Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Jundallah kills 18 Shia travelers in northern Pakistan - The Long War Journal

Jundallah kills 18 Shia travelers in northern Pakistan - The Long War Journal

An al Qaeda and Taliban-linked terror group known as Jundallah claimed credit for murdering 18 Shias who were traveling on a bus in a relatively quiet area of northern Pakistan. In the past, the terror group has targeted Shia as well as members of Pakistan's military. 
Jundallah, or Soldiers of Allah, said it was behind the brutal execution today of 18 Shia travelers who were riding on four buses on the Karakoram Highway in the Kohistan district of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa.
"They were Shias and our mujahideen shot them dead," said a Jundallah commander, who identified himself as Ahmed Marwat, according to Daily Times

Read more:

Monday, February 27, 2012

Final set of responses for Voices of UU Conservatives

16. List three of the greatest social justice ills of our time. Explain why you are particularly attentive to these three. If you do or have done any work to correct or counter these ills please note that as well.

The genocides in the 1990s in Bosnia and Rwanda deeply affected me.  I hesitate to use the word deep because I was really aware of how removed and distant these slaughters were from me, and how easy it was to be indifferent.

I think globalization’s driving all sorts of social justice issues from War, to Immigration, to Income disparities.  What’s the United States responsibility to the people of Syria or Libya?  Do we violate those Nation’s sovereignty to protect populations?  Does the US suspend our its own borders and sovereignty when we take “illegal” out of illegal immigration?   

Health care reform, and technology will force all sorts of bio-ethical issues.  We’ve seen that already with the proposed changes to mammography screens during the Obamacare debates, and then more recently with the contraceptives mandate.  These issues will only become more complex and contentious.  I find UUs, at least the professional thinkers among us, woefully unprepared.

I’m troubled by the huge numbers of single working mothers. Their plight may be the greatest single social justice issue facing us, and I think very few UU Churches offer these women much.  Your local big-box Church far more attuned to their needs than you’ll find in any UU Church.

  What have I done?  Not enough I’m sure.  I participated on the UU groups working on the SOC on creating peace.  I mentioned the UU draft, and our local draft both lacked any mention of “families”.  That sparked a whole sermon from our minister on families and peace.

17. Note and describe up to three experiences at your Unitarian Universalist congregation or at another Unitarian Universalist congregation or event when you realized or felt that your political perspectives or positions were not welcome or respected.

a. On a couple of occasions when I’ve gotten into debates on political issues at church (once on whether the United States was becoming fascist, and another over the Citizens United decision) I’ve had members come up to me afterwards and thank me for expressing my opinions with the follow up that they were open to hearing diverse opinions.  That’s always struck me as an odd thing to say.  These weren’t shy people, and although they never said much during the debate, I knew they strongly disagreed.  I’m never sure what point their trying to make.  It struck me as condescension.  Unintended, but never the less.

b. At a conference on creating peace at Meadville Lombard participants kept explaining Military Service Members were not dishonorable for serving, but compelled to serve out of economic need.  I explained I knew some people who volunteered and served because they thought it the right and honorable thing to do.  That I had volunteered as a civilian employee on reconstruction projects in Baghdad in 2008, and had to get the intervention of then Illinois Senator Obama with the Dept of Vet Affairs to release me for the detail with the Army because VA is refusing to let me go. I asked if the group viewed my act as dishonorable and one women had to avert her eyes and say “yes”.  Told her that was fine, I had no problem with hearing that, and found that kind of straight-up response better than constructing false narratives about why people served.

c. Early in the Bush administration, a group at Church held a session about overcoming Bush’s divineness and bringing people together. We broke off into small groups.  This was probably the first time I had ever discussed politics at Church.  I explained I had voted first for George McGovern, and except for a couple of votes for Socialists, had voted for the Democrat right through my votes for Gore and Lieberman.  I didn’t think I could do that again. 

One reason, (besides the War in Iraq: I had been a hawk on Saddam since Clinton), was listening to Democrats on stem cell research using Human Embryonic tissue.  The other was having watched how quickly Liberals (save Rev Jesse Jackson) turned on the Schiavo family.  I added the big fissure in American Politics over the past few decades had been abortion.  I must have used the words “unborn child” at some point.  Otherwise I’m not sure what prompted this, but I have a vivid recollection of the disgusted women who told me, “it’s not an unborn child, it’s a blastocyst”.  Besides a hawk, I found myself getting closer to Nat Hentoff’s positions too.

I’ve never in my many years with UUism read or heard a rational discourse on the abortion debate. Rational meaning a UU calmly examining the arguments offered by each side, and drawing on UU history. The good parts defending a Woman’s right to control her body, and the sad parts of UUs and eugenics.  My experience has been UUs can’t go there, are surprised it’s still an issue, and surprised I would cite it as explanation of division in American politics. 

As a footnote, I’m a graduate of Grinnell College, 76 and my class listserv broke down over the War in Iraq during the 2004 election.  Abortion politics was the one issue though where I noted a real rightward trend and especially among women.   

18. Who do you expect to vote for in the 2012 presidential election:

Romney but I would have preferred Paul Ryan.  

19. Do you expect to disclose your pick to anyone in your congregation, why or why not?

I don’t expect anyone at Church to ask me.  I have no problem explaining why to anyone who asks. 

20. Why should Unitarian Universalist congregations make an effort to welcome individuals across the political spectrum?

I don’t think they should make the effort if it’s a false one. 

Rev Augustus Conant founded my Church in 1843 and served as its first Minister until his abolitionist beliefs forced him to part with a Congregation that was either pro-Slavery, or felt the Union not worth fighting a war over.  He served as a Chaplain in the Civil War and died of disease in Tennessee.  His funeral was held at the Church at the same time as his infants son dedication.  The child held aloof over Conant’s casket.  The Church made a commitment then never to let politics again divided it.  (Consider that division was over slavery and the congregation chose to set aside!)  It’s a story often told in our Church when politics or anything else seems to divide us. 

Not ever UU Congregation shares that kind of heritage though, of placing politics down the list of things that really matter.  That’s not wrong of Congregations different than mine. 

My experience with the Chicago Tea Party shows me a number of people in a Fiscal Conservative but Social Liberal frame of mind.  Some of them I think could find homes in UU Churches.  They often seem those Square Pegs not fitting into Round Holes I mentioned earlier.  Whether UU Churches will seek to expand and change by attracting people a bit outside our self-imposed confines I don’t know.  I believe my Church always has, and it’s worked for us.  I don’t think that means every Church should though.  I know for sure some can’t. 

Friday, February 24, 2012

Third Flash Mob For Syria- Chicago l اعتصام مفاجئ لأجل سوريا - شيكاغو

اسمحوا لي ان اعرف في المرة القادمة. وسوف يأتي والفيديو.

Iranians Captured by FSA in Homs | Al-Ayyam – English Edition

Via Al-Ayyam translated from the Farsi,

I am Haidar, the leader of this specialist unit of five people. We operate under the protection of intelligence officers. We have killed women and children. I arrived in Syria in September 2011 and the rest arrived at different times.

We call on Ayatollah Khamenai to withdraw all Iranian battalions in Syria and to secure our release so we can go home.

Iranians Captured by FSA in Homs | Al-Ayyam – English Edition

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Chicago's tradition of paid protest: Occupy Chicago in front of the Mayor's House

Rebel Pundit chats with some of the paid protesters at an Chicago Teachers Union/Occupy Rally,
Monday night Chicago Teachers Union and Occupy Chicago protesters, along with some local residents, showed up in Chicago’s North Center neighborhood to protest converting 18 public schools into charter schools. While none of the schools considered for conversion are in the north-side neighborhood, these community organizers chose this location specifically because it is where Mayor Rahm Emanuel resides.

A Growing Following in Germany: The Dangerous Success of Radical Young Clerics

A German convert-Iman lays out the problem with the West and Liberalism.
Mosques are suffering from similar problems to those facing Catholic and Protestant churches. They are losing members, and they are seen as outdated and out of touch with everyday life. The young, charismatic agitators, on the other hand, know how to reach young people. They offer advice on relationship and drug problems, and they address issues of importance to young people, such as whether energy drinks are consistent with Islamic dietary rules.


Listening to Vogel and watching his videotaped monologues, one could almost believe that the world consists of two dimensions: religious and non-religious, good and bad, heaven and hell.

The main problem with the West, he says in an accent typical of the Rhine region, is the idea that everyone has to realize his full potential and be happy as an individual. He despises individualism, that "Western ideology that tells you not to obey anyone." God, says Vogel, knows best what is good for the individual, which is why people must abide by his rules. "And even if Allah were to instruct you to spend your entire life with one leg against the wall, you would have to do it, because Allah is your god."
A Growing Following in Germany: The Dangerous Success of Radical Young Clerics - SPIEGEL ONLINE - News - International

Explaining rules, duties, and obligations not exactly Liberalism strong suit these days.  A wide opening for Imams of many sorts to fill.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Why Occupy Harvard Failed | Opinion | The Harvard Crimson

H/T John Ruberry who does yeoman work covering Occupy.
Why Occupy Harvard Failed | Opinion | The Harvard Crimson
Perhaps Occupy’s inability to convert students was due to its own ignorance and consequent lack of credibility. Occupy walked out of an Economics 10 lecture on—wait for it—inequality. Occupy’s open letter to Professor Mankiw blasted him for neglecting John Maynard Keynes. Had they looked at the spring syllabus, they would have discovered that it covers Keynes heavily.
Or maybe Occupiers couldn’t persuade students because they were too sure of themselves to communicate effectively. I asked an Occupy leader to articulate the philosophy behind her belief that it was wrong for a Harvard employee to be making 180 times the salary of another employee. I asked what a better ratio would be and whether different skills merit different compensation at all. In response, she simply expressed her disbelief that I didn’t agree with her.
Maybe Occupy never actually wanted student support. One Occupier referred to “the majority at Harvard” as “the enemy.”
Now, Occupy has devolved into adopting semi-Marxist rhetoric and fringe positions, denouncing “profit motives” and seemingly opposing any and all layoffs, ever. And people are still wondering why students don’t support Occupy?
Occupy likes to imagine that the administration or the student body martyred it. The truth, however, is that Occupy had the chance to spark a rational and important campus discussion of inequality in America, but it shot itself in the foot.
A more than a few UU Preachers helped with the poor aim here.  This outfit isn’t gone though.  Chicago’s getting ready for them with the G8/Nato summit.  But it is a greatly devolved group now.  The UU’s recycling their agendas through this mess had better explain their fall back line.  The Spring return’s going to be ugly and their thoroughly hitched now despite their silence.

Responses to Questions for the Unheard Voices of UU Conservatives (more…..)

13. Explain how you found Unitarian Universalism. Note if and when you first discovered the politically liberal bent of Unitarian Universalists:
I knew the “liberal” bent long before I knew anything of the faith. I was involved with New-Left and Marxist politics as a high school student in Oak Park Illinois in 1968 through 1972.  Chicago’s near by Third Unitarian Church had an active Communist Party cell lead by Norm Roth.  He was a party fixture on Chicago’s West Side having been a long time activists.  The Church was the jumping off point for anti-War demonstrations. 

I have vivid memories of watching Norm in the basement of Third U having returned from Moscow after having lead a Youth Delegation there.  This was at the beginning of the Nixon Brezhnev détente so it was an unusual visit.  Norm was showing slides including one of a Soda dispensing machine that used a common glass instead of a bottle.  A woman in the audience voiced a little disgust about the cleanliness of a shared public glass, and that launched Norm into a vigorous defense of Soviet soft drink machines. 

We more radical sorts found the geriatric Communists and fellow travelers at third U jokes, and disdained them.

I came to Unitarian Universalism as a religion in the mid 80s in my early 30s and joined Oak Park’s Unity Temple.  I was expecting to find a similar politicization and instead found a more conservative congregation.  Hardly Reagan Republicans, but it was not a heavily Political Church then.  I was surprised at the lack of opposition to the first Gulf War in that Congregation.  

There were three UU Churches within walking distance of Unity Temple then: Unity, Beacon UU, and Third U.  All of these were very different Churches. I think many of the Churches today in the Chicago area have very different characters.  A UU shouldn’t expect to feel at home at any, or many, of them.  That’s not a bad thing either. 

14. I knew I was a Unitarian Universalist when:
When I joined Unity Temple.  Again when I joined the UU Society in Geneva. These weren’t profound moments of conversion.  They were simply commitments to religious homes.  I believed different things at these points in time.  Joining UU Churches wasn’t about believing in much of anything other than abiding (and taking seriously) a covenant.  Beliefs, and more importantly a sense of spirituality, were things to be obtained (maybe) as part of contributing and working as a member of a Church.

15: I (choose one) Do Don’t believe Unitarian Universalism can be a religion for our time. Explain:
Can be if UUs chose to engage rather than demonize.

Rev Morales posted on facebook once regarding a Paul Krugman column, As always, Krugman is insightful. I find it especially troubling that so many Americans are in a state of denial.

That may seem trivial, and just a passing thought as reading the paper, but follow my link above and you’ll read the greater habit of too many liberals to just dismiss others on psychiatric grounds.  Conservatives aren’t just wrong; they’re in denial

Political Liberalism, Religious Liberalism, and Philosophical Liberalism at a moment of redefining themselves.  Their force spent and if the work not taken to rebuild it, it will not be a religion, politics, or philosophy for any time in the near future. 

The failure to engage, to instead just dismiss those who disagree as intellectual inferiors --with biological evidence to prove it if read more comments from UU’s on Rev Morales facebook—more evidence Liberalism’s disengaging, running away from the public forum, and dismissive rather than willing to engage in the hard works of argument and discernment. | Another tipping point: Births outside marriage | Marvin Olasky

For the first time in American history, more than half of all births to American women under 30 are occurring outside of marriage.
That’s what Child Trends, analyzing data from the National Center for Health Statistics, found out. The New York Times reported this over the weekend with an apt lead: “It used to be called illegitimacy. Now it is the new normal.” | Another tipping point: Births outside marriage | Marvin Olasky
UU’s ignore this.  It’s the salient demographic fact of our time and I’ve never heard or read a UU discuss it.  Partly because we have incoherent theologies of marriage; partly because while we discuss sex we avoid the outcomes.  We’ll note instead someone didn’t offer an OWL program.

UUs might start asking how single-Mom friendly is their Church.  This will be with us a long time.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Responses to Questions for the Unheard Voices of UU Conservatives

Responses to questions for the Unheard Voices of Unitarian Universalist Conservatives for GA this year.  

1. I personally understand my political affiliation to be:
Tea Party Republican

2.A. When asked by fellow Unitarian Universalist in my congregation or beyond, I describe my political affiliation as:
Tea Party Republican (but I’ve never been asked)

B. Do you see a marked difference between your self-identified political affiliation and how you present your political affiliation in your congregation? How and Why:
No, but then I’ve never been asked either, so I’ve never had to contend with how I presented myself.

3. Who shares your political perspectives and positions in your congregation?
At least four or five people I know at Church are political conservatives. We don’t talk about politics though. There may be more.

I was asked to join the Church’s gun club but I’m not really a hunter or gun enthusiast. The person asking assumed all conservatives were also gun enthusiasts. She was a politically liberal gun enthusiast by the way.

4. Do you feel “at home” in your Unitarian Universalist congregation? How about district or national Unitarian Universalist events? What makes you feel “at home”? What prevents you from feeling “at home”?

Yes, I feel at home.  I’ve served on the board for two years.  Have been active on the Social Justice Committee and have volunteered for the Church at our Community’s homeless shelter for many years now. Participated on a group from Social Justice that drafted a statement on Creating Peace that was unanimously approved by the Congregation at our annual meeting.

I feel less at home at Regional events.  I participated in a workshop on creating Peace at Meadville Lombard not long after I returned from Iraq.  I was a civilian employee with the Army Corps of Engineers in Baghdad working on reconstruction projects.  I made some people there uncomfortable until the final evening when Dr. Welch and others sponsoring the event endorsed President Obama’s Afghanistan Surge.  She sucked the wind out of the chapel in First UU with that.  Many in the group had expected the meeting to plan demonstrations instead.

I’ve been labeled an anti-Arab racist by the moderator of the National UU Peace listserv after forwarding an email from a US Congressional Representative as an FYI to the group.  I received an apology from UUA’s Social Witness Office on that.  A comical charge since the majority of my blog readers usually Arabic speakers, and not UUs.  I’ve had four virulent emails over things in my blog, and three of those four were from UU Ministers.  Emails reflecting a lot of anger.

The GA has twice now voted down resolutions recommending near immediate withdrawal from Afghanistan.  The SOC on Creating Peace included language from Dr. Welch that was consistent with President Obama’s policies in Afghanistan and Iraq (I’d argue with President Bush’s too).

I recommended an Action of Immediate Witness on President Obama’s Libyan intervention and lack of compliance on the War Powers Act, and received a response from a Leading and Published UU Pacifist author that it would be impossible to get UU’s to vote against Obama. I had mixed feelings on the War Powers issue but supported what President Obama did.  I just wished he had gone before Congress for Approval (as had Bush on Iraq and Afghanistan) as important steps towards rallying the American people.  The UU experience with Obama though was pure Romance and UUs as the Pacifist explained weren’t going to turn on him.

Getting back to the original questions: Yes, I feel quite at home with my Church but the National and Regional experiences have been less comfortable.  Oddly, the issues have gone my way, but clearly many of the participants at those levels unhappy, and a few have blasted me behind the scenes over it.

5. My current job is: Program Analyst, US Dept of Veterans Affairs

6. I give my time, energy and/or financial support to: Family and Church mostly.  Have served sometimes on local boards.  I blog often on politics, Chicago, Trains and UUism.

7. I am __57___ years old.

8. I have ___3______ children ages ______20 , 25, and 27_______________________.

9. If I was asked in a friendly way, why I am a Unitarian Universalist, I would explain:

We usually know how to run a Church. That’s never easy and that much harder with UUs who are often a hard headed bunch.  My young son-in-law said he doesn’t see a reason to congregate but I think as time passes he’ll realize the importance of marking events in life, and of opening up a spiritual life to our grand daughter.  A well run Church offers that.

Unitarian Universalism seems the most American of Religions to me. A quick read of our history, heritage, and heros shows it.  I suggested once on the UU Peace Making listserv that we were more often than not discussing the positive or nasty nature of the United States, and our obligations as citizens; rather than the ethics of engaging in war or the mechanics of creating peace.  I suggested we talk about what we thought America about, and drop the complicated Just War v Pacifist debate. That was voted down (to the extent we vote) but some readers found merit in that. 

I see the dilemma for many UUs is we’re the most American of Religions, and a lot of UUs (especially Ministers) haven’t sorted that out.  I don’t share their discomfort.  Friction’s important to me to help winnow out ideas.  UUism’s an American Religion for a country always reinventing itself, always redefining, always critical and self-critical (at least when were at our best –read the willing suspension of disbelief  on Obama and the War Powers at Q4 when we're not.  No friction there please say UUs).

10. Explain what you love about your faith community:  Children and Youth are at the center of my Church.   This is more than having a vibrant youth program.  The congregation loves, cares, and shows concern for the kids and young adults.  It had a powerful impact on the two Children my wife and I raised in the Church.   I don’t think this should be a requirement for a UU Church by the way.  I think there’s a need for some Churches for communities not focused on kids.  As a single person once in another UU Church, I really appreciate the need for Churches that address singleness.

11. Explain what you respect about the Unitarian Universalist tradition
Independence, self-reliance, contrariness: we’re very much a religion for square pegs unable to fit in round holes.

12. If you preached a sermon next month, what would the topic be?
The justice created by our social justice work is far exceeded by the spiritual growth we gain doing it.  Spiritual growth and health the first statement in any SJ mission statement.  My SJ colleagues go blank when I say that and the response is go write a testimonial for the Church News Letter if you feel that way, but it’s sure not our mission.  I think that’s a real error.  They get the spiritual benefit though, to the extent they participate in our work. I preach that whenever I can.
To be continued…..

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Is The Republican Platform Compatible with Unitarian Universalism? « A Unitarian Universalist Minister in the South

He writes: Is The Republican Platform Compatible with Unitarian Universalism? « A Unitarian Universalist Minister in the South
A Platform may be incompatible with UUism ---as it's understood at points in time 'cause that varies-- but members of Churches are people. The platforms aren't members, and after all platforms often at odds with themselves. They’re usually group efforts and it can show.

At my Church we associates   …ourselves together—not as agreeing in opinion, not as having attained universal truth in belief or perfection in character, but as seekers after truth and goodness.
A member can hold some pretty abhorrent beliefs (some have) but if willing to associate as a seeker, he or she welcome.  A person’s inherent worth and dignity trumps their foul ideologies if they can join us in the spirit of seeking truth and goodness.

I’ve seen it.  With UU’s who lead delegations of youth to East Germany, or that Azerbaijan Komsomol machine- building factory.  I’ve sat and listened in the basement of Chicago’s Third U, listening to the glories of Brezhnevs Soviet Union, and then mocked the elderly reds for not being red enough.  My own politics abhorrent in those years.

Yet we were united then, as now, as seekers.  Not as people who had found truth. Even though we thought we had .

UU’s tossed Rev Fritchmen from his Editorship not for his adherence to the Communist Party’s platform, but because of his censorship of those who didn’t adhere. The value of dignity and worth violated in Fritchman’s censorship, not by his abhorrent ideology.  Fritchman as a UU, and his platform, were two very different things.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Baptist Press - Q&A: A first-century fragment of Mark found? - News with a Christian Perspective

A piece of the puzzle for the proto-Christianity crowd who think there’s a core Christianity uncontaminated by Constantine or Charlemagne.

Baptist Press - Q&A: A first-century fragment of Mark found? - News with a Christian Perspective

What Would a UU Religious Order Look Like? | Celestial Lands

Celestial Lands asks what a UU Order would look like.
What Would a UU Religious Order Look Like? | Celestial Lands

He mentioned Rev Marjorie Leaming, the wife of Chicago’s All Souls Rev Hugo Leaming, who I believe lived for a time in the 1950’s at Chicago’s (and Jenk Jone’s) Abraham Lincoln Center.
I linked it to UUA’s brief history and while the ALC inspired by Jane Adam’s Settlement House Movement, it was more than that; and I think fairly described as about as close as UU’s have come to putting bricks-and-mortar to a Religious Order.

The building was certainly big enough. It's massive.

The ALC still functions and the building still stands.  Neither tied any longer to Unitarian or Universalism, but when we had an order, it’s what one looked like.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Illinois Review: Personal PAC is absolutely right ... this time

Illinois Review: Personal PAC is absolutely right ... this time

Illinois Review siding with Personal PAC. Per the Trib via IR in the link above,
An abortion rights group filed a federal lawsuit today seeking to strike down a portion of the state’s campaign finance law that limits how much donors can give to political action committees.

Personal PAC argues that the limits are unconstitutional and violate the First Amendment, citing a recent U.S. Supreme Courtcase that found expenditures independent of political candidates can’t be regulated.

“The Supreme Court changed the rules of the game,” said Juliet Berger-White, an attorney representing Personal PAC. […]

Terry Cosgrove, president and CEO of Personal PAC, said the $10,000 donation limit has meant the organization has lost out on more than $100,000 in donations it would use to support candidates who support abortion rights in Illinois.

Nasrallah dumps Ahmadinejad.

Things changing fast. Nasrallah following advice long held by Chicgo Politicans; don't back no losers.
Iran is Hezbollah's principal supporter and financier in Lebanon. Israel is one of Hezbollah's main adversaries. So it should have come as no surprise when, in November 2011, the leader of Hezbollah, Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah, announced that Hezbollah would support Iran if it were attacked by Israel , as reported by The Daily Star in Lebanon:

Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah warned the United States and Israel Friday that any war on Iran or Syria will engulf the entire region, in a clear signal that his party will join the fight against the Jewish state by opening the south Lebanon front which has been dormant since the devastating 2006 conflict .

However, a surprise did come the other day when Nasrallah recanted his earlier announcement. While couched in diplomatic language, the meaning is clear: Hezbollah no longer intends to support Iran if Israel attacks it. According to Asharq Alawsat:

"There is speculation about what wound happen if Israel bombed Iran's nuclear facilities," Nasrallah said. "I tell you that the Iranian leadership will not ask Hezbollah to do anything. On that day, we will sit, think and decide what we will do."

Read more:

Marriage and Class

From Peter Wehner on Charles Murray's Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960-2010.
...we’re seeing a “clustering” among the new upper class and elite, which is leading to an increasing isolation between them and the rest of American society, something Murray believes is creating problems for both the upper class and the working class. Murray praises the new upper class for its commitment to traditional values, something he would not have done in the early 1970s, but criticizes it for not “preaching what it practices.” He says they should act more like the elite in Victorian England at the end of the 19th century, who helped “re-moralize” their society (for more, see the groundbreaking work of the historian Gertrude Himmelfarb).

In speaking about what concerns him the most, Murray mentions the increasing denial of access to what he calls “institutions of meaning” – marriage, community, faith, and vocation. Those are the domains within which human beings find deeply satisfying lives. Murray argues that we have “denuded those sources of satisfaction” for the working class in ways we haven’t for the upper class, and that has harmful human consequences.
I haven't read Murray's book but familiar with the argument. What's astonishing to me though, is for all of the UU chatter on Marriage Equality, I've never seen, read, or heard a UU theology of marriage. Quite a void for an institution so many claim essential to make a person whole, and on par with their fellow citizens.

I used to know UUs, and Feminists, and Comrades who thought marriage coming apart a very good thing. Marriage was bondage. But that was before, and now is, well; very different. As the left turns...

In other words, the trajectory is very bad?

Some Q and A clipped from the United Methodists Don House: Q&A: Why we don’t have much time to save UMC
What’s your biggest concern about things as they stand?

We should have a sense of urgency over the decline in our church in the US. The clock is ticking, and we will not be able to fund the general church structure, as we know it, much longer. And the only way in which we can avoid that is local church growth in the United States, because that’s where most funds originate to support the operations.

If you don’t find a way in which you can turn this around and spur local church growth, all of this debating about structure will become a side conversation that’s not terribly important.

Over the past 20 years, local church growth has not been our central focus. For a time, perhaps ten or 15 years, local church growth must be the central focus, even at the expense of other ministries. With sufficient growth, we can more fully attend to these other ministries that we so deeply care about. But unless we get this ship moving, and in the right direction, these other ministries will be going down through budget cuts—not from a lack of passion.

In other words, the trajectory is very bad?

The Economic Advisory Committee to GCFA is projecting for the very first time, essentially, no future growth in dollars received in our local churches in the US. The absence of growth in local church dollars has never happened before. These dollars have always been growing, even in the presence of membership decline. It is during this next quadrennium that we expect to hit the plateau. And that’s nominal dollars, not inflation-adjusted dollars. If the trend continues, it will turn downward.

When it turns downward, and it will if we do not change course quickly, we’ll no longer have the ability to collect the dollars necessary to try to turn this around. You won’t have the capacity to do it. But we still have time, I think, if we can all get behind the same objective, and that is to grow the local church. With growth, we ensure the future of mission and ministry at levels that make a difference in our communities and throughout the world.

Syrian regime used poisonous gas under Iranian, Russian supervision: dissident officer

Syria gave up on its Army after the War with Israel and banked instead on Chemical stockpiles.  They’ve got plenty.  Via Al Arabyia,

A Syrian dissident military officer, Capt. Abdul Salam Ahmed Abdul Razek, said the Syrian regime is using internationally prohibited poisonous gas against protestors under the supervision of both Iran and Russia.

“The Syrian army used nerve gas to facilitate the invasion of Homs and was planning to do the same in Jebel al-Zawia and al-Zabadani,” Abdul Razek told Al Arabiya.

According to Abdul Razek, who worked in the Syrian army’s Chemical Warfare Division, the army has in its possession large quantities of a poisonous asphyxiating substance that is banned internationally.

Syrian regime used poisonous gas under Iranian, Russian supervision: dissident officer

Monday, February 13, 2012

UUSC Condemns Government Violence against Civilians in Syria | Unitarian Universalist Service Committee

UUSC finally discovers Syria….  a year too late.  A Syrian Friend wrote me,
Thank you Bill for being very passionate and supportive of the struggling and suffering people in Syria...I am sure we have so much to do in the few upcoming months ... What I am really concerned about is that the longer this coldblooded killing continues, the further the country is pushed to extremism, Islamism and violent sectarianism which could virtually destabilize the whole middle east region including neighboring Iraq...the US & NATO must intervene soon to prevent such a tragic possible scenario especially after exhausting all diplomatic and economic measures ....Most American seem to fail to understand why the US. and its allies have to intervene militarily in certain parts of the world, overlooking the fact that we now live in a very small world that its diverse parts are very connected to each other...!!...In Syria I believe any future mission would be very focused and targeted on military facilities and security headquarter buildings with no need for any deployments...the real problem is that we have to deal with unavoidable a collateral damages of civilian causalities l
UUSC Condemns Government Violence against Civilians in Syria | Unitarian Universalist Service Committee

Update: More...actually a letter that preceded the one above,

To explain to you in a simple way the mosaic of the Syrian society, there are non-Arab ethnicity who are the Kurds ( Mostly Sunni Muslim) and the Assyrians ( Mostly Syriac Orthodox) ..the majority of the population are considered Arab Syrians. The Arab Syrians have a very diverse sectarian religious structure. Some of them are Catholic, others are Greek Orthodox, others are Syriac Orthodox, others are Alawite Shi'a, druzz Shi'a, Ismaeli Shi'a but the majority of Syrian population are Arab Sunni Muslim (65% of the whole population). The majority have been oppressed by the Alawites who have a very tribal fanatic culture. The regime also over the years reached out to other minorities like Christians to consolidate its power. The regime has worked successfully on dividing the Syrian people and convinced and scared the minorities (35%) that the revolution is the work of America and the West and it is backed the extreme Sunni Islamist currents...Now the Alawite soldiers are slaughtering the Sunnis with heavy weapons and the Christians are dancing to the Russian & China Vetos and Iran supports .The Kurds are waiting for Syria to crumble so they can establish their own state in NE part of Syria.. regional powers like the Shi'a governments in Iran, Lebanon and Iraq are backing Assad's regime, superpowers like Russia and China are protecting and boosting Assad regime.....the Arab Golf States & Turkey who are mostly Sunni Muslims who are allied with the US. and the West get unwillingly involved after seeing the inhumane massacres of the Sunni population in conclusion what has started as a people revolution, it has descended into as a sectarian, regional and superpower conflicts !! If I want to blame one group for all this , I would blame the Syrian Christians who should have been moderate and act as a buffer and safe zone between the ruling Alawites and the revolting Sunnis...instead they sided with Alawite and fueled the conflict and now the whole country is going to hell !!!

Probably lump UU indifference up to now,  with the rest of the Christians. And send Syrians all straight to on earth to boot.  Wasn't our fight so to speak.

Mammogram Flap Portends ObamaCare's Rationing -

Least anyone forget what politicized healthcare is all about.  Once the benefit package set in place, whether or not you can get a procedure, will be in the hands of panels.  You won’t get coverage you want; and you could get stuck paying for coverage you consider immoral. They’ll be political decisions, made by panels; and they’ll be no other choices.  The Bishops will balk.  Women’s health lobbies will balk.  That’s political healthcare decision making.

Below, the WSJ when the Preventative Services Task Force nearly torpedoed ObamaCare. The Blues who I suspect will be the only intermediaries left standing, will do nicely as a sort of quasi-Governmental FannieMae of Health Insurance.
No sooner had the Health and Human Services Department's U.S. Preventative Services Task Force recommended against mammography for women under 50 than Secretary Kathleen Sebelius rushed to say don't worry. The decision had "caused a great deal of confusion and worry among women," she said, promising that no policies would change. New Jersey's Frank Pallone vowed to hold hearings, and Senator Dick Durbin leveled the gravest charge Democrats can make: The task force was "appointed by President Bush."
The political duck-and-cover was also on display in that vanguard of ObamaCare known as the New York Times, which ran at least four much-ado-about-nothing items even as it endorsed the reduced screening. On the same day as an editorial and op-ed, a front-page "news analysis" lectured that what the public really needs is "a transformational shift in thinking" about the "evidence-based" medical future that the mammogram decision portends. Yes, and no doubt the Times will tell us what "evidence" to follow
Mammogram Flap Portends ObamaCare's Rationing -

RealClearReligion - No Room for Catholics in Obama Country

Father Barron on the two types of Liberalism,

There is a modality of secular liberalism that is not aggressive toward religion, but rather recognizes that religion makes an indispensable contribution to civil society. This more tolerant liberalism allows, not only for freedom of worship, but also for real freedom of religion, which is to say, the expression of religious values in the public square and the free play of religious ideas in the public conversation. Most of our founding fathers advocated just this type of liberalism.

But there is another modality of secularism -- sadly on display in the current administration -- that is actively aggressive toward religion, precisely because it sees religion as its primary rival in the public arena. Appreciating certain moral convictions as disvalues-think here especially of Catholic teachings concerning sexuality -- it seeks to eliminate religion or at the very least to privatize and hence marginalize it. In doing so, it indeed reveals itself as totalitarian, for it allows no room in the public space for anything but itself.

RealClearReligion - No Room for Catholics in Obama Country

Unitarian Universalism’s pickle may be a whole bunch of us fall into that second bucket.  Barron was just at Elmhurst College speaking but I never got around to seeing him.  Martin Marty is next month: Lecture: H. Richard Niebuhr, A Centennial Appreciation

Idlib, Syria City Prepares For Attack From Assad's Army

Saturday, February 11, 2012

thelivelytradition: Beyond Congregations

Tom Schade writes,

I myself would like to see all of our ministers and laypeople be turned loose to create "no-logo liberal religious ministries"  wherever they can.  Let our congregations keep doing what they are trying to do.    Out of all that ferment, something new will emerge

thelivelytradition: Beyond Congregations

As far as I know, there’s nothing and no one holding ministers and laypeople back.

If there are barriers, I’d be curious to know.

The Unheard Voices of Unitarian Universalist Conservatives

Above the name of a play that will be performed at General Assembly.  I’ve been asked to respond to a few questions to supply some lines that may be selected for it.  So I’ll post my responses as posts here in the hope they might gin up some interest in the session. Here’s a description of it,
Crossing Political Borders, Breaking Down Barriers
Marjorie Bowens-Wheatley’s prized litany, #576 from Singing the Living Tradition, calls Unitarian Universalists to restore the human family. In its fourth verse Wheatley probes: “If you are progressive and I am conservative,” and the response is given “It will not matter.” Sadly our congregations struggle to heed this call, while we are winning big successes bridging the divide between humanist and theist, the human family breaks at the border of political ideology. When pushed, many politically liberal Unitarian Universalists defend their congregation’s partisan make-up by asking, “how can we do viable social justice work if we don’t all agree politically?”
Our program will examine the political barriers that exist in our congregations through a short play called “The Unheard Voices of Unitarian Universalist Conservatives” and a multi-media lecture. Our premise is that viable social justice work around immigration can thrive in a congregation that welcomes individuals across the partisan spectrum.
This will NOT be a session to discuss the pros and cons of specific political positions.
Speakers: Rev. Nancy McDonald Ladd (Bull Run Unitarian Universalist), Rev. Anya Sammler-Michael (Unitarian Universalists of Sterling), Paul Roche (Unitarian Universalists of Sterling.)
Great topic.  I’m honored to have been asked to share some thoughts.
More coming…

Cross Posted to Conservative Forum for Unitarian Universalists on Facebook

Update:  Bill Whittle explains why Conservatives suck,

Update: Parts one and two of my responses so far for the play.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Syria: World War 1 Continues

From Austin Bay’s response to Fouad Ajami’s essay on Syria as the final stage of the Cold War.  I’ve always felt as Bay below, no, this is the last act of World War 1 and the resolution of all that was left undone with the Ottoman Empire.

The current Syrian revolt, the entire Arab Spring phenomenon, and for that matter, the Cold War share a sobering (and I suggest more explanatory) origin: World War I, the Great War. Four authoritarian empires fell in that conflagration: the Ottoman Turk, the German (Hohenzollern), the Austro-Hungarian (Habsburg) and the Russian Romanov. The Western Front slaughterhouse damaged France and Britain; though decolonization came decades later, the democratic imperialists never really recovered. What to do with all the imperial fragments? The Nazis, exploiting German grievances with World War I's outcome, tried to create a super German empire, but lost. The Soviets did resurrect the Russian empire, and extended it, until 1991. Gone forever? As Ajami noted, Putin exhibits commissar tendencies. He is not above creating an empire with an authoritarian sword.

Syria: World War I Continues

Thursday, February 09, 2012

Cristian Century's Editorial on Sebelius's Reasonable Exception

From CC's Editorial,
We disagree with the Catholic bishops' stance on birth control—as do a great many American Catholics—and we think that the common good is enhanced by providing wide access to contraception. Nevertheless, we think the common good is also enhanced when religious believers—and religious institutions—are free to act in the public square without sacrificing their religious identity.
The truel cynical (and cruel) feature of Sebleius's regulation (and it's no law, it's an administrator's reg) is the narrow exception for a Church to opt out leaving it to their staff's to opt into an HHS approved plan which covers the morally objectionable services.

Not sure what the MainSTREAM thinks, but I don't think American Protestantism's MainLINE has a greater spokesperson than The Christian Century. This Editorial speaks clearly.

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Karam Foundation emergency campaign to rebuild field hospital in Homs

The videos of the traumatic injuries, especially on the children, are horrifying. Assad's deliberatly shelling Sunni neigborhoods with the goal of killing civilians. A Syrian friend in Chicago forwarded below to me.
Karam Foundation has launched an emergency campaign to rebuild a field hospital in Homs, Syria, where over 200 people have been killed since Friday.

From Karam: "The wounded are dying and our medical community in Homs are in desperate need of our help. They are risking their lives to help others, but they need our support so they can perform miracles under life-threatening conditions."

You can support Homs' wounded by contributing whatever you can and spreading the word about Karam's appeal.

Donate here: - Donations are received in Homs with no overheads, and dedicated solely to this humanitarian crisis.


I wonder what stream Rev Haffner finds Catholics swimming in?

Considering the mainstream's drying up, it's an odd case to make for a mandate.

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Egypt's feminists prepare for a long battle - Features - Al Jazeera English

Good article in AJ,

Islamist politicians (such as MP Azza al Garf, who compared with Tea Party supporter Michele Bachmann), scholars, and activists such as Abou Bakr - who look at women's rights through an Islamic frame of reference - say they are looked upon with some scepticism by Western and secular feminists in general.

"Secular feminists have always been suspicious of Islamist politics - and maybe half of that is right, because the gender ideology of the Muslim Brotherhood is conservative and the Salafist gender ideology is influenced by Wahabi gender ideology, so I can see why there is a justification for these suspicions," said Abou Bakr, adding that it was not only within Islam that women fight for equal rights, but also within Christianity and Judaism.

Egypt's feminists prepare for a long battle - Features - Al Jazeera English

Monday, February 06, 2012

Archbishop Timothy Broglio's letter to the Troops

Startling but awfully predictable. Drag Government into Health Policy, you open up big cans of worms.
Archbishop Timothy Broglio, who leads the Roman Catholic Archdiocese for the Military Services, wrote a letter to be read at all Sunday Masses for U.S. military personnel around the world that said that a regulation issued by the Obama Administration under the new federal health care law was “a blow” to a freedom that U.S. troops have not only fought to defend but for which some have recently died in battle.

“It is a blow to a freedom that you have fought to defend and for which you have seen your buddies fall in battle,” the archbishop wrote.

Another line in his letter said: “We cannot—we will not—comply with this unjust law.”
Odd thing is it isn't a law. It's a regulation implementing a law. Policy written by GS somethings somewhere and they've lead the Prez into an awful bind.

Chalice Chick's Obsession

She commented regarding mission statements,
I’m thinking of the top-down vision too, at least partially because I am obsessed with this memo, which I ran across a few days ago. You don’t have to read it all, it’s 28 pages.

I read every word and have skimmed through it a couple more times.

In it, Jeffrey Katzenberg gives a lengthy and fascinating discourse on what makes good movies and how Disney can make more of them. It’s clear he’s a really bright guy who wants Disney to be successful by making the best movies it can. This memo might be the least cynical thing about Hollywood I’ve ever read.

Does UUsim have a Jeffrey Katzenberg? If we do, I’m pretty sure it isn’t Peter Morales. Maybe we don’t. But if we did, I really wish that person would write us a memo.
A good obsession in my opinion. Corporations (and money) such nasty words among UUs now, we overlook the very valuable contribution corporations make: they understand failure, look it in the face daily; and plan to avoid it, or recover from it, or start over. Corporations don't rule us, the markets rule them, and they succeed or fail and profitablity (i.e. sustainability) the unforgiving metric.

Katzenberg writes a rich memo here and I make just two quick points on it: the man's grounded in his Industry's History, and he writes in plain English with no attempt to invent new words for new abstractions. He's writing about his institutions survival and conveys it plainly and concretly to avoid any ambiguity.

Yes, UU's need a Jeffrey Katzenberg and I sure don't see one out there either.

Sunday, February 05, 2012

BBC News - Syria: UN veto gives Assad licence to kill - opposition

And they’re using it,

Russia and China have handed Syria's government a "licence to kill", say opposition activists, after the two countries vetoed a UN resolution.

BBC News - Syria: UN veto gives Assad licence to kill - opposition

The Guardian: Syria: '300 killed' as regime launches huge attack on besieged city of Homs

The Syrian city of Homs was left reeling on Saturday from harrowing accounts of a massacre that has left hundreds of people dead. Residents of the besieged city said that at least 300 people had been killed in a massive regime artillery barrage, the most deadly attack of the 11-month uprising.
The reports described horrific scenes in a city that has suffered most from recent violence, but not previously experienced a bombardment on this scale. Homs is divided almost in two, with Alawites, who are loyal to the regime, on one side and Sunni Muslims, who want to oust Assad, on the other.
The attack on Homs was launched on the 30th anniversary of the massacre in the nearby city of Hama, which was launched by the former president, Hafez al-Assad, and is believed to have killed around 20,000 people.
The Guardian on Facebook
I expect the videos of the slaughter to start flowing in on facebook

Update: There coming in and they are very very brutal images: + جرحى من الأطفل شكر للفيتو الروسي باباعمرو5 2 2012

UUA View from Berkeley: Protecting Unitarian Universalist Identify

It’s outcomes that count; not process.  The UUA board can’t seem to get that and constantly fall back into their management models per below.

No one cares.  The outcomes look bad right now and I suspect when we see new numbers they’ll look worse.  Please, let’s get priorities right. Backing #Occupy damaged UU Identity far more than this process is doing anything to protect it.

Though I am happy with the outcome of the vote, I am happier still with the process we went through to get there. The ideas behind the transfer started with the Panel itself, the policy crafted with the help of the Panel chair (Rob Eller-Isaacs). The operational definition was a collaborative process that brought out the best of our respective board/staff roles.
This is how Policy Governance should work.

UUA View from Berkeley: Protecting Unitarian Universalist Identify

Double veto of draft Security Council Resolution on Syria a betrayal of protesters | Amnesty International

AI's Statement,
The decision by Russia and China to veto a weak draft UN Security Council resolution on Syria, the day after the Syrian army launched a major assault on residential areas of Homs leaving scores dead, is a shockingly callous betrayal of the people of Syria, Amnesty International said today.

"This is a completely irresponsible use of the veto by Russia and China," said Salil Shetty, Amnesty International's Secretary-General.
“It is staggering that they have blocked the passage of what was already a very weak draft resolution."

"After a night in which the whole world watched the people of Homs suffering, the actions of these members are particularly shocking."
Apart from a presidential statement issued in August 2011 condemning human rights violations, the Security Council has not acted on the crisis in Syria since the uprising began in March 2011.

Amnesty International said it would continue to press members of the Security Council to refer the situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court, impose a comprehensive arms embargo on the country and implement an assets freeze on Bashar al-Assad and other top officials
Double veto of draft Security Council Resolution on Syria a betrayal of protesters | Amnesty International
Irresponsible sure, but no surprise.

Saturday, February 04, 2012

Chicago's CBS News on Miles Austrevich

Chicago TV on my step brother's kid who's facing a really tough go of it.

Thursday, February 02, 2012

Can we as a religious movement ever have a mission statement? Yes of course...

The question's asked.

I think the answer's simple.  Simply add an 's'.  UU's have had plenty of mission statements, and we'll have more.  They'll be as many statements: written or unwritten, spoken, or left unspoken; as there have been UUs.

The obstacle for some may be simply writing them; while knowing this truth.

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

It's not Race; it's Tribes

Rev Dan Harper posts on UUs, Race, and Liberal Religion.

The notion of Race one of those nasty pseudo science terms from the 19th Century with little application today.

Tribes and tribalism however concepts with some science behind them, and Capitalists know it. Check The Economist's Schumpeter column today: The power of tribes Businesspeople need to reckon with the Anglosphere, the Sinosphere and the Indosphere
EVER since the collapse of the Soviet Union ended the old, neat division between East and West, people have been inventing new ways of dividing up the world. In the 1990s it was fashionable to talk about America, Europe and Japan. Today pundits draw the line between emerged and the emerging markets.

Joel Kotkin, a geographer, suggests another frame of reference. In “The New World Order”, a paper for the Legatum Institute, a think-tank in London, he looks at the world through the prism of culture. The ties of history and habit—of shared experiences and common customs—can explain a lot about who does business with whom. Mr Kotkin quotes Ibn Khaldun, a 14th-century Arab historian: “Only tribes held together by a group feeling can survive in a desert.” Substitute “globalised economy” for “desert” and this describes the modern world quite well.
And culture maters...
Cultural ties matter in business because they lower transaction costs. Tribal loyalty fosters trust. Cultural affinity supercharges communication. Reading a contract is useful, but you also need to be able to read people. Even as free trade and electronic communications bring the world closer together, kinship still counts. Indians in Silicon Valley team up with other Indians; Chinese-Americans do business with Taiwan and Shanghai.
We UUs regardless of color tend to be firmly in the Anglosphere. Like it or not, that's our fate, but our great advantage ought to be our spot in the North American corner of that sphere with the cultural habit of destroying the old, building anew, regardless of one's heritage, and culture. Welcoming those fleeing theirs.

It makes us an odd and unsettling bunch, but we UUs ought revel in it, preach it, be wary of it's limits though. Most of all understand its our Tribe.

Educated white folks uncomfortable with disagreement at UUA

A long clip from way down at the bottom of this: UUA Board urges repudiation of 'Doctrine of Discovery'

Nothing about this anywhere in the UU Blogosphere save Linda Laskowski's blog (and she seems never cool with my comments).

Sounds like the wheels coming off UUA to me.
Policy Governance requires that the administration document for the board, through monitoring reports, how it is meeting those Ends. The board voted to require the administration to file an interim report with additional data and information about how the administration is meeting the Ends by March 27. The board found that the operational definitions provided for several of the monitoring reports were unreasonable.

Morales said that he thought the likelihood of the board being satisfied by the interim report was “vanishingly small—something barely higher than the sun rising in the West.”

Morales told the trustees that the relationship between the staff and the board was the worst it has ever been in the history of the association. My Emphasis

Courter was displeased with his characterization of the relationship. She said that some would say the “high-water mark” for the board was when it did nothing and would smile and nod at the administration. “That’s not our measurement,” Courter said, adding that board members were being asked questions about the association’s budget and why there was no viable youth organization. “We are here to ask the difficult questions that we get asked directly,” she said.

Some members were clearly made uncomfortable by the disagreements. Pupke observed that interpersonal relationships were frayed. Linda Laskowski, trustee from the Pacific Central District, said that she wanted to work more closely with the staff and work toward more collaboration.

However, others maintained the conversation was not uncomfortable. “I’m hearing people are uncomfortable, and I’m feeling fine,” Averett said, adding that white, educated people feel uncomfortable with disagreement. She said she did not accept the notion that the board was being dysfunctional because they were expressing disagreement. “Honest conversation in some cultures is okay. It proves you are alive, as my mother said.”

Grubbs thanked her for saying “what needed to be said. When a wound is healing, there is a growing edge of scar tissue.”

The conversation ended with the board passing the motion finding the operational definitions of the monitoring report unreasonable and requiring the interim report.