Category: Culture

Ah Facebook, what can you be thinking?

Ah Facebook, what can you be thinking?

Oh dear.

On Wednesday, November 21, at about 12:56pm, Facebook posted in their Site Governance page a note that they are changing their policy and requesting feedback of a more qualitative nature.

Continue reading “Ah Facebook, what can you be thinking?”

Casting the Seeds of Doubt…

Casting the Seeds of Doubt…

Creedless: The lack of any system, doctrine, or formula of religious belief…  (See http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/creedless)

As a result of my mother’s incapacitating long-term illness (Multiple Sclerosis), my father raised my sister and me as a single parent, at a time when such things were very far from the norm. Dad, not interested in organized religion, nevertheless instilled in me a wish to understand ethics and live by the Golden Rule as a basis for conduct.

For the first 40+ years of my life, my experience with organized religion came mostly in sound bites, in the form of weddings, funerals, holidays and other special occasions. Most of my friends were Catholic (mainly Italian) or Lutheran. As a child I attended a few services, mostly weddings or confirmations. Occasionally we would attend Passover Seders.

During the summer for more than ten years, we traveled throughout the US and Canada, until my father tired of driving and settled on a summer-house near Garden City, on the shore of Bear Lake, a beautiful spot at the very top of  Utah near the borders of Idaho and Wyoming.

In our travels, Dad took us to Anasazi sites like Canyon de Chelly, Taos, and Santa Fe, all the way west to the Spokane World’s Fair, Eureka, CA and Seattle, north as far as Jasper, AB and south just close enough to Mexico to walk across the border one afternoon. There’s much to tell about those trips, but that’s not the point of this article and I’ll come back to them eventually.

With an architect’s help, Dad designed and built the Utah house on the hill overlooking Sweetwater, the local timeshare where I got my first job (working as a sitter). We visited Salt Lake City about once a year, along with trips to Logan, up to the Grand Tetons and once to Yellowstone and to the Salt Lake Tabernacle’s Temple Square. I traveled out to the house every summer with my sister and Dad until my Junior year of college, when I decided to stay for the Summer Repertory theatre program.

As an adult, my religious exposure ranged from liberal to orthodox in Catholic, Jewish, Baptist, African Methodist Episcopal, Pagan (several forms), United Methodist and Born-Again Christian traditions, among others.

I visited several UU congregations as part of an ongoing attempt at understanding faith and the Bible, but until 2005, the year I lost eight people in my circle of friends and family (some by association and some directly connected to me), I was not committed to any one religion.

After that terrible year, I sought to make some sense out of the platitudes and sermons or a way to interpret the losses and how people perceived them. I was already experimenting with the idea of committing to a congregation when we attended our first service at what I now consider my spiritual home, in January, 2006.

In the spring of that year, I signed the Membership book and became an official member of our Unitarian Universalist congregation. Since then I have worked hard to better understand other faiths in their context. I suppose that’s part of what makes the story below so horrifying to me.

From MetroActive come two stories of the internal life of Mitt Romney, not known until recently because there is pressure to keep such things private, within the confines of the faith.

Based on these stories, it seems that Romney talks a good Moderate game when coached to do so, but even through coaching his true opinions often leak out through the cracks, causing his campaign staff to “walk back” the things he has said.

Witness the flak caused by his “Binder full of women” comment. The men in my circle of friends have generally not understood what the fuss was about, but the women, especially those in the workforce, understand all too well.

These two related articles are well worth the read:

Mitt Romney’s Pregnancy Problem: Mormon women’s recollections of Bishop Romney’s advice raise questions about how moderate he really is

and

A Mormon Woman’s Manifesto: It Is a Moral Imperative to Treat Women as if They Truly Mattered

Reading these two articles brought me to this profile of Judy Dushku on The Mormon Women Project (http://www.mormonwomen.com/). Her profile raises questions for me of what the Mormon Church thinks of these women. I would call them pioneers for a new age. I suspect Gov. Romney would call them something else: Boat-rockers who belong in the kitchen, not in public.

Despite his protestations of moderation, Romney’s condescending remarks at the second Presidential debate about filling key positions in his gubernatorial staff with qualified women helps to expose an underlying story that paints a different picture of his views on women and their value in society.

President Obama’s sudden adoption of the term Romnesia comes closest to describing Romney’s convenient inability to remember the facts as they come to light. That these facts are damning is no less true, whether he admits to them or not.

36 Windows: October 15, 2012 – Omnibus (Culture and Miscellaneous)

36 Windows: October 15, 2012 – Omnibus (Culture and Miscellaneous)

The lighter side of life, because even though there’s a lot of gloom and doom, you can categorize much of what is wrong here as First World Problems, and frankly not everything is awful. At least not now. Ask me again in two weeks and a day…

Get Medieval on Your Pop-Up
How to Disguise Your Portable Pavilion for Renaissance Faires and Medieval Events:
http://moirandalls.com/popup/index.htm

Youth Flock to Contra Dancing (NPR):
http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=128273050

Some Book! ‘Charlotte’s Web’ Turns 60 (NPR):
http://www.npr.org/2012/10/15/162735079/some-book-charlottes-web-turns-60

The Nightmare Before Christmas – Tim Burton’s Original Poem (YouTube):

Back to October 15, 2012 “36 Windows…”

On the subject of Easter and some of the things I’ve heard…

On the subject of Easter and some of the things I’ve heard…

It’s been a long time since I waxed philosophical. I guess Spring brings it out of me.

First, before I get to the discussion, I want to repost the UU Principles, because I’m going to come back to them in a bit. If you don’t read them now, you might want to go back and read them after you read the rest.

There are seven principles which Unitarian Universalist congregations affirm and promote:

  • The inherent worth and dignity of every person;
  • Justice, equity and compassion in human relations;
  • Acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations;
  • A free and responsible search for truth and meaning;
  • The right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large;
  • The goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all;
  • Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.

Unitarian Universalism (UU) draws from many sources:

  • 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;
  • Words and deeds of prophetic women and men which challenge us to confront powers and structures of evil with justice, compassion, and the transforming power of love;
  • Wisdom from the world’s religions which inspires us in our ethical and spiritual life;
  • Jewish and Christian teachings which call us to respond to God’s love by loving our neighbors as ourselves;
  • Humanist teachings which counsel us to heed the guidance of reason and the results of science, and warn us against idolatries of the mind and spirit.
  • Spiritual teachings of earth-centered traditions which celebrate the sacred circle of life and instruct us to live in harmony with the rhythms of nature.

These principles and sources of faith are the backbone of our religious community.

Honestly, I don’t know why it took me so long to just say I was UU and get on with it.

Now, here’s what I experienced on Sunday:

I attended two services last Sunday. The first (to which we arrived late because it’s hard to drag small children out of warm beds at 8am) was held outdoors at the home of two of our members. It was cold (near freezing) but there was a bonfire and the sun was gloriously up in a clear, blue sky.

The service was led by both our current minister and our minister emeritus. There was an altar with a chalice which may or may not have stayed lit. The first part had to do with the darkness and light, with the spring and its relationship to our various religious sources. The second had to do with the renewal and rebirth that comes in Spring. An interesting parallel was drawn in the death of Jesus, the symbolic shutting out of the light into darkness (winter) and the subsequent ressurection (spring). This becomes important in the second service, but I’ll get there shortly.

There were additional rituals involved: In the first part, we each took a pen and paper and wrote down the things that weighted us down, and then tossed the paper in the fire to lift the weight of our own stones. You can probably guess what my paper said.

The second part involved taking a small bit of dirt and planting seeds in it, as a sign of renewal. (With my brown thumb these days, I have little hope that the plants will actually thrive, but it was a good thought at least.)

Many of the ancient gods and goddesses were thanked for bringing back the light and then we all went in, got warm and had breakfast.

In an hour and a half we were in the sanctuary, going through the usual rituals of service. Some of the traditions we keep each year (Easter bonnets, new clothes…) come from rites going back millenia.

Then there was the sermon. And in it I put together another piece of the puzzle that, for me, helps to explain what was being taught in 1BC and how it’s transmogrified over time to today’s view.

Rev. S. started the discussion by reading several passages from the bible: The passage about Peter and the denial, and about Judas and his suicide. And then, she moved on to Simon Paul and she shared that some believe he created Easter. That caught my attention.

I know that early Christian leaders often took existing “pagan” rituals and incorporated them as Christian holidays so that those who were not already Christian could relate in some way to the new faith. But somehow I had thought that Easter was somehow different. I don’t know why. The equinoxes certainly have their places in historic religions, though not as high on the list as the solstices. Still, with eggs and rabbits and chicks as universal symbols of Easter, it’s pretty obvious that the whole ancient fertility ritual was incorporated to make a connection to the ressurection of Jesus. I get that.

But what I hadn’t gotten until Sunday was that there was a question about the actual corporeal “rising of Christ” that makes Easter Sunday such a big deal. I didn’t realize how many Christians didn’t believe in the literalness of that event.

Ok, so for me (agnostic that I am), egg dyeing and chocolate are far more synonomous with Easter than anything to do with celebrating the rising of Jesus, but that’s because it’s another pagan ritual and, frankly, it’s fun. But I really hadn’t given it so much thought until this year.

Why is it the belief of so many that Jesus walked on earth again and why do people cling to this as a sign of hope in this sometimes bleak world? I just didn’t get it. Sure, there are ghosts. I do believe in that. But ghosts don’t come back in that traditional sense.

So… Here’s what I heard last Sunday.

What Jesus was teaching was mainly the same seven principles UUs believe. These concepts, presented at a time when Jews were kept under the thumbs of the Romans, were detrimental to the Roman priests because without the attention of the populace, their temples would fall and they would lose their hold on the people as a result (and all that nifty income in the form of tribute to the gods). No priest could safely preach that god could be found inside each person – there would be no reason to go to the temple and pay to be saved.

As I understand it, his basic teaching was that you could find the kingdom of heaven within yourself and to mistreat others was to mistreat yourself. People have misinterpreted what Jesus was saying: “If you believe what I believe, you’ll get there, too.” Instead they heard “Only through me.” Believe in Jesus and you’d be saved. It should have been “Believe in what Jesus is saying and you’ll save yourself.”

So, here we are, with the Romans seeing the following Jesus brought with him to Jerusalem for the Passover Seder, and they saw a threat to their cozy existence living off of believers of the gods.

Interestingly, earlier that week I watched a history channel program on “Machines of the Gods” which made the priest’s role that much clearer to me, so when I was listening to the sermon, I had these images of how the priests ensured people would come (and pay) to be protected.

The 13 desciples (including Judas, at least for a while) believed what Jesus did. Whether Judas did what he did because he stopped believing or believed so strongly that he was willing to martyr himself to forward the cause is really irrelevant. Peter stopped believing and was repentant after Jesus was gone, but only after denying he knew the man as predicted. Paul still believed but couldn’t figure out how Jesus’ death could be reconciled with the concepts Jesus taught.

And then, it struck Paul: He didn’t need the physical Jesus there in order to keep believing what he’d been taught. He still had faith in the teaching, though the teacher was gone.

How often do we hear that even though someone has died, that person is still with you?

Got me, hook, line and sinker. I got it.

And I find it terribly interesting that in the face of what Jesus was trying to teach, the medieval Christian priests took a page from the book the Romans wrote hundreds of years earlier, and suddenly people were paying them to be saved, only through miracles and by coming to the church to pray (and by renouncing everything else in the bargain).

So that leaves me with something else: I am donating money to my church because we do things and because upkeep is expensive. What I pay for in exchange is given in part to maintain the building, in part to pay my minister’s salary, in part for charity to other members (as needed), in part to build for activities we partake in as a group. I don’t pay because I fear that if I don’t, I won’t get to heaven.

For us it’s all about community and not about being saved. Perhaps that’s why we’re so much more interested in making sure our planet is protected. We aren’t all convinced that the place we’re going to is better than this one and that we need to be better about caring for ourselves and our future here, rather than treading water until we go to paradise.

Now I know not every Christian feels that way. I know plenty of people who listen to the message and don’t necessarily idolize or even deify the man. But I can’t help wondering what kind of people would pay so much to belong to a church and call themselves Christian, then turn around and throw in the trash bags full of perfectly good clothing and toys because, after all, they have no further use for the objects. (Collected the bags in my car, from a Curb Alert on Freecycle, because I couldn’t stand the thought that these things could go to a dump.)

Maybe if we spent a little less time thinking about where we’re going in the end, and spent a little more time thinking about where we are right now and what it’s going to be like in the coming years, we wouldn’t be pouring our money into a useless war that only benefits the very few with their money invested in oil.

After all, who would Jesus bomb?

Happy Spring!

Tidbits to make my life a little more interesting…

Tidbits to make my life a little more interesting…

My sister, who apparently is like-minded, just emailed me the contents of this article: The Motherhood Manifesto.

Mothers in America are in serious need of a new deal to remedy a profound wage gap with other working women and men, and an outdated family support structure.

Exactly so.

June 15, 2005: For a just cause…

June 15, 2005: For a just cause…

Save NPR and PBS!!!

Subject: This time, it’s for real: Save NPR and PBS

Hi,

You know that email petition that keeps circulating about how Congress is slashing funding for NPR and PBS? Well, now it’s actually true. (Really. Check at the bottom if you don’t believe me.)

Sign the petition telling Congress to save NPR and PBS:

http://www.moveon.org/publicbroadcasting/

A House panel has voted to eliminate all public funding for NPR and PBS, starting with “Sesame Street,” “Reading Rainbow,” and other commercial-free children’s shows. If approved, this would be the most severe cut in the history of public broadcasting, threatening to pull the plug on Big Bird, Cookie Monster, and Oscar the Grouch.

The cuts would slash 25% of the federal funding this year—$100 million—and end funding altogether within two years. The loss could kill beloved children’s shows like “Clifford the Big Red Dog,” “Arthur,” and “Postcards from Buster.” Rural stations and those serving low-income communities might not survive. Other stations would have to increase corporate sponsorships.

Already, 300,000 people have signed the petition. Can you help us reach 500,000 signatures today?

http://www.moveon.org/publicbroadcasting/

Thanks!

P.S. Read the Washington Post report on the threat to NPR and PBS at:

http://www.moveon.org/r?r=745

Theme: Elation by Kaira.