Readers respond to the Winter 2009 issue.
In addition to Scotty McLennan’s well-taken points in his article “Breath Is Life” (Winter 2009), I’d add that the many pro-choice Christians I’ve spoken to also believe that God would not want the millions of women who have unplanned pregnancies each year to be forced to stay pregnant against their will. They see the right of women to control their own reproductive futures as fundamental to female equality and human liberty. They do not see any social justice or religious wisdom in trying to force poor women with unwanted pregnancies to be essentially obligatory breeding machines. These pro-choice Christians also believe that by supporting choice they’re doing God’s work by helping to end massive debilitating infections and excruciating deaths from illegal abortions for millions of desperate women. These are religious values.
Long Beach, California
UU Church of Long Beach
“Pro-lifers” commit the error of potentiality. This error consists in believing that something potential is real. There are many potentialities in biology (human, animal, or plant) that are not realities. An egg is not a chicken. A caterpillar is not a butterfly. A tadpole is not a frog. A bag of pinecones is not a forest. A human embryo is not a baby.
Fort Collins, Colorado
Foothills Unitarian Church
I was surprised that Scotty McLennan omitted the most important argument for the acceptance of safe, legal, first-trimester abortion. In the Western world, there appears to be no theological, legal, moral, or scientific controversy about when human life ends. Death is not defined by the absence of breathing, the absence of heartbeats, or the absence of consciousness. It is defined by the absence of brainwave activity. Brainwave activity should likewise be considered the marker by which human life begins.
Cynthia Van Ness
Buffalo, New York
I was an abortion provider for twenty-one years. I never had a patient whose choice was “a matter of convenience,” as Scotty McLennan so cruelly trivializes it.
Dr. Baird Bardarson
UU Congregation of Whidbey Island
Daniel McKanan’s article “The Religious Left” (Winter 2009) mistakenly cites Mumia Abu-Jamal as a martyr and fails to mention the decriminalization of abortion as a key religious issue for the full liberation of women in America.
Abu-Jamal was convicted of murdering Philadelphia police officer Daniel Faulkner in December 1981 (five shots, one between the eyes, from a revolver Abu-Jamal owned and had been carrying in a shoulder holster). The jury needed only three hours to convict. His elevation to celebrity status as a symbol of oppression by white police is hotly debated; his being described as a hero rankles many. Abu-Jamal is out of place alongside the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. as one venerated for suffering for his religious faith.
Notably missing from the article are Margaret Sanger (1879–1966), who championed birth control, and Catholics for Choice leader Frances Kissling. Here are two true champions of religious freedom.
The Rev. Ralph Mero
West Chester, Pennsylvania
Unitarian Fellowship of West Chester
In my forty-second year as a UU minister, I am deeply saddened that the Winter 2009 edition of UU World appears to suggest that all UUs would be counted among the “religious left.” Freedom of belief is freedom of belief. We UUs must especially be careful not to place our intentional lack of creeds and doctrines with assumptions that reflect partisan politics.
The Rev. William F. Baughan
“The Religious Left” was long overdue but worth waiting for. Relating our liberal heritage to “the social gospel,” Norman Thomas, Eugene Debs, Saul Alinsky, and earlier personalities reminds us to put our current liberal beliefs into historic and broader social perspective.
William N. Butler
UU Congregation of Frederick
Bruce Sheiman’s reasoned approach to the science vs. religion debate was refreshing (“Science and Religion Can Be Partners,” Winter 2009). As someone once said to me, “Science tells you how; religion tells you why.” Even better, from Einstein: “Science without religion is lame; religion without science is blind.” In the name of (fill in the blank), aren’t there more important things with which to be concerned?
Anthony O. Constantino
First Parish Church
Bruce Sheiman writes, “Science and religion come from the same human aspiration—the quest for transcendence and salvation”—except that science is rooted in knowledge, and much religious faith is rooted in willful ignorance. Sheiman also writes, “Like religion, science promises a collective salvation of humanity.” Now the author is comparing the real potential of human knowledge (science) with faith-based hopes. One of our UU Principles is a responsible search for truth and meaning. Arguing that science and religion are two sides of the same coin is saying that what is known and what is wished for should have the same value in our search for meaning. The author is giving religion much too much credit.
South Valley Unitarian Universalist Society
Thank you for your article on accessibility for people with hearing loss in our congregations. I am an individual with a hearing loss, an audiologist, and a current Ph.D. student in audiology at the University of Memphis.
Hearing loss does not simply make sound less audible. In the most common kind of hearing loss, there is damage to the inner ear (cochlea). This results in distorted sound, even when the sound is amplified.
Providing assistive devices in church services helps. However, these devices need to be properly maintained. I have often visited a church and found problems with the assistive listening system, such as a dead battery.
In addition to improving accessibility during the service, congregations need to familiarize themselves with the challenges hearing impaired members face in social gatherings. Background noise, multiple speakers, and poor light make it more difficult for people with hearing loss to hear. After I have spent an hour listening to a service, I am grateful to the person who talks to me one-on-one in a quiet corner of the hallway.
The Hearing Loss Association of America offers tip cards for communication partners; your local audiologist or university speech and hearing department will be happy to offer information as well.
Neshoba UU Church
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Jane Greer is a former senior editor of UU World magazine.