June 15, 2006

Quote of the Day

from - smijer

I'm an inerrantist -- I believe in the word of God -- I'm just not mad about it. - Frank Page [incoming president of the Southern Baptist Convention]

I think if you haven't been inside the SBC culture, you may not realize the full meaning and humor behind this statement... but if your background is like mine, it will make you laugh.

I grew up Southern Baptist - I have memories from age twelve or earlier - of being confused over why the pastor was so incensed over the existence of "moderate" baptists; why so proud that our church and neighboring congregations with whom we once joined in some sort of mini-convention (I have only the vaguest recollection of it... I remember green walls and a series of boring and ineloquent speakers) were Southern Baptists, and not just any old kind. This was during the early Reagan years. Page seems to have very strong conservative credentials, but those opposed to him call him a moderate in sheeps clothing. That he won the job in spite of this criticism may be a sign of hope that the hard-core fundamentalism of the SBC is slipping.

Interestingly cited as a reason for Page's success was online activism from Baptist bloggers. Curious about what Baptist Bloggers blog? Check out their blog aggregator.

June 06, 2006

Cool Stories

from - smijer

I just found my copy of UU World that came in the mail a few weeks back. Some seriously interesting stories in it...

This one, for instance

And this one...

For UU's mainly, but good thoughts...

and maybe a little flaky, but still thought-provoking, if only as a jumping off place.

Artsy stuff.

Much more. This was a good issue.

Posted by smijer in Church | Permalink | Comments (0)

May 09, 2006

The Yellow Deli?

from - smijer

A friend saw people passing out fliers for the Yellow Deli a few weeks back. He heard they were an old '70's cult coming back in Chattanooga after having been run out of town back in the day.

Naturally, I was curious, and I googled them. Here's their side.

Very little that sounds especially sinister - they sound a lot more like the people at the Baptist churches I grew up in than the do the Jim Jones cult, this much is for sure.

It certainly is troublesome that they are vocal about their "Biblical" disciplinary methods, and that this led to investigations of child-abuse. In this part of the country, *everyone* uses "Biblical" disciplinary practices, and it is very rarely a cause for investigation into child abuse - even when it, to my mind, crosses the line into the realm of abuse. So that's scary.

Rick Ross is a "cult researcher", more respectable than most - at least these days. He gives his take here.

Here, they certainly don't sound much like anyone you'd want your kid hooking up with. Still no Heaven's gate, but... well...

But Wiseman’s own son fled Twelve Tribes and later told the Boston Herald “growing up in there…things…just weren’t right."
In 1978 the elders of the group reportedly conceded that their church had an “authoritarian character” reported the Chattanooga Times.
Twelve Tribes has also been frequently criticized for its racist teachings.

Spriggs has taught his followers that “Martin Luther King and others have been inspired by the evil one to have forced equality” (”Unraveling the Races of Man” 1988).

Spriggs once observed, “It is horrible that someone would rise up to abolish slavery. What a wonderful opportunity that blacks could be brought over here to be slaves so that they could be found worthy of the nations” (”Cham and Servitude” 1991).

The group has also been called “anti-Jewish.”

Twelve Tribes teaches that “‘Jews are hostile to all men’ except those in Messiah…they are contrary, antagonistic…opposite…opposing…against…opposed…obstinate…The Jews double fallen nature is inclined to be a reproach…to the Gentiles…”(”Jews” August 1996).

Then there's this:

CultNews has learned that when members leave they most often take virtually nothing, despite whatever gifts they may have given the group and many years of hard work.

Meanwhile Spriggs lives in relative luxury, spending his time at various homes in the United States, France and Brazil, while many of his followers subsist modestly in group housing.

Whenever Twelve Tribes or its “prophet” has been criticized and/or scrutinized by anyone, this has frequently been characterized as “persecution.”

It their recent public postings group members claim that “prejudice” and “fear” led to them being “driven from Chattanooga” and compared that experience to the “Salem Witch Trials.”

Twelve Tribes members also say that Spriggs and his wife Marsha moved to New England much like the “brave Pilgrims…fleeing…for freedom of religion.”

Spriggs followers then blame everything on public officials and accept no meaningful responsibility for the group’s bad behavior

.

Interesting. I guess I'll have to keep track of them for a while & see what it's really all about.

Posted by smijer in Church | Permalink | Comments (0)

April 11, 2006

More Gospel of Judas

from - smijer

The English translation is up as .pdf, courtesy of National Geographic. I expect that, as with all popular discussions of ancient religious texts and the societies that used them, there will be loads of confusion and misinformation about Judas itself, the other nan-canonical gospels, the canonical ones, and the early church. This very low signal to noise ratio means that the casual observer will stand a chance of having less accurate views after the public discussion than before. Witness the video exchange posted here. I have spent several years sifting through as much discussion on early Christian writings, the Bible, and related issues as I could - doing my best to sift the wheat from the BS. I hope that my tiny contribution to the discussion of the Gospel of Judas will break the trend, and provide more clarity than confusion. None of this is original, but I cannot source each statement individually - it's memory work from a large body of reading. Some of this will already be familiar to you, some may not be.

First - the Gospel of Judas is a gnostic text. The news headlines make much of the fact that this Gospel portrays Judas as a friend and helper to Jesus - his betrayal as a favor done at Jesus' request. Honestly, this is not such big news. The gnostic sect of Christianity from which this text emerged believed in variations on the theme that Christ's divinity was purely spirit, that a fleshly body he may once have carried was impure. The idea that he may have wished for assistance in ridding himself of "the man that clothes me" (to quote the newly found Gospel) would not have seemed unusual at all to Gnostic Christians of the 2nd century. Also, this account lends little credence to the notion that things really happened this way. It doesn't even lend much credence to the notion that Judas Iscariot was a real person, rather than a literary or traditional figure. This book was most likely written after 130 CE/AD and carries much less significance for piecing together the actual history of events surrounding the life of Jesus than earlier writings do. What it does tell us is a little more about the state of Gnostic Christianity in the 2nd century - a time not far removed from the beginnings of the Christian religion. Scholars already know quite a bit about the Gnostic sect, but the public is only dimly aware of its existence, by and large. The "church" - that is to say the "orthodox" church of the 2nd century - that other sect of Christians were already denouncing gnosticism as heresy. 2,000 years later, most people aware of Gnosticism at all regard it as a fringe group and a heresy against the "known facts". This is only partly true. On the one hand as I will discuss below, "orthodox" Christians (meaning, that group which later became Catholic and protestant Christianity) do have legitimate arguments to make that their gospels and other writings are older, and closer to the beliefs of the original Christian church than what we now know of the gnostics'. However - a) this may or may not have been true at the time, and b) the gnostics were very widespread and influential - they were not a "fringe" group, but a collection of very main-stream believers of that time.

This brings us to the second question - which is more faithful to the *first* Christian's views - gnostic beliefs or orthodox ones? Offhand, my guess - and I think the best guess of most people who are educated on the issue is a qualified verdict in favor of the orthodox tradition. The earliest Christian writings still preserved are among the epistles of Paul. The epistles of Paul are, of course, carried in the canonical Bible, and in some cases carry polemics against certain beliefs that gnostics might later have adopted. Furthermore, Paul carries the first documented mention of orthodox beliefs on soteriology - the means of Christ's salvation. On the other hand, many aspects of Paul's writing are at the root of ongoing controversy over what kind of picture Paul had of Christ - as a physical person, with a physical death and resurrection, or as a being of pure spirit. The latter is the defining characteristic of gnosticisim - that the divine must be spirit. The former, the defining characteristic of second century orthodoxy - that Christ was both fully human and fully divine, a doctrine that continues to carry much weight in the modern Christian church. The fact that Paul discusses the life of Jesus none at all makes it difficult to rule out - and easy to entertain the possibility - that Paul was influenced by beliefs that later came to prominence within the Gnostic sects.

It is only within the canonical Gospels that the defining characteristics of orthodox-not-gnostic doctrine are first established. They were written no earlier than 60 CE/AD. Among the canonical Gospels, the synoptics - Mark, Matthew, and Luke - are the earliest. If they are to be viewed as defining a doctrine of history, rather than a literary myth, then they clearly show that a form of orthodoxy contrary to gnostic notions existed at this time - earlier than any definitively Gnostic text has been found to exist. This is not enough to show definitively that the traditions that preceded the synoptics were more consistent with orthodoxy than gnosticism in the doctrines that distinguish the two, but it is a hint that orthodoxy may have the stronger claim to priority.

Where it becomes truly interesting is that, after the synoptics, there followed closely on their heels the Gospels of John and Thomas, at roughly the same time - around 100 CE/AD. John is a canonical, and in it's modern form is very clearly orthodox in tone. Thomas was a gnostic text. It is to gnosticism what the synoptics are to orthodoxy - the first text clearly committed to the distinctive doctrines of that sect. (To bring us back to the subject of Judas for a moment, we know with certainty that the Gospel of Judas was originally composed no more than 80 years after the date I suggest for John and Thomas, because of a detailed reference made to it in a letter from St. Iraneus.) Going back to John - as I mentioned, in its modern form, it is clearly committed to orthodoxy. But this may not have been the case in its earliest forms! This is too much to go into in this short post, but I recommend this paper on the topic. Suffice it to say that while the synoptic, canonical Gospels give priority to orthodoxy, there is ample evidence that the doctrinal seeds of gnosticism existed practically simultaneously, and probably within the same group of believers that produced them. In other words, before gnosticism became heretical, by the time of Iraneus, it's notions were common enough that they probably influenced some of what we read in our orthodox canon.

It is important to realize that much of what we find in the Gospel of Judas, and certainly in other 2nd through 4th century gnostic writings represents later developments of gnosticism, but we should not lose sight of the fact that orthodoxy cannot claim exclusive priority - and that the traditions which gnosticism grew out of, some of which were later discarded by the orthodox church, were among the same set of traditions which led to orthodoxy. In other words, neither set of doctrines is "original" to the Christian community, but each represents an innovation which followed after the first Christians accepted the new religion. As a consequence, both are important for trying to understand what the first Christians really believed, but neither provides an easy, concise answer either to what they believed, or what "really happened". It's going to take some work.

And that's all I have time for today, but I will return to this subject when and if I can.

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March 31, 2006

Thy Will Be Done

from - smijer

In some cases, apparently, praying doesn't help. Maybe the better answer is more research into GM hogs. I don't know. A priest had this to say:

The best prayer probably is, 'Thy will be done.'

This seems to be essentially telling God to do whatever He wants. Why he needs to be appealed to for this, I don't know. I guess that's why I'm not a priest.

Posted by smijer in Church | Permalink | Comments (0)

February 23, 2006

There Oughta' Be A Law

from - smijer

So, the kid is a Comedy Central junkie... and when he leaves for school in the a.m., he leaves his television on... After I come back from dropping him off, I go turn the t.v. off for him... Yeah, he's rotten. So, anyway... It turns out Comedy Central runs Peter Popoff's televangelism show on Wednesday mornings... where he sells Miracle Spring Water... guaranteed to bring answered prayers, & loads o' money.msw.JPG

For those who don't know, Peter Poppoff is an old school con... he was exposed as a scam artist in the 1980's by James Randi on the tonight show. A brief account of the story can be read here, though you'll find much more detail in Randi's books. I recommend The Faith Healers.

So, anyway... you hear a lot of people kvetching that his deceptive practices are tantamount to theft from the credulous, elderly, and poor... and he ought to be locked up. And, it's hard not to feel sympathy for that view... his business is reprehensible... And despite the fact that he's been unmasked, he remains in business - there's not enough profit in keeping the next generation of marks informed to keep him from having plenty of believing customers.

But can you shut someone like him down in a place like America? Is it right? There is the first amendment... And since he makes his dough in "donations" rather than fees, he's even exempt from the standard disclaimers that the "psychic" hotlines hucksters have to make in big letters on every ad: "For entertainment only". He isn't bound to do what the state-run lottery does, either, and put one's odds of a Popoffian miracle in small print at the bottom of the donation form.

Ordinarily, in free speech cases, my views are simple - the only reason to shut down speech is because you lack faith in your own views enough to let them stand on their own without government backing. Conservatives call it the "marketplace of ideas". But, in the marketplace of ideas, there is little premium on truth, whereas even false hope brings a steep price to the hopeless and desperate. But is that reason enough to abridge his right to do it?

I don't know. It seems that blatant false advertisement is not usually considered protected speech - and that it is a form of theft. But what about his more insidious kind? I doubt he solicits false testimonials from his followers, or that he makes any statements that could be proved false in a court of law. He simply manipulates the technically true or the incontestable, and withholds pertinent information, in order to create a deceptive appearance to his flock.

I don't know if legal action against him is in order. I do know that a counter-offensive of truth is in order. After Randi exposed him on the tonight show, Popoff was forced to file bankrupcy... All that is forgotten by all but the few skeptic enthusiasts who keep up with such things by now. But if a burst of sunlight can damage the growth, can't a steady stream of it kill the thing altogether?

What's needed is an army of Randi's... a mass movement of truth-tellers. But then, how to organize it? We don't have a profit motive that can galvanize our resistance... but surely we can organize? Surely we can hold our own tent revivals and draw the crowds with messages of truth and real hope just as well as Popoff can with lies and false hope? Wouldn't it be great if an army of truth-tellers set out to shut down all the psychic hot-lines, televangelists, and lottery boards - not with legislation, but just with the power of rational thought? Will that ever happen?

Posted by smijer in Church | Permalink | Comments (1)

December 27, 2005

jfalwell.jpg

Well, it looks like a Biblical theme park in Galilee is now in the works.

Didn't Jim and Tammy Bakker try one of these in Charlotte?

Wasn’t Jerry Falwell the last one down the waterslide there?

Shit like this reminds me of the words of Bob Dylan

Disillusioned words like bullets bark
As human gods aim for their mark
Made everything from toy guns that spark
To flesh-colored Christs that glow in the dark
It's easy to see without looking too far
That not much
Is really sacred.

The peerless Pat Robertson said that he is thrilled

"there will be a place in the Galilee where evangelical Christians from all over the world can come to celebrate the actual place where Jesus Christ lived and taught."

Yeah Pat. If only we could get more of those guys to celebrate and emulate how Jesus lived and what He taught.

Posted by Buck in Church | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 31, 2005

Justice and Drama

from - smijer

Yesterday was the closing performance of The Exonerated in Chattanooga. I saw my good friend, Alice there, and Sandy, too. Next stops are Suwanee (maybe), and Knoxville, both in January.

Kate Briere directed, and played the part of Sue Gauger, wife of one of the exonerated. She is a genius. I made a bunch of new friends working on this, people who I admire for their intelligence and their dramatic gifts... A couple were old friends - and I see a new side to them now.

Doing something new - outside the comfort zone - is a good reminder of just how much there is that you don't know. It keeps you humble, and it gives you new recognition for others' work that you might have taken for granted.

Working on a play like this one for several weeks running also forces you to spend time thinking about issues that you've never put much time into. I was never "for" or "against" the death penalty... I was sympathetic to the anti-death penalty view for the simple reason that I trust liberal sensibilities more than conservative ones, but I'd never really taken my own position on the matter. Now, I do.

To me, what it boils down to is a question of right motivation, and a question of right pursuit of the motivating goal. To summarize, the goal of justice is the right motivation for action in cases of capital crime; the motive of revenge is the wrong one. Those are my personal values and the valuse I ask my children to learn. They are the values I hope my readership has adopted or will adopt.

After analysis, and after asking about as many possible ways justice might be served in cases of capital crime as I could think of, and after examining the issue of whether the death penalty effectively creates justice in any of those ways, I have found that there are no instances where justice is properly served by captial punishment, and many ways in which justice is undermined by it. If justice is the goal, capital punishment is absolutely the wrong approach to reaching it.

Specifics? No time this morning - I'm once again late for work. I may follow up with another post or two on the subject, or I may discuss my view further in the comments of this post, if a reader suggests a way he or she believes justice can be met through capital punishment.

Have a nice Monday. Nice to be back to blogging again.

Posted by smijer in Church | Permalink | Comments (2)

August 31, 2005

A "Good" Cup of Coffee

from - smijer

How do the guiding principles of your church stack up to the guiding principles of Starbuck's Corporation?

TGW has the story, relevant quote:

"Embracing diversity and treating people with dignity is one of the guiding principles of our corporation,"

To help evaluate, use this handy guide:

  • If your church opposes these principles, or attacks those groups who support them, then it's time for some soul big-time searching.
  • If your church speaks out of both sides of its mouth, saying love the "sinner", but hate the "sin", and then spends most of its time hating the "sin" without regard for the real-life consequences of the "sinner", then maybe its time for reform. After all, what church wants to be upstaged morally by a coffee company?
  • If your church is truly guided by such principles, then it's time to sing a round of the Hallelujah Chorus. (Check the extended entry for the story of why that author feels that the UU is a truly "spirit-filled" church.)

starbucks.jpg



My road back began at age fourteen when a friend, the son of a minister, told me about Jesus' love for me. Naturally, having grown up unloved, this message had a profound impact on me. I dedicated nearly a decade of my life, thereafter, to Christianity, remaining active in church, attending a Baptist University, and maintaining a brief enrollment in seminary. Oddly, however, during those years I found this same religion that, for the first time in my life, found me worthy of love and acceptance, was teaching me to reject others because of shallow differences in belief and lifestyle.

It wasn't until I came near the end of my college career that my life's circumstances forced me to take a good look at this disturbing paradox. It seems my younger sister, after a negative encounter with the law, was forced into counseling. It didn't take long for her court appointed counselors to figure out she had been molested by my father. Well, the family cat was out of the bag! My father was arrested and my older sister also admitted years of being tormented by his sexual abuse. My mother, who it turns out, was aware of my father's behavior all along, found her life in shambles. She was completely devastated with no where to turn, so, she decided to turn to me, the member of the family studying the ministry. "Todd," she asked, "What do I have to do to become a Christian?"

After telling her she needed to believe Jesus died for her sins and accept him into her heart, she responded, "Oh." then turned and walked away with the same broken, empty and devastated look she had when she asked the question. Just a couple years later she escaped her suffering by eating herself up with cancer.

But Mom didn't die before having a profound effect on me. You see, she came to me looking for salvation and I gave her nothing. It was apparent that she was the same miserable woman after my answer to her question as she was before. So I began asking myself, What's so good about the good news? What, if anything, was there about Christianity that could change lives? During a process of many years, I began to look beyond the stories of Jesus' miracles, and even began ignoring may of his beautiful teachings. Instead I focused my attention on his encounters with the people whose lives he is reported to have changed. I noticed one commonality with them all, he accepted them unconditionally. As you know, he was constantly criticized for associating with social outcasts, sinners, tax collectors, prostitutes and the like.

I love the story of Zaccheus, the short little tax collector, despised by his own people for betraying them to the Romans, who climbed a tree just to catch a glimpse of Jesus through the crowds. Jesus, to his surprise, approached the tree and said, in effect, "Hey Zaccheus, come down here, let's do lunch." This had a profound effect on Zaccheus. It transformed him! He gave back everything he had ever stolen and them some, not because Jesus told him he had to if he wanted to be saved, but simply because Jesus accepted him for who he was. This was definitely good news for the tax collector.

In another story Jesus asks a Samaritan woman, gathering water from a nearby well, for a drink. This was more than unusual because Jews didn't speak to Samaritans, men didn't speak to women in public, and holy men didn't speak to known adulteresses, which happened to be the case with this woman. Here was Jesus, not only speaking to her, but asking her for a drink of water from the same unclean cup that muct have touched her unclean lips a thousand times. To the Jews eating and drinking was a form of intimacy, which, I think, was Jesus' whole point in asking the woman for a drink. He wanted her to know that he found worthy of love and acceptance.

In another example, a woman caught in adultery is brought before Jesus to be judged. The law said she must be stoned to death. But Jesus instructed her accusers, "Let he who is without sin cast the first stone." After the crowd quietly dispersed and this frightened and embarrassed woman was alone with Jesus, he asked her, "Where are your accusers?" In other words, there were only two people present, and Jesus didn't consider himself the woman's judge. He accepted her.

Although I don't consider myself a Christian today, at least not in any orthodox sense, I must admit my liberality has grown out of my understanding of Jesus, summed up in the lyrics of the simple children's song, "Jesus love's me, this I know, cause the Bible tells me so."

I have found this same simplicity of spirit here amongst the Unitarian Universalists. Although many of us have come here for different reasons—some, like myself, from fallings out with orthodox Christianity, or others coming from different faiths entirely, perhaps, Buddhism, New Ageism, even Atheism—we all share this same spirit, the spirit which I consider the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of God, the Divine Spirit.

Unitarianism is the doctrine that God is one. This doctrine was born out of the cruel execution of Michael Servitus, burned at the stake by John Calvin for heresy, simply because he didn't think the idea of the Trinity, three in one, made any sense. As a result, Unitarians tend to place less value on strictly adhering to church doctrine. They are naturally, more accepting and tolerant of other ideas. In the 1950's the Unitarians joined with the Universalists, a similar group, who opposed Calvinism's doctrine that only a chosen few would be saved, the doctrine of predestination. Instead the Universalist believe everyone is salvageable, everyone has something to offer. Unitarian Universalists speak the universal tongue of love and acceptance. In so doing we demonstrate the Spirit of God. We really are a church filled with the Holy Spirit.

Posted by smijer in Church | Permalink | Comments (0)

August 29, 2005

Chattanooga Events

from - smijer

I'm only able to take a moment or two to plug some upcoming events in Chattanooga that just happen to be going on at my church...

lovell.gif
The UU's Autumnal Equinox concert will feature the Lovell Sisters Band, a trio of very youthful and talented bluegrass performers. Samples here - I recommend number 6, Lonesome feeling. Tickets are $18/each and proceeds support the church. Call the church office during business hours at 423-624-2985 for reservations. This is going to be a great show. I hope to see some of you there.





exonerated.jpg
The Exonerated is a dramatic presentation of the true stories of six death row inmates who were later exonerated by new evidence. I expect to be helping in the production in some capacity, and if the audition went well last night (blush), I may even have a part in it. The play will run October 21-23 at the church, and if I understand correctly, will have a follow-up for two evenings at the Chattanooga Theatre Center (but don't hold me to that).

For info on some death row inmates who haven't (yet) been exonerated, see Hippy Dave's post, and don't forget the West Memphis Three.

And now, as usual, I'm late for work.

Posted by smijer in ChurchLocal and State | Permalink | Comments (3)

August 11, 2005

July 06, 2005

A lot of blogging Unitarian Universalists get excited when UU's start talking about theology. Theology is fine, and all, but what would get me excited is to hear UUs talking about more practical things - life, family, work, friends, and the moral and practical issues that go with them.

I don't know about other UU congregations, but I've gone to my church for over a year now, and haven't heard the first thing about what I should do. We hear about the desirability of "community", and even hear a couple of platitudes about how compassion and care are the glue that holds the community together. But, I've never heard our minister talk about how the family fits into the idea of community, or give advice on how to build a stronger one (your pick: family or community - the one reinforces the other, right?) I've never heard sermons directed toward young people on pursuing a career that will not only provide for physical needs, but also give something to the community, and help individuals in their personal growth. I've never heard any words of wisdom to the adult going through a "midlife crisis", about resolving that crisis without it becoming a threat to family, life, or career.

I'm not suggesting that Unitarian ministers should be pushing a particular "version" of morality, or hading out ready-made answers to every moral question. Part of the beauty of the UU church is that the individual conscience gets the final word on every teaching. I don't think we should give that up. But, a shared moral vision is part of what gives us social cohesion, and helps us build a more worth-while community. And, I don't see where that is given the appropriate acknowledgement from our pulpits.

Not being a minister myself, I'm sure I should realize that this is all more easily said than done, especially balancing where it concerns balancing the individual search for truth and meaning. But honestly, there's a need for it. Church can't be just about well-meant platitudes and intellectual discussions. The element of shared values and shared vision should enter in somewhere.

Posted by smijer in Church | Permalink | Comments (1)

July 04, 2005

Happy fourth of July, everybody. As you know, our country and its government are in the middle of a pretty rough storm, right now. Partisan ugliness is peaking. Our government is making war and wartime abuses a first resort. Things are looking grim. Nevertheless, we do still have a Constitution, and we do still have a representative Democracy, and many patriotic Americans do still care about the ideals to which our founding fathers aspired. So, I say let's celebrate those ideals, even if we cannot whole-heartedly celebrate our current government's dedication to them.

By coincidence, I was re-reading the UU Association's Seven Principles this morning. Together, they seem to me to echo the ideals to which many great Americans have aspired, including many of the founders of our nation. Individually, some of these principles are more reflective of what I consider the American ideal than others. But, I think America would be a better place if more of us carried these principles in our heart and let them be a guiding force in our day-to-day actions, as well as our politics:

1.) The inherent worth and dignity of every person;

That's not just "all men". It includes everyone. It's not to say that people don't have faults - even dangerous and wicked ones. But the acknowledgement that everyone has value (worth) and dignity allows us to behave in a civilized way, and grant basic human rights to even our most stalwart enemies. When we treat our enemies as human beings, we may be surprised to find that they truly are human - and when their fear, anger, and confusion are alleviated, they may cease being enemies.

2.) Justice, equity and compassion in human relations;

Justice and equity are the bedrocks of our Constitution. It seems that every where one looks in the constitution, one sees evidence that this ideal was held in high esteem by its crafters. From speedy and fair trials, to restrictions on search and seizure, to equal protection under the law, to the independent judiciary, the founders worked hard to stack the deck in favor of justice and equity. Compassion, on the other hand, comes not from our Constitutional system, but from our hearts. Compassion means understanding others, flaws and all. It allows us to see hope for rehabilitation for anyone who is willing to be rehabilitated. It tells us not to punish for the pleasure of seeing our enemies suffer, but only to fulfill the demands of justice. Without it, we are a nation of pharisees.

3. Acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations;

Accepting other people means giving them credit for the ability to think and choose for themselves. Sometimes that is extremely difficult to do, especially when their thoughts and choices are at odds with ours. But without acceptance, there can be no dialogue, and without dialogue, we have no hope of changing thoughts and choices of others, or letting them help us change ours, if that's what is needed. The American heritage includes people like Susan B. Anthony and Martin Luther King, Jr., who were not satisfied with a nation where people were unacceptable for equal participation because of their race, religion or sex. They have helped change that nation for the better. We should, too.

4. A free and responsible search for truth and meaning;

Freedom of conscience was among the chief reasons that our ancestors fled Europe to the U.S. It's unfortunately true that in the colonies, they set about quickly working to limit the freedom of conscience of their neighbors, but because of people like James Madison and Thomas Jefferson, the separation of church and state helped ensure that they would have a difficult time utilizing the power of government to infringe on the freedom consicence that is every American's right.

If one is not free to decide one's own values for onesself, then those values can merely be an extension of the past: a substitution of someone else's values for our own moral responsibility.

Of course, UUs advocate for a responsible search for truth and meaning - we ask ourselves to take the responsibility of our values very seriously. We ask ourselves to both acknowledge our feelings and sharpen our reason. Although it isn't spelled out in any legal documents, from the very beginning many Americans have recognized the responsibility that comes with freedom of conscience, perhaps none more so than Ralph Waldo Emerson.

5. The right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large;

Perhaps this item is redundant. The Democratic process follows naturally from a commitment to the inherent worth and dignity of every individual. But democracy is important enough that it's worth the extra emphasis, both in the UU church, and in society at large.

6. The goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all;

The UU church may be a little bit ahead of the American heritage in this one, but I think many Americans will agree that the goal is worth striving for. Certainly Dr. ML King thought so.

7. Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.

Again, the UU church is a little bit ahead of the American heritage on this one. In fact, the interdependent web of all existence is more than just an abstraction - it represents the reality of the world we live in. We are all connected by our society, and by our environment. Our agricultural practices affect the environment, which, in turn, affects our health. We must come to terms with this soon, or we will find our very existence threatened. Let's be sure that our generations leave behind a contribution to the American heritage worthy of the best parts of it's past. While our government contributes to the negative side of our heritage (which I've purposely avoided), we should be contributing to the positive side. What better way than to begin to recognize our mutual dependence - with one another, and with the rest of the natural world?

Again, Happy 4th!

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June 17, 2005

Sometimes it's a square pigeon in a round pigeonhole, but even I have one to fly home to...
You scored as Paul Tillich. Paul Tillich sought to express Christian truth in an existentialist way. Our primary problem is alienation from the ground of our being, so that our life is meaningless. Great for psychotherapy, but no longer very influential.

Paul Tillich

67%

Charles Finney

47%

Friedrich Schleiermacher

27%

Jürgen Moltmann

20%

Augustine

20%

John Calvin

20%

Karl Barth

13%

Anselm

13%

Jonathan Edwards

0%

Martin Luther

0%

Which theologian are you?
created with QuizFarm.com

Via Boy In The Bands.
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June 09, 2005

God-Lite

from - Buck

I received this one from a cyberspace acquaintance yesterday

The denominations showing growth included the deeply conservative Southern Baptist Convention, a collection of 41,514 churches, whose overall growth rate was 5 percent. The traditionalist Presbyterian Church in America (as opposed the mainline Presbyterian Church U.S.A.) experienced an impressive 42.4 percent increase, while the Christian and Missionary Alliance rose 21.8 percent. Meanwhile, the Evangelical Free Church was up 57.2 percent, and Pentecostal denominations also boomed. The Assemblies of God, with 11,880 churches, saw 18.5 percent growth, while the Church of God, with 5,612 churches, saw growth of 40.2 percent.

With no sense of irony this writer for the pro war National Review ends the article with this quote from a former member of the Pol Pot regime

"When I was a soldier I did bad things. I don't know how many we killed. We were following orders and thought it was the right thing to do. I read the Bible and I know it will free me from the weight of the sins I have committed."

Maybe this was a backhanded way to assure our guys and gals in Iraq that they need not worry much about raping, robbing, pillaging, killing and destroying. After all, full-flavored God not only has the power to fix parking tickets but He will also forgive us for the sins we commit at the behest of the State.

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May 09, 2005

Southern Baptist Theological Seminary says "no" to science...

Southern Baptist Theological Seminary wants students to be skeptical toward much of modern psychology and to look first to the Bible for guidance -- a major shift for a school that pioneered the integration of theology and psychology decades ago.

Make no mistake - people will be harmed by this.

Posted by smijer in Church | Permalink | Comments (0)

May 06, 2005

Reckon these folks have relatives in Toccoa, GA? (If you haven't already, see Buck's post here about small minds in a small town)

And if any of these ex-Baptists are looking for a more tolerant and accepting home, well, they ought to look here.

Posted by smijer in Church | Permalink | Comments (2)

May 01, 2005

Flower Communion

from - smijer

Today was flower communion... Before & after:

Before (what I brought):

before.JPG


After (what I took home):

after.JPG

Very nice day, and a nice ritual.

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April 22, 2005

Ok, I may need Reed to check my grammar and spelling there... but the point is this: Catholics who are women, gay, progressive, or members of any other group who might not be thrilled with Joseph Ratzinger's election to the papacy, we have a welcoming home for you in the Unitarian Universalist church. If you were just holding on in hopes that the new pope would be more forward thinking than the old, now is the time to visit the greener pastures of a welcoming congregation near you. Use the UU congregation locator to locate the nearest one. Come and see us. We would love to have you.

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April 20, 2005

April's edition of UU World Magazine arrived yesterday. Of special interest to me were the articles on Energy and Ethics, and the prison pen-pal ministry, sponsored by the Church of the Larger Fellowship.

The Energy article serves as a mini-jeremiad on western wastefulness...

This is more than a sign of mere piggishness—and here is where the parallel to Jefferson becomes clear. By burning fossil fuels to generate our energy, affluent nations produce far more carbon dioxide, the principle greenhouse gas implicated in global warming, than poorer nations. Yet if temperatures rise across the globe in coming decades, as a broad consensus of leading climatologists predicts, the most profound consequences will not likely befall people in the U.S. or Denmark or the rest of the developed world. Although costs to our own economies may be high, the most seriously afflicted will be people in some of the world's most impoverished nations—consequences ranging from prolonged drought and desertification of agriculturally productive areas to widespread coastal flooding, increases in such insect-vectored diseases as malaria, and increased frequency and intensity of devastating monster hurricanes.

After reading about the prison pen-pal ministry, I hurried to this page to ask for more information about how to sign up.

I'll take Bill Sinkford over Joseph Ratzinger any day of the week - especially Sunday.