Thursday, June 29, 2006

Y'all should go read Ministrare

His take on the LORD discussion rocks. And not just because he says nice things about me.

(Though that helps.)


Ps. Also, you might want to check out Woolgatherer, an extremely serious but well-written new blog from a minister out west.

The Supreme Court does the right thing

Check it out, y'all.

Linguist Friend: In my father's synagogue

Isaac Singer has written a wonderful collection of sketches entitled "In My Father's Court", sketches centered around the institution of the Jewish beit din or house of judgment, in which Singer's rabbi father settled conflicts between members of the Jewish community. In my own early life, on the other hand, many important recollections center about the retired synagogue which formed the first dedicated home of the Unitarian group in my hometown of Hampton in southeast Virginia during the mid nineteen fifties.

No candidate who would be recognizable as liberal could be elected in that time and place, so that the work of individuals and organizations was the only possible route to achieve a liberal effect, whether in religion or in politics. Significant efforts came from the tiny Unitarian group and other liberals who were active in such enterprises as the local consumer cooperative which operated a grocery store and bookstore (the only other local bookstore was operated by the Mennonites, bless them).

For reasons that will appear, it was difficult to acquire a building for the use of the Unitarian group. It became possible primarily because my family, although of gentile background, had strong ties with the local Jewish community. I owe a great deal to the cultural opportunities that community provided. For instance, I learned to speak dated but correct Russian from Shalumit Schneider, the daughter of a distinguished linguistic scholar of Vilna and an aunt of our family physician Irving Berlin.

The tiny Unitarian group of our city of Hampton then included both blacks and whites. It was the only local church in which this was the case, and also was a unique open site for local homosexual men and one lesbian naval officer. Given that my parents played a prominent role in this Unitarian group, and that their integrationist views were notorious, there was no chance of acquisition of a building for the Unitarian group by normal routes. However, because of their contacts in the Jewish community, they (actually, as I recall, my father) were able to buy a very small retired frame synagogue on a side street in downtown Hampton. The building could not have seated more than forty people at once, but was in adequate repair.

In the 1950s, churches in our town were still entirely segregated. The only occasion on which I can recall the presence of black people in a racially white church during my youth was when the black family servants of the aged grande dame Mrs. Darling were permitted into the Episcopal church for her funeral services. But, in the Unitarian fellowship, we had the frequent company of the lively tall and slender young black attorney Al Smith, and of the handsome and charming Bill Moses and his wife Julia, and occasional other visitors, mostly from the black faculty at Hampton Institute (now Hampton University), where Bill Moses taught landscape architecture and my father drew his salary for his part-time teaching of architecture to the undergraduates and donated it back to the Institute at the end of each calendar year.

The Unitarian group was thus a public anomaly. It was a center of liberal religion, a site of public interaction of black and white, and a center of immorality in the eyes of opponents of homosexuality. At least one of my birthday parties during my teen-age years was held there, with square-dancing which actually could have been done better in our spacious front hall at home. No doubt my parents were making a point in making sure that my white friends would come at least once to this den of iniquity.

The Unitarian group had at first tried to meet in the private elementary school which my mother ran, but this required inconvenient set-up and tear-down of seating for every service, so that it was soon abandoned for services. My mother did not integrate the school until this became financially practical, well after Brown vs. Board of Education, which changed nothing in our local schools at first. But things in Virginia work in unexpected ways. One of my family's local heroes was our neighbor Judge C.Vernon Spratley, for a period a justice of the Virginia Supreme Court, who in 1933 had made it possible for blacks to vote in the local primary elections in Virginia, not because he was either a liberal or integrationist, but because he believed in the law. However, his daughter had married a policeman at the Newport News shipyard, who one day showed me his "nigger-killer" (his term), a type of blackjack which was a heavy slug of lead with a strap of leather through it. The thought of that policeman and Judge Spratley living in the same house has puzzled me more than once.

My father often lacked personal skills and tact towards those who did not have training comparable to his own excellent engineering and architectural education, although he had a number of lasting friendships with the Newport News shipyard engineers and the research engineers of Langley Field's aeronautical research center, one of whom married my mother's youngest sister. His home library was the local primary resource for books on liberal religion.

The private elementary school that my mother ran drew on students whose homes were widely scattered, and eventually she had to provide bus service for them in order to compete in terms of convenience with the academically inferior public schools. When the crunch of rising fuel prices in the early seventies came, she could no longer afford to run the buses and had to close the school. Even at this point, however, she got in a last shot. Her school building was located on the edge of a pleasant middle class white residential area. She sold the building to a black church, the installation of which in this location set in motion forces to create the best black residential area in the city. In her retirement, she continued her strategic populist activity: when she contributed enough money towards construction of the new Hampton City Hospital that she was invited to have a portion named for her, she chose to have her name-plaque located in the employees' dining room, thus assuring benevolent awareness of her among the nurses and technicians who could make her stays there comfortable.When she died in 1999, the aged and distinguished black Unitarian attorney Al Smith, no man's servant but a good friend,. recited a long poem in her honor at her memorial service, arranged by my Anglican older brother in the same Episcopal Church in which the funeral of Mrs. Darling had taken place nearly a half century before. In this church, in which a predecessor of the present Episcopal minister had baited me with racist jokes during the wedding reception of a friend a few decades before, I told the mixed attending group of how my mother had lived, for instance of how she had sent through music conservatory a gifted student whose family was so poor that at first the lack of a clock in their house had made her chronically late for the music lessons that my mother funded.

The tiny Unitarian synagogue on a Hampton side street disappeared long ago, replaced by a new Unitarian-Universalist building placed more strategically further north and west on the Peninsula, but its history is one of the many chapters in which liberal religion has joined with open hearts in addressing the problems of its time and place.


Christianity doesn't really work for me.

That's the simple truth of the matter. I guess I realized it the most deeply when I read Peacebang's post on the word "Lord." Her love doesn't come from the meaning or even really the symbolism, but from the affect the word has on her. For PB, the word "Lord" resonates.

I guess I'm immune.

The words in Micah PB frequently quotes do stir the soul a bit. But lots of things stir my soul.

"Cowards die many times before their deaths,
but the vailant taste of death but once.
Of all the wonders that I have yet heard,
it seems to me most strange that mean should fear,
that death, a necessary end, will come when it will come"*

Stirs my soul just as much, to be honest.

And even less dramatically phrased sentiments,

"It may be better to be a live jackal than a dead lion, but it is better still to be a live lion. And usually easier."+

The bible, and biblical terminology, has no special ability to move me.

I've known that for awhile, though. Linguist Friend had never been to a Christian Sunday Morning Church service before, so a few years ago I took him to Church of the Pilgrims, the Presbyterian church I grew up in. I really didn't like it. Reading prayers in unison, begging God for forgiveness with dramatic words spoken in a rote monotone. And people constantly talking about Jesus, what Jesus would have wanted, what Jesus expects of you. Nothing wrong with any of that if it's your thing, I've just realized how deeply and profoundly it is not mine.

I'm not angry, I'm even a little sad about it. My grandmother did have me quite scared of hell as a child, and the period of religious fervor I did have came from that. It in many ways had a lot of positive emotions, but that it was basically rooted in fear sort of depresses me. But my grandmother interpreted everything to her own ends, so I don't blame Christianity.

I do have a quiet sort of faith these days, a little stream flowing through my life. But it's not the bucking ocean of salvation and sacrifice that Christianity was. As a kid, I was God's warrior, out to valiantly resist the forces of evil and save my own soul in an epic struggle. Now the holy would like me to pick up a carton of milk on the way home, if that's OK, and if, by the way, I could do a little bit to help the people in my life strive for the highest and best, that would be nice.

I realize that's lacking in passion, but it's where I am.

The Christians I've known did not abuse me, they in the great majority have treated me well. My issue is not that Christians have done bad things, though they have. I do agree with Kim that it is a bit disingenous for the Christians here to pretend that the instutition of Christianity had little to do with that, though I get that people here are going for the good things Christianity encourages without the bad things it also tends to encourage. Kim's analogy that what they are saying is like pretending that the institution of slavery had nothing to do with slavery, slavery was just individual slaveholders is a more inflammatory comparison than I would have chosen, but I still think her basic premise has merit. My analogy would be have been capitalism, but I won't bother to fully sketch that one out.

At the same time, the drama of everybody's reaction to Kim's relatively minor verbal slights at the beginning of this suggests to me that Christians who feel they've been taking grief from athiests for years saw a few more shots across their bow than Kim actually fired. (Though, I have to say that I have a thing about passive-agressive "I'm sorry you took that rude thing I said as rude, a misunderstanding that occurred because you have the following flaws..." apologies, so I do have some sympathy for both sides. I had a boyfriend once who pulled the "saying something obviously insulting, then pretending that if you actually were insulted, you must be oversensitive" routine a lot. He and I didn't last long. If you're sorry, apologise genuinely. If you're not, don't apologise at all. It's just that simple.)

So I don't know what to do. I don't know what UUism should do. I agree with Jamie that I don't want the Christians in UUism to be hurting all the time.
But Christianity as a practice doesn't feed my soul the way a more humanist approach does. I'm OK with a balanced approach, but it sounds like a balanced approach isn't enough for the Christian folks. But what they want I don't think would work for me.

It's not because I'm a Christianity-hater, I'm not. That the Christian approach doesn't work for me just seems to be the way it is.


I would suggest letting people vote with their feet on what kind of services they want, but what people want isn't always what they need. I don't percieve Christianity is what I need, but I'm not going to completely deny the possibility. On beliefnet there was a lady who would occaisionally inform the angrier folks that they "needed Jesus." I always agreed with her that they needed something, though I would have had a different word for it.

So enough bitching at each other already. How do we make this work?


ADDED LATER: LF clarifies that he went to chapel and some Sunday services at boarding school as a kid. He also takes issue with my spelling.

*Shakespere's Julius Caesar, but you knew that.
+Heinlen's Time enough for Love, and yes I know that one's roots in Ecclesiasties, but I prefer Heinlen's take.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

The assumption of heterosexuality, the assumption of similar religiousity

This is a half-formed idea, so help me fix it.

In an otherwise useless college politics of sex class, I did learn one interesting term. People's tendency to decide without asking that other people are straight was termed "the assumption of heterosexuality."

Aside from being a great name for a Rolling Stones concert (doesn't the "Assumption of Heterosexuality Tour" have a nice rhythm?), this concept was really helpful in that it was a simple way to look at the way people silently marginalize others.

Transexual friends have told me that living as a man and living as a woman are different, but I can't look for that. I'm so used to shop clerks talking to me a little more and male co-workers listening to me a little less that it isn't something I can watch for. Never having lived as a man makes the differences iompossible to see, though I'm told shop clerks vs. male coworkers is a simple example of what they are.

If I were a different race, would person A be kinder to me and person B be colder? I haven't a clue.

But it's easy to watch for well-meaning people assuming others are heterosexual. It's a mistake I catch myself (and don't catch myself) making all the time. It's kind of a meditative civil rights exercise to watch for this.

Perhaps we should all try the meditative civil rights exercise on assuming that other people approach God differently, but that everyody means well. (I'm guessing this is one of those things that the ministers learned to to in Div school, but it sounds both unobvious and worth trying in my head.) And trying not to talk like our way is the central way and any other way is an amusing variation on our way.

(As Peregrinato pointed out, I myself wrote in some assumptions as recently as a few hours ago.)

I don't delight in Christian language, but I honestly don't want to drive Christians from my church. I assume that the rough contrapositive is people who do delight in terms like "Lord" and don't want to drive athiests away either.

As a former Christian and a former Athiest, I hereby apologise for any Christians or Athiests who have wronged you.

Can we start from there?


On calling God "Lord"

PB wrote on her blog:

I'm waiting for the day a UU actually asks me what *I* think of the word "Lord" and why I would intentionally reclaim it. But this probably won't happen in my lifetime; not at the rate we're going here, anyway.

PB mentions earlier that she has an education from a well-regarded progressive seminary and does indeed understand that some people don't like the term "Lord."

Not actually having a degree from a place like that, despite what they seem to think, I actually hadn't thought through the word "Lord" much.

I was raised liberal Christian, but sensitive to gender neutral language. I frequently used feminine forms of the language, but somehow "Lord" escaped my attention, perhaps because the feminine form sounds so odd in the vocative. The word "Lady" lacks majesty and brings to mind exclamations like "Lady, could you move your car? I'm trying to back out here and you've got me blocked in..."

Also, I don't remember hearing "Lord" a whole bunch as a liberal christian except as direct quotes from the bible. I think I really didn't pick up the word for casual conversation about religion until I moved down south and started to befriend Baptists. Expressions like "Doing the Lord's work" roll off my tongue, but phrases like "a sub rosa agreement" do, too. Both feel like understood phrases in a foreign language.

I have to say, I don't think the term "Lord" has much to recommend it for serious conversations, though I know Peacebang will show me in no uncertain terms that this is not the only rational point of view. God as I perceive God doesn't have a personality in the sense that humans do and is more of a force, so debates over how exactly God would like to be addressed are pretty moot. I can understand that a certain level of formality seems appropriate when addressing a diety, but the word Lord seems a suboptimal choice. It comes from the Old English for "loaf bearer," one who provides food for his followers. I recognize one develops a certain loyalty to the being who feeds one, but I somehow think one's affection for one's God should be above that, even when the food is spiritual. One thing I've never liked about Christianity is what seems to me to be a rather serious focus on what one can get out of God. The term Lord, when fully undersood, seems to emphasize this dynamic. Other uses of the term make it even less suitable for something to call one's deity, IMHO. I mean, doesn't God deserve at least a Dukedom?

OK, I like a good discussion about words. What do y'all think of "Lord?"


Ps. PB fans read this.

Now this is interesting

So a Michigan State University professor was deeply offended by the Muslim student association handing out hot cocoa at an event intended to raise awareness about the Danish Muslim cartoons. He wrote a bitchy email to the students, which has now shown up on In it, the professor irrationally seems to think that these students should answer for every Islamic terrorist act of the last few years and he encourages them to leave the country. His level of nastiness seems to be a very significant overreaction to a pretty benign protest. I mean, how can you get that angry at dudes handing out hot chocolate?

Now he’s claiming that he had no idea the students would *gasp* forward the email to their friends and complain to the school about what an asshole he is. (He didn't think they would do that? How do people as dumb as this guy is get PhDs anyway?)

The email assures us that the administration will probably condemn his remarks, after all the Consercvatives forwarding this have to get in their moment of playing victim. But those politically correct academics whom one often hears hate Israel are saying that the remarks fall under freedom of speech. That's dumb, imho. THE GOVERNMENT can't punish you for speaking your mind. If you talk like a bigot on the job, your employer can reprimand you for that anytime they want. As dumb arguments about free speech go, that's right up there with Morgan Spurlock claiming that using "retarded" as an insult at a talk he gave at a school was him teaching the kids about freedom of speech.

So I guess the administrators in Michigan don't want to reprimand the guy. That sucks. I would want to go to a school where the professors didn't hate kids of a certain religion, or if they did, at least refrained from emailing them to tell them so.

Call me politically correct, but is that too much to ask?


Who, me?

CC and theCSO are lying in bed.

CC: You know what would be cool? It would rock if we could get a church to sponsor an Action of Immediate Witness condemning smoking bans. We UUs believe in freedom and adults making their own choices. We should really be against smoking bans.

TheCSO: You really are the most conservative person Kim knows, aren't you?

He laughed, I laughed, and I got up to blog the moment.


Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Expensive Nudity

Want to streak an LSU game? Take up a big collection from your frat. Because the cost of streaking an LSU game is $1,624



This poem rocks mightily

"A Primer of the Daily Round"
by Howard Nemerov

A peels an apple, while B kneels to God,
C telephones to D, who has a hand
On E's knee, F coughs, G turns up the sod
For H's grave, I do not understand
But J is bringing one clay pigeon down
While K brings down a nightstick on L's head,
And M takes mustard, N drives into town,
O goes to bed with P, and Q drops dead,
R lies to S, but happens to be heard
By T, who tells U not to fire V
For having to give W the word
That X is now deceiving Y with Z,
Who happens just now to remember A
Peeling an apple somewhere far away.

from New and Selected Poems © University of Chicago Press

They laughed when I suggested Judge Judy for the Supreme Court, but Judge Judy wouldn't have stood for this.


How I hate Hudson vs. Michigan and its many consequnces for the poor. 800 low-income apartments searched. 10 search warrants. Ai yi yi.

But, of course, if you're rich and powerful somebody raids you even with a warrant, there's hell to pay.


Flight 93 landed in Cleveland, you say?

Conspiracies and conspiracy theorists interest me. Here's a spiffy article in Salon about the 9-11 conspiracy theorists, particularly the movie Loose Change.

I'm not sure why people want so much to believe this stuff. I think you'd have to want to believe it awfully hard to believe some of the things these people do.

The most rational 9-11 denier they talk to doesn't deny that Satanists were involved.



UUA GA 06: Last GA post, I think

All this GA talk must be getting dull for folks who weren't there. So let's wrap up. This was my first GA. Here's some advice for anyone else going for their first time:

1. Blog, or read blogs and comment a lot. I was advised to join a covenant group so I would have people to check in with throughout GA. I didn't. Instead I hung out with Linguist Friend a lot and met the bloggers really once a day until Saturday. I won't say we were a covenant group, but we were a little within-GA fraternity. Whenever I saw I blogger outside of one of the blogger meetups, I greeted them with genuine delight and enthusiasm. I felt like there were a bunch of people whom I knew and that made GA seem a lot more comfortable.

2. You will be walking. However much you think you will be walking, you're wrong. YOu will be walking more.

3. As far as I can tell every major road in Illinois and Indiana is under construction all the time.

4. Bone up on thy procedure. I did a bunch of Model UN in high school and college and I was still googling "definition of 'committee of the whole" on my blackberry when I should have been paying attention.

5. If you go out to dinner with Peacebang, let her order for you. Best meal I've had in quite some time.


Saturday, June 24, 2006

Universalism question

True or False:

"Universalism" in the sense that it existed as a religion in early America is about "universal salvation," not Universalism as defined thusly:

In comparative religion, universalism is the belief that true and valuable insights are available in many of the religious traditions which have grown up in various human cultures. It posits that a spiritually aware person will respect religious traditions other than his own and will be open to learning from them. It does not deny that immersion in one tradition is a useful anchor for an individual's spiritual development. While it celebrates the richness and value to be found among humankind's religious traditions, it does not necessarily deny that some things done in the name of religion, and some religious practices, are not constructive. But it distinguishes itself from the view that there is only one true faith, one uniquely chosen people, or one final prophet superseding all others. The name Universalist refers to certain religious denominations of universalism, which as a core principle adhere to standards and rituals which are convergent rather than divergent, often espousing themselves as alternatives to denominations based on dogmatic or factionalized differences;

My understanding is "true," but enough people (including a minister who debated in the plenary today) seem to think that the second defintion of Universalism is at least part of what we currently mean by the term that I thought I'd ask.

To clarify, I am a Universalist by both definitions. I just don't recall anything I've read about the early Universalists mentioning their searching for truth in non-Christian religions. If I'm wrong, please tell me.


UUAGA06: Boom Shaka laka!

It was a great day at GA this afternoon.

The body passed the Committee on Social Witness' bylaws changes. This is the mother of all good news for the Chalicesseurs who were concerned about GA being unresponsive to the congregations. 25 percent of certified congregations will have OK any SAI in a ballot vote before the SAI is even presented at GA. My prediction? We won't have any SAIs next year because the congregations won't be ready.

If participation in this ballot vote improves next year (this year it was only ten percent, but then, it wasn't required,) then it will be because the people who are passionate about that SAI have worked that much harder to educate the other congregations about the problem they propose to study. They will have had to drum up increased interest to get us to study the issue in the first place.

Will this increased interest mean that the congregations will actually study the study action issues when they come out, getting involved and producing truly representative statements of conscience?

I hope so.

Maybe one of these days, when the UUA speaks on behalf of us, they will really be representing us.

Maybe someday, as Fausto so beautifully puts it, the UUA Washington office will be our ears in Washington and not our mouth.

Yeah, I know. I've got a bad case of GA euphoria.

Infused with delight after the vote, I went up to meet the UUA moderator. I introduced myself by my real name and mentioned that I go by Chalicechick on the web and that I write this blog.

She said "Wow! YOU'RE Chalicechick?" and pumped my hand with great enthusiasm.

Yeah, it was a pretty good afternoon.


UUAGA06: The "UU Voice" is Dying of Lonliness

So I'm walking through the exhibit hall when I catch a glimpse of Michael Durall sitting in the All Souls Tulsa booth. I pick up a printed copy of the UU Voice.

"You can have that for free," Durall says.

"Thanks," I say, ever the polite chick.

"Enjoy it," he said whistfully. "It might be the last issue."

"Why?" I asked.

"Well, I get tired of never hearing from anyone. Sometimes I put out an issue and not even one person writes me to tell me what they think.

I, of course, know the solution to this problem: insult the church of the sub-genius.

But I come up with a more self serving solution.

"Why don't you put it online, with each story easy to link to individually? I'm sure bloggers would comment on it." He gives me this hilariously skeptical expression. "So I'm guessing blogger response isn't worth what regular response is?" I fill in.

He doesn't say one way or another. We go on talking about the UU voice for a bit and I wander off.

I've been kicking around adding funny interviews with well-known UUs to my blog as a feature. But I think I will wait on asking Durall.


Friday, June 23, 2006

UUAGA06: An Ecological imbalance on the Global Warming SoC

This morning's plenary was a huge freaking mess.

Philo will cover it in more detail on the GA blog, I'm sure, but the jist is that this body wants a FAR stronger Statement of Conscience than the one that the committee put together with input from the 10 percent for congregations who gave enough of a damn to contribute.

I'm likely going to vote against the strengthened statement since under amendment 34 the statement asks for denominational leadership to lobby our American elected officials. That's kind of a litmus test with me, I'm afraid. That said, this resolution will pass anyway.

The whole issue highlights the importance of some of the procedural stuff we will vote on tonight. Tonight we will be looking at a proposal to put a quorum on denominational input on the Study Action Issue. If more than X percent of the congregations do not respond to the initial survey, it will be assumed that people don't care and we won't have SAIs that year.

This issue with the global warming statement of conscience illustrates why this procedural change is so important.

But we can also look at the issue another way. Various Chalicesseurs have long maintained that the GA delegations are full of hippies with too much free time and that their concerns are not the concerns of the congregations. The issue this morning would seem to support that premise as the work of the congregations wasn't nearly strong enough for those committed enough to come to GA. Since reading TheModoBlog's freaking brilliant the Ecology of Polarization post, I have frequently thought about the crucial balance between the activists and the moderates in various political environments. This issue today suggests that the Chalicesseurs are right and there is something wrong with that balance.

Perhaps this rule change on quorums for SAIs will be the beginning of restoring a balance.

Here's hoping.

All that aside, we were a messy, messy, body this morning and moderator Gini Courter handled it with asskicking grace, diffusing tension with humor and exemplifying a kind of professionalism that I frankly envy. This post was originally titled: "Gini Courter:Chaliceblog woman of the Year," and I will probably devote a later post to praising her.


Thursday, June 22, 2006

Why I don't like the Peacemaking resolution

Since Elizabeth asked, my problems with the Peacemaking resolution are as follows:

1. I do worry that we will end up a peace church and that's not in our tradition.
Also, as Joel notes in CUUMBAYA we will be painting ourselves into a corner given how strongly we are demanding something be done about Darfur. Also, I believe in the concept of a Just War.

2. I worry more that the issue will be divisive, and pointlessly so. The fact that we are studying this and will almost certainly pass whatever we come up with leaves us two possbilities: Us as a peace church for all the wrong reasons, or a vague statement about how peace is a good thing that no one cares about. If the screetchy self-righteous hippies win this one, then some good people might leave. If not, we have to deal with angry screetchy self-righteous hippies. Lose-lose. Lose-lose.

3. I surmise that our enthusiasm for this comes out of our collective dislike of and feeling of helplessness at this particular war. This suggests shortsightedness to me. I really hate shortsightedness.

4. I have heard that helping our young men get into consciencious objector programs is a big part of why we're doing this. That's wrong.

5. I feel like UUs will vote for anything as long as it: a. Sounds good and b. involves no actual work outside of the occaisional petition. I am certain that a decent portion of the people voting put absolutely no thought into this at all.

Since being at GA, I've seen so many examples of UUs going out and doing good work for the poor, work that actually involved getting off one's ass. Give me a resolution about that, I'll vote for it.

who is not tagging this as a GA post as to do so would be sort of bitter.

UUAGA06: Memorandum

To: The guy sitting one seat away from me during the service of the living tradition, the one with the chewing gum, who stole my program and thought the problems with the closed-captioning were so freaking hilarious that he was STILL reading the bigger mistakes off a full half hour after the problem appeared.

From: CC

It's amazing how tiny, inconsiderate behaviors can add up to really mess with somebody else's experience.


The Peacemaking SAI was adopted.

Vengeance: What's the point?

Someone who made me really unhappy when I was a kid is dying.

The unhappiness was significant. I still feel effects from it today and I don't doubt it shaped my view of the world. The dying sucks. It is in a way not physically painful, but a process of watching one's body slowly break down around one. He has lost most of the use of his hands. He can barely talk and walking around seems difficult for him. Ironically, he countinues to manage to smoke somehow. I'd give him a year, tops, though I would have said that last year.

And I'm finding that the suffering I went through a long time ago and the suffering he's going through now don't have any relationship to one another in my head. I feel bad for myself as a kid and in some ways want to tell him off, but that would be a profoundly pointless thing to do at this juncture, so I'm not going to. I mostly pity him.

Watching this happen isn't fun for me. And part of me wonders, "why not?" Shouldn't there be some tiny satisfaction in knowing that he can only, for example, think hateful things and not say them? Shouldn't I be happy, just a little?

He did some good things too, perhaps my feelings are more complex than just a simple longing to get back at somebody. At the same time, when I think about him, I mostly think about the things that he did that sucked.

And it's weird. I've always been against the death penalty. At the same time, I thought I understood the father of the victim who wants to see the death of the guy who killed his little girl.

Now, I'm finding I don't understand it at all.


Blogging UUA GA 06: Love letter to the Chalicesseurs


Just got out of a beyond fabulous blog meetup hosted by the UUA technology folks. It was deeply moving to be around so many people I've come to respect and adore in the UU blogosphere.

In one of the opening scenes of the new X-Men movie, you see Magneto (mmm... troubled) and Dr. Xavier getting out of a car and talking lightly as they walk up to Jean Grey's house. I have seen the first two X-men movies several times and am really fond of these characters. As I sat in the theater watching these two guys chat with such obvious fondness and respect for one another, I was shocked to find a well of affection for them inside me. For fictional old guys with super powers.

Blog amigos, meeting you guys gave me the same feeling. Hafidha looked gorgeous and I totally missed the chance to tell her how much I love her stuff. I confessed to Clyde that his symbol of genocide post changed the way I looked at the St. Louis arch from the moment I first saw it.* I got to yell "Great Principles" at Dan Harper, who of course gave props to Mr. Crankypants. And tell Jess that I loved her hymn reviews. And tell Ministrare how much he rocks and that I don't really link to him much but I totally respect him and I think he's a great writer. I got to put names to faces, discovering that there are UU bloggers who are way cuter than I'd pictured them.

It amazed me how deep my affection for the people in this room was. Mid-meeting, I found myself wondering "Do these people really care what a 28 year old wiseass thinks about every little thing?" (If you found yourself asking the same question, I totally apologize. I did talk too much.) But I looked around and people were looking at me with thoughtful faces. What I was saying mattered to them.

I guess that's why I write this. I put my poorly-copyedited thoughts out there on faith that what I'm writing matters to somebody and everytime I check my hits I am gobsmacked to find that I was right. (At the same time, I want to be right again tomorrow, so I really put a lot of thought into what I'm going to write and how best to express whatever's on my mind. If the Chaliceblog starts to suck you will leave. I never forget that.)

And what other people write matters to me. I read every comment this blog gets and it is against my personal blogging philosophy to ban commenters. (Yes, even that one.) Someone commented recently that he's finding UUpdates less useful because of the sheer volume of stuff on it. I've realized that I don't feel that way because I read UUpdates so often I almost never get behind. I visit a whole ton of UU blogs on an almost daily basis, and I'm only going to get worse having met the people responsible for some of them. I do not control my blackberry, it controls me.

OK, I'm starting to sound pathological here but you get my point.

Whatever we're doing here, I think it rocks.

Thank you for being my fictional old guys with superpowers.


*Item: In going to fetch that link from Clyde's blog, I discovered that a lady I went to church with is now commenting on Clyde's blog. This is kinda trippy. I get that it shouldn't be, but it is.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Blogging UUA GA 06: The Beginning

CC is sitting in National Airport* getting hammered in preparation for
her flight.

There's a guy eating an ice cream cone who looks like Dick Cheney, but
I'm sure it's not him.

Well, pretty sure.

I met a nice looking Baptist minister and he and I talked about serving the lord for a bit. He pointed out that since I was trying to go to law school it could be argued that I was going into the same profession he's in, just the better paid part of it. An interesting argument, though I won't flatter myself and the law by buying it totally.

I will say that when I became a notary public, the idea that I was now an alter girl in the church of law came to mind.

It's probably best if I don't philosophize when intoxicated, I know.

I'm flying to Linguist Friend's house and then he and I are taking a road trip, stopping at his ancestral home, which was once a commune in Indiana for Victorian hippies or some such. We will hit St. Louis tomorrow evening, in plenty of time for the blogger thingy.

Pour the gin, kids, we're on our way.

Anyway, I don't care what the opening ceremony says, I'm raising my
glass and declaring GA begun.



*No locals, even the Republicans, call it "Reagan National Airport."

In a freakish sort of way, that's sweet...

We here at the Chaliceblog have mixed feelings on Madonna. Anyone who tries as hard to shock people as she does is sort of pathetic, but she is great blogfodder, so I'm always quick to read gossip columns about her. I had an unusual reaction to this today.

I was kinda touched.

It seems Madonna's father attended her concert in Chicago the other day, so she seriously toned down her act. Sources report far less swearing and she only gave the audience the finger once!

Late in the show, she asked the audience to applaud extra loud "so her dad would know she's made something of herself."

That is so deserving of snark, yet, awww...


Advice from the Seasoned Traveler

If you're flying to GA over the next few days, leave your grenade-shaped belt buckle at home.


Go, read this.

Respectful of Otters has a great post about the "jobs Americans won't take."


Rewriting the Seven Principles

Dan Harper, in the guise of Mr. Crankypants, has some first rate suggestions for how the Seven Principles should be rewritten. His language lacks some of the thunder of the first incarnation, but has a pleasant clarity to it.
(e.g. "The inherent worth and dignity of every person" seems to confuse a lot of people. Harper's version "That every person is worthy of love; and therefore we shall treat each other, and all human beings, with justice tempered by love and compassion," has less of a ring to it, but is more straightforward and puts up front the answer to the "Does Hitler have inherent dignity?" question that UUs get all the time. At least I feel like I do.)

I'm not a seven principles fan at all. I rarely see the Seven Principles used well. I far more often see them used as a creed various ways. "You violated the first principle, you're not a good UU" or "here, read these, they're what we believe."

One thing I like about the "elevator speech" concept is that it encourages people not to use the seven principles as "what we believe." This is appropriate as they do very little to define us.
If anybody halfway liberal believes in your creed, you're not really defining who you are with it.

I'm pretty far down the anti-Creed road. I don't like seeing the seven principles posted and it irks me when kids learn to recite them in RE. So my preference would be no statement of principles at all. But that battle has been fought and my side has lost.

Bearing that in mind, I'd say Harper's principles are pretty good.


I want one!'s Stonehenge Pocketwatch is wicked cool.

Rarely have two inherently nifty things, in this case Druids and Pocket Watches, been combined so well.


Monday, June 19, 2006

Those wacky trinitarians.

According toThe New York Times, the Presbyterian Church has voted to "receive" a paper of gender-neutral language. Congregations who wish to express the Trinity as ''Mother, Child and Womb'' or ''Rock, Redeemer, Friend' may now do so.

From the time CC was a little girl, she was switching the gender for God in hymns at the instruction of the ChaliceRelative. (The ChaliceParents didn't do this themselves but were tolerant of the practice in me.) One time in church when we were A-womenning (as I called the practice) and heard a lady doing the same thing in the pew behind us. We turned around to find the minister's wife.

I'm guessing we weren't alone. And indeed, the aim of the measure seems to be to seek other ways to describe God in a way that will promote a more complex view of the holy. Always a good thing.

Naturally, as Boy in the Bands reports, homosexuality didn't fare as well, though the big vote on that is tomorrow.

On an indecisive day, I could be talked either way on the traditional vs gender neutral language. I tend to favor the gender neutral but think it should have been brought in a little more subtly than this.

But it's still interesting that they are looking into something like Gender Neutral language. It's hard to imagine the people I went to church with as a kid getting into that.

Of the trinites mentioned in the article, I think "Creator, Savior, Sanctifier" has the nicest feel, although I'm only 1 for 3 on believing in God as those things.

Hat tip to Linguist Friend, who sent me article.


If Christian-bashing in UU churches depresses you

By all means check out what the Church of the Subgenius folks are saying. It's been a long time since I've heard a UU talk about Christians in such a hateful way.

I feel a lot better about us.


Sunday, June 18, 2006

Auspicious Beginnings

We shall call my goal LSAT score X.

My very first practice LSAT was .93X

Not too shabby.


Another argument I had with theCSO yesterday

Yesterday night, I was organizing the books in our library. I put theCSO's Discordian books in the fiction section.

He says they are theology.

If you're not clear on what discordianism is, here's a decent explanation.

My argument is that Discordianism strikes me as a parody of Catholicism. If "Hank the Angry Drunken Dwarf" ran for president to highlight the absurdity of the American political system, then put out a book about politics, I wouldn't put it in the politics section. So why would I put a book produced by paraody religion in "theology?"

His is that nobody died and put me in charge of deeming what's a religion and what's not.

To some degree, this is a stupid argument. He expressed surprise that I was so insistent that Discordianism not be treated as a valid theology and that I became so passionate about the matter. (I may relent and stick it in Philosophy.)

Part of my annoyance was that I had the Discordians confused with the Church of the Subgenius. I read up on the Subgenius Custody Case recently and while I agree with the general sentiment that the mother shouldn't be penalized in custody matters for her religion, even if her religion is basically a parody. But I agree in the same halfhearted way that I agree with Happy Feminist that in a custody battle between a spousal abuser and a white supremacist, the white supremacist should win.

I'll kid you not, y'all, the Cleveland Free Times' description of these Subgenius events this woman was going to depressed the hell out of me. "Whee! Let's take a guy named Steve and change his name to 'Lord Jesus Christ' and parody the 'Passion of the Christ' and there need to be dildos! Lots of dildoes! Why? Because Conservative Christians hate that and that inherently makes it worth doing!"

What the fuck is up with that?

It's like how the first three minutes you spend at it's hilarious, and then you realize how much time how many people have to put into that site and how much they have to hate Christians to make a site that extensive that is devoted to making fun of Christianity in the nastiest ways they can think of.

I'm sick enough of YRUU kids telling me all sorts of bitchy things about Christians that they learned from their parents. I can't imagine the kind of hate the SubGenius woman's son is picking up, all in the name of "humor."

Because we all know that humor is innocent and fun and NEVER has an undercurrent of nastiness beneath it.

I'm not ignoring the relgious freedom aspects, I'm not advocating making these people stop.

But I seriously think they need to grow up.


The "Duh" factor.

TheCSO and I had an interesting argument yesterday and never did quite settle it.

It came about because of something that happened at my high school when I was there. My senior year, the year after we had a 40th anniversary party for the school, the neighborhood around the school started to make a big fuss because *gasp* teenagers were *gasp* parking in front of their houses.

I wrote the editorial for the school paper on the issue, pointing out that almost everyone in the neighborhood hadn't been there 42 years and had moved in knowing a high school was there. In addition, the residents around the high school got access to free tennis courts and a lighted track when the school wasn't in session. It's not like the students were parking on the residents' property.

I still tend to think this way. If you buy a house next to a chicken plant or a railroad track, you're already paying less for it because of the smell and the noise. To start complaining about these undesirable qualities and try to get the government to more strictly regulate chicken plants and trains doesn't strike me as fair.

A few exceptions:

1. Anything that is unsafe by current government standards. (e.g. If you move in down the street from a factory that turns out to be polluting)

2. You can feel free to fight against anything new in the neighborhood.

TheCSO's position, basically, is that I'm wrong. (I may get him to elaborate on that.)

Anyway, opinions?


Addendum: The houses near my high school were standard suburban yuppie houses. They had driveways.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

He couldn't even remember "adultery"

Peacebang wrote a few weeks ago about how all ministers should know the 23rd Psalm.

A few nights ago, the Rep. Lynn Westmoreland showed the world that if you're going to sponsor a bill about putting the Ten Commandments in the courthouse, you should probably be able to name them.

(That part comes in about 6 minutes into the video. But the whole thing is pretty funny.)


How to win the immigration issue

Step 1: Find someone who is something of a moderate, and something of a weasel. Also, Christian and quietly liberal on the immigration question. I suggest former Senator John Breaux of Louisiana, especially if he'd like to use this issue to run for Governor. This would go over big in Louisiana.

Step 2: Have Sen. Breaux or whoever publically point out that Latino immigrants are Christian and highlight all the problems Europe is having keeping out immigrant Muslims who come there looking for work. If hardball is necessary, bring up that some areas of Europe are about to lose their Christian majority and Muslims are becoming a significant political force.

Step 3: Have ourselves a mint julep and wait.

I didn't say it would be pretty.

who isn't advocating this. Just sayin' it would work.

Ps. Our new term for Latino people in this country illegally: Christian Immigrants

In a room full of books, CC wastes time on myspace

Ever have a day when you wake up depressed and you know you must have just had a bad dream but you can't remember it?

Yeah, that was me this morning.

If you've never heard Bree Sharp's incredibly cool song about David Duchovny, you owe yourself a click over to my myspace profile.

Scroll about halfway down and you can play the song.

I had running joke on B-net for years that I had this huge crush on David Duchovny.

Have I mentioned that I like to take pictures?

scattered this morning

Thursday, June 15, 2006

CC swears, shakes fist at computer

Dammit, the Supreme Court's decision in Hudson V. Michigan just affirmed the right of the police to perform no-knock police raids. OK, more accurately, it said police weren't supposed to perform no-knocks, but that the exclusionary rule shouldn't apply if they do.

This is not a good thing, y'all.

And it is only going to get the police killed, IMHO.

If I'm a drug dealer and someone comes barging into my house with no warning, they are there for two reasons:

1. They are the cops and they are there to arrest me. Killing one of them will only make the situation worse. I'm better off spending what reaction time I have running away and/or flushing my stash down the toilet.

2. They are rival drug dealers out to steal my stuff. They will kill me if I don't kill them first, so I'd better kill them.

Goodness knows I've never been a drug dealer before, but that certainly seems like a logical way to approach the situation.

So it is absolutely in the cops' best interest to knock, essentially.


Ps. Here's The Cato Institute's amicus brief on the issue.

We are constantly invited to be what we are.

I'm going to start out by saying that I do not typically see myself as an idealistic person. My standard response to adverse circumstances is not to expect them to improve or even usually to work to change them but some combination of stoic acceptance and a using snark so that even if things are bad, they are amusing.

That said, I've been amazed by the cynicism I've seem from some of my friends when it comes to politics and I'm increasingly thinking that this trend is worthy of inspection.

When the war began, I remember saying things about not letting our fear win and always remembering that who we are as Americans is worth defending.

Trouble is, liberals are needing the same advice these days. I guess I first noticed a problem when I started to feel that liberals were frequently lying to me. The UUA Washington Office sent me an email claiming that the filibuster debate was about giving minorities "the right to speak" something that only even sounds true if you don't know what a filibuster is used for, I visited a local UU congregation where the "sermon" was a play about the patriot act that completely lied about what was in it, Micheal Moore talked about Charlton Heston giving a speech at Columbine then showed a clip of Charlton Heston talking about prying guns from his cold, dead fingers. Of course, the clip Moore showed was not the speech Heston gave at the time, but another speech. Heston's real speech near Columbine had consisted of a moment of silence, prayers for the dead and business meeting. It hadn't been evil-sounding enough.

I've written about these sorts of things often here and the defenses offered by liberals were remarkably few. One commenter here assured me that anyone confused by the Heston speech was stupid, and that's about it.

I guess I found it easier to live with when there was no explanation.

Now people who are going to UU churches, getting UUAWO emails and watching Michael Moore movies are on the whole pretty liberal. It's weird to me that we're so getting in to lying to our own people.


My most recent foray into this topic was earlier this week when I wrote about George Lakoff's organization putting a stolen Republican internal memo next to a carefully prepared public statement of theirs and told the credulous that it was fair to compare them. Now, I have a lot of respect for my fellow liberals. I think that, for example, if tobacco company A got ahold of an evil-sounding memo from tobacco company B and told people to compare tobacco company B's evil memo to their own sugary-sounding press release on the same topic, my friends would not be fooled.

The problem is that they trust George Lakoff.

I'm not sure I trust anyone on my own side anymore. Between Micheal Moore and Morgan Spulock putting out movies that are chock-full of lies and every other liberal organization with a bridge to sell me, I'm feeling increasingly lied to by my own party.

But apparently I'm supposed to be OK with that.

As a commenter wrote:

I don't feel I need to advocate for the Right -- they are perfectly capable of doing that themselves. I feel they are more dishonest about it than the Left. I don't say the Left is completely without fault, just more honest, because honesty is one of the Liberal values, and it is not on the list of Conservative values. Liberals are far more likely to disapprove of a lefty who is caught being dishonest than this particular group of "Conservatives" is to disapprove of one of theirs caught being dishonest. [I don't like to use the term "Conservative" for them because they aren't conservative.]

First of all, liberals DON'T disapprove of liberals who lie. Moore and Spurlock cried all the way to the bank. Has there been a large liberal movement to get them to stop lying? Nobody's told me about it.

But my central point is that I've heard this argument before.

Conservatives will tell you that we don't have to respect Iraq's freedom, or even our own, because only we, the Americans, value freedom.

Now liberals are telling me that they don't have to be honest with me because honesty is a liberal value.

"We're the good guys, so good that it's OK that we behave like the bad guys."

Does anyone doubt that extremes meet?

Aware that Diogenes is a bad role to play in American political life. But somebody has to.

A member of the testing tribe.

I don’t recall if I mentioned that I’m applying to law school. I probably slipped it in at some point but I don’t remember when. Anyway, last night, my test prep company and one of my top choice schools co-hosted an LSAT admissions event. I was somewhat dismayed to find that this school is in US News and World Report’s top tier and that admissions is more competitive than I’d hoped it was. (CC’s college grades were unimpressive.)

Though I know I will do well on the LSAT, I feel like my chances of getting in rest on my ability to claw my way as far up the percentile rankings as I possibly can. (We’re talking 95th+ percentile. But I did that well on my GREs or I couldn’t teach test prep.) I’m a very good test taker and willing to do the work.
But after hearing the Dean emphasize the importance of college grades, I was still dejected and I didn’t know what I would do for my personal statement. Something about my brother would be good if I could make it not too obvious. I once chased down a thief in a mall and could probably do something interesting with that. But I don’t know. (I probably won’t write it for a couple of months.)

I stood around with my friends from the testing center after the event as they answered questions. As the crowd began to thin, one of my friend Brad was talking about personal statements. He echoed the admission lady’s warnings about trying to be funny. Humor is subjective and applicants often aren’t as funny as they think they are.

“Damn,” I said. “I’d been planning to just write ‘I once shot a man in Reno just to watch him die. After that, law school seemed like the next logical step.” The group laughed. “Seriously, y’all, I have no idea what I’m going to write. The whole ‘this is your five minutes with the admissions committee’ concept is pretty intimidating. I don’t know how I’m going to get in.”

Not one of my friends hesitated. “We will help you, CC!”

“Bring your statement by. I’d want to read it anyway!”

“I’ve helped so many people get into law school…”

Um… duh. My friends from the Test Prep company do admissions for a living.

But beyond the fact that my friends are good at what they do and have probably read thousands of personal statements, their enthusiasm for helping me out really touched me. We’re unusually warm and affable co-workers and I’ve been working there part time for something like four years. We’ve hung out quite a bit and some of them came to my wedding, but it’s not like we’re super close.

But standing there last night, I got the intense sensation that I was a member of the tribe. Really close to everyone or not, if a member of a tribe wants to go to law school, the tribe’s going to help them out.

I’m not a joiner and not typically one for having groups of acquaintances. But the supportive nature of the interaction felt really, really good.

A moment later, someone said “Make sure to use lots of big words you don’t understand.”

And someone else put in “write the whole personal statement as a set of bullet points”

“Make sure to have your last sentence be “And that’s why I want to go to George Washington University law school.” (I was talking about applying to a different school.)

And the conversation descended into snark.

But as I was leaving, a guy said “So, CC, you coming to happy hour?”

I turned around and smiled. “Wouldn’t miss it.”


One Vagina Story.

A college friend had a story about her vagina, and really knew how to tell it.

My friend had hippie parents, the sort of parents who wanted their child to be able to learn about sex naturally and see her body parts as good things. So they taught her all the proper words when she was very young. By the time she was a toddler, her hippie parents had her quite confidently talking about penises and vaginas. She was well on her way to becoming the kid in Kindergarten who tells all the other kids the facts of life.

(The theoretical Chalicechild would definitely be that kid, too.)

Well, one day around then my friend was in the supermarket with her mom. Being a toddler, my friend was in the little seat in the shopping cart where she was turned to face her mother. However, her mom had put her in scooted too far up, so she was mashed against the bar between her legs.

“Mo-om! My friend wailed, and loudly. “My VAGINA HURTS!!”

There are only so many stares that even a good hippie mom can take. Later on, hippie mom sat my fiend down and gently said that they should come up with a nickname for her vagina. Some people were squares and didn’t want to talk about Vaginas in public.

After a moment of consideration, my friend said “I wanna call it Princess!”

At this point in telling the story, my friend would pause, shifting her eyes downward while you giggled, knowing that you were imagining the tough-as-nails little girl who called her vagina “Princess.”

Then my friend would look straight you and say, a sultry note creeping into her voice, “I still do!”

OK, that’s the only Vagina story I have, so I hope you liked it.


Wednesday, June 14, 2006

She's no Nora Ephron, but she still troubles me...

I've always been uncrazy about Eve Ensler's The Vagina Monologues and I've never been able to articulate why.

Luckily, I have The Happy Feminist to do it for me.


Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Peacebang's on a tear

But it's an interesting tear.

I differ with her on several points. I gave the UCC a shot at one point and to put it mildly, her experience of them was not mine.

And if some of the things UUs say seem less shocking to us than the UUs saying them may imagine, then we can take a little comfort in knowing they are shocking to somebody. The movie Dogma's basic contention that as long as you have a faith that is helping you behave, God really doesn't care which faith it is completely shocked my father. I talked religion with an Orthodox Catholic ex-boyfriend of mine one time and he was appalled that I wouldn't go to church to be told what to believe.

"Of course you go to church to be told what to believe," he exclaimed, the "why else would you go" implied in his tone.

"Dude, that's crazy. If I told you that the moon was made of green cheese, could you just make yourself believe it? You can't just go and make yourself believe something, at least I can't. It doesn't work."

I really shocked him that day. So yeah, some of our ideas are shocking. Especially to new members who have that enthusiasm of the recently converted thing going on.

Mind you, PB is right that this focus on ourselves and our fascinating opinions isn't a particularly attractive quality. I more bitch about it in relation to politics, but I know what she's talking about in religion, too.

I mean, if one day the government flat out cancelled the food stamp program, I know we would write nasty letters, Sinkford would do his best to get on the news, I'm pretty sure we'd organize a protest. We're good on anything that is about having an opinion. But would we actually feed hungry people? Judging by the way our churches behave, I don't know.*

(Not trying to turn PB's issue into mine. Just pointing out that they are essentially the same issue playing itself out in two different arenas.)

I like being a UU. I do have a somewhat clumsily-worded personal theology that I thought of myself and I am frequently reading books to try to support or refute it. (I've made some changes since I wrote that. I should really put up a revised version. The bones are still correct, though.) I think God is the force within us who makes us want to create and like gravity, is quietly pulling us all the time. We just don't percieve it because God is interwoven into "the way things are" for us the way gravity is. That said, gravity is easy enough to notice when we know what to look for. Likewise, I notice God in other people all the time. I don't believe that Jesus Christ was on a special mission from God. God as I percieve God doesn't do that kind of thing. Jesus might have been a really good guy who had to exaggerate some things to get anybody to listen. Or maybe he was a good guy who was also nuts. He does seem to predict that armegeddon is coming soon after his own lifetime.

I haven't fit in at any other church. I don't fit in too terrribly well at my current UU church, actually, though I've fit in better at some other ones. But it's what I have. And while what I hear from the pulpit doesn't rock my world every Sunday, I see God in the people around me there all the time. Sunday morning is a great time to focus on that which is greater than myself.

I don't particularly want to sell other people on my theology, which theCSO calls "Gravitarianism." But I am geniuinely interested in figuring out the best way to serve that which is Good and the folks in the pews beside me want the same thing, no matter what they call themselves.

As someone who is a great believer in institutions, yet is a great believer in people taking their own spiritual paths, UUism is about the best I can do.


*My UU church supplies food for a homeless shelter for one week every year. Neither of my previous UU churches fed the homeless at all that I can remember. The Presbyterian church I went to growing up fed the homeless every Sunday afternoon and every Wednesday night. (That I donated the leftovers from my Saturday night wedding to the Sunday afternoon lunch for the homeless did much to convince my parents' church that despite having converted to UUism, I was still OK.)

Monday, June 12, 2006

George Lakoff's Meta-Spin

I hope the Chalicesseur who sent me this will forgive me as I don't think I was supposed to look at it and see what I did, but this person forwarded me a perfect example of Lakoff-as-spinmeister.

The email is from George Lakoff's Rockridge Institute and proudly proclaims:

Two weeks ago, Rockridge published The Framing of Immigration by George Lakoff and Sam Ferguson, an analysis of the framing surrounding immigration used by progressives and conservatives, as well as a discussion of framings not being used, but which would reveal important truths. Late last week, the DailyKos leaked a memo by Frank Luntz, the Republican messaging strategist, advising Republicans how to talk about immigration. If you want to compare what Rockridge does with what Luntz does, this is your chance.

And they provide handy links to a leaked memo from the Conservatives. (That's spin, kids, what the bad people do.)

And, of course, a polished public statement from the liberal side. (That's framing, kids, what the good people do.)

Naturally the Republican memo is all scary and Lakoff's statement is comparitively mild and couched in all sorts of happy terms.

Again, to take the Rockridge institute at face value, we would have to suspend our disbelief sufficiently to believe that a stolen internal memo meant for the eyes of politicians and what is essentially a press release are comparable.

Lakoff surely comes off looking better, I'll admit.

But I can't shake the feeling that liberals think I'm stupid.


Another Anti-Racism question

As usual, I'm not asking to be snarky, I'm just wondering:

We’ve talked in the past here about why teaching only the cultural norms of America in the schools is cultural racism.

In a great many countries, it is the cultural norm to “put women on a pedestal” but basically treat them with very little actual respect. Some places, men are expected to straight up treat their women like servents.

If it is racist of us not to teach time time orientation and the community-based thinking that is the cultural norm other places, is it racist of us not to teach the subjugation of women in the schools, since it is the cultural norm other places?

If an Arab guy talks down to me and I say "Dude, please don't talk to me that way," is that racist of me given the way he was probably raised to talk to women and the culture he comes from?

I assume the answers are “no,” but I’m not sure why given the reasoning I’ve read.


Sunday, June 11, 2006

Life is beautiful in Northern Virginia today.

At the grocery store, I always hope to get carded. I realize it's a silly insecurity thing, but with my 28th birthday only slightly over a month away, I feel 30 creeping up on me. The little reminders that I'm young become important.

The checkout guy takes my bottle of Chardonnay and looks at it thoughtfully.

"ID please, Ma'am?" The "Ma'am" adds a bit of a chill to getting carded, but I'm still glad to be carded.

I hand over my ID and he studies it for a moment.

"July birthday," He says.

"But July of '78, so I've been legal for awhile."

"My birthday is July, too." He say, "the 22nd."

I find it helpful to know the dates of the astrological signs for when people tell me their birthday for no apparent reason. (Also, sometimes I hold up the paper and ask someone their birthday so I can read them their sign. Then I go write their birthday on my calendar and send them a card when it comes around. They always forget that they've told me and are pleasantly surprised.)

"Ah," I said to checkout guy, whose name was Fakhri. "Well, the astrologers would say you're a Cancer most of the way to Leo. I'm sensitive, but you're both sensitive and tough. You don't let people boss you around." My voice is light and arguably a bit flirty.

"Yeah," he said, scanning my asparagus. "When people try to run over me, I say, "NO!"

"I'm wussier," I cheerily admit to Fakhri. "I like it when people get along."

"Yeah," he said. My total popped up on the screen and I ran my credit card. "People getting along is very important. Very good."

He hands me my receipt and as I turn around to put my last bag back in my cart, I see the lady in line behind me. She's looking at me like she's thinking "Am *I* going to have to make astrology chitchat to get out of here today?"

And normally, I would totally be that person.

Not today, for whatever reason. Maybe because I'm making french food for theCSO and several good friends tonight. Maybe because I'm headed down to the Pride Festival in a few hours to meet another old friend. Maybe because the weather is perfect in suburban Washington today.

I take my groceries outside and as I'm packing my stuff into the trunk of my car, the parking lot attendent comes to take my cart away.

"It's a beautiful day!" he exclaims.

"I know, isn't it?" I bubble.

He's happy. I'm happy. And I drive away.


Saturday, June 10, 2006

Poison for each other, passion for each other

This is a story about two people I barely know, neither of whom have showed up on this blog by any other name, FWIW.

We will call these people "Boyfriend" and "Girlfriend."

I met "Boyfriend" at some point hanging out at the game store where theCSO spends a lot of his time. I am not much of a gamer, but I do play occaisionally, and the first thing I noticed about playing games with boyfriend is that he tended to take over. He was what gamers call a "rules lawyer," meaning that he was given to frequent and excessive arguments about the rules, and boyfriend was bossy to boot.
It was that self-fulfilling bossiness that makes itself necessary by annoying everyone else in the game enough that they stopped paying attention and thus needed to be prodded somewhat to continue playing.

I did not enjoy the time I spent with Boyfriend at all and was dismayed to see him at a party tonight with "Girlfriend," who was, of course, his Girlfriend. Girlfriend was attractive and lots of fun. She seemed like a really nice person as she and I were talking. She is interested in getting into Information Technology. (She came off so well that TheCSO mentioned later that he'd thought of helping her look for a job as that's his field, too.) She is an immigrant, though her English is perfect, and she speaks several languages, mostly dialects of Chinese. I mentioned that by best guy friend is a linguist and she said she found linguistics interesting.

Then Boyfriend came around and all of the sudden this lucid, rational person became Marilyn Monroe after a severe head injury. She held her cards limply in her hand, looking over at boyfriend with bovine eyes.

"I don't have any good cards at all..." she whined in the voice of a pouting little girl.

"Aww... Honey... You had good cards last round?" Boyfriend said in that tone of voice I can't stand it when men use, the one that says "It's not your fault you're inferior."

It was exactly like that for the entire party. Girlfriend pouted, giggled, whined and batted her eyelashes whenever she was within six feet of boyfriend. There was public baby talk. Occaisionally she parodied the accent of her country of origin, which boyfriend (and most of the rest of the party) seemed to find hilarious. I was deeply uncomfortable with it. I realize I'm not on the same bus with most UUs on anti-racism, but I'm not completely insensitive to such issues. I particularly despise it when someone of another race makes fun of their race for the amusement of white people. I don't laugh, mostly I am deeply embarassed that they feel they have to do that and that they think I am racist enough to laugh. (I devoted an entire post to an analysis of this a couple of months ago.)

Anyway, Girlfriend really seemed to be two different people. The few times she left boyfriend's side, Girlfriend could quickly take charge of situations and respond reasonably.

Have you seen A Doll's House? Remember the beginning, when Nora walks on stage like a woman doing serious business, then is reduced to submissive kittenhood the moment Torvald shows up and calls her his little squirrel? That was Girlfriend.

Failing that, if you've seen the X-Men movie you know that in it there is a mutant kid with a special de-mutanting power. Whenever the superheroes get within ten feet of him or so, they lose their powers until they walk away from him again. That kid drains the spiffiness out of everyone around him. That was Boyfriend.

I got a few moments alone with Girlfriend as we walked out to our cars. As we all know, I am congenitally unable to leave well-enough alone.

"You're really two different people," I said.

"I'm lots of different people," she said. Then after a pause, she added "It depends on the situation."

"Seems to me it depends more on the company." I said, keeping my tone as light as I could.

Right then, Girlfriend dropped some of the things she was carrying. I couldn't help but note that the helpless little girl had come out the moment the conversation got difficult. I helped her pick them up and let the issue drop, but I hope she thinks about it.

Thinking about them depresses me a bit. I can't help but imagine them married, with him being forced more and more into the dominant role by her affected helplessness. His resulting forcefullness will have her playing the needy little girl more and more. IMHO, those two are really poison for each other and they will make one another more and more pathological the longer they stay together.

TheCSO and I discussed this on the way home, citing examples of other women we knew who seemed to feel that they had to play dumb to attract a man, sometimes using their feigned stupidity to get things they wanted. I found myself feeling bad for both sides. Surely these behaviors must put the men in these women's lives under a lot of pressure. Self-fulfilling stereotypes.

I hate that. I don't even know these people all that well and I hate that. I hate it even more when I have close friends who have married badly. Two people who are both competitive about stupid stuff. Two people who are both passive agressive and afraid to communicate.

Tonight, TheCSO followed me into the bedroom where we talked some more. Somehow, we got to where were discussing where the line between human rights and religious self-determination should be and finished of the discussion with a quick exchange over whether capitalism was the ultimate end of all human economic endeavors or whether it was simply the first economic system that really seems to lead to most people having better lives and thus the example everyone followed. (And still, as far as I can tell, nobody has a better idea. I've known liberals to seriously romanticize communist countries, but I've never met one who actually wanted to live in one.) In retrospect, I recall it felt quite natural to slip into the intellectual discussions that are theCSO's and my marital tango. Like a dance, our discussions aren't competitions but feel like mutually-created works of art. We bring together what each of us knows about a subject and try to make something better out of it.

The argument petered out and theCSO and I headed off to our respective computers. But before he left the room, theCSO turned to me.

"You are so much fun to talk to and I love you so much!"

Will Girlfriend ever know the tenderness I feel tonight as I type this, will she ever get that being loved for being good at things is so much better than being tolerated because you're not threatening? I hope so. I wish it for her.

I wish it for everyone.


Friday, June 09, 2006

More on dietary restrictions

Some months ago, I wrote an OK post on religious dietary restrictions.

Now Hafidha Sofia has gone and written a much better one.


Guh. I've conformed.

Couldn't sleep so I got back up and put myself on MySpace, having discovered that some of my high school/college friends were there.

So if you're on there, for the love of God make me your friend. Just having the myspace-assigned faux friend is just so bogus and sad.

Ah well.

Off to give sleep another shot.


Thursday, June 08, 2006

CC explores MySpace

This girl was my lab partner in oceanography class senior year.

Wasn't I lucky?

thinking "actually, that didn't suck. She didn't bore me."

Dead Celebrity Soulmate Search

This is stupid, but I sort of liked it.

My dream men were DaVinci, Poe and Van Gogh.

My dream women (hey, a girl's gotta know her options) were Agatha Christie, Lucrezia Borgia and Freida Kahlo.

who would probably do DaVinci, but she might ask him to shave. Facial hair. Ick.

But he made such a GOOD American...

Guh. I didn't get a particularly fabulous night of sleep, so I'm cranky and not writing much.

I did see this news story and think it was odd, though.

A man wants to come here from Jamaica, so he steals the identity of a dead man and sneaks in illegally. He gets away with it and is here for years until he decides to sue the city of New York for 20 million dollars because he says he fell out a first floor window.

Can't say he hadn't assimilated into the culture.

It's all particularly ironic in light of the president's recent statement that immigrants need to adopt U.S. values.


Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Random Thought

Were the Gnostics humanity's first organized conspiracy theorists?

I've been kicking that around for a couple of days and wanted some opinions on it.

Both Gnostics and Conspiracy Theorists seem to be all about the fate of the world being in their personal hands because they are privy to secret information that tells the real truth about what's going on. Humanity ignores these important little people at humanity's peril.

The Conspiracy Theorist movement, for lack of a better term, seems to have a high proportion of the decently-educated-but-delusional.

I'm thinking Gnosticism was likely the same.



Ps. Now I'm wondering if the three star wars prequels and what happens to the Jedi illustrate what happens when you let the Gnostics run the show.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Those trusting conspiracy theorists.

Right now the CSO is preparing himself for an online debate where he will defend the resolution “the 9-11 report, and indeed the government’s report on what happened on September 11, is substantially correct” or some similar statement. (They don’t have exactly what the resolution will be worked out.) When the thing actually starts, I will link to it, naturally.

But I came home from teaching last night to find him hyped up and full of good points. Unfortunately, the CSO has an engineer’s mind so many of the points hinged on ideas like “if I can get everybody to understand the physics of molten steel, then it will be obvious that any charges inside the towers would have had to have been placed in the exact spot where the plane hit. And we all know you can’t really precision fly a passenger plane.”

He does actually get that most of us haven’t grasped the physics of molten steel. Heck, the 9-11 conspiracy folks I’ve read don’t seem to get that you don’t shoot down a large plane over a major city. (Surely it would explode into harmlessly tiny pieces! That’s always what happens in the movies!)

While I bring up the people who think it’s ok to shoot down planes over New York and Washington more often because, well, I have a personal stake, I don’t think that is the strangest or most interesting argument people make.

The one that really gets me is the people who believe that it had to be a conspiracy because surely in the twenty minutes or so between the FAA realizing it was a hijacking and the first plane hitting the tower, the government could have gotten a jet up there. (What the jet would have done is another story. They usually escort lost planes, but I doubt the terrorists were looking to be escorted safely down. The only thing I can think of that they could have done is shoot the plane down, if not over one of the cities, over one of the suburbs. Is there anyplace less than 200 miles or so from New York where bringing down a plane wouldn’t kill a whole bunch of people? And did either of the planes fly over that place?)

But it is interesting to me the faith in government it takes to believe that we would have predicted an act close enough to this would have happened and known that during peacetime we needed to keep fighter jets running at all times to intercept air attacks that suddenly materialized. (Keep in mind that a DOMESTIC air attack is a really weird situation. We were expecting the planes to have to fly here from across the ocean, someplace like Russia. Canada or Mexico won't be attacking us.)

It’s my experience that those who like the government least secretly trust it the most. It is always the rightwing nut jobs, bellies full of Kool-Aid, who can bitch for hours about the incompetence of government, excepting their brilliant cover-up of the Kennedy assassination, which is possibly the most-researched crime in modern history. Extremist liberals and conservatives alike rail against the government but expect laws (from banning junk food in the schools to banning porn) to fix society's problems.

It’s a weird dynamic.


That's not sexy. It's just stupid.

May I present the phone thong.


On the Seattle public schools' definition of racism.

FWIW, they've retracted it. Posters here explained it to me to the point that I understood where these folks were coming from, though I didn't actually agree with them.

After an editorial in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer they took down the editorial and
put the following statement in its place.

who is not as sold on school choice as the editorial writer, btw.

Happy Day of the Beast

It's clear and cool here. Birds are singing. No rapture yet.


who can't believe she hasn't posted in four days. Very unlike her.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Life Imitates a Bad Horror Movie

If I was going to write a bad horror movie about the upcoming 06-06-06 day, I would definetely include that two people have died praying in the last few days.




In *gulp* defense of Michael Moore

I do not like Michael Moore. At all. He's a weasel. But his particular brand of weaselhood is protected by the first amendment.

The gentleman who appeared in Farenheit 9-11 and is now suing Moore was in a news report talking about how much pain he was in. Moore used the clip as an illustration of how badly veterans are being treated.

The guy in the clips feels he was defamed and says the government has treated him well.

I do think Micheal Moore is scum and that his use of the clip out of context sucked.

But if the soldier wins this lawsuit, every reality television contestant who feels that the producers "made them look mean" will think they have a lawsuit on their hands.

And that would be stupid.

As far as I can tell, conservatives are mistaking their intense dislike of Moore with actually having a case.

Media Nation covers this better than I did.

off to wash her hands. Many, many times.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Jews and Muslims on 1980’s Northern Virginia playgrounds

(A further response to the comment I got on my last post asking about this.)

Jewish kids were common, in fact I live very close to one of the bigger synagogues in my area. As a kid, I was aware that Jews existed and that they didn’t believe in Jesus and that Jesus was one. I remember thinking that Jews were basically Presbyterians who didn’t believe in Jesus, while Catholics were something totally different and strange. We sung Christian, Jewish and Kwanzaa songs in our Holdiay program at school.

I never recall any non-Christian kid getting made fun of explicitly about their faith, though a girl did once tell a Jewish girl on the playground that she was going to hell. There weren’t any teachers around, but I’m pretty sure the teachers would have stopped that.

There was a girl from Iraq in my grade who wore a headscarf. I don’t recall her getting made fun of for it, though I can’t swear it didn’t happen. I assumed she wore it because she was from Iraq and that’s how people from the Middle East were always dressed in my textbook, much like how I would have thought nothing if a French girl wore a beret. In retrospect, she was probably Muslim. When I was a kid, Islam was mostly something I learned about in World Cultures class. I remember hearing that Muslims saw Christians as “people of the book” and respected them, so I recall thinking Muslims sounded pretty okay to me, but it never occurred to me that I knew one.

By the time I got to high school, my friend Adam had taken to announcing himself “Hi, I’m Adam, your big Jewish friend!” and there was an Arab student league in my high school that put out a flyer of suggestions for helping your friends celebrate Ramadan. As I went to mitvahs and sensed the warmth and solidarity that presbyterian kids just didn't feel, it became clear that being part of the minority was a big part of how these kids defined themselves. It helped them figure out who they were and to be honest, my high school self envied it, so much so that I went to a few services at the synagogue. But I didn’t fit in there either.

So no, I didn’t hear nearly as many jokes about Jews and Muslims, or even Mormons. Mostly, it was Catholics and other types of Protestants, particularly those in denominations assumed to be of a lower social class.

Maybe I’m wrong and as the commenter implies, I’m deluding myself. But that’s how I remember it.


Our Flawed Faith

The always-excellent PB makes some interesting points about the shortcomings of the way we practice our faith.

To quote her:

We constantly mistake our ideals of tolerance, compassion and open-heartedness for a lived reality of tolerance and love. As of yet, they are ideals. They are principles. They are not the reality in most of our churches. One of the greatest, most destructive sins of the current UU movement is that we actually think we are living out our professed ideals, and worse yet, we think we're actually doing a better job of living out our ideals than mainstream Christians are doing at living out theirs. What a tragic misconception. We are not. What we are doing is making sure that we attract and truly include only those people whose attitudes, proclivities and preferences are exactly like ours, and then collectively congratulating ourselves at how well we're doing as a vibrant religious faith.

I do see some of these flaws, though she sounds like she sees them a lot more than I do.

But I don't think we should be too excited over this chance to satisfy our inherent human masochism*

After all, I probably heard the most Christian snark I've ever heard when I was a kid.

From my parents.

Who were Presbyterians.

I can assure you that I know more jokes about Lutherans, Baptists and especially Catholics than probably any of you.

No, we don't live by our principles as well as we should. Nobody does. These tendencies are something we should work on, but at the same time, I think they are less an inherent flaw of UUism than an inherent facet of human nature.

At least we're not telling other faiths that they are going to hell for not agreeing with us, something my Aunt Bert was quick to say about anyone who wasn't presbyterian. She made no bones about the fact that I would burn for talking about how the story of Adam and Eve was a metaphor.

I recall pointing out that God must haave wanted it that way since he predestined it.

I was a snarky kid.


*Criticizing the uncultured yokels of one's own country or reading breathless news reports of those "50 percent of Americans don't know who Al Gore is" surveys is secretly a pleasure for almost everybody, I've observed. We LOVE to think about how stupid and shallow we are as a people. We wallow in it.

Of courage and beestings

I think about sin a lot, which is odd enough in a UU. But recently I've been thinking about virtues.

Virtue is, if anything, more complicated an issue than sin is, IMHO.

For example, just about everyone will agree that courage is a good thing.

As Screwtape, the Senior Devil in The Screwtape Letters put it:

We [ in hell] have made men proud of most vices, but not of cowardice. Whenever we have almost succeeded in doing so, the Enemy [God] permits a war or an earthquake or some other calamity, and at once courage becomes so obviously lovely and important even in human eyes that all our work is undone, and there is still at least one vice of which they feel genuine shame....

But in thinking about it, I've realized that the issue is more complicated than just "courage is good."

Bill Maher lost a television show because he offended people by pointing out that the 9/11 bombers were not cowards. In the days after 9/11, the President was frequently calling the terrorists "cowards," presumably because, as Screwtape notes, cowardice is universally despised. You can say a lot of things about a man who purposefully crashes a plane that he himself is inside, but that he's a coward probably shouldn't be one of them. (This is not to say that Maher's comments were the sort of thing I would want my TV stars saying if I were a network executive. They were appallingly timed. But he was still essentially right that the president was trying too hard to frame some already-hated people in the worst possible light.)

But it's not just that courage can be used for evil. I don't think it counts at all unless you're using it for good.


Last year, I was having lunch with a friend and her kids. One of the kids was stung by a bee in the restaurant. My friend took the crying kid on her lap. The bee, still in shock herself, fluttered down onto a napkin on the table. I sat there watching it for a moment, increasingly nervous. I'm terrified of bees.

Finally, she said, her tone of voice understandably snippy, "It would be nice if SOMEBODY got rid of that bee." And then she picked up the napkin, bee still inside, and held it out to me.

There were other people at the table who could have done the bee wrangling, but for whatever reason it was my job.

The judgement was implied. If I didn't get rid of the bee, I was clearly too lazy to help someone in need and inconsiderate of a mother who so clearly needed to be tending to her child. I still sat there and looked at her for a second until annoyance creased her face. Angry bee? Friend who thinks less of me? It was a tough call. As my friend sat there, kid in one hand, bee napkin in the other, her expression grew increasingly hateful.

Finally, I took the bee. Holding the very edges of the napkin as if it contained highly explosive material, I took the bee outside, set it down on the table and watched, quivering, until it finally flew away.

As I walked back in to the restaurant, one of my friend's other kids went "Ha, ha. You're TERRIFIED of bees."

No duh. Who wouldn't be? Bees are scary.

But my point is that carrying out that bee, though it involved facing one of my fears, was not an act of courage. I didn't do it to help the kid, or even really to help the mother. I did it because as a grown woman, I was embarassed not to, and for that matter too freaked out and stupid to say "Ummm... I'll hold the kid if somebody else gets that bee. I hate bees" which probably would have been socially acceptable.

I don't think something you do for someone else's approval can really count as a courageous act.

When I was a small child, maybe ten years old, my brother sat next to a beehive and got something like twenty bee stings. As my parents were taking care of him, I noticed that his blankie was still out next to the beehive. Being a well-meaning if not terribly bright child, I went running out and grabbed the blankie, calming him considerably and getting six or eight bee stings for myself.

But I really was doing it because Jason was upset and it was the only thing I could think of that would make him feel better. It was worth facing down some bees to help him out. That was courage.

Of course, the six or eight stings and the resulting hives I got (I'm mildly allergic to beestings) is how one develops a bee phobia as a child that haunts one into adulthood.

Nobody ever said virtue was easy.