Tuesday, March 29, 2005

CC's beefs with UUs focussing too much on politics

A response to Left Coast Unitarian

1. For some people, politics IS UUism. These two somewhat annoying
people in my congregation are doing a project where they are taking
pictures of people and putting up little signs with the people's
pictures and the pictured person's idea of the "soul of the church."
(These folks qualify as somewhat annoying because they took CC's picture
after she repeatedly asked them not to as she wasn't wearing makeup. I'm sorry a guy has to be 31 Flavors of asshole to stand there taking pictures as someone says "Please don't take my picture. PLEASE don't take my picture...")
Anyway, so far like 50% of the little signs have the person saying the
soul of the church is social action, which beats the hell out of people
saying the soul of the church is, say, "not Catholicism," but I can't
say that it's a good answer either.

2. The more I know about the Federal Election commission, the more I
worry about the possibility of serious claims that we're the religious
wing of the Democratic party messing with our tax-exempt status. We don't have set belief system, kids. That we're a religion anyway is easy for someone to pretend not to understand.

3. We're too small to be doing any good on a national level, yet local
politics is often not glamorous enough for our taste. So we end up
making a bunch of sound and fury amongst ourselves signifying very little other that our own self-satisfaction.

My solution is that I don't believe in churches taking a stand on specific legislation or supporting groups lobbying for specific legislation. We can speak to the moral principles behind the specific legislation all we want and I think the intent will be clear. But keeping it to the moral principle behind the law keeps the focus on religion and keeps us out of murky legal waters.

And it reminds us that the principles we demand of the government are ones we should be living in our own lives.


Freedom vs. Diversity

To me the freedom vs. diversity distinction is crucial to whining minimization.

"Diversity" demands that every person be accepted and catered to by the larger group, and any larger group can be blamed for not keeping everybody happy. After all, if the minorites aren't happy, then clearly the group is not properloy diverse.

"Freedom" says "yes, you can have a barn, but you have to build it first' and puts the onus on the individual. Where it belongs.

And I think we see the end product of making "diversity" a goal every time a gay couple who was attracted to UUism because of our pro-gay marriage politics leaves because they just don't jibe with us theologically.

Do I think that if we're doing UUism right african-americans, transgendered people, etc will show up?

Of course.

But they will be the right ones.


Monday, March 28, 2005

CC responds to the Coffee Hour Ipod discussion

I've read all these discussions with a certain measure of delight as this is a topic I've been meaning to bring up for about a week since we just discussed it at a church meeting.

http://coffeehour.philocrites.com/archives/001799.html#comments"> Check it out!

Like Peacebang, I'm not crazy about the language of marketing, though, again like her, I understand its usefulness.

I'm not liking the ideas of the ten-word summary because:

1. It's a creed, or will be one. People will recite it, people will tell other people that it is the sum total of UUism, people will say that other people who violate it are bad UUs, etc.

2. When GA writes a creed, it sucks. Judging by the best example we have, the seven principles, what they will come up with will be a creed-by-committee and thus be mealy-mouthed, lame and nothing any reasonable person doesn't already believe. Thus it will be useless in defining who we are.

Things I think would help in the quest for more members.

1. Shift the focus from "politics" to "charity work." Let's face it, kids, we're not very good at lobbying. The UUA Washington office almost never gets what it wants. We're just not powerful enough. But when we feed the homeless, we're already doing good. And people initially attracted by roll-up-your-sleeves charity work are far more likely to make good members. The conservative churches do it, and they're right.

2. Shift the focus from "diversity" to "freedom." To me diversity is such an empty goal. It's a pleasant byproduct of freedom, so let's advertise the freedom. Diversity will come. But a bunch of white people sitting around arguing about how best to pander to African-Americans is a very sad meeting to be in, and I've been in it.

3. Involve new members immediately. Don't put them to work weeding the flowerbed (unless they like that), but make them feel like they are really a part of something.


More is percolating but I have to head to work


Sunday, March 27, 2005

What I've Been Reading Lately

Fausto told up what he's been reading lately. Here's my version.

Rita Nakashima Brock and Rebecca Ann Parker’s Proverbs Of Ashes which I started because one of the ministers at my church gave a particularly good sermon on redemptive suffering, so good that I am rethinking a few things I’d assumed.

Richard Osterling and Joan Osterling’s “Mormon America”because when one is in Rome, one should figure out what the Roman’s deal is.

For my less-strenuous reading, I’m halfway through Donna Tartt’s The Little Friend. I don’t know why I tend to read coming-of-age stories. At least this one has a murder.

And I just finished Tim O’Brien’s Going After Cacciato which really blew me away.

who also scared the bejabbers out of herself reading "Portrait of a Killer: Jack the Ripper -- Case Closed" which she really enjoyed, though wished had more citations.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

What's Jeff running off with? And where did my thunder go?

Click here if you're at all interested in the bible discussion.

It's a dirty trick to make CC's points better than she did on her own blog, but Jeff Wilson did just that.


Monday, March 21, 2005

Yeah, what she said

The Post's Dana Milbanks on Media Bias

And I agree with most of this, too.


Sunday, March 20, 2005

The ex-Presbyterian presents:
How to run a Goddamn meeting.

I try not to compare the two faiths I’ve had. (I’m not counting atheism as a faith. The way I practiced it, it wasn’t.) But this afternoon a glaring difference came to light as I sat in a two hour and fifteen minute task force meeting.

Presbyterians can run a meeting. They can raise a point of inquiry, have discussion and call the question like a sumbitch.

Not so for UUs.

So I’m writing up how to run a meeting.

Distribute freely.


1. Have an agenda and for the love of God, stick to it.
And by that I mean an agenda with TIMES. Fifteen minutes is plenty of time to discuss a budget item. If it’s not, assign a budget committee and let them meet about it. If fifteen minutes are up and people are still yakking, make them stop talking. No, really. Do it.

2. If you have two hours and fifteen minutes worth of stuff to say, plan two meetings.

3. If people at the meeting need to have background information, put it in writing and send it to them beforehand.
If a charity’s work can’t be described in one page, I ain’t supporting it. The next time a committee chair makes me sit through a 45-minute DVD on the charity they want to support, I’m sending them an invoice for my time. And my consulting rates are high.

4. If you’re doing something (like watching a DVD) in addition to the business portion of the meeting, do the business portion first. Duh.

5. We aren’t Quakers, consensus is unnecessary
So don’t ask me why I voted against your proposition. I know that an hour and forty five minutes into the meeting is a bad time to explain my nuanced position on the church’s support of social justice groups even if you don’t. I was outvoted anyway, so be happy with that.

6. Once something is voted on, shut up about it.
People who start sentences with “That thing we just voted on is really great because…” should be shot.

7. People who chose to work out things between themselves during the meeting sucketh mightly.
“Can I borrow that DVD to show this other committee?”
“When do they meet? I’m showing it to a different committee on Thursday.”
“They meet Wednesday. I could get it back to you before Thursday.”
“Are you sure they meet Wednesday? I thought the choir was having its special rehearsal Wednesday”
“No, wait, they meet NEXT Wednesday.”
“The choir?”
“No, my committee.”
“So I can take the DVD to my meeting Thursday and give it to you Sunday so you can show it next Wednesday.”
“But I won’t be here next Sunday…”
is what you sound like. So shut the hell up and email each other.

8. Always keep the action in mind. Discussion should be moving toward a vote. Discussion of church history on any committee but the church history committee is punishable by severe beatings.

9. Set a goal for the meeting. Achieve your goal. Adjourn.

10. Lead the meeting, or I will start leading it.
I feel socially awkward asking an old lady “Yes, that thing you’re saying is great, but how does it apply to what we’re doing here?”

But I’d rather be socially awkward than bored.


Saturday, March 19, 2005

Things that make CC happy

1. Having sex, then falling asleep in her husband’s arms and staying that way all night.

2. Spending an afternoon at the art museum just wandering. Looking at art for me is a sort of mediation. I start to think about the meaning of creating things and all sorts of other stuff people think humanists don’t think about.

3. Going to her linguist friend’s house in Ohio, which is full of books, then spending a week reading, writing and cooking large meals.

4. Having a long intellectual argument with someone smarter she is and slowly, slowly losing.

5. Going back to the place where she and the CSO used to get pad thai and eating a big plate of it, then savoring the warm spiciness in her mouth all day.

6. Finding a book she has been wanting for years in a used bookstore for three bucks.

7. Doing a really good job on something at work and being everybody’s favorite around the office for a day or two

8. Page ten of the first book she’s ever read by a new favorite author. Normally by then she knows she’s going to read everything the person has ever written. Most recently happened with Elaine Pagels and Carl Hiaasen

9. When the CSO and I are in a public place and a song with a single swing beat (especially Nat King Cole’s “L-O-V-E” which was our wedding song) and we just can’t help dancing and we know we’re the stupid goofy couple that everyone rolls their eyes at but we just can’t help it because it feels so good to be together.

10, Writing something I really like.

Terry Schiavo can do none of those things.

"Nuff said.


Friday, March 18, 2005

CC responds to Peacebang and Fausto

When CC was in high school, she was an editor on the school paper. That paper, as high school papers dom always ran a “senior quotes” edition where the seniors could put in a quotation that inspired them. (CC’s was George Bernard Shaw’s statement “If the world were a perfect place, there would be nothing for us to do.” Tell me she wasn’t a UU in spirit even then.)

Anyway, one girl chose a quote by Richard Nixon. Even better, a quote by Richard Nixon where he wasn’t saying anything very unusual. He was praising the virtues of sticktuitiveness or working hard or something that thousands of other non-Richard Nixon famous people have said.

CC knew this girl and asked her “Um… What’s the deal with Nixon?”

Her response was that she just liked the quote and thought it was true and she didn’t see what the source had anything to do with it. CC said “well, yes, but a lot of people have said that same sort of thing.” And the girl responded that she liked the Nixon version.

Ok, whatever, case closed. The Nixon quote ran, though CC privately thought the girl was pretty silly.

CC does not think that Peacebang is silly. Nor Fausto.

However, she doesn’t see why Peacebang, Fausto and many other intelligent people insist on doing what she sees as a similar thing.

Most of the good stuff in the bible is cliché at this point.

Did it start with the bible? Maybe. Sometimes, probably yes.

But it certainly hasn’t been said by the bible alone.

Now I don’t mind the occasional bible reading, but I don’t think we need to be so upset with ourselves over the fact that all things bible rarely comes up.

After all, I’d say the works of Shakespeare contain as many useful insights as the bible does, with a lot less crazy stuff. (I mean, come on, in Shakespeare, when somebody wants to get a message across to the king, that person goes and talks to the king. They don’t send the angel of death to wipe out the first born children of the king’s entire country.)

God, as I perceive God, is not the God of the bible at all and I find that the bible gives God rather bad press much of the time.

The girl I knew in high school did not have to “assiduously avoid” a quotation by Richard Nixon to use something similar written by someone else.

I don’t think the bible is the only place where insights about humanity taking care of one another and living just lives can be found is the bible and I find myself sort of resenting the implication that I am “preaching the gospel” when I’m talking about love, service and justice.

The Mormons I know seem to have great respect for love, service and justice, yet I suspect that most UUs, UU bloggers included, would take it rather badly to hear that they were “preaching the book of Mormon” because they were expressing the same ideas.


Why I despise Anne Lamott

(This was a response to something on PB's blog, but is really a topic of its own. Not as good a topic as the bible thing, though, so I'm putting it below.)

I found Anne Lammott my senior year in high school when she had a column on Salon. This was back before Salon was even updated daily. When Cintra Wilson wrote for it and hardly anybody was reading it.

Anyway, yes, I loved Operating Instructions and I read it and re-read it until one day it occurred to me what Sam's life is going to be like when they other guys in junior high figure out what "Oedipal" means.

After that, I just couldn't get into her any more and what I've read since has made me grow to dislike her more with time.

If I had a nasty fight with my scumbag brother I wouldn't go and blog about how much he sucks and how miserable I am and why did my parents ever have to have more kids after me.

And if I did blog about that, he could make a blog of his own or try to sue me or do something to defend himself.

Sam had, and has, no such recourse.

Yes, she loves him. But I really think she loves Anne first.

She may have kicked her cocaine habit, but I think it has been replaced by an addiction to hearing how clever and spiritual and wonderful Anne Lamott is and she's just as willing to pimp her son to get a fix as any junkie.

Boy, that is nastily phrased. But I really feel strongly about her and about the kid who is going to have to hear "Oh,I LOVED the time you were sick as a baby and threw up for three days! Your Mom is so BRILLIANT and so BRAVE for admitting she had you accidentally and you made her miserable all the time when you were a baby" his whole life.

Poor bastard.


She who rarely updates speaks

What a bad blogger I am these days, though apparently I’m a good fundraiser. Made $95,000 Wednesday night for someone who isn’t on any particularly impressive committees.

Yay me.

But it’s probably significant, that Peacebang, who started her blog about the same time I started mine, is also in blogging doldrums.


Monday, March 14, 2005

Saving UUism some time

You know how people sometimes join a UU church all bitter and pissy about their fundamentalist upbringing, but you know the minute they walk in the door that they will be here two years tops and then leave again for another (is slightly more liberal) faith with charismatic leaders that will tell them what to do?

We could always just Send them here when they first arrive.

Feeling snarky this morning.

Sunday, March 13, 2005

My likes and pet peeves

Check out this weird web comic.

Also, is anybody else completely into Silence of the Lambs? This guy is.


Saturday, March 12, 2005

Do patent leather shoes really shine up?

Scott and Peacebang were linking to the websites for their favorite slightly wacky online-marketed products.

My nomination


Blog reviews

Just posted at Coffee Hour

Tom Schade and Fausto are having an interesting exchange about the place of the bible in arguements made by religious liberals. CC plans to weigh it at some point, but hasn't. The Revealer has, though. Returning, too.

Boy In the Bands has a purty new look.

Jess's Journal is a nifty blog that is new to my blogosphere. It looks like she's had a rough week.

Yet another UU Blog has discussions of slumber parties and bookstores.


Wednesday, March 09, 2005

An Oasis of Normal

Everything is exactly the same at my office. No one has any idea.

It's not that they don't know I'm from McLean and have twin brothers named Oliver and Jason. It's that in an office full of Republicans, people don't read the Post.


Ps. Thanks for the emails, kids.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Front page of the metro section, above the fold

For the record, I was in the Washington Post first. Front page of the style section when a bunch of my high school pals and I picketed a Dan Quayle book signing with signs that said "Dan and Murphy: Can't we all just get along?"

Still, you have to admit, he doesn't do anything halfway.


Momma always said one of us would be famous.

I really don't know what to think about this.

I called the FBI five years ago to report the little bastard's kiddie porn habit.

The CSO and I suspect that this will mean I end up on the stand. I mean, the FBI keeps records, right?

It's funny. She who likes detective stories had followed the search for the BTK killer with relish. Mary-who-dances and I talked on Sunday, comparing the LA Times, the NYT's and Washington Post's coverage. I's thought abiout Raber's daughter giving the police a DNA sample to help them catch her father. My dad's pretty harmless, but I'd always thought I would be quick to do that. You know, to catch a killer? Helps not to be close to one's family, I suppose.

I've called prosecutors trying to help cases against Oliver before.

Right now, I don't know what I feel.

Oh goodness.

Going to the store to pick up the paper. OIiver is on the front page of the metro section.

Monday, March 07, 2005

The accused felt entitled.

As snotty as I am about my brother, it was me who had traffic court this morning. My license plate registration expired at the end of December and between the wedding and Christmas I just hadn’t gotten around to renewing. I got pulled in January.

Even then, the cop asked if I were Oliver Smith’s sister.

I went straight to the DMV and got it taken care of. Now, I don’t know if y’all have been to traffic court before, but the judge rarely considers expired registrations to be his life’s work. If you can show the judge you’ve taken care of the problem, the judge will almost always dismiss the charges.

This morning, I knew my way around the judicial complex without having to ask. After all, I've been there plenty of times before.

I was the only white person without a lawyer.

But this was an angry judge. He demanded a translator for a woman who just had a heavy Spanish accident. A guy who begged to have his car returned didn’t get it because of what sounded like a paperwork snafu. Denied. I thought about how Robertson Davies observed that a train of unhappy events, once set into motion, is almost impossible to check. How many trains of unhappy events sat there in the courtroom with me.

I sat there with my registration in my hand, imagining for a moment that I was Von Berg in “Incident at Vichy,” the papers that would allow my escape in my hand.

Go to jail? No way, I was just visiting.

Two hours after court began, my name was called. I stood at the podium. The judge asked if I had taken care of the problem.


I showed the judge and the prosecutor the registration and the case was dismissed.

Tonight, a cop pulled me over to ask if I knew where my brother was.


Sunday, March 06, 2005

For those of you who thought being related to a felon was all fun and games

The cops showed up at the house and searched it. Needless to say, it was a mess and the CSO and I are cleaning out of embarassment in case they return.

I told them that if I heard from my brother, I would call them. I think they believed me.

Last night, after hearing that Oliver was about to face more legal trouble, TheCSO and I discussed whether "Oliver's getting arrested!" were the sweetest words in the English language.

After some debate, we settled on "There's a Prize Patrol van in our driveway, and it just ran over Oliver!"

If talking about one's own flesh and blood this way is appalling, you're not related to someone like Oliver, whose crimes include grand theft auto and having romantic tastes that run to fifteen-year-old runaways.

Who is still really sick, still cleaning in spite of that, and way more normal than this post would suggest.

Presbyterians occaisionally rock

CC was raised in this church.


Saturday, March 05, 2005


Yes, I'm a bad blogger.

But it is also fundraising season and I'm also sick.

Will post more later, I swear.