Friday, September 07, 2007

Inclusion, Not Exclusion, The Answer

Buncha different posts on various topics has me thinking about how we should focus on what we include, not what we exclude.

Peacebang recently wrote, "My wish is that someday, even the most angry, Christian-suspicious Unitarian Universalists will be able to hear selections from the Bible, traditional Christian hymns, and the name of Jesus in sermons with just as peaceful a heart and steady blood pressure as they do hearing the poetry of Mary Oliver or segments from the Dhammapada."

She had comments turned off, which I completely understand. Sometimes, you just know what will provoke debate and sometimes, you're not in the mood for one. But had comments been open, I would have written something along the lines of "Amen, Sister," and that I'm going to use her post in my UU 101 class.

Over on Moxie Life, the author wrote about her church's Sunday speaker, who advised that, "we should not devolve into Humanism." Moxie goes on to explain that "We are proud to be Humanists. We do not see that as a de-evolutionary process. Granted, my anti-Christian stance would not be popular in most congregations, but at a UU Church I expect that there is an understanding that we are standing in the presence of Humanists."

I'm going with all of this, I swear.

Over on Philocrites, there were comments responding to a post about classism by talking about water ceremonies -- how classist they are, how bad people feel when others talk about the vacations they've taken, and how they should be abolished.

Which made me remember a post on the subject of Mothers Day, by Biddies in My Brain. I appreciated her post, because it was honest and raw and it affected what I said in the pulpit on Mothers Day. However, the quote from a friend of hers -- "... DON'T even THINK about bringing this celebration into the church. Not on my watch. I've held too many women in coffeehour who have wept and felt the pain of this day" made me say, really? Really? Does that mean that we should also get rid of child dedications?

And don't even get me started on the "we shouldn't have a Thanksgiving service" posts.

I think that the answer is inclusion, not exclusion. Have a Mothers Day service, but mention that you know this is a day of pain for some. The Bible is full of great, marvelous illustrations for your sermon. Don't get huffy because someone uses one. Humanists have given, and continue to give, wonderful contributions to our churches and I for one think that having the "opt-out" clause in the God column is a good choice to have, whether we take it or not. And our water ceremonies ... the time in which we say, "I left you, my friends, and traveled elsewhere. I saw new people and new things and I brought some of it back to share. Let us pool our combined experiences and rejoice that we are all back together." My contributions have usually included, "This is water from my hose where my kids played in the sprinkler" or "This is water from the hospital where our daughter was getting chemotherapy"; rarely have I had a vacation water, and when I did, it was never from someplace exotic.

We are not a selfish people. We Are Not. As such, we will not say, No, don't use Christian imagery, I am not a Christian. No, don't be a humanist, for I am not a humanist. Don't celebrate Mother's Day, I have no mother. Don't tell me about your vacation, I did not go on one.

Inclusion is the answer. To talk about the simple vacations and wide ranges of beliefs and all different kinds of philosophers and pain and sadness. To say, Here's another view of Thanksgiving and Do you know what your neighbor's kids did all summer, since their mother couldn't afford daycare?

To limit ... no. To expand ... yes.


Ms. Theologian said...

Amen (about inclusion)!

I am quite drawn to Doug Hicks' ideas about respectful pluralism in the workplace, which I think applies to UU churches as well. We can include and be respectful in our worship without having to put others' beliefs down. It's not respectful to talk about de-evolving into Humanism. And I'm not convinced that "post-Christian" is entirely respectful either.

(On a regular basis I fantasize about turning comments off on my blog entirely. :)

Jess said...

I'm chewing over a bunch of this right now, too, and you struck several chords with me.

And Ms. T -- I hate the term "post-Christian." I find it incredibly smug, though I don't identify with Christianity at all. I just can't bring myself to care how Dana Greeley or anyone rationalizes using this phrase, I think it's snobbish. (on the flip side, see Dan Harper for defense of the term)

hafidha sofia said...

I hope people can realize that it's okay to be offended, but that doesn't mean you need to shut down someone else.

The service is not for one person. To have a specially individualized service might mean staying at home and worshiping alone.

Shelby Meyerhoff said...

You are right on about making services inclusive. However, I think this is a little easier to to do with, for example, Mother's Day, than it is with water communion.

As you said, one way to make Mother's Day inclusive is to acknowledge the experiences of those who want to be mothers and cannot. One could also invite congregants to reflect on the many ways that they have cared for and nurtured other young people in their lives. And/or one could talk about the experience of being a son or daughter of a mother, and the many forms this experience takes. Motherhood is a topic that is relevant to everyone, albeit for different reasons.

With water communion, as I've heard it described, it's a little harder to be inclusive. It seems like the ceremony as it is done in many UU congregations is inherently weighted, so that people who have traveled over the summer will find it easier to participate than those who did not. As I understand it, it is a public, participatory ritual which invites a kind of "stand up and be counted" experience, perhaps similar to communion in that respect. I think those kinds of rituals are fine in some worship contexts, but they need to be accessible to the entire congregation.

Jess said...

It depends on how you do Water Communion. My husband will celebrate it tomorrow in our church as a silent meditation, rather than an ongoing litany of "Where we went this summer!" And at one I went to last year in Chicago, the water is used for child dedications (after being mercilessly boiled!!), so rather than talking about where it came from, each person gave a wish for the children for the next year. That was really wonderful -- even though we didn't bring any water, we felt very much included.

PeaceBang said...

My general thought these days is that the UUs, supposedly the rational folks in the religious world, are becoming as irrational as the extremists they so fear and revile.

jacqueline said...

It is hard to please us all, and in a perfect world we would be sweet in our dispositions and want to hear what every speaker has to say without judgment. Unfortunately, that isn't the case. The truth is I am kind and caring in my fellowship, but this is the place (besides my home) where I give my real opinion about the services at church. It isn't anything other then my opinion... and last time I looked that wasn't worth a whole lot!

Lizard Eater said...

I think you *should* judge Sunday services. Echoing Hafidha Sofia, I think you have the right (and responsibility) to listen, be offended, be critical. Ye Gods, I am.

What I object to is an attitude of "I only want to hear things that fall in line with *my view* in my church."

When the humanist complains about services where the word "God" is used, or the theist complains about "intellectual/not spiritual enough" services, or the whomever complains that a Pagan service will give our visitors "the wrong idea," ... that, I believe, is not the direction our religion should take.