Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Morning meditation - Exact change not required

"My hometown, Seattle, was required by the Reagan administration to implement emergency policies in the case of a nuclear attack. One policy read, 'In case of an evacuation due to a nuclear attack, citizens may ride the metro buses without exact change.' This is our world." p. 20

Rebecca Ann Parker, Blessing The World

And the citizens of New Orleans could ride their buses in their flooded city without exact change as can the detainees at Guantanamo and the citizens of Bhagdad and the millions of people without health insurance.

George W. Bush, according to the media, is worried now about his legacy. How about 8 years of lunacy which has set the United States and the world back about 75 years to the days of the depression?

And what is the religious response to such suffering, trauma, lies and deceit?

Rebecca Ann Parker suggests in her essay, After The Apocalypse, three things which would describe a religious response in a post apocalytic world.

The first would be truth telling. Highly unlikely in a world of spin and public relations. Don't expect it from your government. Maybe from historians in 50 years. Certainly not from Fox News, Fair and Balanced, or from the pundits.

The second would be salvaging by which I think she means sifting throught the nonsence to identify what matters. This is based on good values and good judgment. This also is in short supply these days as we are overwhelmed with information most of which is noise in the system rather than anything of value. The 24 hour news cycles of cable TV keeps the crap coming.

The third is identifying guides who know what they are talking about. These more than likely are people who have suffered, resisted, who are self aware and empathic and call it like they see it, i.e. are honest. I know very few people like this but when I encounter them I feel blessed. Most frequently, when I have felt blessed, it is by people in recovery. They have come to terms with themselves and the evil in the world.

I find as I get older that I have less patience for idiots and I am surrounded by them. They often are officious, arrogant, have power over other people, and are highly paid. They often are pretentious, condescending, disdainful if not contemptuous, and haven't a clue. They are the idiots that write the policies for the Seattle emergency plan and who work at FEMA like "You're doing a heck of job, Brownie." and often they get elected to high places like President and Vice President of the United States or lead large powerful companies like Ken Lay and Jeff Schilling at Enron before it collapsed.

They are like the mother of a 14 year old girl I saw in a counseling session yesterday who through her tears told me her mother told her to take her mask off, Halloween was over, implying that her facial appearance was grotesque.

The pain and suffering is immense in our broken world and what do Unitarian Universalists have to offer? Do we have an explanation for this brokeness? Do we have a theology which helps us cope, manage, overcome?

I don't know, but I think I have made a start on sorting a theology out. Here are a few glimmers which I have caught:

UU says that there is no God who is going to save us; humans have to take more responsibility for their own behavior.

UU says that there are seven principles/values that can help us discern what matters in life.

UU says that we can find guides in all faith traditions and from humanism and even atheism if we are open to exploring and searching for truth.

UU says that democratic practices are the best way to agree on how to live together effectively.

UU says that in spite of the illusion of the ego, we are all in this together and that we must come to not only respect that fact, but rejoice in it.

This is a theology of a new age which hasn't arrived yet.

Meanwhile, it's comforting to know that in the case of a nuclear attack our government officials won't require exact change.


  1. You have made a great start in articulating this UU based theology. The fustrations you detail are those that we all have seen but unfortunately have taken little note of and done nothing about. You are nudging us toward doing something, anything - keep pushing.

  2. Hi Alan:

    Yeah, I think Unitarian Universalism has a reputation as being fuzzy headed and New Agey psychobabble. I think there is much more to it than that but it needs to be articulated, and manifested in the lives of believers. I think Bill Sinkford is a grand example of a man of faith who does Unitarian Universalism proud. I am sorry to see his term as President of the UUA end. I wonder what he will do next in his career?

    There are other prophetic voices too like Marlin Lavenhar at All Souls in Tulsa, Galen Guergerich and Forrest Church at All Souls in New York City, Michael Schuler at First Unitarian Society in Madison, Tamara Lebak at All Souls Tulsa, Scott Taylor and Kaaren Anderson at First Unitarian, Rochester, NY, Rebecca Ann Parker, President of Starr King Seminary in California, and there are undoubtedly others whom I don't know of.

    It gives me hope.

    I am just a schmuck lay person who likes to think about and live this stuff.

    And there are people like you who I admire greatly and who give me faith in our future.

    All the best,

    David Markham

  3. As you have no doubt already learned the hard way. . . What U*Us say and what U*Us do are often two very different things. That cartoon about going from incompetence to fantasy resonates with my bitter experience of the so-called U*U World. This email string with UUA director of Congregational Services Rev. Dr. Tracey Robinson-Harris does a fine job of illustrating how incompetence and fantasy get "married" in the UUA.

  4. "I find as I get older that I have less patience for idiots and I am surrounded by them. They often are officious, arrogant, have power over other people, and are highly paid. They often are pretentious, condescending, disdainful if not contemptuous, and haven't a clue."

    No kidding. . .

    Quite regrettably such officious, arrogant, pretentious, condescending, disdainful, contemptuous, and indeed clueless idiots (who I sometimes like to call them moral morons when they behave in an immoral or unethical manner) fill top level posts on the UUA administration at 25 Beacon Street. I just provided a link to an email string that exposes one such U*U idiot but here is another real mail exchange that went right to the top of the heap. . . Never did get a response to my letter putting that particular U*U idiot in his place.

  5. And I am still waiting for *exact* change, as in "strict or rigorous" change, from the UUA and it's very aptly named Ministerial Fellowship Committee who have abjectly failed and even obstinately refused to genuinely practice what U*Uism preaches in their considerably "less than excellent" human relations with victims of all forms of clergy misconduct, not just sexual misconduct.

  6. Hi Robin:

    I read the string of emails between you and Robinson. They are good at ducking you, and never do address your grievance which seems legitimate to me.

    It seems that the UUA has a lacksadaisacal approach to discipline when it comes to their ministers and their congregations. I realize that the UUA is a voluntary association, but like JCAH (Joint Commission On Accreditation On Hospitals) and the Good Housekeeping Seal Of Approval, you would think that their ratification and sanction would require a little more than just paying dues.

    I also marvel at the energy and preciseness with which you try to hold them accountable. It is extraordinary. Most people would have thrown in the towel and gone away in resentment and discouragement a long time ago. What keeps you going?

    All the best,

    David Markham

  7. Hi Robin:

    I read the correspondence between you and Buehrens. They certainly do circle the wagons don't they, and continue to blame the victim. It seems that Buehrens is way out of line. Has he ever talked directly with you in person?

    All the best,

    David Markham

  8. "Has he ever talked directly with you in person?"

    Yes, he effectively told me to f*ck off when I tried to hand him a letter of grievance when I protested in front of 25 Beacon Street in May 2000. I can't remember his exact words at the moment but that's pretty much what it came down to. . . I do recall that he was rather curt, condescending and rude. A fine blend of hubris and indifferent arrogance. His post-complaint letters to me speak for themselves don't you think?

    "What keeps you going?"

    Insanity? ;-)

    Wishing you and yours a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year in any case. I am looking forward to an interesting New Year myself. :-)

  9. Hi Dave,

    My waggish response to your question -

    "What keeps you going?"

    was due primarily to the fact that I was on the point of calling my traditional unilateral Christmas truce and I was quite busy with Christmas stuff as well. I believe that it deserves a more in-depth answer so here goes -

    No single thing keeps me going. There are actually a variety of different things that keep me going. If any one of them, or even a few of them. . . languish for any reason here are others to take their place. I take note of the fact that you did not ask *why* I keep going but, needless to say, there are multiple reasons as to why I keep going too. Perhaps the simplest answer to *what* keeps me going is that I have very few other conflicts in my life so I can devote more time to this one than might otherwise be the case. What keeps me going is the simple fact that I simply *can* keep going where others cannot. The regrettable fact that other victims of U*U clergy misconduct or other U*U injustices and abuses cannot keep going for various reasons is one of the many reasons *why* I keep going.

    I long ago told U*Us that when I know that I am right, but more particularly when I know that I have been wronged. . . I do not give up. They would have done well to pay heed to that warning but foolishly disregarded it. I know that I am dealing with egregious institutional stonewalling on the part of the Unitarian Church of Montreal and the UUA. This conflict will last for as long as they care to drag it out. . . So far that is 13 years or so. As one insightful U*U minister who deals with U*U clergy misconduct once noted, my ongoing protest is my "alternative spiritual spiritual practice" and, as one similarly insightful Montreal newspaper editor once noted, protesting against U*U injustices, abuses and hypocrisy is my "hobby". I think it beats collecting stamps don't you? ;-)

  10. Obviously I meant to write -

    "alternative spiritual practice"

  11. Hi Robin:

    Thanks for your longer description.

    As a hobby, I think it does beat collecting stamps, and I'm glad you have a sense of humor about your serious mission.

    As a cradle catholic it has taken me a while and I am still working on getting use to this protestant minister role.

    They somehow are professionals sanctioned by their organizations but beholden to their congregations who, it seems to me, abuses them in insidious ways that rarely sees the light of day. I get a kick out of how the congregation manipulates and uses the minister and the minister tries to manipulate and use the congregation.

    It has to be a tough job not getting too far out in front of the congregation and so ministers have to be syncophants of sorts.

    I think it would be a nice but rate things for a minister to have a genuine and constructive relationship with the congregation and vice versa.

    At any rate, your attempt to hold everyone honest is admirable and I'm glad you enjoy the role. It's like you can smell hypcricy at 1,000 yards.

    Hypocrits need to be held accountable and it doesn't seem like the Ministerial Association is very good at it or even sees it as its job.

    As always thanks for your comments,

    David Markham

  12. "It's like you can smell hypcricy at 1,000 yards."

    How about 1155 miles?


    Wrong Boston. :-)

    Of course, thanks to the internet it is really not difficult to smell U*U hypocrisy as far away as El Paso Texas, San Francisco California, or even Padiham, England. . .

  13. "As a cradle catholic it has taken me a while and I am still working on getting use to this protestant minister role."

    For a second there I thought you meant *your* role as a protestant minister David. ;-)

    Actually I think you are doing a pretty good job as a protestant minister even if you are not officially ordained as one. :-)

  14. Hi Robin:

    Thanks for your compliment. Actually, I don't think I am cut out for it. Do you think Jesus or Buddha would have made a good Protestant minister?

    All the best,

    David Markham

  15. You're welcome Dave. I don't dish out compliments unless I think people deserve them.

    You may not be cut out for full-time ordained ministry, if you say so, but you are doing a fine job as a U*U layperson engaged in what might be termed armchair virtual ministry. I would say that you are providing better online ministry than some U*U clergy who have blogs. Being a cradle Catholic and all perhaps you can think of yourself as a Unitarian*Universalist deacon. ;-)

    I am not sure about Buddha making a good Protestant minister and Jesus presents a fairly obvious conundrum in that regard. Let me think about it a bit.

  16. Hi Robin:

    You made me chuckle and I need that today. God bless you!

    I like the idea of a Unitarian Universalist Deacon. I think you are on to something there. Maybe I could light the Chalice, do some of the readings, or hold the bowl for the mingling of the waters.

    Yesterday, we had "fire communion" at First Universalist in Rochester, NY and I wanted to ignite the little piles of papers they had of our griefs we wanted to get rid of and you hopes for the coming year.

    I am glad you are giving thought to the idea of Jesus and the Buddha becoming Protestant Ministers. I don't know about the Buddha but I think Jesus would have been protesting right along with Luther. I wouldn't suprise if He didn't get his whip out.

    All the best,

    David Markham

  17. Oh Jesus would be a small 'p' protestant minister alright. It's the big 'P' Protestant that presents the conundrum.

    Who needs a whip, or even the Reverend Doctor Harry Callahan's .44 Magnum, to deal with the "bad guys" when one has an "obsolete" $50 X86 Pentium and unlimited high speed internet access? ;-)

    I know that, besides engaging in some virtual "overkill" in dealing with a not so good U*U Reverend Doctor's cockiness and arrogance, I am pushing the limits of U*U paranoia with yesterday's waggish 'Do Ya Feel Lucky?' blog post, but it is my deliberately over-the-top way of mocking the very real U*U paranoia that I am currently dealing with. Talk about killing two bird-brains with one stone. :-)

    I guess I am updating Edward Bulwer-Lytton's "the pen is mightier than the sword" adage to "the Pentium is more powerful than the Magnum."

  18. In light of your parting shot about Jesus and his whip I couldn't resist this -

    My Kind Of Church Music ;-)

    The lyrics actually make sense within the context we are speaking of.

  19. BTW Speaking of nuclear war, do you have any thoughts about or suggestions for my proposal here?

  20. Hi Robin:

    The only nation that has ever used Nuclear Weapons is the United States. Nixon wanted to use Nuclear Weapons on North Viet Nam and Kissinger talked him out of it as well as the anti-war protests.

    I think we should let any country who wants Nuclear Weapons have them. Would the U.S. have invaded Iraq if it had nuclear weapons? Hell no. Is it any wonder then, that Iran and other countries want them to deter the United States from invading their countries on trumped up lies to steal their resources?

    This whole argument about the "nuclear umbrella" is hypocritical. It will never work but it will give Hilary something to waste her time on for 8 years. I would rather she do something important like get back to health care.

    I don't think Hallman and Morales have a clue and I wouldn't hold your breath about hearing anything meaningul from them. I don't even think it is an appropriate question to be asking them. They are Unitarian Universalist ministers for crying out loud. Since when did they become experts on foreign policy?

    All the best,

    David Markham

  21. Hi Robin:

    No question that the Pentium is mightier in the long wrong than the magnum.

    All the best,

    David Markham

  22. My proposal that countries possessing nuclear weapons should sign a treaty to the effect that they will not only not launch a first strike but even take a confirmed hit before launching a retaliatory attack in order to prevent an accidental nuclear exchange started by a false alarm etc. was not directed at Rev. Laurel Hallman or Rev. Peter Morales. I had simply suggested that Bill Barr might want to contact them directly in terms of his own questions.

    Getting back to things U*U, I would say that Rev. Peter Morales does have a clue when he bluntly describes contemporary U*Uism as a "tiny, declining, fringe religion" but I can assure you that I am not holding my breath about hearing from him how he intends to make U*Uism "the religion of our time" in *our* time. That bold assertion does seem just a tad clueless. . .

    Presumably you meant "the Pentium is mightier in the long *run* than the magnum" and I obviously concur. I am now quite convinced that you are more of a Freudian than a Jungian though. ;-)


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