Thursday, September 30, 2010

A Resonant UU Voice

A while back I mentioned, in declaring myself a Christian, that I was still a UU. Voices and thinkers like The Rev. John Wolf (who began his career in the church I now call home) inspire me in that tradition.

Thank you, David Markham.

Huh!? Smashing for Jesus

As Dave Barry would say, I am not making this up.

I don't know if the above link will work; it's probably behind a pay wall.

In the event it doesn't, here's the gist of it:

A nearby Assembly of God church held a late afternoon/evening youth event with hip-hop artists, Christian rock groups, basketball, an inflatable play house...

and a spray-painting (on an old trailer) and van-smashing spree.

For as many as 2,000 students in middle school and high school, this was a night to express themselves with activities that, on the surface, could just as easily taken place on meaner streets. But it was all legit.

...There was also the chance to win special prizes, including $15,000 and Apple eMac computers.

But for the Rev. Jon Brown, youth pastor for nearly nine years at the church, the event was really more than a night of fun.

It was giving them a venue that might open a door for kids to turn to God and for some who’ve never been to a church, he said....

Brown said the group is trying to reach kids in the way they understand — socializing with friends, enjoying the moment. While realizing that many come for the entertainment, others do find that they can can accept Christ, according to Brown.

“The ‘Premiere’ is to introduce them to Jesus, many for the first time,” he said.

Now, granted, my understanding of Jesus's message and mission and this church's understanding of the same are likely to be very, very different from each other.

But still!?! What exactly does wanton vandalism -- even if it's with things donated to the church -- have to do with anyone's interpretation of the Gospel?

I'm actually amazed (and, to be honest, a bit depressed) that kids who showed up didn't feel so completely patronized that the whole thing was just a turn-off.

I know from time to time we UUs wonder about how we could better engage our youth to be more connected in our churches.

This is one idea I hope we don't try to copy.

As an aside -- I recognized the name of one of the kids in the story. He goes to the same UU church I do.

If I see either of his parents I'll have to ask what they thought of the whole thing...

Thursday, September 23, 2010

"Facebook isn't our friend."

Good advice and a tale of woe here.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

It's My Birthday

It's my birthday today. A warm and loving card from the always thoughtful DairyStateMom was at my place at the kitchen table.

And an old college friend who maintains a blog of prayers that he composes growing out of his Jewish tradition just happened to post a link to this April prayer today on his Facebook page.

Follow the link for the whole thing. It's called "Regarding Old Wounds" -- and it seems right for a birthday taking-stock time.

Amen, and Blessed Be.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Yet Another Book I Want to Read

Reviewed in the UU World.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Hunting for a Book to Buy

My brother-in-law and his wife have given me an Amazon gift certificate for my upcoming birthday. It's a very much appreciated gift.

Yet tonight I spent more than an hour browsing through my wish list, as well as the recommendations generated by it -- and I have yet to pick what I want to get. Lots of choices, but I find myself saying, "Well, I want to read that, but I don't know that I'll really want or need to OWN it..."

This may be a reaction to having too many unread books in my shelves; I'm not sure. Or perhaps it's a reaction to not wanting to accumulate any more stuff of whatever kind.

Yet I do want to make use of this generous and thoughtful gift...

I hope I come up with something I'm really wanting to buy soon!

Friday, September 17, 2010

A Tennessee Editor Visits Ground Zero

From The Rural Blog, run by the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues at the University of Kentucky:

Tenn. editor visits Ground Zero, shares the experience with his readers and takes a stand
"This country was settled by people seeking religious tolerance, a pillar that was built deep into the American infrastructure. Surely we cannot move that pillar, and threaten the foundation, because of 19 people."

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

"What's Our Story?"

I'm working up to writing something about politics, about which I've been procrastinating since I started the blog more than a year ago.

For now, this, from Doug Muder, to which I was led by nagoonberry. Both are worth another read.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

A New Analysis of the Current Politics

This looks like an interesting book.

It's also exactly the kind of book that I've been avoiding of late because I fear it will just depress me.

Monday, September 13, 2010

A Beautiful Chalice Lighting Reading

The Rev. Debra Haffner offered this at a service yesterday and on her blog today. While lines it in make specific seasonal references, it could also be adapted for other occasions.

The first words spoken in the Hebrew Bible are, "Let there be light."

Let there be light today as we once again gather in community.

Let us feel the light of each others' lives.

Let us feel the light of the New Year, Rosh Hashanah, and the end of Ramadan.

Let us remember those we lost on September 11th.

Let this light remind us to bring our light into the world-our search for truth, appreciation of diversity and full inclusion.

Let it remind us to witness against those who would burn sacred texts, commit acts of terrorism, or deny that every one of us has inherent dignity and self worth.

Let this chalice represent what brings us back to our beloved community-the gifts of friendship, of wisdom, of insights, of encouragement, or support. Let this light remind us of our history, our knowing, our shared silence and our shared laughter, our shared tears, and our shared hopes for our futures.

May our lights be rekindled - as individuals, as friends, as family, as a church community.

Let there always be light.


Saturday, September 11, 2010

What part did you not understand?

God Angrily Clarifies 'Don't Kill' Rule.

(Thanks, Will!)

'Bring 'em All In'

This song by Mike Scott of the Waterboys is the most succinct contemporary rendition of the essential message of the Gospels that I've encountered.

It is equally at home in the Unitarian Universalist faith.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Two things I read this morning.

Each spoke to me directly.

How Do We Learn to Love? by Marilyn Sewell.

Admitting to God, to ourselves, by Ms. Kitty.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

I am a Christian

I've actually been contemplating making this declaration for months. But I've been on unofficial and unplanned hiatus from this blog for most of the summer -- a product of distraction, an erratic schedule, vacation, more kid-time, and a thousand other things.

I am a Christian.

I am also, still, a Unitarian Universalist, and I do not consider these two declarations of faith to be mutually exclusive.

I know there are millions of Christians who will tell me that, no, I am not a Christian. But I take comfort in the millions who will accept my declaration of faith on its face.

I do not believe that Jesus died so that I might be saved, by a vengeful, sadistic and petty tyrant of a god, from an eternal torment as a result of an act committed by a mythical ancestor 6,000 years ago.

But I still declare myself a Christian.

I do believe that the planet and the Universe are indeed as many millions of years old as the best scientific evidence appears to show them to be. I believe my ancestors emerged over eons, increasingly complex from once-simple organisms. I believe that their actual coming into being, the entire universe's coming into being, was an act of creation by a supreme and not entirely knowable, distant and overarching yet intimate, creative force and personality for which God is the most familiar name, however imperfect and insufficient.

I believe that many people have walked this planet and been acutely in touch with that force, that personality. I believe that one of them lived about 2,000 years ago, a working class man born into a humble family in the Middle East, in a country under the grip of a foreign oppressor, who grew up to preach a radical message of love, equality, humility, and sharing, a message that called on all to transcend boundaries established by social norms and structures of hierarchy. His message was not, in itself, unique, but it was rendered in a powerful and distinctive voice

That message speaks deeply to me. And so I call myself a Christian.

I do not know in what way Jesus transcended his death on the cross 2,000 years ago. I don't dismiss out of hand the possibility that some sort of real resurrection occurred, although if it did I wonder why it was not more widely recorded even in that time. But, more likely, I believe that what transcended death was the force of his example and the force of his radical egalitarian vision.

These ideas that I embrace are not the product of any original thought. For the last two years I've been on an autodidactic journey through a handful of works of contemporary Christian scholarship. And so I've read, mostly, John Dominic Crossan and Marcus Borg, both Jesus Seminar scholars; and Michael Dowd; and Rebecca Ann Parker and Rita Nakishima Brock. The most recent installment of my curriculum was Brian McLaren's The Secret Message of Jesus: a distillation, in a voice and tone that rings with the familiar cadences of the Evangelical pulpit, of the radical teachings I described above. All of the works I've described spoke to me, but Message spoke with the most fervor and enabled me to say:

I am a Christian.

And what now? What next?

While I'm sure I will read more in that vein in the coming months and years, that journey has reached a pause, as I synthesize what I've encountered and make sense of it in my own life.

I will have more to write about some of this, I'm sure, in coming days, weeks and months. For now, it just felt it was time to say what I have said.

And so I have.

"Disestablish Your Congregation"

Dan Harper on Liberal Religion as Countercultural. And I will assert it is as relevant to progressive Christians as it is to Unitarian Universalists.

(And thanks to Will for pointing me to it.)