Friday, April 30, 2010

not to praise boycotting, but to bury it

Instead of boycotting Arizona, perhaps we should go and perpetrate creative civil disobedience. That might be more effective than the loss of a mid-size convention (and it might bring us more publicity, at the same time). I agree with the Arizona UUs' protest, and I agree with UUA President Peter Morales' statement condemning the new Arizona law requiring identification. I do not necessarily agree with the flood of emails and Facebook posts about moving GA out of Phoenix in 2012. It is easy for us (although difficult for the folks making arrangements) to boycott--it makes us feel righteous, for having "stood up" for our principles. I do not believe that has much of an impact. But creative street theater--stopping affluent white folks, and demanding their identification, for example, perhaps as they enter/leave businesses or the capitol--seems like it might make more of a splash. We might all dress "like illegal immigrants" and loiter about the capitol area, and make them ask for our IDs--citizens can sue the police for not demanding ID.

If Dr. King had called for a boycott of products made in Alabama, and asked conferences to convene elsewhere, would that really have had the same effect?

Friday, April 23, 2010

Fast Day elements

The light of truth in an unjust world
is like water to a parched throat;
a twinkle of compassion
in our hurried and isolated society
is food to a hungry soul.
May our chalice flame remind us
of our common human needs
and shared aspirations
May we be aware of, and grateful for,
our ability to *choose* whether or not to eat;
may we be aware of, and grateful for,
our ability to eat among friends and friendly acquaintances;
may we be aware of
and grateful for
our ability to extend these blessings to all beings.
So may we be.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

8th annual Fast Day tomorrow

Fast Day was once a national holiday. The "opposite of Thanksgiving," instead of a feast and celebration, it featured a fast and contrition. It was even at the opposite end of the calendar, in April rather than November.

Centuries later, we are reviving and reimagining the holiday for contemporary life. This Thursday, April 22, will be the eighth annual "new" Fast Day.

As early as 1670, leaders proclaimed days of humility, fasting and prayer -- citizens were to express remorse for their sins and to ask God's blessing on the crops they were planting. Our 21st century version focuses less on remorse and more on introspection.

By refraining from eating for a day, we awaken from the blur of our daily routine, and observe our lives from a different vantage point. The time that we would normally use for eating, and the regular reminders of our hunger pangs, provide an opportunity to reflect on the values we are living in the world. These insights may be shared and strengthened at a potluck break-fast that evening.

Most of the colonies -- and then the states -- proclaimed fast days well into the 18th century. The federal government followed suit, and many presidents declared national fasting holidays.

The last federal Fast Day was held after President Lincoln was assassinated, in 1865. His proclamation of two years earlier read in part, "We have grown in numbers, wealth and power, as no other nation has ever grown. But we have forgotten God ...we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own. Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace ... It behooves us then, to humble ourselves before the offended Power, to confess our national sins, and to pray for clemency and forgiveness."

Historian Dean Grodzins, then at Meadville Lombard Theological School in Chicago, proposed a revived Fast Day in 2003. Since then, some of his students have observed Fast Days with the congregations they serve. We note that our fasting is by choice, while tens of millions go to bed hungry every night. This recognition helps us to see our lives in a larger context, with an emphasis on compassion and justice.

Fasting is part of many faith traditions, as a ritual of purification or discipline. Our Fast Day is a little more flexible. Since the object is the interruption of routine, we embrace many types of fasting, from a full 24 hours to a simple daylight fast, from absolutely nothing ingested through a water or juice fast, to refraining from eating a favorite food (this is especially good for people whose circumstances require that they eat at regular intervals). On Thursday, participants will fast as they feel appropriate, then gather for the service and potluck at the UU church at 6:00pm.

To paraphrase part of Lincoln's 1863 proclamation, "it is the duty of nations as well as of human beings to recognize their inter-dependence, and to acknowledge their failings, in humble sorrow, yet with hope that genuine repentance and accountability will lead to mercy, pardon, and greater cooperation in the future." Awareness, mercy, and cooperation-- may we indeed embody these virtues, whether or not we fast this Thursday.

--originally published as a Traverse City Record-Eagle article.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Tax Day Prayers

Spirit of Life and Death,
Source of Change and Unceasing Love,
we are grateful for this day;
we are grateful for a system of government that allows us to elect our political leaders;
we are grateful for the human beings who accept those roles;
we desire wisdom, and courage and empathy, in those leaders
as they make budgets and allocate resources,
balancing the needs of the citizens they serve—
for safety and defense, jobs, sustainable growth
and compassionate care for all those less fortunate;
we are grateful for the right of free speech in our nation;
we are grateful for vigorous *and* respectful nonviolent debate
about taxes and their proper use;
we desire safety for our elected leaders
and strength and kindness in their hearts
as they determine how to best allocate our tax dollars;
we desire blessings on their work
and we desire blessings on our own work
as we all labor to create a just and equitable society, together.
So may we be.


Standing together, with hearts and minds open to the many blessings of Nature around us, we feel our human needs for food and shelter, physical safety, and companionship through life. We witness the same needs in others, and we accept the responsibility to care for each other by allocating our many resources according to principles of justice and compassion. We work for these things ourselves; and we elect representatives to govern and serve in our names. As such, we pledge to support those leaders as they work on our behalf. We wish for them the courage of their convictions and the guidance of their conscience. With grateful hearts and steadfast commitment, we promise to serve the common good as best we know how or learn in the days to come. We promise.


South African martyr, Steven Biko, wrote, “We regard our living together not as an unfortunate mishap, warranting endless competition among us, but as a deliberate act of God to make us a community of brothers and sisters, jointly involved in the quest of a composite answer to the varied problems of life.” We believe this to be true, and so we ask you, O God, to endow us and our leaders with the wisdom and courage necessary on that quest. Guide us as we seek to create the Beloved Community for which you created us. Thank you, and amen.


Anybody near Traverse City, come add your prayer or thoughts (or silent reflection) at the Tax Day Interfaith and No Faith Prayer Breakfast, Thursday April 15, from 7-8am; at the Warehouse Lounge on Garland Street. The event is sponsored by ACORD (the Area Council On Religious Diversity).