Sunday, January 30, 2005

Accidental Collision with PeaceBang Tragically Averted

There were unconfirmed reports of a miraculous apparition of PeaceBang in my humble parish this morning.

Unfortunately for your amanuensis, I was hunkered down in the library teaching the Loaves and Fishes story to a bunch of fifth-graders when she must have walked past me in the hall, unheralded and unrecognized.

For the uninitiated, the UUA-published "Jesus and his Kingdom of Equals" curriculum faithfully recites chapter and verse of six different versions of the story among the four Gospels, and speculates that it may have had its origin in a nonsupernatural event where Jesus inspired multitudes of strangers to share their food with one another -- which would have been no small miracle in itself. In a nod to UU multiculturalism, I dispensed with the recommended activity (baking bread, a messy and distracting affair in my judgment) and instead compared the story to the Stone Soup folktale. Then, in an attempt to show how conventional Christianity informs UU values, I whipped out a $100 bill with a picture of Franklin on it (that got their attention!), challenged them to identify the subject of the portrait and his theology*, and then had them read this letter from Franklin to one Benjamin Webb, who in 1784 was apparently stuck in France without enough money to pay for a trip home:

Dear Sir,

The account of … your situation grieves me. I send your herewith a banknote for ten Louis d' or. I do not pretend to give such a sum; I only lend it you. When you shall return to your country with a good character, you cannot fail of getting in to some business that will in time enable you to pay all your debts. In that case, when you meet with another honest man in similar distress, you must pay me by lending this sum to him, enjoining him to discharge the debt by a like operation, when he shall be able, and shall meet with such another opportunity.I hope it may thus go through many hands before it meets with a knave that will stop its progress. This is a trick of mine for doing a great deal of good with a little money. I am not rich enough to afford much in good works, and so am obliged to be cunning and make the most of a little.

With best wishes for your future prosperity, I am, dear sir,

your most obedient servant,

B. Franklin.

Throughout the lesson, kids who answered questions correctly got dinner rolls and Swedish fish tossed at them, which made for a very lively and engaged discussion, which is no mean feat when trying to inspire eleven-year-olds. (In some other denominations their Dionysian enthusiasm might be attributed to the presence of the Holy Spirit, but my skeptical UU experience leads me to suspect the sugar.)

PeaceBang, sorry to have missed you. I tried to chase you out the back door after social hour, but you had already vanished, if indeed the account of your apparition was even true in the first place. If you heard a lot of squealing and shouting coming from the library as you passed by, well, consider it namaste. There will be other occasions.


* Letter from Franklin to Ezra Stiles, 9 March 1790:

I believe in one God, creator of the universe. That he governs it by his Providence. That he ought to be worshiped. That the most acceptable service we render to him is doing good to his other children. That the soul of man is immortal, and will be treated with justice in another life respecting its conduct in this. These I take to be the fundamental principles of all sound religion, and I regard them as you do in whatever sect I meet with them.

As to Jesus of Nazareth, my opinion of whom you particularly desire, I think the system of morals, and his religion, as he left them to us, the best the world ever saw, or is likely to see; but I apprehend it has received various corrupting changes, and I have, with most of the present dissenters in England some doubts as to his divinity; tho' it is a question I do not dogmatize upon, having never studied it, and think it needless to busy myself with it now, when I expect soon an opportunity of knowing the truth with less trouble. I see no harm, however, in its being believed, if that belief has the good consequence, as it probably has, of making his doctrines more respected and better observed; especially as I do not perceive that the Supreme takes it amiss, by distinguishing the unbelievers in his government of the world with any particular marks of his displeasure.

I shall only add, respecting myself, that, having experienced the goodness of that being in conducting me prosperously thro' a long life, I have no doubt of its continuance in the next, though without the smallest conceit of meriting such goodness. My sentiments on this head you will see in the copy of an old letter enclosed, which I wrote in answer to one from a zealous religionist, whom I had relieved in a paralytic case by electricity, and who, being afraid I should grow proud upon it, sent me his serious though rather impertinent caution.

P.S.... I confide that you will not expose me to criticism and censure by publishing any part of this communication to you. I have ever let others enjoy their religious sentiments, without reflecting on them for those that appeared to me unsupportable and even absurd. All sects here, and we have a great variety, have experienced my good will in assisting them with subscriptions for building their new places of worship; and as I have never opposed any of their doctrines, I hope to go out of the world in peace with them all.


At January 30, 2005 at 6:16:00 PM EST, Blogger Chalicechick said...

Wow. Peacebang and Faustus in the same church.

That might have been worth a commuter flight to Boston.

And I would have gotten to see Peacebang, too. I mean, not that I couldn't blend with a bunch of fith graders when in certain moods, but I really don't like Swedish fish.

Weird because so much that comes out of Sweden is cool, such as Ikea bookcases and Volvos.

Oh well,


At January 30, 2005 at 6:31:00 PM EST, Blogger fausto said...

I could have hit you with the dinner rolls and saved the fish for the kids. (But only if you answered correctly.)

At January 30, 2005 at 6:46:00 PM EST, Blogger Chalicechick said...

Oh, I would have answered correctly.

But goodness knows I don't need the carbs...


At February 1, 2005 at 12:19:00 AM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It seems like the entire UU web community is within three degrees of seperation from Faustus.

At February 1, 2005 at 7:01:00 AM EST, Blogger Chalicechick said...

In what sense?

I think it is just that lots of UUs live in Boston, and that's where faustus lives. I've been involved in the online UU community for years and I've only met two folks I've previously met online in person.

Looks like Faustus beat that just this week.


At February 1, 2005 at 9:45:00 AM EST, Blogger fausto said...

No, I didn't! I did meet Philocrites, but Peacebang slipped by, like a thief in the night.

CC is right about how cozy it is here in Boston for UUs. It's not me, it's just being in Boston. The place is crawling with us (at least relatively speaking, which is how we usually speak). One 19th-century precursor to our current Seven Principles summed up Unitarianism as "the Fatherhood of God, the Brotherhood of Man, the Leadership of Jesus, and the Neighborhood of Boston." This is a town where they put up statues of Unitarians in public parks. My office is a block from the Channing statue on the Common in front of Arlington Street Church (Channing's pulpit), a five-minute walk from First and Second Church (Emerson's pulpit), and a ten-minute walk from 25 Beacon and the Rober Gould Shaw national memorial. I get my hair cut across the street from the tomb of two Unitarian Presidents. My job was re-defined when my company merged last year, and even my new co-worker turns out to be another UU. In contrast to other metro areas, most of Boston's suburban towns have their own UU churches, and most of those have been around for 200 years or more.

To use a currently popular pagan "language of reverence", the veil of separation, both physically and temporally, is especially thin here.

At February 1, 2005 at 8:53:00 PM EST, Blogger PeaceBang said...

Not only was I there, I was sitting in Pew #25. The very thought that Socinian was teaching little children about Mr. Jesus makes me flush with joy. Sorry to have missed you. Peacebang (the Mysterious and Fleeting Apparition)

At February 2, 2005 at 1:21:00 PM EST, Blogger fausto said...

The critical word there, the one that makes the rest of it fall into place and begin to make sense, is "Mr." The kids get it, even though many of their parents don't.

Next time you come, sit in #57. It used to belong to R. W. Emerson's daughter.


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