Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Has the UUSC enlisted in the "War on Christmas"?

If you click this link, you will be taken to the UU Service Committee's "Holiday Card" web page, where you can "support UUSC by sharing the spirit of the season".

You can do so by buying one of three greeting cards.

The message inside one is, "May peace be yours during this season of hope", and inside another is, "May all the gifts of the season be yours".

The inside of the third, which is described as "an original design by Alex Leaver of First Parish Church in Plymouth, Mass.", and as "winner of the 2006 UUSC Holiday Card Design Contest", is

(wait for it... )


As Dana Carvey's Church Lady would say, "Isn't that special?"

Excuse me, UUSC? What spirit, what season, and what holiday are you exploiting in order to raise a few bucks, exactly? Would it be the same one that Unitarian novelist Charles Dickens captured so memorably in his universally beloved novella, A Christmas Carol? Would it be the same one that Unitarian minister Edmund H. Sears captured so memorably in his universally beloved carol, It Came Upon the Midnight Clear? And if so, why are you treating it like the Unspeakable Name?

Monday, October 30, 2006


In recent months I've been wondering why people seemed to have stopped posting responses here. Well, in poking around the Blogger dashboard, I discovered a cache of dozens of comments dating back to June that were never "published" by Blogger because I had not yet moderated them! I didn't realize that, and don't know how, the moderation feature got turned on, but to all of my blogospherical friends who must have thought I was rudely blocking their thoughtful replies, deepest apologies! Your comments are now, belatedly, up.

For anyone who's curious, scroll back through the past few months and see what others had to say. There are a few great conversations back in there that died a-bornin' that we may yet be able to revive.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Well done, thou good and faithful servant!

I was saddened to learn yesterday of the death of retired Congressman Gerry E. Studds, who served his country and his Congressional district for 24 years with distinction. Gerry had been mentioned in the news recently in connection with the Mark Foley scandal, because he was censured in 1983 for having had sex with a male page in 1973. Due to the notoriety of Gerry’s scandal, he became the first member of Congress to openly acknowledge that he was gay.

However, though that may be how he is best remembered, it is only a minor footnote to the substance of Gerry’s career. His effectiveness as an advocate for his district was demonstrated by the fact that, even after his admission and his censure, which might have destroyed the career of a lesser politician, he won re-election six more times.

In particular, Gerry was a tireless defender of the environment. He worked diligently for legislation to conserve the fragile coastal lands of Massachusetts and the offshore marine ecosystem on which the New England fishing industry depends. He helped enact Federal jurisdiction over fishing within a 300-mile coastal zone, and was a driving force behind the Marine Mammal Protection Act, the establishment of the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary, and a program to restore the population of migratory striped bass along the East Coast. Gerry later quipped to Congressman William Delahunt, who took over his seat, that his success in restoring the striped bass population did not owe as much to his legislative victories as to his sheer ineptitude at catching them.

Gerry’s quick, dry wit helped him forge friendships and extend his influence and effectiveness across the usual political divides. After one debate, the conservative Republican firebrand with an outrageous bouffant hairdo, Helen Chenoweth of Idaho, told him, “I wish I had your mind.” To which the balding Studds replied, without missing a beat, “And I wish I had your hair.” After Gerry’s retirement, conservative Republican Don Young of Alaska saw to it that the Stellwagen sanctuary was renamed for him.

Gerry was a UU, and as both a UU and an environmentalist I am very proud to have served in his office as a summer intern when I was in college during the bicentennial year of 1976. (Gerry's professional conduct was so professional, and his private life so private, that when we interns speculated about his private life we assumed there might be something going on with Patricia Schroeder of Colorado -- but certainly never with any of us.) I helped research energy, land, and marine conservation issues, and with the other college kids in the office, I drafted answers to a mountain of constituent mail. Gerry’s wit shone through in his standing instructions on how to answer letters from crackpot constituents whose (often extreme or ill-informed) views he did not share, but whom he did not want to offend. All such correspondence was answered, formally in writing, on official House of Representatives stationery with Gerry’s signature under a terse one-sentence reply:

“You may be right.”

Ack, another book meme.

CC tagged me with a book meme. Here's my answer:

1. One book that changed your life?

Sydney Ahlstrom, A Religious History of the American People. I read it in 1976 for a college course of the same name, taught by Professor Ahlstrom. My parents had fallen away from UUism because they thought (even back then) that it had grown too diffuse to compete with other claims on precious weekend time. Reading the book taught me for the first time that there was in fact tremendous substance in my liberal religious heritage, but also, that my denomination was for the most part neglecting it, and it needed to be reclaimed and preached vigorously again.

2. One book you have read more than once?

Margaret Wise Brown and Clement Hurd, Goodnight Moon. Like most parents, I’ve lost count on this one.

3. One book you would want on a desert island?

Barnes & Noble’s single-volume edition of The Yale Shakespeare. Considering the circumstances, I’d probably read The Tempest first.

4. One book that made you laugh?

Dave Barry, The World According to Dave Barry. It has a permanent spot on the shelf of our guest bathroom.

5. One book that made you cry?

Books don’t seem to have that effect on me any more. I think the last one that did may have been one of the classic dog stories by Albert Payson Terhune.

6. One book you wish had been written?


My half-begun project that might eventually become an anthology of essays and original source material in American Unitarian history.

My other half-begun project that might eventually become a how-to book for tying and fishing trout flies to match the various life stages of the most common East Coast aquatic insects.

7. One book you wish had never been written?

Anything by Ann Coulter.

8. One book you are currently reading?

John Gimlette, Theatre of Fish. A droll romp through the eccentric history of Newfoundland and Labrador.

9. One book you have been meaning to read?

At least four:

Samuel Huntington, The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order.

Karen Armstrong, The Battle for God.

George M. Marsden, Jonathan Edwards: A Life.

Charles Chauncy, The ... Salvation of All Men the Grand Thing Aimed at in the Scheme of God ... . (The complete title is much longer.)

10. Five people to pass this on to?

I don’t like to perpetuate chain letters, but anyone who feels the urge to respond is hereby called.

Friday, October 06, 2006

What Wondrous Love Is This?

Like everyone else who has heard about it, I am horrified and dismayed at the terrible tragedy in the Amish schoolhouse in Pennsylvania.

But I am even more amazed at the strength of the faith of the Amish community. Outsiders have begun to take up collections for the support of the surviving victims, who will need very expensive medical care. The Amish, who ordinarily are strongly separatist in their engagement with the outside world, have said that they would never participate in the solicitation of such assistance, but that they would accept it with gratitude and humility. And then -- here's the stunner -- they said they would not accept it without sharing it with the widow and three children of the gunman, whom they forgive and whose suffering they count equally with their own.

"This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you." Who among us would be able to keep that commandment so selflessly in such a time of anguish?