Monday, December 07, 2009

I will actually defend the celebration of Kwanzaa

But people who want to celebrate Chalica are seriously on their own.

I'm wondering why the UU World felt the need to write about it since it sounds like almost no UUs are celebrating it. They found one congregation who had embraced that concept, but it looked like that was it. The article mentioned that Chalica's facebook group has 1,000 members. But that really doesn't mean much since lots of people join hundreds of facebook groups and never look at them again. Indeed, the facebook group "I read the group name, I laugh, I join, I never look at it again" has 700,000+ members.

IMNERHO, we are not celebrating it with good reason since it smacks of embarrassingly obvious appropriation and it, let's say it together, treats the seven principles as a creed. The creator of Chalica tells the UU world "If you notice some similarities to other December holidays—Hanukkah and Kwanzaa—they’re not intentional." Really? Had the theology student who created it never heard of an African American secular holiday where people exchange handmade gifts or a Jewish religious holiday where you light candles for more than six but less than nine nights?

I get that people and religions appropriate ideas from each other all the time and to be truthful, I think we're WAY too oversensitive about the practice. For one thing, sometimes an idea is sufficiently obvious that multiple people think of it*. For another, some traditions resonate with people for a reason and I don't think there is anything wrong with adapting some traditions for UUism provided we take a respectful approach to doing so, which admittedly we sometimes don't. That said, I do feel like the creator of Chalica is insulting my intelligence there.

And yes, in case you're brand new to UUism and don't know, the seven principles are not a creed. Using them, as Chalica does, as a sort of spiritual checklist, is not how one is supposed to treat them.


*One of the people who likes "Chalica" made a Chalica-themed parody of Adam Sandler's "Hanukkah Song" several years ago. Robin Edgar made one last year. I really doubt Robin Edgar stole the idea from the guy who did it first, I just think it's a really obvious idea that two people who like to make parody music had the same idea that these hockey fans did in 2007 or this atheist did last November. For my money the Hockey one is the best of the lot.


Jess said...

Couldn't agree with you more. I think the very word "Chalica" insults my intelligence. Bleahrgh.

And we already have a Unitarian Universalist holiday in December: it's called Advent, followed by CHRISTMAS. Yes, we share these with Christians, but Unitarians and Universalists were (and in many cases still are) Christians.

Rather that turning to the terminal uniqueness that Chalica represents, I'd love to see UU interpretations of Advent take deeper root. Chalica just seems like so much shallow drivel to me.

Desmond Ravenstone said...

I prefer ... a Festivus for the rest of us!

But no need for Feats of Strength, or Airing of Grievances.

Steve Caldwell said...

CC and Jess,

If one is going to authentically respect our New England Congregationalist Christian roots, then we should not be celebrating Christmas at all:

The New England Puritans legally banned the holiday until the 1680s and this cultural influence informally discouraged Yuletide celebrations until the 1800s.

In a more serious note, it would be interesting to see if Chalica will survive and adapt as UU holiday. As a religious and cultural meme, Chalica may or may not survive.

There have been other UU rituals that have recently been incorporated into our UU congregations -- for example, chalice lightings were not a commonplace UU (or pre-merger Unitarian) ritual until after WWII.

Who knows -- 50 years from now, Chalica may be a well-worn UU tradition.

UUpdater said...

To be honest, not thrilled with the name. I will admit, the first time I heard the name I groaned. But we are celebrating this year, and as with most things you get out of it what you put into it. It's nice to celebrate something without caveats (we celebrate x-mas like grandma and grandpa, however...).

And no, it's not cultural appropriation in any meaningful sense of the phrase. If you want examples of truly heinous cultural appropriation, I can supply some. The primary grievance of cultural appropriation is usually the diminishing of the significance of the ritual, attire, etc. by pulling it out of it's native context. Considering this is in essence something new, with no claims of significance outside of a UU context it would be hard argument to make. Similarities do not constitute cultural appropriation.

Oh, and it also is not about elevating the principles to a creed. My wife and I are in a heterosexual monogamous marriage. This is a covenant between us, not a statement of belief. We both believe that marriage, and indeed relationships need not be defined as we have chosen to covenant (we are for SSM). When we celebrate our anniversary we do not elevate our covenant to a belief that this is the way it should be for everyone. The principles and the covenant between the member congregations (and by extension the folks in those congregations) is a meaningful concept for some. Having said that I would support expanding Chalica by a day, and on the eighth day remind the folks about "Section C-2.4. Freedom of Belief."

The girls are enjoying it, and getting something out of it. That is the important part for me.

Robin Edgar said...

Airing of Grievances? Wouldn't that be a FestivU*Us ritual?

"If you notice some similarities to other December holidays—Hanukkah and Kwanzaa—they’re not intentional."


Indeed. . .

That "less than plausible" denial certainly insults my intelligence too CC. I dare say that it is downright disingenU*Uous. :-) Of course, as I pointed out to the President of the Board of the Unitarian Church of Montreal who mockingly said "I lied" to me a couple of Sundays ago, it would not be the first time that a Unitarian*Universalist told a big fat U*U lie.

The glaring obvious parallels between Chalica and Hanukkah aka *Chanukah* as well as Kwanzaa, right down to the sound of the name (or is it pronounced Chalissa?), make it very hard to believe that Chalica was not consciously modeled on either or both of these winter holidays. The very fact that Chalica was created as a big fat U*U *alternative* to other solstice celebrations makes it clear that Hanukkah and Kwanzaa were amongst the "competition".

:And yes, in case you're brand new to UUism and don't know, the seven principles are not a creed. Using them, as Chalica does, as a sort of spiritual checklist, is not how one is supposed to treat them.

Well it sure beats totally disregarding the Seven Principles or even flagrantly violating them CC, as too many of the U*Us I know do at the drop of a big fat U*U hat. Personally I think U*Us should go over the Seven Principles from time to time so, inspite of its obvious "cultural appropriation" problems, I am celebrating Chalica myself this year in my own special way. I might even hold an impromptu Chalica observance in front of my favorite U*U "church" this week. :-)

WVC = horde

hafidha sofia said...

I don't have a problem with it and don't understand why it's being picked on. I noticed friends joining or attending Chalica on my Facebook Feed but didn't know what it was. True 1000 (or 1400, as it is now) members isn't a lot in the FB scope of things, but considering that the Facebook Unitarian Universlists group has 4000 members (as does the UU World), 25%+ is pretty sizable.

I also think it's worth noting that this was started by a person with a degree in religious education and a current DRE. And I recognize at least some names on the Chalica fans list as UU ministers.

As far as elevating the principles to creed, I don't see how that is happening. Whenever I go into a UU sunday school classroom, I see the principles being interpreted for children, and I don't see how teaching or reminding ourselves of our covenants with each other is treating them as a creed. Why can't we view them as values vs. creedal beliefs. And maybe not everyone who is UU agrees with the principles, but that goes without saying, doesn't it?

Also, the article mentioned two congregations (Ventura and Topeka) that have observed Chalica.

Robin Edgar said...

"And maybe not everyone who is UU agrees with the principles, but that goes without saying, doesn't it?"

It doesn't and it shouldn't.

If you don't agree with the Seven Principles you shouldn't *pretend* to be a U*U. . .

UUpdater how about satnding up for freedom of belief, freedom of expression and affirming and promoting justice and equity, if not compassion, in human relations today by relisting The Emerson Avenger blog in the UUpdates blog aggregator today?

Come to think of it The Emerson Avenger just added a whole new aka brand*spanking new meaning to the term "flame war" on the first day of Chalica 2009. . . Will Big Fat U*U WU*Unders, to say nothing of Big Fat U*U BlU*Unders never cease and desist? :-)