Monday, July 28, 2008


Sara Robinson posted her amazing response to the shootigns in Knoxville, earlier today. About UUs, she writes, "Conventional wisdom says that we're soft in all the places our society values toughness. Our refusal to adhere to any dogma must mean that we're soft in our convictions. Our reflexive open-mindedness is often derided as evidence that we're soft in the head. Our persistent and gentle insistence on liberal values is evidence of hearts too soft to set boundaries. And all of this together leads to a public image of a mushy gathering of feckless intellectuals that somehow lacks cohesion, backbone, focus, or purpose." She then mentions a long list of Us, Us and UUs, from Servetus and David through Addams and Dix all the way to Keith Olbermann. Robinson notes, "After 25 years of right-wing eliminationist rhetoric about liberal hunting licenses and scaring us out of our treason and keeping a few of us alive as museum exhibits, it's natural that some of us would jump to the thought that maybe, at long last, somebody finally decided to grab a shotgun and go bag himself some libruls -- and decided (not unreasonably) that down at the local UU church, they'd be as thick on the ground as quail on one of Dick Cheney's private hunting trips."

Robinson follows up with "this congregation's cool, brave response shows, once again, that it's past time to drop that old stereotype, and stop underestimating the courage and intelligence of the religious left in America. We've gotten incredibly short shrift over the past few decades -- not only from the religious right, which thinks we're the minions of Satan on earth; but also from fellow progressives, who think that "religious" is a synonym for crazy, dangerous, irrational, and definitely not an asset to the movement." and concludes with "And then there's that long, tough history to draw on. The UUs, along with the Congregationalists and Quakers, have been at the beating heart of American liberalism since before the country was founded. We've faced down the ignorant and the arrogant, the terrified and the unreasonable, the cops and the courts and the Congress so many times that it's not even news any more. Civil disobedience is built into our bones (yes, *sigh,* Thoreau was one of ours, too), and we've come to regard it as one of our more important sacraments. These days, it's not only in our defense of gay rights and our gathering fury about torture, but also in our leadership role in the New Sanctuary Movement defending immigrants from ICE raids.

If the right wing ever does turn its anti-liberal crusade into a shooting war, it's easy to predict that the country's UU churches will be among their first targets. What's less predictable -- unless you know the people, the theology, and the history, or took careful note of everything that happened in Tennessee today -- is just how surprisingly fierce and fearless that response is likely to be.

Grief and pride taste strange together, but I am full of both for the people of the Tennessee Valley UUC tonight. After all, it could be any UU church in America. That's the bad news. It's the good news, too."

Knoxville, our prayers are with you.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

film as rorschach & worship

Two movies open this weekend: The Dark Knight and Mamma Mia! Well, Space Chimps opens as well, for the families with budgets that accomodate movies. For most of the film-going public, I suspect there will be a clear division. The line waiting for the Batman flick will be easily distinguished from the line for the musical. I am eager to see both movies (perhaps confounding gender-based predictions), but alas, I will be driving to SUUSI. I am excited about going to SUUSI (and the three different Grateful Dead-related talks I'll be giving), and I am strongly tempted to exceed the speed limit the whole twelve-hour drive, so I can watch at least one of the films in some convenient theater along the way. I've read the Dark Knight novel, and I know the story of Mamma Mia!, so it isn't about's about missing the energy of the opening-night crowd, the feeling of anticipation, the shared larger-than-one's-self experience. If you go, please think of me as the film begins, and have a bite of sacramental popcorn as you do.

Friday, July 11, 2008

pastoral Lillie

Our dog, Lillie, talks to me. Or rather, she thinks to me. I never see her lips move. As far as I can tell, nobody else can hear/feel/receive her. I’ve even stopped looking around, to see if others perceive anything odd. I just think back at her.

For example, last week, when we dropped her off at my sister’s house (so Lilly could play with my sister’s dog, Xena, while we were at my grandmother’s funeral), the dogs began to chase each other around the house. I mentally snapped, “Lillie! Calm down! We’re getting ready for a funeral here.” She trotted over to me, thinking, “But I’m happy to see Xena!” “I don’t care,” I thought, “we’re grieving. This is not the time or place…” “Didn’t I lie by your feet all morning?” Lilly interrupted, “didn’t I put my head on your thigh when you were crying?” “Yes.” “So, that was a time for sorrow; and seeing Xena is a time for joy.” “You can’t just jump back and forth like that,” I protested. “Didn’t you all come back from dinner last night laughing and happy?” “Yes, but we had been sharing memories and stories, and you can’t be sad all the time.” She didn’t say anything for a moment, letting me realize that I’d made her point for her. “Grief is an important process,” Lillie finished, “and like any good friend, I’ll go there with you, as often as necessary, for as long as it takes. Also like any good friend, I’ll be there to help you out of it. So, are you okay?” I admitted that while I was still sad, I was no longer as angry. “Great. Then how about a nice belly rub?”