Thursday, June 15

How many Unitarians does it take...

My journey has led me to the interior of a lightbulb.
Good thing my Birkenstocks do not conduct electricity.

Alright, alright. But out here in the blue state Blue Gal is attending Unitarian services. It feels right, and not only because it's the one church you can count on in town for good child care (a must).

My big problem with UU (and every UU has at least one "big problem" with it so even with my problem I feel right at home) is that my idolatry radar goes off every time I hear a UU talk about the journey and the search and not finding answers and that's okay because the questions are an end in themselves. I worry about the humanist tendency to worship one's own knowledge or lack thereof. But that's me, and for every me there's 20 UU's worshipping their journey. So who knows.

Some UU ministers end the "church year" (and take the summer off, imagine that) with a question and answer sermon, taking questions during the week before and working them with the answers into a sermon. The one I heard last Sunday, by the Rev. Bruce Bode, was really excellent, and is online here (it's pdf and the meat of the sermon starts at the bottom of page 4.) Here's the blog-able snippet (in the interests of fair use and to make you read more of the whole thing I'll just give the odd points):

QUESTION: How can you help me deal with the anger I feel when reading or watching the morning news?

RESPONSE: Dear Angry Reader and Watcher of the News: I agree that such anger is probably not doing you or your loved ones or the world at large much good, so here are some possibilities to consider:

1. You might meditate on the fact that one day you will die. That is to say, one day the part of you that stands apart from the world observing it, evaluating it, wishing to adjust it, and getting angry at it, will pass back into the world, while the world itself will continue on. It would be a sad thing if you were to spend too much of your brief time on this planet being angry about the ways of the world and so miss the wonder of the fact that this world is here at all, and the wonder at the fact of your own capacity to behold this world.

3. You might consider studying astronomy. Seen from the perspective of a starnursery in some nether region of our universe, our anger over Enron tends to loosen its grip.

5. Finally, consider limiting your intake of the news, particularly in the morning. As valuable and important as news is, a large part of the daily news business is to scan the planet in search of accidents, disasters, diseases, scandals, corruptions, conflicts, controversies, contradictions, and potential accidents, disasters, diseases, scandals, corruptions, conflicts, controversies, contradictions, and then to broadcast these at high volume and in language that is designed to hook your emotions. And given how wired our world now is, it’s not difficult to locate concerns and problems that can perpetually agitate, frustrate, and irritate a person.

You may wish to consider what a Unitarian ministerial colleague of mine did a few years ago during the Lenten season. Following traditional Lenten practice, he decided he would give up something for Lent and determined it would be reading the morning newspaper – which depressed him anyway, depression, they say, being anger turned inward. He discovered through this Lenten experiment that reading the morning newspaper for him was like taking a poison pill to begin the day. How much better he felt, then, as a result of not swallowing this poison pill every morning, and how much more energy he had to devote to making the world a better place during the day. (P.S. I don’t know what he did in the evening.)

There's more good stuff, about being "liberal" and "religious", about solitude, about being an older single woman, etc. again, starting on page 4 of this pdf document. Enjoy.

My addition to Rev. Bode's good comments: We do need to protect our mental atmosphere as much as our physical, particularly if we want to work to improve the world in some small way (Bode has stuff on that in point 2). But sometimes getting mad at the morning news actually makes you feel good. I mean, you couldn't do better than this morning's latest silly business, the Republican House deciding to dare Democrats to vote against Operation Endless War on Terrah(tm). Here's a good example of feel good anger from Alabama Ass Whuppin', the latest addition to the Blue Gal blogroll:

These fuckin' morons. The GOP wants to force a debate on the Iraq war? Umm, what's the phrase I'm lookin' for.....?...... Oh, yeah. BRING... IT... ON!

See what I mean?


  1. i too belong to a UU church. an interesting subject just came up--is the UU church a cult?

  2. I agree that anger can be a good thing.
    -My anger at a whole long list of things was one of the factors leading me back to religion, and in the end, to Quakerism.
    -My anger usually motivates me to write, on my blog and elsewhere.
    -My anger at work got me involved in our union, and made me an "activist" member (meaning I do more than pay dues and complain).
    And, I usually end up praying after I'm mad, so that's good, because then I'm a lot nicer to be around.

    Thanks for the link to the sermon. I'll enjoy reading it, I'm sure.

  3. Someday i'll have to blog my time with the UUs...which is mostly a character study of our particular congregation. Let's just say i could never tell if people were sincere, or if i had stumbled in to the very elaborate parody of a UU church.

    Needless to say, i loved the joke. Sermon was pretty good too.

  4. G-D D--N! I would love to have a summer vacation!

    My anger often creates unrealistic fantasys... like just walking off the job and heading to the beach...

  5. Rev. Bode's advice seems a recipe for apathy. Feh.

    I'm with dave on this one.

  6. Rev. Bode's advice seems a recipe for apathy. Feh.

    "Don't worry, be happy" is not adequate as a guiding philosophy, IMHFO.

    I won't argue that being uninformed makes you happier, but it seems selfish and perhaps a bit narcissistic to achieve happiness by disengaging from the larger world.

    It sounds, quite frankly, like Karl Rove's wet dream. "Oh, don't you worry your beautiful little minds about the big bad ol' world. We're on the csa, we're taking care of it, we're making it better - just trust us."

  7. Um... That was supposed to be "on the case". Talk about a Freudian typo...

  8. Bode's point two, which I did not include, says to basically take your anger and use it make the changes in the world that you can make. I don't think he was advocating apathy, but for some, whose anger leads to righteous action rather than mere fuming or familial abuse, his advice is probably milquetoasty.

  9. I was kind of hoping there might be more to it, but I was on a PDA at the time, which makes me a little less likely to follow links...

  10. I posted a reply to this on on Axinar's.

    Actually, anger at the morning news is what some of my Jewish friends call "righteous indignation" - if it prompts a person to DO something, it can actually be a good thing.

  11. Blue Gal, love the light bulb, you look like a Tessla Coil, viwers can see more of these at

    Eli, we should care about the things wrong with the world, but sometimes more can be achieved by promoting the things that are right or the right thing. ooops should that be LEFT things that are right. Laters ... Q

  12. i try not to read anything in the morning until i have had my coffee. i don't get fired up until later in the day- because i am not a morning person. good time for me to read :)

  13. Excellent post, BG. Seems like you're a wrasslin with the Kosmik Kwestion of late. I predict a Blue Gal victory in three falls. lol

    I would like to remind Doug and quakerdave that there's "news" and there's news. "News" is what appears on the Today Show and the front page of your daily paper -- cookie cutter stories about disasters and lotto winners and Ann Coulter's latest remark -- and news is the stuff that you have to dig for. This in itself is infuriating. The reverend's advice to dodge the morning "news" is right on, cuz we each have a limited capacity for absorbing info, so go ahead and get pissed, but make it a slow, boil designed to steam off the crust; don't boil over and mess up the stove.

  14. There are two reasons why UU churches close for the summer:

    *our ministers are paid so little that they have to drive Good Humor trucks
    *we're the only denomination God trusts out of Her sight for that long...

  15. oh my god, david's post about the churches closing in the summer is so TRUE! there are a lot of great jokes out there about UUs that only UUs get....

  16. A few jokes.

    1. Q: Why don't UUs go to church in the summertime?

    A: They don't have to.

    2. Q: Did you hear about the latest UU miracle?

    A: Someone saw the face of Ralph Waldo Emerson on a tortilla

    3. Do UUs have saints?

    A: Only one. Old Black Joe, patron saint of coffee. He believes in the worth and dignity of every bean.

  17. ironically we don't have a newspaper, radio or TV because I am one of the people who do get perpetually angry (still fuming about G. Bay and three people commiting suicide - US prison commander response: it's an act of asymetrical war - UN and world response: Are you serious? Are you monsters? US response: There are other countries in the world? Where did they come from?)

    So that Linda did not get woken up EVERY night with "Ahhh...ahhh, you know what they are doing now...?" we decided to remove ourselves from the newscycle - which is fine because plenty of stupidy, oppression and intolerance seeks us out on a weekly basis anyway - still angry - just sleep better.

  18. Hey Blue Gal,
    Loving your blog. We've got a UU church here in Birmingham when you get back. Drop by, I'll make coffee.

  19. Well the War on Terrah is only five years old but the U*U war on The Emerson Avenger spans a decade now. . . Makes for some great parody though.


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