what in the World?
Family values, liberal purity, and other matters
by Jane Greer
PERFECT CHILDREN. In his cover story, “What Family Time?,” David Whitford cites William Doherty, author of Take Back Your Kids and Putting Families First, who believes many parents treat their children like perfectible objects so they will be better able to compete for the best education and the best jobs. “Parenting has become a form of product development in which we look to maximize our child’s opportunities in every way possible.”
Question: What do parents want for their children? What pressures shape parents’ goals and expectations? What do children want and need for themselves and from their families?
PARENT TRAP. Whitford describes a situation in his own family when his daughter’s unexpected soccer tournament conflicted with a long-planned family vacation. The model parent these days, he suspects, would choose the soccer tournament over the vacation. “You only want what’s best for your kids. You give them plenty of opportunities to excel. You do everything you can to help them discover their gifts. And you support them all the way.” (“What Family Time?”)
Question: How do you decide what’s best for your kids? What criteria do you use? How would you describe a model parent?
ACTING OUT. Rosemary Bray McNatt describes participating in a protest in front of the UN in New York last spring with a small group of other ministers. “I was glad to be there, praying in my clerical collar, witnessing to our common desire to end the war. Yet our numbers were so small, the gesture so futile in its impact, we could stand only as witnesses—articulate, well dressed witnesses who stood watch over our nation’s failed foreign policy as we prayed, as one participant beat a drum, as people passed us and averted their eyes.” (“Against Innocence”)
Question: What role does bearing witness play in social justice? What does activism require now in order to be successful? What kind of activism was most effective in the Civil Rights movement, the women’s movement, and other social justice movements in the past fifty years? Does each movement require its own kind of activism?
PURITY VS. POLITICS. McNatt writes that Unitarian Universalists may have such high personal standards of political integrity that they may not be able to make the compromises necessary to work with others in the complicated process of achieving political change. “It has been important for us to feel good about our choices, to be correct in our discernment—so important, in fact, that some of us would rather be right than faithful to the call inherent in living a religious life.” (“Against Innocence”)
Question: Are UUs so committed to a sense of their own rightness that they are reluctant to involve themselves in the messy process of politics—which usually means compromise? Can UUs ally themselves with other groups that might not share the same values? What is to be gained or lost in such an alliance?
HUMANISM’S LEGACY. William F. Schulz describes religious humanism as “a religious movement that emphasized human capabilities, especially the human capacity to reason; that adopted the scientific method to search for truth; and that promoted the right of all humans to develop their full potential.” (“Our Humanist Legacy”)
Question: How has religious humanism influenced your Unitarian Universalist congregation? Would you identify yourself as a humanist or religious humanist? Schulz also describes encountering some of humanism’s limitations. How would you assess the contributions and limitations of humanism?