Wednesday, June 28, 2006

GA Journal -- Comments Accepted

I'm back from the Unitarian Universalist General Assembly in St. Louis. The main thing I did there was write a journal for the official GA web site. (Of course that's not what I claim in the journal, but a journal that says "Today I sat in my room and wrote a journal" wouldn't have had much appeal.)

Like the rest of the GA web site, my journal didn't allow comments. I asked, and they weren't going to be moved on this. The Unitarian Universalist Association is still too afraid that somebody will post some off-the-wall comment, and then somebody elsewhere will say, "Over at the official UUA web site, they say ..."

So my compromise is to recap here what I said there, and you can comment as you like.

My pre-GA post is pretty light, and is mainly noteworthy for my statement of the Law of Temporal Perspective: "Any day sufficiently far in the future seems to contain infinite time." You can also see a picture of me in my short-haired beardless mode. This is the picture that has finally convinced me to have my teeth whitened.

On Wednesday I was still pretty light in my afternoon post. The picture here is from my drive down from my parents' house in Quincy, Illinois. Missouri Highway UU crosses Route 61 on the way to Bowling Green. I took a picture of the exit sign and intentionally misinterpreted it as an exit for that famous Missouri Unitarian landmark, the UU Bowling Green.

The late-night part of the Wednesday post talks about the reception that a group at the UUA had for UU bloggers, and what I wish we had talked about. This thread got picked up over at Philocrites.

Thursday I wrote about the Church of the Larger Fellowship worship service, which rocked. Two great ministers, a congregation that sings loud, and a choir performing part of a new cantata based on the UU Sources.

Friday contains a lot of little stuff. I flash back to the strangeness of worshipping with thousands of UU's at the opening ceremony Wednesday, wander around the Exhibit Hall looking for funny buttons and t-shirts, and point out that if Peter Laarman really wants to start a dialog with the religious right, he should stop calling them "Christofascists". At least in public. And then there's the strange sense of embarrassment that comes from picking up the UU-Men newsletter at their booth and realizing that I wrote the lead article; it's like I'm standing there waiting for somebody to look at my badge and say, "Oh, you're Doug Muder."

By Saturday I was comfortable enough writing the journal to get serious. The first entry is after listening to Bill McKinny talk. He's a UCC minister and the president of the Pacific School of Religion. His talk tied in with the Laarman/Sinkford workshop that I had covered the day before on the regular web site. This issue that struck me, and I think I'll do a separate post on that issue here soon, is what part UU's can play in the formation of a religious left to balance the religious right. The language of a religious left is going to be mostly Christian -- can we shout "Amen!" to that?

Then I posted about the Rebecca Parker workshop, for which I also did the event coverage. This got me rambling about another question that deserves its own post: UU's are such pessimists about where the country is going, but somehow I never hear them take that into account when they plan their personal lives. We can talk about the melting polar icecaps one day and get excited about buying a beachfront vacation home the next. What's up with that?

In my final entry Saturday, I got snarky for the one and only time in the GA Journal -- I don't think Deb Weiner at the UUA has read this far into my journal yet, and I wonder if I'll hear about it when she does. I couldn't take Mary Oliver's Ware Lecture. In my imagination, the committee that invited Oliver is entirely made up of elderly women saying, "Wouldn't that be lovely?" For balance, next year we should invite Michael Jordan.

Sunday I did a survey of what the other UU blogs were saying about GA. I'm sorry if I missed yours. Dan Harper got me going on the strain of being an introvert at GA.

Then I did a wrap-up where I enthused about my GA experience in general, promised to provide an outlet for comments on this blog, and expressed my intention to go to the next GA in Portland.

As I said, I'm sorry I couldn't accept your comments on the official site. Feel free to post them now.


David said...

Hey, just found your blog. Wondering why you are a unitarian when many of your stances directly contradict the bible that you claim to base most of your teachings and doctrine on?

I'm not looking for an arguement, but more want to understand your reasoning and present to you why I don't agree.

My blog is
I happen to just post something on the unitarian church and would love your feedback.

Doug Davidoff said...

You did a great job at G.A., Doug. I ached to attend fulltime this year, because an unfulfilled goal in my life is to spend the week with Deb Weiner & Crew (Deb is shown at left). Next year in Portland?

As for David M. Stember, this is an old argument and a red herring. The Bible is open to interpretation. He might be surprised to learn of the pluralism of our UU faith sources (scroll down to "The living tradition which we share draws from many sources..."), of which the Judeo-Christian tradition is just one. Yes, it's an important faith source to some of us.

Also, Mr. Stember, don't forget about the old American rural tradition of Universalism. Why pick on one "U" in our denomination without the other "U?" Are you some kind of religious bigot? ;)

My email link.

Doug Davidoff said...

Oops. No photo of Deb Weiner at left, right, or anywhere. Blogger wouldn't take the image tag. But all is not lost. You can still view Deb, UUA director (doyenne?) of electronic communications and our heroine.

Doug Muder said...


I don't remember claiming to base my teachings and doctrine on the Bible. But if I did, why should I be any different than all the other Christians whose teachings directly contradict their Bible?


Jamie Goodwin said...

It's me.. the Trivium guy.. anywho about the Osage. I guess my problem with them is not that they refused, it is the way they did it.

It wasn't "sorry, we have important work to do here." It wasn't "sorry, we disagree with you philosophically."

It was a group of people, approaching another asking to show them honor, and a chance to share their culture with another... and they looked us in the eye and sterotyped us.

Hey it's thier buisness, it's their time, more power to them, i just found it more than a little rude to put it the way it was put.. and we as a organization applaud them for it.

Jamie Goodwin said...

Oh and whether you agree or not I do appreciate your mention on the official site!

Thank You

Doug Muder said...

The thing I like about the Osage story is that it underlines how easy it is -- even with the best of intentions -- to put your own cultural construction on a situation and not realize that the other people are putting a completely different construction on it.

I think the UUA showed respect for the Osage by accepting their answer and taking it back to GA. It would have been easy to gloss over their rejection or to find some other nearby tribe that wanted to bless our gathering.

The story didn't have a happy ending, but we told it anyway because it was a true story. That's what I was applauding: the honesty and humility of the people telling us the true story.

Doug Muder said...

I just accepted David Stember's invitation to post to his thread on Unitarian Churches. I suspect it will turn out to be a waste of time, but you never know.

Kim said...

We can talk about the melting polar icecaps one day and get excited about buying a beachfront vacation home the next. What's up with that?

I've often referred to myself as a "pessimistic optimist". I'm an optimist who keeps telling myself pessimistic stories to keep myself from ever being disappointed.... Maybe I'm not the only one?

PeaceBang said...

Doug, Mr. Stember posted the exact same question on my blog. I wouldn't bother. Anyone who isn't reading carefully enough not to know that we're not basing our teachings and doctrine on the Bible isn't more than a troll in my book, but I see you're more gracious than I.

LOVED your comments about Mary Oliver. I skipped the Ware Lecture, too, mostly because I've already heard M.O. do a poetry reading and also because inviting her strikes me as so incredibly lightweight and feel-good that I just couldn't take it either. As I suspected, it wasn't a lecture at all, but a poetry reading. What a wasted opportunity.

I also think her poetry has nosedived in quality over the past years, but I still adore her. Just not as the Ware lecturer.

Doug Muder said...


Glad to see you comment here. I think you're probably right, but leaving a comment at Stember's blog was easy and painless. Besides, I've been looking for opportunities to try out my liberal/conservative distinction on a variety of people.

Here's what I said:


I'm accepting your invitation to post here as a representative Unitarian. There is one fundamental difference between liberal religion and conservative religion: A conservative religion believes that the religion itself was created by God. But in liberal religion we believe that humankind creates religion in response to God.

We believe, in other words, that the Bible was written by people, and that it needs to be interpreted that way. It makes no sense to talk about "the Word of God" because words are human things. No words can contain the wisdom of God.

To interpret the Bible as the Word of God makes an idol out of it. Instead of showing the way to God, it stands between humanity and God, blocking the way.

Kim said...

Has there been any response?

Doug Muder said...

Kim -- Nothing yet.

PeaceBang said...

Loved what you wrote, though.

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