Sunday, August 31, 2008

Welcome to the horror!

My first facebook message was the title of this post. It came from a man whom I've known since he was a boy. He is funny, laid back, sweet and he caught me off-guard. "What on earth is he talking about?" I wondered.

Well, it is two weeks later. I now have 127 friends on facebook. I know thanks to the 250 emails that confirmed those friendships. I have received pokes, superpokes, flair, pear trees, beer, 80s toys, and a variety of star wars figures. Or so the endless emails tell me. None of these things seem to actually exist. They are just the way facebook friends say "hi."

I have reunited with at least a dozen old friends I haven't seen in years. I've checked in on the baby pics of classmates, work buddies, and SUUSI pals. And I regularly report my status and check the status of friends. (Rennie is still cleaning up the dog mess. Alane is pleading not guilty. Marco is watching Hungarian soap operas.)

As a woman who has done a lot of weird stuff in her life - performance art, military training, tending bar, following bands, giving birth...

Facebook has to be one of the weirder things.

Status: Alane is in the horror, but at least I know folks here.

That was enlightening

Thanks for all who commented on the posts about political parties and UUism. I had no idea that it would spark so much talk on and offline. Thank you to those who brought up the other angles beyond political parties, too.

Since the postings, I experienced a mostly UU weekend that was nearly derailed by political disagreements. I have had more members and friends "come out" as uncomfortable with the flavor of the discourse online and at UU events. And I continue to ponder why this isn't a discussion that can be had more openly and in a friendly way.

We have had a Power of Now discussion group which has been looking at the roots of anger, fear, and emotional pain. In that context, the political issue at church seems to make some sense. Politics are often based in our dreams of what this world can be. Religion is part of that same process. If someone is part of your safe group, the people who share your dreams, how can they be part of something you consider the antithesis of your hopes?

Well, young grasshopper, normally we call that FAMILY. And I know plenty of families who have had the same kind of painful interactions I have described and witnessed on the subject of politics. I know of some families that have been torn apart by their behavior and attitudes regarding politics. Most of the families I know find ways to work through it. Having already shared my hopes on how to move past pain and anger, I hope we can follow positive examples in our church.

Thank you to the politically conservative UUs who have contacted me and been so honest, gentle, and appreciative. And, of course, thanks to those who opened my eyes to this conflict in the first place. My life is more exciting to live with a variety of travelling companions.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Seeing Through New Eyes

I feel like I just got a new prescription for my glasses.

I had some mighty long comments in response to my brief post in which I asserted that the pro-Democrat election fervor in UU lobbies and events was doing us harm. I only posted the one that was not anonymous. I will, however, respond to a few thoughts.

One comment objected to what I said about bumper stickers. I should have been more clear. I meant campaign bumper stickers. And I was referring to real concerns I have heard from people who did not feel welcomed because they look in the parking lot and think they should not reveal their political beliefs when they talk to others, or maybe should not enter. (Thank you for commenting on my fuzziness there.)

Everyone has a right to their bumper stickers. I'm all for that. I'm also all for the realization that the bumper stickers do not capture all of who we are and send a mighty strong message. In an effort to be welcoming, we spend so much time looking at our land, our entrance, and our facilities. We also need to recognize that our parking lot speaks for us, too. That's all. No guerilla bumper sticker stripping.

Another comment asserted that Republicans would be perfectly welcomed in our or any UU congregation. For years I have heard from many that they felt rejected and attacked by individuals, groups, ministers, and the UUA. I have heard from far more Republicans and conservatives than any other group who did not feel welcomed at UU congregations.

The number one complaint: some of our self-described Democratic congregants did not enter into compassionate, open dialogue and were defensive and accusatory when that perception was brought up. The number two complaint: people identified them only as Republican. Not agnostic parent of teens, not young adult who lives in Northside and likes Alan Watts, not fiscal conservative or libertarian- just Republican.

There are multiple examples in churches all over the country that some people who are not registered, yellow dog Democrats do not feel welcome and that naming that feeling in a healthy, respectful way gets them further isolated. They say that they are expected to defend themselves and state their case in a way that Democrats are not.

They also tell me it gets way worse at election time.

Let me be clear - not all UU democrats are insensitive. Not all UU political conservatives are looking for authentic and respectful dialogue. I am speaking about hearts, not just ideas. I'm speaking as a pastor. Some of the political discourse in our lobbies and groups is disrespectful and hurtful. People say it hurts. Some who have told me this read this blog. A few sometimes come to church. Some are loyal members. Some have given up on us because their experience has led them to believe our faith is hypocritical. And many say it is not safe to reveal these feelings. The response to revelations of feeling attacked and rejected are accusations of not being committed to justice, being selfish, or being overly sensitive and stupid.

Not historically; not in theory - now.

I have spoken out on this periodically for several years now. It was a big deal in my first ministry and was revealed in a different way five years ago. The feedback is that this year it is worse than ever for UU conservatives.

Mine is an interesting role for a person who cannot find a candidate liberal enough. But the conversations I have had with political conservatives who are also religious liberals have been some of the deepest talks of my religious life. I am grateful for the honesty and trust in which these conversations occur. When conducted in gentle, compassionate, and honest ways these conversations usually reveal a deeper connection than any political differences.

And every time I speak out on it- I see more clearly what has been described to me. It is not a flattering view.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Time for Change Indeed

10 weeks until elections. As UU's I believe we are called...
- to talk about something else at church. Why?

We are not the religious arm of the Democratic Party.
We sure do look like it far too often.

The elections are the focus of the media from now until November.
Someone needs to offer the media-weary sanctuary. And there are plenty of places for in-depth political discourse elsewhere.

I greatly enjoy that church-state separation concept.
Nuff said.

Now is a really good time to volunteer.
With so many civic-minded souls volunteering on the election, someone has to work the food pantry, drive the meals-on-wheels, donate the blood, and read to the kids.

We say we are open-minded, compassionate, and diverse.
Our political bumper stickers in the church parking lot say something else.

While the rest of the country argues, while the negative ads blare on, while the pundits fume, while the fingers point, while the nerves fray...

Let us instead be who we say we are.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Ask and sometimes...

Well, that was easy.

Someone asked me to run a "Power of Now" discussion group. I did research. I bought the book. I looked into it. But I couldn't schedule it for months. When I finally could schedule it I didn't have time to give it a lot of publicity in the church. So I announced it on Sunday and our communications director got the word out electronically. Not much publicity.

16 people came. I was going to call 7 people a wildly successful turnout.

My my.

If you hadn't heard - we've got a Power of Now discussion group. 6:15-7:00 PM on Wednesdays for three more weeks. Should it continue in popularity, we will find other ways for people to engage with the ideas in the book.

Now, I'm going home to cook. Hopefully with the same spectacular and encouraging results.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Uncharacteristically Quiet

I've been getting the clearing of throats and meaningful looks from the blog fans. They all say the same thing, without saying it. "You are uncharacteristically quiet. Shouldn't the blog have more information. More about the Tennessee churches... more about the UU response... something, more?"

As my mama likes to say,

In a word - No.

Talk fills the void. Talk seems like we have solved something. Talk makes us feel better.

I'm not ready to feel better. I want to but it is not time. I'm still thinking, questioning, listening. And I had to talk way too much last week before I felt ready. Yes, I found words. Yes, the words found meaning in my mind and in the minds of some of those who heard them. It doesn't make me want to say more.

After the information came in, after you had called the ones you loved and broke the news or commiserated, did you tire of words as I did? Did you want to answer the questions from people who had seen the news and knew you are UU? Did you want to not have to explain the inexplicable to your children?

The breaking point for me was a reporter with whom I could tell there would be some communication issues.

"What do you want our readers to know, Reverend?"

I had nothing to say to that. My job is not to inform their readers about how we are feeling. There is no benefit in that to my congregation in a hard time. And it could hinder the healing in Tennessee. There had been other articles. Too much information was already available.

At that point, I didn't know what I wanted for any of us except a cosmic rewind and erase button that could change the past. Or a magic protector shield in preparation for the ugly opinions I knew were to come out in the media/press. Maybe ear plugs to block out the painful, hateful, thoughtless, and bigoted?

Quiet. We could use some quiet.

That's what I should have said.

Quiet. Just for awhile.