Interdependent Web: Language and institutional power

Interdependent Web: Language and institutional power

A weekly roundup of blogs and other user-generated web content about Unitarian Universalism.


Language and institutional power

Alex Kapitan explores a spectrum of language from actively hateful to profoundly loving: violent language, coded language, unquestioned language, minimizing language, and liberatory language.

Liberatory language imbues those who experience the words with personal and collective agency. It seeks to describe and create the best, most radical reality we can imagine—a world free from violence in all its forms; a world where all life, all identities and experiences, and all ways of making meaning are understood as valuable and sacred. (The Radical Copyeditor, August 29)

Doug Muder, a University of Chicago alumni, responds to its recent controversy about trigger warnings, disinvited speakers, and safe spaces.

Whatever traumatic moment you can remember, imagine somebody who went through something ten times worse. If they’re not asking you for much, maybe you could indulge them. That’s all this controversy is about. (The Weekly Sift, August 29)

UU theology

A particularly holy child—a homeless guest at his church—prompts the Rev. Chris Buice to write about UU belief in the sacredness of each person.

The 19th century Unitarians taught that there is a divine spark in every person. The Zen Masters tell us that each one of us has Buddha Nature in us. My theory is that the light shines brighter and that “nature” is revealed more clearly in some. I have been known to expand on the sentiment of early Quakers and say, “There is that of God in every person – although it may not be readily apparent.” But I do believe that when we honor the inherent worth and dignity of every person and strive for a world where everyone has food, shelter and basic needs met then we all take a step toward becoming more enlightened beings. (The Tao of Tennessee, August 30)

The Rev. Sam Trumbore gets to the heart of UU beliefs behind our work for social justice.

What most whites don’t recognize as their self-interest in dismantling racism is how racism disconnects them from their heart and their ability to love. Participating in a racist, sexist system of domination and oppression closes the heart. It creates a hardness and a toleration of cruelty that is toxic and destructive.

The work of opening the heart and connecting people is deeply religious work that Unitarian Universalism is deeply committed to do … even if we are a little daunted by the challenge. Anti-racism and anti-oppression work is a powerful way to develop a practice that opens the heart. (Rev. Sam Trumbore, September 1)

The Rev. Ken Collier shares his beliefs about prayer.

To pray is to be open to change, sometimes a small change and sometimes a profound change. That means prayer is terrifying and even dangerous—or at least it should be. It’s not that you can be injured, but you stand naked before God. Well, your soul is naked, open, and vulnerable. You need to be ready to be told that you must change your life. (And whose life can’t stand a little change from time to time?) It’s hard enough to be told by someone you love that you must change your life, but to be told by God that you must change your life is something else entirely. (The Colliery, September 1)

Tutus for Roo

UU parent Jen Anderson Shattuck defends her young son’s right to wear a tutu, after a stranger accosts them about why her son is wearing a skirt.

The world may not love my son for who he is, but I do. I was put on this earth to make sure he knows it.

I will shout my love from street corners.

I will defend, shouting, his right to walk down the street in peace, wearing whatever items of clothing he wants to wear. (Facebook, August 24)

After reading Shattuck’s story, Tim Atkins created the hashtag #TutusForRoo, and posted a photo of himself wearing a tutu“because any of us can wear whatever we want to wear.” (Facebook, August 26)

The story—and pictures of people wearing tutus—went viral, showing up in places like ABC News, the Huffington Post, and Esquire magazine.

Our complicated religion

Adam Gonnerman believes that to get many of the religiously unaffiliated into UU congregations is a simple matter of effective marketing, but others will take more effort.

People who want a place to take their kids, or where they can think for themselves without having to accept any dogma, will find their way in once they know that Unitarian Universalism exists. What about atheists, though?

. . . . This will require a lot of listening to the concerns of 'secular' people, and an examination of current terminology and practice. This is an opportunity to offer the benefits and community life of UUism while also receiving the gifts and talents atheists and agnostics bring. This is a growth opportunity, in every sense, that the UUA stands to miss out on if steps aren’t taken now. (Adam Gonnerman, August 26)

The Rev. Dr. Victoria Weinstein responds to two recent UU World articles written from a humanist or atheist perspective.

I have been a Unitarian Universalist all my life and I have heard and read hundreds, if not thousands, of testimonials by UUs who are fleeing and rejecting God, or Christ, or traditional church, or Islam or Judaism. Counter to that, I have read or heard hundreds of hand-wringing treatises by Christians who grieve that we have jettisoned the best of classical Unitarianism and Universalism (both lefty Protestant heresies/movements) in favor of a bland, offend-no-one “Yew-Yewism,” centered on anodyne principles that don’t even mention the word love, let alone God.

Please let this era be over, dear Lord, Source of Life, Recycling Bin, Vast Nothingness, O Fortuna! (PeaceBang, August 27)

The Rev. David Pyle asks, “Why do we love acronyms so much?” (Facebook, August 29)