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Saturday, September 29, 2007

Got a great idea for the 2008 UUA General Assembly?

It's not too late to propose a workshop for the UUA's 2008 General Assembly — but it will be soon. Last year, four bloggers cobbled together a proposal for a workshop on UU blogs — and the GA Planning Committee put us on the program! (Here's the report on our workshop, and here's our handout: Blogging for Beginners.) If you have an idea for a great event, workshop, lecture, or program, you have until October 15 to submit an application. The Planning Committee "is looking for significant, innovative programs that will appeal to many UUs attending GA . . . Original ideas are especially welcome. Sponsored Programs are eligible for funding up to $500."

(Hey, UU podcasters: Hint hint, nudge nudge!)

I'm not entirely certain that this application is the one that congregations and independent organizations need to submit in order to sponsor an event next year — but if your congregation or organization wants a program slot, don't delay: That October 15 deadline probably applies to you, too.

Posted by Philocrites, September 29, 2007, at 06:09 PM | 2 comments

Beacon Press launches 'Beacon Broadside' blog.

I'm very excited about Beacon Press's new blog, Beacon Broadside, launched just in time for Banned Books week. The blog includes posts by Beacon authors, editors, and staff, assembled by blog editor Jessie Bennett. (Beacon actually hired a blogger with writing and editing chops.) Among the cool offerings: Helene Atwan interviews Lois Lowry about one of my favorite young adult novels, The Giver. Check it out.

Posted by Philocrites, September 29, 2007, at 09:17 AM | 1 comments

UUA Board meets in Boston, October 20-21.

The UUA Board of Trustees meets in Boston October 20-21. The agenda and reports the board will be considering are now online. The "related content" box includes several reports from the multi-year consultation on ministry to and with youth. Board meetings, held at 25 Beacon Street, are open to the public.

Posted by Philocrites, September 29, 2007, at 08:53 AM | 0 comments

UU Council of Christian Churches meets October 21.

Boston-area readers — attention, seminarians! — will be interested in the 26th convocation of the Council of Christian Churches in the UUA on Saturday, October 21. The theme is "Faith and Justice: Walking the Talk" — and the Council has assembled a very interesting group of presenters.

Two ministers noted for their scholarship — theologian Joseph Bassett and activist-historian Victor Carpenter — will be discussing two provocative statements on human rights, "What Torture Has Taught Me" by former Amnesty International head William F. Schulz and "Ethics and the Search for Christian Unity: Statement on Human Rights" (second item) by the Roman Catholic/Presbyterian Reformed Consultation. Bassett, the author of Theology for Pew and Pulpit: The Everlasting Song [libraries] and many essays in the Unitarian Universalist Christian, was minister of the First Church in Chestnut Hill from 1969 to 2007. Carpenter, author of The Long Challenge: The Empowerment Controversy (1967-1977) [libraries], has served UU congregations for nearly 50 years, including the Unitarian church in South Africa during Apartheid.

Also on the program: Tricia Brennan on ministry and motherhood and law professor Rusty Park on his work arbitrating the Holocaust-related Swiss bank and insurance cases. Dianne Arakawa will preach at the communion service.

The event will be held at King's Chapel Parish House in Boston from 1:00 to 5:00. Call 617-227-2155 to register.

There's not a lot online about the Council of Christian Churches in the UUA (sometimes called CXCUUA), although blogger Adam Tierney-Eliot can tell you more.

Posted by Philocrites, September 29, 2007, at 08:44 AM | 3 comments

Friday, September 28, 2007

News about UUA, Bay Area marketing campaigns.

Don Skinner reports extensively on the Unitarian Universalist Association's first national marketing campaign, which begins in Time magazine in October, and on the regional marketing campaign underway in the San Francisco Bay Area. There's a lot in his uuworld.org report — including an announcement that Bill Sinkford and Gini Courter (the UUA's president and moderator) are hosting an open conference call about helping congregations welcome guests more effectively. That toll-free call is next Thursday at noon; 877-844-6052. ("UUA launches national ad campaign in 'Time,'" Donald E. Skinner, uuworld.org 9.28.07)

Here's the 30-second TV spot the UUA and the Bay Area marketing team developed for broadcast during The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and The Colbert Report:

Click to continue . . .

Posted by Philocrites, September 28, 2007, at 07:59 AM | 22 comments

Buddhist monks lead popular uprising in Burma.

I've had very little time to follow this story beyond the daily reports in the Boston Globe, so I hope those of you who are following it more closely will add links to informed commentary. Thousands of Buddhist monks and nuns in Burma have been leading several days of peaceful mass demonstrations against the repressive military junta that governs the country. (The government calls the nation Myanmar, not Burma, which generates some confusion as some media use the official name while others use the traditional name.) The military is now trying to repress the public demonstrations with violence, with reports yesterday saying that nine people have been killed and several hundred monks jailed. Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi, Burma's leading human rights activist, has also been jailed.

UU Buddhist bloggers Jeff Wilson and James Ford are writing about the demonstrations; please share other links you think my readers would find helpful.

("Junta's crackdown in Burma intensifies: Security forces kill nine, raid monasteries," Edward Cody [Washington Post], Boston Globe 9.28.07; "For military junta, a history of shrugging off sanctions and criticism," Grant Peck [AP], Boston Globe 9.28.07; earlier: "Monks lead massive protest in Burma: Antigovernment demonstrators shout for Suu Kyi," AP, Boston Globe 9.24.07)

Posted by Philocrites, September 28, 2007, at 07:44 AM | 7 comments

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Response of the Episcopal bishops to primates' demands.

The House of Bishops of the Episcopal Church has been meeting in New Orleans for the past several days, in part trying to respond to a series of demands (or, if you're charitably inclined, requests for clarification) from the primates or leaders of the various national churches that make up the Anglican Communion. Those of you following the story will be interested to read the bishops' response, adopted this afternoon. The Associated Press reports:

Episcopal leaders, pressured to roll back their support for gays to keep the world Anglican family from crumbling, affirmed Tuesday that they will "exercise restraint" in approving another gay bishop and will not approve prayers to bless same-sex couples.

The statement mostly reiterated previous pledges made by church leaders, and it will not be known for weeks or even months whether the bishops went far enough to help prevent a schism in the Anglican Communion. Theological conservatives in the Episcopal Church immediately rejected the document as too weak.

("House of Bishops response 'to questions and concerns raised by our Anglican Communion partners,'" House of Bishops of the Episcopal Church, Episcopal News Service 9.25.07; "Episcopal leaders promise restraint on electing gay bishops in fact of Anglican demands," Rachel Zoll [AP], Boston.com 9.25.07)

Click to continue . . .

Posted by Philocrites, September 25, 2007, at 09:16 PM | 13 comments

Monday, September 24, 2007

This week at uuworld.org: Neglecting theology.

This week, I review Gary Dorrien's three-volume history of American liberal theology, opening with a lament:

Liberal theology is in crisis. Almost no one has heard of it, fewer people can explain it, and even the churches that have historically embraced some version of it are largely alienated from its increasing academic specialization. Meanwhile, divinity schools and theology departments are being marginalized by other scholarly disciplines. (Why ask a theologian when you can ask an economist?) Too academic for the church and too religious for the university, liberal theology also faces renewed challenges from conservative orthodoxy. Critics from Pope Benedict XVI to the American evangelical establishment blast liberal theologians for revising doctrines to accommodate the findings of modern science and history and for embracing changing views of human sexuality and gender.

Nonetheless, according to a masterful new history of liberal theology in America, liberal theology is alive and kicking. What's more, its central insights are as relevant now as they've ever been. But liberal theology cannot influence American society without religious communities that embody it and demonstrate its vitality — or without popular advocates who translate it into forms the general public will embrace. You'd think that's where we [Unitarian Universalists] come in.

One of the many ironies of Unitarian Universalism is that our tradition, liberal theology's first American home, has neglected theology. Uncomfortable promoting our religious ideas in public, we advertise our social justice commitments and our desire for diversity, sometimes failing to notice that many denominations share these commitments. We promote our political alliances, calling Unitarian Universalism part of the "religious left." Too rarely do we make the liberal case for thinking about religion or being part of a religious tradition. We are missing an opportunity.

If you'd like the shorter version of Gary Dorrien's argument or don't feel like reading three long books, there is a condensed but readable excerpt at CrossCurrents: "American Liberal Theology: Crisis, Irony, Decline, Renewal, Ambiguity" (55.4: Winter 2005-2006). For earlier blog commentary on liberal theology's crisis and prospects in the UUA, see the 75 comments on "A religion still seeking definition" (12.22.05).

In the news this week, Don Skinner writes about two small groups that are attempting to offer a more inclusive alternative to the Boy Scouts of America. (There is still a UU organization with a formal relationship with the Boy Scouts — UU Scouters — and some UU congregations continue to sponsor Scout troops. For more on the difficult history between the UUA and the BSA in the late 1990s, see here and here.) Also this week: Jane Greer talks to volunteers on a bunch of the appointed and elected committees that make up Unitarian Universalism's "army of volunteers." And Sonja Cohen tracks another week of Unitarian Universalists in the media.

Posted by Philocrites, September 24, 2007, at 07:20 AM | 2 comments

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Share your views with Panel on Theological Education.

Monday, September 24, is the deadline for input to a survey I sure wish I had known about sooner. The UUA's Panel on Theological Education, which is currently reviewing funding priorities that support ministerial and theological education, is conducting an online survey. Here's the introduction:

The Panel on Theological Education (POTE) has traditionally supported the formation of new ministers through financial support of the two UU theological schools: Meadville Lombard Theological School and Starr King School for the Ministry. The UUA Board of Trustees passed a motion at its April 2007, meeting, directing the POTE to present recommendations to the Board that would make the funding of ministerial formation, development, and excellence in ministry the first priority for the use of the Panel's resources, rather than the current singular focus on institutional support for theological schools. The POTE is conducting this survey to gather information from a wide variety of interested UU groups concerning how best to support ministerial formation, development and to foster excellence in ministry. The survey results will help the POTE develop recommendations on ways to fund efforts that will encourage excellence throughout a ministerís career. The survey will be available September 19–24. It should take around 10 minutes to complete. Thank you for taking a few minutes to share your opinions on this topic with us.

Needless to say, don't wait: Take the survey today!

For background, here's some uuworld.org reporting on the UUA board's recent actions regarding theological education: "Board shifts priorities for theological education" (5.7.07) and "UUA board cuts funds to seminaries" (6.22.07).

Posted by Philocrites, September 23, 2007, at 09:14 PM | 1 comments

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Guardian's religion reporter says farewell, faith shaken.

Stephen Bates, who has covered religion for the British Guardian newspaper since 2000, files his last column — on the tense meeting in New Orleans between the bishops of the American Episcopal Church and the Archbishop of Canterbury — and announces that he's leaving religion reporting altogether. He has especially sharp words for ecclesiastical conservatives:

There is also no doubting, personally, that writing this story has been too corrosive of what faith I had left: indeed watching the way the gay row has played out in the Anglican Communion has cost me my belief in the essential benignity of too many Christians. For the good of my soul, I need to do something else.

I had no notion in 2000 that it would come to this: I had thought then that we were all pretty ecumenical these days. I was soon disabused of that. I had scarcely ever met a gay person, certainly not knowingly a gay Christian, and had not given homosexuality and the Church the most cursory thought, much less held an opinion on the matter. But watching and reporting the way gays were referred to, casually, smugly, hypocritically; the way men such as Jeffrey John (and indeed Rowan Williams when he was appointed archbishop) were treated and often lied about, offended my doubtless inadequate sense of justice and humanity. . . .

No, it's not evangelicalism, or evangelicals, I loathe, merely some of the practitioners who have made such a spectacle and scandal of the Church in recent years. They are by no means the majority, though they would like to pretend they are and presume to speak for all the rest.

They are the sort of people who claim themselves so superior to their bishops that they won't allow them to touch them for ordination, or who would not allow the Archbishop of Canterbury to preach from their pulpits (they should be so lucky) for fear that he might dangerously challenge the comfortable beliefs of their flocks, the sort of people who pick and choose the sins that are acceptable and condemn those — always committed by other, lesser people — that are not. Why is remarrying divorced people now OK — allowing them to continue fornicating — but not recognising the lifelong commitment of gay people to each other? Why does the Bishop of Carlisle happily bless nuclear submarines and, for all I know, dogs and cats, but not the unions of people who wish to demonstrate their devotion to each other for ever?

The trouble with these people, my wife always says, is that they don't read their Bibles, for they know nothing of charity. I think she's right and I am in mortal danger of losing mine. It's time to move on.

Bates will be replaced by Riazat Butt, the first Muslim to cover the religion beat for a British national newspaper.

Related: An American religion reporter left the beat in Orange County, California, earlier this year when he realized that covering the bad news of organized religion had undermined his born-again faith.

("Williams escapes bishops' poison to see church at work in New Orleans," Stephen Bates, The Guardian 9.22.07; "Sketch: preparing for the Anglican summit," Stephen Bates, Religious Intelligence 9.21.07; "Religion beat became a test of faith," William Lobdell, Los Angeles Times 7.21.07)

Posted by Philocrites, September 22, 2007, at 03:08 PM | 19 comments

Mitt Romney's battle-hardened sons.

Slate took up the Mitt Romney campaign's challenge to produce an ad using materials on the campaign site. Here's "Five Brothers," the stirring result:

I especially like the "Waltons" touch at the very end.

Posted by Philocrites, September 22, 2007, at 11:08 AM | 2 comments

Friday, September 21, 2007

Unitarian books not approved for prison libraries.

Today's New York Times follows up on a story two weeks ago about the federal Bureau of Prisons' purge of all religious books not on an undisclosed approved list called the "Standardized Prison Chapel Project." The online version of today's story includes links to the lists of approved books. Unsurprisingly perhaps, Unitarian Universalism is not one of the "20 religions or religious categories" that prison chapel libraries may contain books about. In other words, no book explicitly about Unitarian Universalism is currently allowed on federal prison bookshelves.

The lists leaked to the Times are divided into these categories: Bahai, Buddhist, Catholic, General Spirituality, Hindu, Islam, Jehovah's Witnesses, Judaism, Messianic, Mormon, Nation of Islam, Native American, Orthodox, Other Religions (a list featuring only two books, both Christian Science-related), Pagan, Protestant (titled "Christian" on the document itself),Rastafarian, Sikh, and Yoruba.

Intriguingly, a number of Beacon Press books are on the approved lists. The "General Spirituality" list includes The Spiritual Emerson, ed. by David Robinson; The Power of Non-Violence by Howard Zinn; The Best Things in Life Aren't Things by Joann Davis; In Our Own Best Interest by William Schulz; Sustainable Planet by Juliet Schor; and Man's Search for Meaning by Victor Frankl. The "Buddhist" list includes The Miracle of Mindfulness by Thich Nhat Hanh. The "Rastafarians" list includes The Rastafarians: Sounds of Cultural Dissonance by Leonard Barrett. The "Pagan" list includes Margot Adler's Drawing Down the Moon.

There are two major reasons for Unitarian Universalists to be outraged by the "Standardized Chapel Library Project." First, although one can argue that the government has a limited but real interest in restricting prisoners' access to certain kinds of information, that state interest cannot override prisoners' Constitutional right to a free exercise of religion. The government has no right to identify some religious books and ideas as state-sanctioned. But second, it's outrageous that books presenting Unitarian, Universalist, and other religious liberal ideas are entirely missing from the government's approved list.

You can register your dismay with the Bureau of Prisons by sending a letter from the Sojourners site: Stop censoring prison libraries.

A few tidbits: Despite earlier news reports, Rick Warren is approved. So are a few of Harold Kushner's books. I was struck that several landmark works of feminist and liberation theology are included, but there are virtually no representatives of liberal Protestantism.

My earlier post on this subject includes links to other news reports and updates.

("Prisons purging books on faith from libraries," Laurie Goodstein, New York Times 9.10.07; "Critics right and left protest book removals," Laurie Goodstein, New York Times 9.21.07)

Posted by Philocrites, September 21, 2007, at 05:50 PM | 10 comments

Thursday, September 20, 2007

End of redheads? Or Nat'l Geographic's good sense?

Alas and woe, the September 2007 National Geographic — which was brought to my attention by a friend at a dinner party last night — digs up the unsettling (but unbelievable) news that some scientists expect redheads to be extinct by 2100. Surely I will be extinct by then, but unless some extraordinary calamity falls upon all the offspring of today's redheads, I'm quite sure there will still be members of our identity caucus roaming the earth.

The short magazine story appears to have picked up the tale from articles way back in May 2005 reporting that the Oxford Hair Foundation (ooh! that sounds trustworthy!) predicts our extinction in less than a century. Naturally, I appreciated this note of skepticism:

But with 4 percent of 6.4 billion people carrying the gene, says University of Rochester Medical Center's David Pearce, it is too large a figure to be wiped out completely in the next 95 years.

"I think someone may want to check their calculator," he says.

Also worth noting: The alarmist scientists are (or were) part of a Procter and Gamble Hair Care research group. Surely someone at National Geographic must have thought this story didn't quite pass the plausibility test.

("Will rare redheads be extinct by 2100?" Robin L. Flanigan [Rochester Democrat and Chronicle], Seattle Times 5.9.05)

Posted by Philocrites, September 20, 2007, at 08:19 AM | 8 comments

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Sojourners calls for letters about prison book purge.

Following up on last week's New York Times article reporting that the Federal Bureau of Prisons has been systematically removing all religious books from prison libraries that aren't on its unreleased list of "approved" books — a list that leaves everything off from Maimonides to Reinhold Niebuhr to Rick Warren — Sojourners has launched a letter-writing campaign protesting the purge. You can find links to more about the prison policy in my earlier post.

Posted by Philocrites, September 18, 2007, at 09:46 PM | 2 comments

Monday, September 17, 2007

Unfinished weekend reading.

Articles I wanted to read this weekend but didn't (sometimes life interferes!):

Posted by Philocrites, September 17, 2007, at 08:04 AM | 2 comments

This week at uuworld.org: Going with the flow no more!

Meg Barnhouse goes innertubing on a river to see if "going with the flow" works well as a practical philosophy. It's okay, she finds, until the river tries to kill you.

Also this week: I offer a brief review of a Beacon Press documentary history of the gay marriage revolution in Massachusetts.

In the news, Jane Greer reports that two Louisiana UU congregations are protesting racism in the criminal proceedings against six black teenagers who have been dubbed the "Jena Six."

And Sonja Cohen monitors Unitarian Universalists in the media, including stories about fireworks that started a blaze at the UU Church of Greeley, Colorado.

Posted by Philocrites, September 17, 2007, at 07:37 AM | 1 comments

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Imagine your own UUA marketing campaign.

Never mind that we haven't even seen the UUA's just-announced national marketing campaign materials. My doughty readers are already rethinking and second-guessing the campaign. So, dear readers, if you were running the show, what would you do? To keep things focused, let's assume that a print-plus-online ad campaign in a single magazine is a good way to go. (The UUA is launching its campaign in Time and time.com in October.) Which magazine would you choose and why?

Posted by Philocrites, September 16, 2007, at 04:39 PM | 14 comments

Friday, September 14, 2007

UUA announces national marketing campaign.

On Thursday, the Unitarian Universalist Association announced its first national marketing campaign in decades. The campaign involves full-page ads in Time, a print-online sponsorship of Time's religion articles archive, and online advertising at time.com. Resources available so far include UUA President Bill Sinkford's letter to congregations introducing the campaign, an expanded description of the October-December advertising initiative in Time magazine, information about a DVD introducing Unitarian Universalism that will be mailed to all congregations later this month (disclosure: I'm one of the talking heads midway through the film), some frequently asked questions, and contact information if you want to learn more.

The national marketing initiative will run concurrently with the regional marketing campaign in the San Francisco Bay Area, which I introduced earlier.

Posted by Philocrites, September 14, 2007, at 08:57 AM | 17 comments

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Fed. prisons purge religious books not on approved list.

[Updated!] Here's a story of 9/11 overreach for you: Apparently the Justice Department's Bureau of Prisons decided back in 2004 that it needed to remove any books that might transform prisoners into militantly anti-American Muslims. Rather than come up with a list of radical books to ban, they hit instead on the even more misguided idea of setting up the "Standardized Chapel Library Project" — a list of "up to 150 book titles and 150 multimedia resources for each of 20 religions or religious categories — everything from Bahaism to Yoruba." As Laurie Goodstein reports in the New York Times:

Behind the walls of federal prisons nationwide, chaplains have been quietly carrying out a systematic purge of religious books and materials that were once available to prisoners in chapel libraries.

The chaplains were directed by the Bureau of Prisons to clear the shelves of any books, tapes, CDs and videos that are not on a list of approved resources. In some prisons, the chaplains have recently dismantled libraries that had thousands of texts collected over decades, bought by the prisons, or donated by churches and religious groups.

Although neither the Bureau of Prisons nor the Times will release the approved list, people who have seen it have noted some significant gaps:

In some cases, the lists indicate their authors' preferences. For example, more than 80 of the 120 titles on the list for Judaism are from the same Orthodox publishing house. A Catholic scholar and an evangelical Christian scholar who looked over some of the lists were baffled at the selections.

Timothy Larsen, who holds the Carolyn and Fred McManis Chair of Christian Thought at Wheaton College, an evangelical school, looked over lists for "Other Christian" and "General Spirituality."

"There are some well-chosen things in here," Professor Larsen said. "I'm particularly glad that Dietrich Bonhoeffer is there. If I was in prison I would want to read Dietrich Bonhoeffer." But he continued, "There's a lot about it that's weird." The lists "show a bias toward evangelical popularism and Calvinism," he said, and lacked materials from early church fathers, liberal theologians and major Protestant denominations.

An article in the New York Law Journal mentions a few more omissions:

[B]anned materials at Otisville include two fundamental Jewish works — Maimonides' "Mishneh Torah Systematic Code of Jewish Law" and the "Zohar," a primary text of Kabbalah — as well as the popular "When Bad Things Happen to Good People," by Rabbi Harold S. Kushner. Among the purged Christian works is the best-selling "The Purpose-Driven Life," by Rick Warren. Further, according to the complaint, the Muslim section of the library at Otisville has been stripped of Islamic "prayer books, prayer guides and the 'Hadith,' which is the most important source for Muslim practice and faith after the Koran."

No word yet on which Unitarian Universalist books or media are on the approved list.

("Prisons purging books on faith from libraries," Laurie Goodstein, New York Times 9.10.07, reg req'd; "Public interest projects," Thomas Adcock, New York Law Journal 8.24.07)

Click to continue . . .

Posted by Philocrites, September 12, 2007, at 07:45 AM | 11 comments

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

AAR events: Unitarian Universalist theology in context.

Okay, academics, here's good news for UU religious scholars: At the November conference of the American Academy of Religion and the Society of Biblical Literature in San Diego, Unitarian Universalism is actually on the agenda. Kudos to the team that put these events together.

Dan McKanan, associate professor at St John's School of Theology, sent out an announcement about two events:

[M16-130:] Unitarian Universalist Scholars and Friends Discussion
Friday, November 16
7:00 pm–10:00 pm

Theme: "Between the Schoolhouse and the Religious Houses: Unitarian Universalist Theology in Context"

Our inaugural Friday evening session will feature a discussion of the historical and cultural contexts for Unitarian Universalist theological work, and the key issues implied by these contexts. A panel of scholars and pastors will introduce the theme, with plenty of time for open conversation afterward. Participants include Rebecca Parker (presider), Anthony Pinn (panelist), Holly Horn (panelist), Samira Mehta (panelist), Emily Mace (panelist), Gabriella Lettini (panelist), Alma Crawford (panelist), and Arvid Straube (respondent). Sponsored by Starr King School for the Ministry, Meadville Lombard Theological School, UUA Panel on Theological Education, and Beacon Press. . . .

Unitarian Universalist Scholars and Friends Breakfast
Sunday, November 18
7:00 am–8:30 am

Persons connected to the Unitarian Universalist tradition are invited to meet and share a light continental breakfast. Sponsored by Starr King School for the Ministry, Meadville Lombard Theological School, UUA Panel on Theological Education, and Beacon Press.

For more information contact Dan McKanan at dmckanan {at} csbsju.edu.

At this point, I'm not planning to be in San Diego for the AAR meeting, but feel free to check in here if you're planning to go — just to make me jealous.

Update 9.14.07: I've corrected an error in the original version of this post.

Posted by Philocrites, September 11, 2007, at 09:39 PM | 5 comments

UU minister co-blogs the 'Lucifer Effect.'

Here's an interesting blog that presents two ministers — one Unitarian Universalist, one Presbyterian — writing back and forth as they respond to Philip Zambardo's provocative book, The Lucifer Effect: Understanding How Good People Turn Evil. The blog, Lucifer Goes to Church, is part of the publicity site for Zambardo's book. The UU minister, Jennifer Brooks, tells me the site should be getting RSS soon.

Posted by Philocrites, September 11, 2007, at 09:03 PM | 3 comments

Monday, September 10, 2007

This week at uuworld.org: Church volunteer burnout.

Elizabeth Weber writes about finding a new way to participate in congregational life after burning out as a volunteer at her Unitarian Universalist fellowship.

In the news: Jane Greer interviews Mark Stringer, the UU minister who performed Iowa's only legal gay marriage. Don Skinner reports that a flood displaced the UU Church of Blanchard Valley in Findlay, Ohio, August 21. Don also reports on the second anniversary of Hurricane Katrina and the launch of the "Resurrection Project," a new UUA-UUSC-ACT initiative to set up neighborhood centers in New Orleans. Jane Greer talks to young adults who took part in the Summer of Spirituality and Service in Boston and Providence, R.I. And Sonja Cohen rounds up another week of Unitarian Universalists in the media.

Posted by Philocrites, September 10, 2007, at 07:37 AM | 1 comments

Friday, September 7, 2007

Moxie Life launches online UU book group.

Listen up, book lovers: Moxie Life wants to launch an online UU reading group focused on fiction — and is gathering nominations for the first novel through next Friday.

Posted by Philocrites, September 7, 2007, at 05:32 PM | 0 comments

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Hear me now or hear me later.

A recording of my August 23 sermon at the First Parish in Concord, "Within and Beyond," is now available from the congregation's website. It's about the first source of the living tradition affirmed by the Unitarian Universalist Association — "direct experience of that transcending mystery and wonder, affirmed in all cultures, which moves us to a renewal of the spirit and an openness to the forces which create and uphold life" — and puts in a good word for theology as "critical reflection on religious experience." I'll get around to posting the text online — but first I have to finish writing the sermon I'm preaching this coming Sunday at King's Chapel in Boston. If you want to hear that one, you're most welcome to come downtown for the 11 a.m. service.

Posted by Philocrites, September 6, 2007, at 05:34 PM | 0 comments

Harvard update on Emerson UUA professorship.

On August 21, Harvard Divinity School dean William Graham distributed a letter announcing an update in the school's search for a Ralph Waldo Emerson Unitarian Universalist Association Professor of Divinity. The letter itself is not online, as far as I can tell.

It reports that a faculty committee decided, after conducting an initial search in the 2006-2007 academic year, to redefine the professorship as a "Professor of the Practice" and reannounce the search. Why? Graham explains:

First, the most attractive candidates identified in the original search — and there were very attractive ones — fit best into that category for the purposes of Harvard University's hiring processes. Second, the faculty realized that, given the increasingly successful enhancement of our MDiv curriculum and ministry studies program in general, as well as the oft-mentioned desire from UUA alumni and friends for more consistent and focused training of UU ministers by HDS, we have a golden opportunity in the Emerson search to align the person chosen for the position with other prominent ministry professors . . . Above all, it should be noted that the designation "Professor of the Practice" is increasingly being utilized across the University as a way to bring professors to Harvard whose life and professional experience outside academia can be available — and properly valued — as a rich educational resource for today's most talented students.

The faculty opening describes the position this way:

A Professor of the Practice in this position may be a scholar in a pertinent field or a senior practitioner, preferably with a doctorate, who has a distinguished record of ministry or public service and a demonstrated ability in the practices of ministry (e.g., worship, pastoral counseling, preaching, social justice) or another profession (e.g., education, journalism, government, medicine, law) that are relevant to the needs of the School. This is a renewable five-year term appointment intended to advance studies in liberal religion, broadly construed.

For background, see uuworld.org's April 2006 story, "Harvard announces professorship in Unitarian Universalist studies."

Posted by Philocrites, September 6, 2007, at 05:20 PM | 7 comments

Monday, September 3, 2007

Responses to 'Liberal religion and the working class.'

Ever since the Fall UU World went online and started arriving in mailboxes, UU bloggers have been mulling over Doug Muder's cover story, "Not My Father's Religion: Unitarian Universalism and the Working Class. (You can submit letters to the editor to share your responses with the magazine's readers. Include your name, congregational affiliation, address, and phone number; your address and phone number are for verification only.) Among the rich and stimulating blog responses:

Earthbound Spirit speaks up for Unitarian Universalists who grew up working class and are not part of the professional class, but feel instead that they are "passing for middle class." (Back in 2005, Matthew Gatheringwater had described a subset of Unitarian Universalists as "governess class" — high-education but low-wealth people working among the professional class, including many ministers.)

Terri Dennehy Pahucki (at UU Intersections) says Doug's experience does not match hers as a mailman's daughter, although she and her husband have opted out of the upper-middle-class life by choice. She writes:

Where do those who have chosen a path of voluntary simplicity fall? My husband and I make so little money that we qualified for medicaid this past year, yet we both have master's degrees. We sustain ourselves by working — for little money (teaching, real estate) or none (motherhood, writing, volunteering) — at our vocations and buying nothing. We wear second-hand clothing, grow our own food, borrow books from the library, and enjoy nature and friends for recreation. Right now we are sharing a hand-me-down car. The working class, according to Muder, "sells their time for money". But I think what we are trying to do — and Lord, it is DAMN hard — is to give away our money for time.

In a two-part response, Jamie Goodwin (at Trivium) says that much of Doug's essay rang true to his experience as a child of the working class. "Where I differ from Doug," he writes, "is in his assertion that because Unitarian Universalism is the kind of faith that does not speak in absolute rights and wrongs that this will somehow be unwelcoming to people who are not professionally educated. Nothing in my experience marks this as true." Instead, UUs make such a fuss about higher education that those who haven't picked up a degree or two feel excluded. Jamie also writes that many working-class people experience satisfaction and comraderie, rather than alienation, in their work.

Joel Monka says Doug's essay is "an excellent read," but he thinks four key parts of the essay are off the mark. Not surprisingly, he offers a brief libertarian critique of mainstream UU political theology in response.

See also responses by Don Berg, Ms. Kitty, David Soliday, and this discussion at the social news site Newsvine.

(You can see even more blog responses to "Not My Father's Religion" via Technorati, or by subscribing to this Technorati feed.)

Posted by Philocrites, September 3, 2007, at 09:06 PM | 2 comments

This week at uuworld.org: UUism and the working class.

Doug Muder reflects on the scarcity of working-class people, like his father, among Unitarian Universalists.

Unitarian Universalism has a class problem. We rarely discuss it, and when we do, we often focus on the very poor: the homeless, panhandlers, people on welfare. But we also have a problem with the working class, particularly the ones suffering from what Marx called alienation. If you're a skilled craftsperson and like to work with your hands, you might be a UU. But if you make a living by renting your muscles and selling your time — permanently, not just until your novel gets published — you probably aren't.

My UU church is in a Boston suburb, and like all the UU churches I've attended, it has a lot of professionals with advanced degrees — people like me. But most UU congregations don't have a lot of people like Dad. I think that's a problem.

In my From the Editor column, I call attention to the dramatic and unfair postage increase the Post Office has inflicted on small and independent magazines. (I've written about the postage increase here at Philocrites, too.)

In the news, Don Skinner wraps up a series of stories about UU congregations affected by Hurricane Katrina two years ago with an article about the church in Baton Rouge, which quickly became the hub for UU relief and volunteer efforts on the Gulf Coast. Don also reports that the UU Service Committee has now taken over the job of coordinating UU volunteer opportunities in New Orleans. And Sonja Cohen monitors another week of Unitarian Universalists in the media.

(Please note: The news coverage of the only legal same-sex marriage performed in Iowa during Friday morning's brief window of opportunity — the ceremony was performed and the license signed by a UU minister — came out after this week's UUs in the media blog was posted. Watch for more on that story later this week.)

Posted by Philocrites, September 3, 2007, at 09:34 AM | 6 comments

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