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Abortion, the religious left, and Christmas ghosts

Questions for spiritual reflection and adult group discussions.
By Jane Greer
Winter 2009 11.1.09

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Partners? In his “Forum” article “Religion and Science Can Be Partners,” Bruce Sheiman argues that religion and science are actually compatible in that they “arise from the same urge toward progress, transcendence, and salvation found within the human spirit.” (page 14)

If Sheiman’s partnership model were accepted, how might it change religious and scientific institutions? How might atheism be accommodated in this model?

One light. Forrest Church describes the world as being like a giant cathedral in which we all live in different parts. We are all illuminated by the same light, although it comes through different windows. “A twenty-first century theology based on the concept of one Light and many windows offers to its adherents both breadth and focus,” he writes. “Honoring many different religious approaches, it only excludes the truth-claims of absolutists. That is because fundamentalists claim that the Light shines through their window only.” (“The Cathedral of the World,” page 19)

How would you compare your theology with this concept of “one Light and many windows”?

Christmas ghosts. In “Ghosts of Unitarian Christmas” (page 22) Doug Muder updates Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol. Instead of visiting Ebenezer Scrooge, the three ghosts of Christmases past, present, and future visit Ben, a crotchety UU.

What three people in your life might have something to tell you about your Christmases (or other holiday celebrations) past, present, and future? How have these celebrations changed over the years? What do you want your celebrations to look like in the future?

The religious left. Daniel McKanan identifies four clusters that comprise today’s religious left: religiously motivated groups of grassroots activists, such as the Catholic Worker movement; groups formed around denominational bureaucracies, such as the UUA’s Washington Office for Advocacy and Witness, which focus on legislation; groups based on liberation theology; and the broad group of “spiritual but not religious” people whose social activism is spiritually based. (“The Religious Left,” page 32)

What prevents these four groups from working together? What could make them into a more powerful and cohesive force?

Abortion. Scotty McLennan makes a Christian case for abortion by examining the question of when life begins. He reviews some of the different theological positions put forward by Protestant, Catholic, and Jewish theologians, and argues that life begins at birth.“I’m . . . personally compelled by the notion that it’s the breath of life that makes us full human beings,” he writes. (“Breath Is Life,” page 37)

When do you think life begins? What are the religious or ethical grounds for your support for (or opposition to) abortion?

A child’s murder. Kimberly French profiles UU poet Kathleen Sheeder Bonanno, whose 21-year-old daughter was murdered by a former boyfriend. Unitarian Universalism played an important role in Bonanno’s recovery. “Being Unitarian Universalist, I don’t want to live in hatred,” Bonanno says. “I do believe men in prison have the possibility of redemption here on earth. And I do feel peace and comfort in the fact that [the former boyfriend] was arrested and found guilty.” (“A Poet’s Grief,” page 41)

Unitarian Universalism’s First Principle affirms the inherent worth and dignity of every individual. How can we affirm the worth and dignity of victims of violent crimes as well as the perpetrators of those crimes? Has forgiveness been an important part of your life?

‘Saving’ Utes. In “Unitarians Worked to ‘Save’ Ute Indians,” Sonja L. Cohen describes the failed attempts by nineteenth-century Unitarian ministers to civilize and manage the Ute Indian tribe, which had been assigned to them by President Ulysses S. Grant’s administration. At the 2009 UUA General Assembly, UUA President William G. Sinkford offered an apology to the Utes on the UUA’s behalf. “We participated, however ineptly, in a process that stole your land and forced a foreign way of life on you,” he said. “We ask for your forgiveness.” (page 64)

What effect might an apology offered 150 years after an event have?

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