needs saying about the President's lie is being said at Talking Points Memo. If you're still playing catch-up on this issue like I am, browse through the last three weeks here, here, and here.

Posted by Philocrites, July 25, 2003, at 07:12 PM | 0 comments

You are your demographic.

The Antic Muse strikes again, this time profiling the readers of political magazines based on their ads! "The National Review reader is a sleep-deprived (or possibly bed-ridden), cigar-smoking, America-First Catholic who believes in both free markets and limited government intervention. Also into wresting." Whew: glad that isn't me! You can read the descriptions of New Republic and Washington Monthly readers, of which I'm one — hey, I subscribe for the articles, not the pictures, er, ads — but the funniest is the Mother Jones profile:

The Mother Jones reader is a lactose-intolerant, impressionable, wealthy (but guilt-ridden) lesbian. Alternative demographic: Bushy-browed professional bike messenger and peace activist. (Demographics may overlap.) All readers believe in human perfectability. (Suckers.)

As a former editor at Mother Jones, she should know!

Posted by Philocrites, July 25, 2003, at 06:57 PM | 0 comments

Thursday, July 24, 2003

Happy Pioneer Day!

A fit of nostalgia has washed over me, thinking back to the neighborhood parades in Utah, circa 1979, when we kids all dressed up as Mormon pioneers on July 24th, decorated our wagons with crepe paper, and proceeded to cross the plains (or 1090 North Street, which amounted to the same thing). We sang pioneer songs, lit firecrackers, had picnics, and celebrated the "greatest Mormon holiday" with gusto.

Salt Lake's "Days of '47" Parade is apparently the third largest in the United States — here's a bit of context for today's parade from the Deseret News and the Salt Lake Tribune — and while my own ancestors walked to the Utah territory a few years after 1847, I can't help but salute them even if I've migrated east again and lapsed right out of the company of the saints. Oh well, the pendulum swings.

In 1997, when I was working summers as a tour guide in Boston's venerable King's Chapel, the minister shocked and delighted me when he thought to honor the 150th anniversary of the Mormon exodus by including the greatest of Mormon hymns in the Sunday service. There we were, in a church that became Unitarian in the 1780s, singing "Come, come ye saints," a hymn I never again expected to sing in a church I thought of as my own. And of course, I couldn't sing it. I could only stand there, moved to tears, while everyone else made their unfamiliar way through the hymn.

July 24th isn't just a day for partying in Utah, though. When I was thirteen, it also happened to be the day for a grisly, "God told me to do it," polygamy-related murder just two towns north. (Thanks, Dateline, for the reminder! I had wondered what became of the Lafferty brothers.) But why July 24th? Is there something that would connect a celebration of pioneer-era Mormonism to an act of religiously-motivated violence?

I think about it this way: It took a whole lot of charisma to inspire thousands upon thousands of people to change religions, walk from St. Louis to the Great Salt Lake Valley, and set up their own theocracy — and when, as Max Weber would say, that charisma was routinized, later church leaders had a hard time keeping the revelation-genie in its approved bottle on South Temple Street. Those 100,000 excommunicated polygamists in their myriad sects in Utah, Arizona, Nevada, and Alberta have more motivating them than our quixotic modern friends, Unitarian Universalists for Polyamory Awareness: they are convinced they have God on their side!

You have to add something considerably more malevolent to end up with a double homicide, of course, but as Dateline's July 15 story suggested, there are probably a few more criminally-inclined religious zealots lurking in the Mormon universe. (Brian David Mitchell, of Elizabeth Smart fame, springs recently to mind.) Perhaps it's the shadow side of Utah's Pioneer Day.

Clarification 7.27.03: Just to be clear: I don't happen to think that Mormonism generates violent behavior, which apparently means I strongly disagree with the premise of the book that Dateline was profiling. What Mormonism does do, however, is introduce deeply religious terms and qualities to a very broad swath of human experience. That's what I mean by its extraordinary charisma. When whatever combination of psychosis, personal malevolence, and social malfunctioning combined to lead the Lafferty brothers to contemplate murder, they filtered all that through a religious lens. It's in that sense that I think the July 24th date isn't arbitrary. They sacralized a murder, in other words, but the religion didn't make them murderers.

Or put it this way: I don't think the Lafferty brothers received a revelation. But within the Mormon cultural universe, even criminality takes on religious dimensions and can be experienced in religious terms.

Posted by Philocrites, July 24, 2003, at 05:48 PM | 0 comments

Tuesday, July 22, 2003

Iraqi superbaptists.

"Water is everything to the Sabaean Mandeans, who are baptized and married in it, and receive their last rites by the river's edge." They're John the Baptist's followers in Iraq. ("Tiny sect fearful, hopeful in Iraq." Paul Haven [AP]. Boston Globe 7.22.03.)

Jesus and the facts.

Alex Beam says Mel Gibson's upcoming superliteral Jesus movie isn't just offensive. It's missing the whole point — just like the Jesus Seminar!

What is striking about the literal-minded scholars of the Jesus Seminar is how irrelevant their findings have been. I attended church when they began their work. I — and millions like me — am attending church now that they have finished. Do you think I am surprised to learn that some question the story of the virgin birth? Or, more astonishing still, that some doubt Jesus walked on water?

What these people don't understand, what Mel Gibson and his ilk don't understand, is that the literal truth of Jesus' story isn't what animates Christian belief. Many of us are awed by the figurative beauty of a story that created a system of values and beliefs that has survived for 2,000 years and has a reasonable possibility of surviving even Italian vamp Monica Bellucci's depiction of Mary Magdalene in Gibson's vanity outing.

The most meaningful words I have ever read on this subject come from Albert Schweitzer's 1906 book, ''The Quest of the Historical Jesus.'' Reviewing almost three centuries of efforts by scholars and laypeople to make Jesus ''real'' for their time, Schweitzer concluded that the effort was for naught. ''He does not stay; He passes by our time and returns to His own,'' Schweitzer wrote. ''The mistake was to suppose that Jesus could come to mean more to our time by entering into it as a man like ourselves.'' ("Is Mel Gibson's film passion for Jesus misplaced?" Boston Globe 7.22.03.)

John Winthrop, moderate puritan.

A new biography of the first governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony says: "Winthrop, then 42, a country lawyer and lay leader of a 'puritan' congregation, was a political moderate among religious zealots, an advocate of 'unity rather than uniformity,' perhaps the one man who 'could keep the colony from fragmenting' when it was threatened by a polarizing dispute." ("Bringing a colonial beacon to light." Michael Kenney. Boston Globe 7.22.03.)

Posted by Philocrites, July 22, 2003, at 01:06 PM | 0 comments

Sunday, July 20, 2003

When a man loves a woman.

Would you believe that just as the priest celebrating our Episcopal church wedding last Saturday began the celebration of the eucharist, the band across the street at the Amherst Crafts Fair started playing "When a Man Loves a Woman"? And to think Ms Philocrites and I spent hours looking for the eucharistic rite that would be most meaningful to our anything-but-Episcopalian gathering of Catholic, Mormon, Unitarian, and non-traditional friends and family! (Rite Three from Enriching Our Worship fit the bill nicely, in case you're wondering.) But even this coincidence of the sacred and the profane was perfect: The song ended when the eucharistic prayer did — just in time for communion and my sister's oboe performance of the Sinfonia from Bach's Cantata 21 — and left everyone smiling.

The wedding was great fun, thanks to Ms (now Mrs!) Philocrites' tireless planning. If you're getting hitched near Amherst, Mass., consider these outstanding vendors: The Amherst Woman's Club, Portabella Catering, the Henion Bakery (oh, that frosting!), Always in Bloom, Derek Goodwin Photography, Spirit Haus (which estimated our alcohol consumption to within three bottles), the exceptionally courteous folks at AfterHours in Holyoke, and — in Cambridge — Annique, who made my bride's stunning dress. And our party would not have been half so fun without Michael Daves and his quartet. What dancing!

Posted by Philocrites, July 20, 2003, at 09:53 PM | 0 comments

Technoprayer.

The Antic Muse may be on to something: "It's tempting to call praying the poor man's blogging — considering the cost of materials — except for one major difference: You can't make as much money off of blogging."

Posted by Philocrites, July 20, 2003, at 01:39 PM | 0 comments

Hey! That's my relative you're damning!

Ben Martinez's relatives were understandably upset when the priest declared in his funeral homily that the deceased was going to hell — so the family has done the American thing: they're suing. ("A little too personal," Peter Steinfels, New York Times 7.19.03.)

Europa, Europa.

"The mixed-up debate over the new European patriotism." Jefferson Chase, Boston Globe 7.20.03.

Transylvania.

Famous for its ancient Unitarians — oh, and also for Dracula Land! ("Greetings from Dracula Land," Laura Secor, Boston Globe 7.20.03.)

Posted by Philocrites, July 20, 2003, at 01:30 PM | 0 comments

Vox iraqi.

From the Boston Phoenix's Dan Kennedy, who mentions a poll of Baghdad residents: "By a margin of 29 percent to nine percent, respondents say they would rather live under US rule than under Saddam — even though they also say that their lives were better a year ago than they are today (47 percent to 32 percent). Optimism prevails: by 52 percent to 11 percent, they believe their lives will be better five years from now than they were under Saddam."

Tyranny or chaos: tough choice! Meanwhile, historian Mary Beth Norton writes that Donald Rumsfeld sees a parallel between Iraq today and the United States of the early 1780s — a time of "looting, crime, mobs storming buildings, breakdown of government structures and institutions that maintained civil order, rampant inflation caused by the lack of a stable currency, supporters of the former regime roaming the streets." Too bad Rumsfeld doesn't know what he's talking about.

Posted by Philocrites, July 20, 2003, at 12:13 AM | 0 comments

Saturday, July 19, 2003

Ignoring Africa, left and right.

"A LexisNexis search going back to 2000 finds not a single reference to the crises in Congo, Liberia, Sudan, or Zimbabwe from Noam Chomsky, Arundhati Roy, Michael Moore, Michael Lerner, Gore Vidal, Cornel West, or Howard Zinn," writes Peter Beinart in last week's New Republic. "In Congo alone, according to the International Rescue Committee, five years of civil war have taken the lives of a mind-boggling 3.3 million people. How can the leaders of the global left — men and women ostensibly dedicated to solidarity with the world's oppressed, impoverished masses — not care?"

Beinart's answer is that the left today "isn't galvanized by victims; it's galvanized by victimizers" — and the victimizer that has its undivided attention these days is American imperialism.

Lest you think the right is somehow more sensitive to Africa's disasters, however, the New Republic also points out (sub req'd) that President Bush's Africa policies are all talk: "A lot of the money for the AIDS initiative seems likely to come from cutting other spending on African public health," the editors write, like USAID's infectious diseases program. And so far the administration's budget proposes sending only $200 million of the $3 billion Bush had trumpeted in the State of the Union address for African AIDS relief — $150 million less than it gave last year!

When it comes to Africa, both ends of the political spectrum prefer to look the other way.

Posted by Philocrites, July 19, 2003, at 11:50 PM | 0 comments

Critical mass.

Thanks to the efforts of Michael Ivey and Chutney, we Unitarian Universalist bloggers have our very own home. Chutney has even designed a spiffy graphic. Sign up today!

Meanwhile, I've added Apulrang to my list of UU blogs because he provides good political commentary, but I've trimmed Round About Now and Blogtrek. (The first hasn't had a new post in a few months; the second, like so many other UU blogs that you could find, say, here, is primarily personal, a style of blogging that doesn't interest me very much.) But if you do have a blog at the intersection of liberal religion and public life, let me know!

Also, check out two newcomers: A Religious Liberal Blog and The Religious Left.

Posted by Philocrites, July 19, 2003, at 12:51 PM | 0 comments

Desperation.

Twenty-four American bishops say they're going to break away from the Episcopal Church if the election of a gay man as bishop in New Hampshire is approved by the national church.

Click to continue . . .

Posted by Philocrites, July 19, 2003, at 12:26 PM | 0 comments

Suitable for elevator rides.

Mark A. Thomas's letter to the editor of the Boston Globe disputing the Unitarian Universalist Association's legitimacy as a "church" prompted two replies. Peter Vandebogert of Beverly, Mass., wrote to the Globe on July 10:

Mark A. Thomas's letter questioning the Unitarian Universalists' right to call themselves a church (July 5) tells the reader much more about Thomas than it does about Unitarian Universalism. My religion — and it dates back to Eastern Europe in the 16th century — does indeed stand for a great deal.

First, it sincerely and consistently believes in the dignity and worth of every individual. There would be about 450 fewer sexually abused persons in Massachusetts right now if the Roman Catholic Church practiced this belief to the extent that Unitarian Universalists do.

The denomination also believes in the power of love and community, in the harmony of spirituality and scientific reason, in the never-ending search for truth, and in the value of all religious traditions.

We don't believe that any religion, including our own, has all the answers, which is why we don't have a creed. We also don't believe in judging other religions as Thomas has done. One can look at centuries of history, or simply at the current world situation, to see what happens when one religion makes judgments and jumps to conclusions about other religions that appear different.

It is true that some Unitarian Universalists do not believe in God the way that followers of certain other Western religions are expected to. In what manner and to what extent, if at all, UU's believe in a supreme being is a matter of individual conscience.

The fact is two of the world's major religions, Buddhism and Hinduism, do not believe in God in the way that Thomas would expect them to. In addition they have as many variations in their beliefs and practices as do the individuals who make up Unitarian Universalism.

Is Thomas prepared to tell the billions of Buddhists and Hindus in the world that what they practice is not a religion?

And Diane Engel of Framingham wrote:

In reply to the letter ''Don't call it a church'' by Mark Thomas (July 5), in which he claims that the Unitarian Universalist Church ''defiantly asserts no belief in anything,'' I quote the opening words spoken by our UU congregation, First Parish in Framingham, at the beginning of every service of worship:

Love is the doctrine of this church
The quest for truth is its sacrament
And service is its prayer.
To dwell together in peace
To seek knowledge in freedom
To serve humankind in fellowship
To the end that all souls shall grow
Into harmony with the Divine
This is our great covenant,
One with another, and with our God.

UUA President Bill Sinkford is urging Unitarian Universalists to come up with "elevator speeches" — personal introductions to one's liberal religion that can be shared in a minute or two. I thought this was such a good idea that we're soliciting brief "elevator speeches" for publication in UU World. Vandebogert and Engel are off to a good start.

Posted by Philocrites, July 19, 2003, at 11:29 AM | 0 comments

Monday, July 7, 2003

Officially off duty.

Philocrites declares the arrival of the wedding hiatus. I'm taking the plunge into wedded bliss on Saturday — an anniversary, I was happy to learn recently, that I will soon share with Carl and Faith Scovel! After the wedding, a few days in Quebec City. And then, sometime around the 20th, blogging may resume. (While I'm gone, remember to participate in our find-a-good-sermon contest.)

Posted by Philocrites, July 7, 2003, at 05:06 PM | 0 comments

Sunday, July 6, 2003

What is a church, anyway?

You must be wondering: How on earth could Philocrites agree with an antidemocratic crank that "A church is a historical, sacred institution where members gather to worship, recognize, and pray to God; consequently, because of that activity and effort, such people form a deep belief in His benevolent existence. Absent this, an organization is not a church." Good question!

Click to continue . . .

Posted by Philocrites, July 6, 2003, at 03:35 PM | 0 comments

Saturday, July 5, 2003

Damned laity.

Here's an example of criticism that really knows how to win friends and influence people — a letter from a Mark A. Thomas of Boston, responding to the Boston Globe's article last week about the Unitarian Universalist Association's current conversation about the advisability of using more traditional religious language. (Make sure to read the fourth and final paragraph.)

I take great issue with the reporting of the Unitarian Universalist general assembly being held in Boston (''Words of wisdom roil a church in Boston,'' Page A1, June 28). A group that rejects any creed or doctrine in the core of its operations and — astoundingly — eschews and condemns the mere invoking and mention of God in its communications can't rightly be called a church. It is simply a group of people lost, wandering, and bickering in darkness.
A church is a historical, sacred institution where members gather to worship, recognize, and pray to God; consequently, because of that activity and effort, such people form a deep belief in His benevolent existence. Absent this, an organization is not a church.
If a doctor, lawyer, dentist, or engineer were practicing and dispensing advice without degree or license, you would not continue to refer to them with their eminent title. You might even label them as fraudulent and a sham, and alert your readers. Why then do you give an organization that loudly and defiantly asserts no belief in anything the standing of being called ''a church,'' ''a religion'' possessing ''faith.''
I think the most fitting comparison your reporter and editorial writers might have drawn to local events is: This is the sad and convoluted result when you let the laity run a ''church'' with their flawed human wisdom.

Let us think about this line of argument for a moment. I'd go along with the second paragraph — and I would argue that, with a degree of redefinition, Unitarian Universalists actually meet this requirement. (They simply have embraced a high degree of euphemism in their language about the center and source of their faith.) But that final paragraph! "When you let the laity run a 'church' with their flawed human wisdom"?! I don't doubt that there is flawed human wisdom in the UUA — but where can one find a "church" that lacks "flawed human wisdom" in its leadership? Mr. Thomas couldn't possibly be thinking of the Roman Catholic Church, could he? No, surely not in Boston.

Posted by Philocrites, July 5, 2003, at 10:56 AM | 0 comments

Tuesday, July 1, 2003

Hallelujah!

Holy Weblog! is back . . . at least for a while.

Meanwhile, at the UUA's General Assembly I'm pleased to report that I met Sean (of Across, Beyond, Through) and Peg (of Measured Extravagance — who somehow managed to do everything and write about it!), and I sat with Scott (the one and only Boy in the Bands) at the Service of the Living Tradition. Sean and I agreed that blogging is: a) not addictive, b) not in any way vain, and c) hardly time-consuming. So you should do it, too! Rebecca Blood makes it simple.

Posted by Philocrites, July 1, 2003, at 10:57 PM | 0 comments

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