Letters, Winter 2011

Letters, Winter 2011

Readers respond to the Fall 2011 issue.
Winter 2011


Breaking rules

I like being “special” as much as the next guy. And I always appreciate the Rev. Jane Ranney Rzepka’s light touch (“How We Break the Rules,” Fall 2011). But I think some of our uniqueness mythology does both UUs and our religious cousins a disservice.

To take exception with just a few of the “rules that we break”: “No creed, no dogma”? We repeat this often. But it’s true only in the most literal sense. It’s clear that we share many deeply held religious values, including religious pluralism, respect for individual conscience, and a call to a just society. There are also many beliefs that are not and should not be welcome in our churches, such as bigotry in any form.

“Our religious beliefs are based on reason and experience.” Oh, don’t I wish! Between New Age beliefs and post-modernism, I’m afraid that the primary role accorded to reason has suffered in recent decades.

Tom Wilson
Honolulu, Hawaii
First Unitarian Church of Honolulu
posted on uuworld.org, Sept. 26, 6:12 p.m.

Rzepka’s is not the tone we need to strike, as Peter Morales said in his own column (“Get religion,” Fall 2011). Hers is not a premise that works in 2012. People are hurt, afraid, unsure, and are looking for a place of comfort, community, and love. This article will likely sell few people on the power of UUism. And it is not true.

It is time UUs stood up and proudly said yes we do have beliefs. UUs standing in front of the White House to protest the Tar Sands stand in belief of “the interdependent web of all existence.” UUs are working for marriage equality out of ‘justice, equity, and compassion in human relations,” and we will be in Arizona next year for a goal of a “world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all.” These are beliefs.

Rzepka writes that UUs have no prescribed rituals. I have had the pleasure of visiting many UU churches, and the joy I get from these visits is our similarity: the commonality of song, sharing of our stories, reflection. We have ritual because there is human need to find rhythm in our lives. These anchor us during difficult times, bond us to our communities, and offer comfort in times of need.

If we want to be a religion of the future, we need to find religion and recognize that to say “yes” to religion and all its baggage only empowers us to be the welcoming communities we strive to be.

Nancy Banks
Acton, Massachusetts
First Parish Church of Stow and Acton

I am not a UU, but my wife attends the UU Church in Asheville, North Carolina, and I enjoy reading UU World. I was dismayed to read Rzepka’s article. As a Catholic, I can assure the author that there are numerous grievous misrepresentations in the article; but its most distressing aspect is the dualism. Is it necessary for the author to stereotype other religions in order to validate her own? As for the stereotypes, they are just that, and as such are based largely on ignorance. A little investigation and humility would have yielded her valuable results instead of releasing negative energy.

Peter Solet
Marshall, North Carolina

Path of destruction

It is disappointing that UUs have bought into the concept of “ecotourism” (“What Ecotourism Should Be,” by David Zucchino, Fall 2011). This is a euphemism that environmentalists use like “smart growth,” “sustainable development,” and “carbon offsets” to allow us to continue on the same path of environmental destruction but somehow feel good about it. Flying by jet plane to a country that is 3,000 miles away adds over two tons of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere.

If we truly want to reduce carbon emissions and leave future generations a livable planet we have to do more than change our light bulbs. We also have to significantly change our highly consumptive lifestyles.

George Plumb
Washington, Vermont
Barre and Washington Universalist Churches

Looking back at GA

At the UUA General Assembly in Charlotte, North Carolina (“At 50, UUA Readies for Changes,” by Tom Stites, Fall 2011), there was a development in the Plenary Session that I found quite disturbing. It was the widely supported inclination to continue backing away, as a religious movement, from adopting stances on critically important social issues. We’ve already done away with General Resolutions; this time, sights were trained on Actions of Immediate Witness. One proposal before us was to eliminate such actions for the indefinite future, a move that seemed, bewilderingly, to have the backing of a large number of delegates, possibly a majority. (It required a two-thirds majority.)

The consequences would be very serious. Repeatedly, we heard from members of the UUA staff that they would be unable to express themselves on social justice issues, without the backing of the GA. Repeatedly, we heard of examples where GA votes made a crucial difference in subsequent effective efforts to move our society in the direction of greater justice, compassion, and freedom.

Some said, in effect, stop the resolutions—just take to the streets. I have no problem with nonviolent public witness, but we need to communicate to the world why we’re taking to the streets and what the basis for our witness is. And for all the criticism our process received, I felt our resolutions were of quite impressive quality.

The Rev. Ben Bortin
Manhassett, New York
Volunteer and Membership Coordinator
UU Congregation of Shelter Rock

While I applaud all the advocacy and justice work done under the umbrella of the UUA’s “Standing on the Side of Love” campaign (“Rallying in the Rain,” by Michelle Bates Deakin, Fall 2011), I cringe every time I hear that phrase.

By using it, you are doing the same thing the reproductive conservatives have done by branding themselves “pro-life.” I am pro-choice; does that make me, in the eyes of others, anti-life? I know the opposite to be true, but I am immediately put on the defensive. Is it really fair, then, to use Love the same way? What we need is urgent, informed conversation across divides that ultimately builds consensus. I think many Americans are like me and don’t want to be coerced or told they are anti-Love just because they don’t accept a polarized view of national issues.

Ellen Snoeyenbos
Halifax, Massachusetts
First Parish UU Church in Kingston

Lucy Stone's lessons

The Summer issue celebrating fifty years of the UU movement contains provocative articles that challenge and inspire. Michelle Bates Deakin’s story about young adults in Boston in the Lucy Stone Cooperative (“Living their values cooperatively,” Summer 2011) reveals an essential truth about this group we would like to see more of on Sunday morning: They want “deeds not creeds.”

By contrast, David Bumbaugh (“ The Unfulfilled Dream,” Summer 2011) argues for gaining a theological perspective: “What do we believe? Whom do we serve? To whom or what are we responsible?” I think we do not require more God talk, which has erected barriers to unity throughout the history of religion, but practical implementation of the Principles and Purposes—all the “creed” we need. They inspire those young adults in Boston and shine through the many articles in UU Worldthat show vital engagement in the important issues of our time.

Fred Fenton
Concord, California
Mt. Diablo UU Church

UU World welcomes letters to the editor. Send to “Letters,” UU World, 24 Farnsworth Street, Boston, MA 02210, or world@uua.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.

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