J a n u a r y / F e b r u a r y 2 0 0 2
UU World received 51 letters in response to the September/ October issue. Of these, nine give the impression that Unitarian Universalists never tire of talking about how they don't like talking about God. Kenneth Arnold of Oaklyn, New Jersey, observes that humanism is a "primary perspective" in most UU congregations, but writes that "one would never suspect this" reading the September/ October UU World. Bill Young of Auberry, California, describes himself as a "UUU" an Uncomfortable Unitarian Universalist: "It's the God talk," he writes.
President William G. Sinkford's first column frustrated the vigilant Timothy F. Travis, of King George, Virginia, who writes that Sinkford used "the word 'faith' ten times and the word 'religious,' three." Travis (firstname.lastname@example.org) writes that he is founding the UU Infidels to fight for the place of "nonreligious UUs" in the UUA. Paul Carbino, of Vineland, New Jersey, writes that Sinkford's "God-talk" at the General Assembly discomforted him, but adds that the president's words "remind me that Unitarian Universalists are indeed diverse in thought and philosophy."
Victor C. Hobday, of Knoxville, Tennessee, recommends that UUs who are uncomfortable with "God talk" reject the "fundamentalists' definition" and adopt instead broader definitions from the ancient church: "God is spirit, God is love, and the kingdom of heaven is within you . . . and God is neither male nor female, but spirit."
In the StreetsA heap of Unitarian blessings for publishing William Woo's "Fools in Faith" (September/ October). Maybe other churches will begin to walk the streets and help the poor. May we have other stories of such action to stir our souls.
Los Angeles, California
Kay Jorgensen does not minister to "the homeless." She ministers to people who happen to live on the streets ("Fools in Faith," September/ October). Please update your language guidelines: Families live on the streets, mothers, fathers, young people, elders, people with and without disabilities, people of varied ethnicities, sexual orientations, and education. But we are all people, first.
Harold A. Maio
Fort Myers, Florida
Beyond The WallsAs a seminarian committed to ordination as a community minister, I appreciated John Millspaugh's article ("Community Ministry Takes Many Forms," September/ October). There are times that I feel like I'm swimming upstream, but there are many of us seminary students who are called to a ministry that extends beyond the four walls of a church. Millspaugh's article helps bring this call to the attention of our denomination. Thank you.
The September/October issue was informative and inspiring, but there's another small-but-big thing that Unitarian Universalists can do: identify ourselves as UU.
As we chat socially or attend meetings of various organizations, we can weave in Unitarian Universalism: "Oh, yes, I'm a Unitarian Universalist, and we're (doing that, protesting that, studying that)," or, "I'm a Unitarian Universalist, and most of us tend to think (whatever applies)." The result? The natural reaction to a reasonably well-received speaker by a somewhat like-minded listener is, "Maybe Unitarian Universalism is something to look into if so-and-so is one." Or, "I wonder what attracted this individual to Unitarian Universalism?" Their next step is inquiry.
We must overcome our reticence to identify our religious affiliation in public. By speaking up, we open positive communication, an important ministry to the growth of the UU movement and to the growth of our individual churches.
Gloria T. Delamar
Melrose Park, Pennsylvania
Defining SpiritThe definitions of the word "spirituality" reported by Warren Ross ("The Unitarian Universalist Association at 40," September/ October) were very interesting to me. When young people coming into our church said they were looking for spirituality, I didn't know what they meant. So I enrolled in an Elderhostel program at the Franciscan Center in Scottsdale, Arizona. Our instructor asked us to say who we were, where we came from, and where we felt the most spiritual. As we went around the circle, people said, "under the night stars," "walking on the beach," and "in my garden."
Our instructor started telling the creation story as told by scientists, that we came from the earth and are born of stardust. A few of the people complained that this was not what they came to hear. I was surprised, so I said, "Isn't it funny? When we went around the room and said where we felt the most spiritual, everyone said some place in nature. Not one person said, 'in church.'" A nun and a minister seemed shocked, but I came away with my own definition of spirituality that includes nature, the vastness of the universe, and our own seventh principle.
Warren Ross notes the UU turn toward spirituality, but writes that some consider it a "vague and amorphous idea that is never defined." Some UUs are indeed aware of what spirituality is all about, but they generally maintain silence in the presence of others whom they feel would be offended. Our goal of tolerance is taking precedence over our affirmation of a free search for truth. Thus, many UUs do not know or care what spirituality involves, though they may frequently hear it bandied about in readings and sermons.
What does it mean? The human spirit is real, and each person possesses one. It evolves, is immortal, and retains access to all memories of this life and previous lives. The number of authors with advanced degrees who have confirmed past lives beyond any reasonable doubt is by now very substantial: Ian Stevenson, Helen Wambach, Brian Weiss, Roger Woolger, Michael Newton, Bruce Goldberg, Raymond Moody. Only cultural and religious taboos are keeping this information suppressed.
White Hands Off?The Rev. Susan L. Starr's proposed five-year moratorium on white people writing about people of color is laden with good intentions but is not a good or useful suggestion ("White Narcissus," Talkback, September/ October 2001). "Publish anything . . . other than articles having to do with race written by white people," she writes, with the assumption that all African Americans, Native Americans, Latinas and Latinos can speak intelligently and passionately about racial issues, but that no Euro-American can or should.
This assumption attributes characteristics to individuals based solely on skin color. Every person, regardless of skin color, can speak about his or her own experience and perspective. None of us are free to throw up our hands and abdicate our responsibility to engage in the debate. Conversation and discussion in the pages of this magazine will help. This will require all voices and all ears.
The Rev. Douglas Taylor
Cedar Lane Unitarian Universalist Church
Revival? No ThanksThe Rev. Meg Barnhouse ("Demons, Dobermans, and Naked Pentecostals," September/ October) reminded me of the only time I attended a Pentecostal revival in 1952, when I was a teenager. My Methodist parents let me go, but seemed unhappy. The worst that happened was I that I got "saved" along with all my friends, some for the umpteenth time.
At home I found my mother in tears. Dad explained that Mom attended a revival as a teenager where fire-and-brimstone preaching caused hysterical fits. One woman died before her eyes, giving Mom nightmares for years. Dad said that he, too, had seen plenty of foolishness disguised as religion.
Seeking something more fulfilling than foolishness, I became a Unitarian 44 years ago. Please! I am sick of wishy-washy "inclusiveness." There are ideas and behaviors that should be shunned as unworthy, from fascism to fundamentalism, from witchcraft and astrology to UFOlogy. One good thing: the tent meeting I attended in 1952 was crammed with a thousand people, but only nine showed up, including Barnhouse, to hear "Preacher Bob."
Sandra J. Fulton
Allergy FreeThe September/October issue of UU World makes some of us into UUUs. That is, we are Uncomfortable Unitarian Universalists. It's the God talk.
Christopher L. Walton reports ("GA 2001: Delegates Deliver a Mandate") that the Rev. Dr. Forrest Church "acknowledged the discomfort many liberals feel with God-talk," but also said "it is impossible to speak about universalism without addressing the concept of God." Fine. We can acknowledge that the concept of God has been part of our religious history, but beyond that, many of us remain uncomfortable especially if we are encouraged not to be critical of God-talk or to point out the evils that the God-idea has caused humankind.
Interestingly, there was no God-talk in the wonderful words from our new president, the Rev. William Sinkford. I gave a sigh of relief. Unless I am mistaken, there was also no God-talk in the other feature articles. Obviously we can have a dynamic faith without the God-idea getting in our way.
Warren R. Ross mentions an allergy to "God talk." I, for one, came into the Unitarian movement not with an allergy to God-talk, but with a commitment to a church that had largely grown beyond needing to use it.
Boys ClubI admire Unitarian philosophy and social consciousness. I especially like the kind of people in our local Unitarian fellowship. But there seems to be an unrecognized sexism in UU World. In the last five issues there were 20 feature articles; 19 were written by men. Apparently for you (like most of the world) the voice of authority is male.
Gertrude H. Chasens
Yellow Springs, Ohio
Blatant PoliticsHas UU World ever published so blatantly partisan a statement, without attribution, as that on the mailing jacket of the September/October issue? The $300 tax rebate "will take billions out of the federal treasury that can be better spent for education, for protecting the environment, for righting the wrongs of economic injustice"?!
Whose opinion is that? If it's the editor's or President Sinkford's, then why not sign it? As an unsigned statement, most readers would presume it to represent the view of the UUA, which never voted on it. It certainly isn't my view, although I agree (for different reasons) that donating money to the UUA is a good idea. I, for one, agree with President Bush and a majority of the Congress that the individual taxpayer is in a better position to determine the use of these funds than the federal government.
Please remember that more than 30 percent of Unitarian Universalists consider ourselves Republicans. As UUs, most of us disagree strongly with the positions of so-called "social conservatives." However, as Republicans we do not believe that "tax and spend" economic policies are an effective way of supporting UU values. We prefer to do that ourselves, as individuals and members of UU congregations.
Glen Rock, New Jersey
The mailing jacket to which Ray Soifer refers is the "Friends of the UUA Newsletter," produced by the UUA Development Department and mailed with UU World to save postage costs. Current donors to the UUA, approximately 20 percent of our readers, receive their copies of UU World with the Friends newsletter bound around it. The magazine staff has no role in producing the newsletter.
UU World XVI:1 (January/February 2002): 8-11.
All material copyright © 2001, Unitarian Universalist Association.
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