Having wondered which religious affiliation might have engendered more right-wing diatribes against President Obama (would it have been Chicago’s Trinity United Church of Christ, which he joined as a young man and got vilified for during his 2008 campaign, or Unitarian Universalism, had he remained in our denomination since experiencing it in childhood?), I appreciated Thandeka’s interesting exploration of “Obama’s Religious Roots” (Fall 2012). My only problem with her approach may reflect a UU heresy: Why must we lament when young people raised in our congregations follow spiritual paths elsewhere?
Surveys have been showing more people, especially the young, identifying themselves as humanist and/or “spiritual but not religious.” What if those in the UU fold represent only a small fraction of the population who hold such worldviews, and who may, in fact, agree with everything listed in our “Seven Principles”? What if some of those spiritual liberals outside our ranks seek a faith community where they can best be of service (as Obama apparently did in Chicago) while others find opportunities for fellowship, spirituality, and service that have nothing to do with congregations, nametags, or collection plates?
Is it heresy to accept UUism as simply one link in an emerging trend toward a spirituality that accepts each person’s “inherent worth” and draws from many traditions? Or must we, like the fundamentalists whose habits we decry, call those who have sojourned with us, but moved on, “lost”?
Harrisonburg Unitarian Universalists
The cover art showing a youthful Barack Obama surrounded by religious symbols (Fall 2012) appeared to be a tacit endorsement of the president for reelection. The associated article had some real substance that would be of interest to most UUs, but it was a poor editorial decision to publish it in the last issue prior to the November elections. Do we have welcoming congregations, or are liberal Democrats more welcome to our fellowships than others? Most UUs endorse the separation of church and state, but to preserve our integrity we must also have separation of state from our churches. Some political issues, such as those connected to human rights, are closely related to our Seven Principles, but most others do not align with any particular spiritual beliefs. While I applaud members of my own fellowship who are politically active, political actions should be based on individual beliefs and should not be orchestrated by our religious organization.
Winston-Salem, North Carolina
UU Fellowship of Winston-Salem
Risk of rabies
As a biologist I enjoyed reading your “Family Pages” myth, “Why Bat Has No Friends” (PDF; Fall 2012). Bats are fascinating creatures with a unique ecological role, but the scientific part of this article omitted a very important detail. The real reason Bat has no friends is that it is notorious as a carrier of rabies. Your article seems to encourage kids (of all ages) to build bat houses and otherwise become more intimate with these animals. I think that is inadvisable and could be dangerous.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, more than half of all American human rabies cases come from interaction with bats. It is possible to contract the disease by merely having contact with an infected bat’s saliva, such as touching a rabid bat that has recently groomed itself. Because bats engage in social grooming, it is even possible to contract rabies from a bat that has recently been groomed by a rabid bat.
Chapel Hill, North Carolina
Community Church of Chapel Hill UU
Roots hold us close
I visited the UUA headquarters a few times from Canada. I feel very sad that the building wouldn’t be “ours” anymore (“Board OKs Search for New Boston HQ,” by Michelle Bates Deakin, Fall 2012). The history, the people who have walked through these halls, the connection via the old wooden structures, people who have touched them—it all will be lost. I can understand financial reasons pushed the UUA into this direction, but couldn’t there some kind of solution be found to uphold this monument for future UUs to visit? “Roots hold us close” and “Wings set us free.” Don’t forget our roots. In this day and age we tend to lose a lot of history.
Elora Fergus UU Church
Posted on uuworld.org, August 21, 2012
If the photo accompanying the article, “Board OKs Search for a New Boston HQ,” had looked up rather than down Beacon Street, the Massachusetts State House would have been in view immediately next door. The American Unitarian Association’s decision to build its headquarters on that prominent site in 1927 was no accident; it was a statement. Most striking about the prospective sale of the UUA headquarters buildings is that it also makes a statement: high-profile public visibility doesn’t matter any more.
We’re told that this plan will allow the UUA to find a place that “helps staff and volunteers alike work together collaboratively in flexible space.” An excellent objective. So let me propose a path to a truly collaborative and flexible UUA: keep the first two floors of 25 Beacon for executive functions, plus bookshop and visitor center, and rent out the rest. Then begin the daunting but long overdue process of decentralizing: move departmental functions to other major metropolitan areas across the country. This would allow real collaboration between lay and ministerial talent and the UUA staff to begin. Now that would be transforming!
The Rev. Dr. George K. Beach
Thomas Jefferson Memorial Church UU
I appreciate that the Rev. Dr. Cynthia Landrum found ways to use The Hunger Games to connect with UU youth who are finding the trilogy “worthy of religious reflection” (“Seeing Ourselves in The Hunger Games,” Fall 2012), but I have serious concerns about the influence of these books on the psyche of all who read them, especially children ages 8 to 15. I had watched many of my sixth-grade students get caught up in the story, but from the beginning, knowing the book involved teenagers being forced to fight one another until only one was still alive caused me much distress.
We do a great injustice to our children when we expose them to such violence, because it necessitates a form of psychic numbing. I am very concerned when books and movies like The Hunger Games sweep across our land and take hold of our children. It is just such violent images that cause us to become numb to war and perpetuate the culture of violence that leads to perpetual war.
It is adults who both allow and encourage this to happen by becoming numb ourselves. We don’t need this kind of story to have young people learn compassion or bravery or heroism. It would be a great gift to the next generation if we could protect them from the mind-numbing violence that only makes it more possible to accept violence rather than take a stand to end it.
Unitarian Society of Northampton and Florence
The writer is author of Called to Serve: Stories of Men and Women Confronted by the Vietnam War Draft (Levellers Press, 2011).
This article appeared in the Winter 2012 issue of UU World (pages 66–67). UU World welcomes letters to the editor. Send to “Letters,” UU World, 24 Farnsworth Street, Boston, MA 02210, or world [at] uua [dot] org, but do not send attachments. Include your name, address, daytime phone number, and congregation on all correspondence. Published letters with author’s name, city, and state will appear on www.uuworld.org. Letters are edited for length and style; a maximum length of 200 words is suggested. We regret we cannot publish or respond to all letters.