Thursday, November 18, 2010

Thanksgiving and The Real

Little Wren gets it.

When a Christmas commercial comes on the TV, she begins yelling urgently, "Change it, change it, change it!"  Then she puts her hands on her hips, all righteous indignation, and demands of the TV, "What about Thanksgiving???  Let us have Thanksgiving!"


I love Thanksgiving.  It's just so much more real than Christmas, you know?  It's forgetting the rolls, and fretting about the frozen turkey, and balancing the holiness of pausing with family and friends to express gratitude and celebrate abundance ... with The Big Football game.

Well, that's how I grew up.

You can see this mix of reality and nostalgia in some Christmas songs, some Christmas movies ... but it's part and parcel of every Thanksgiving movie.  "Home for the Holidays," "Pieces of April," and the ultimate Thanksgiving show, A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving.

There's no magical handwaving that results in a puny tree being transformed to a lush one here. Instead, it's someone who doesn't know how to cook making a feast of toast, pretzels, popcorn, jelly beans, and ice cream sundaes, and serving it on a ping-pong table for a bunch of ingrates who weren't invited in the first place. 

Thanksgiving is about all our great intentions.  That sometimes go terribly wrong.

Thanksgiving isn't about miracles.  Thanksgiving is about the real.  And being thankful for it, in all it's broken messy glory.  And loving each other, in all our broken messy glory.
Mr. Larson: Dear Lord, we realize that lately everything’s changing too fast. And all sorts of things are always the same — even things we hated, like shoveling the turkey and stuffing the snow and going through the same crap year in and year out ...

Mrs. Larson: The food is getting cold.

Mr. Larson: As I was saying, dear Lord, before my wife interrupted me. Give me those old-fashioned pain-in-the-ass traditions like Thanksgiving, which really mean something to us, even though goddamit, we couldn’t tell you what it is ...

Monday, November 15, 2010

What is a Unitarian Universalist?

Edit:  This post is in response to the UU Salon's November Question:  What is a Unitarian Universalist?

Boy, this is something I've given a lot of thought to, gone back and forth on.
  • To recognize anyone who self-identifies as a UU, as a UU, is too broad for me.
  • To refuse to recognize anyone who is not currently a member of a UU congregation, as a UU, is too restrictive for me.
To explain:

The Potential UU

I met someone recently who self-identified as a Unitarian Universalist.  How exciting!  We got to talking, and although I found her a fabulous person, who has the potential for being a UU, I would not describe her as being one currently.  Why?
* she had never joined a UU church
* she had only visited a UU church once; found that congregation disorganized, and never visited another
* she had never read anything substantive about Unitarian Universalism
* knew nothing of our history or theology

All that she knew was that we were not Christian and had freedom of belief.  She also likes New Thought, Unity, etc.  I suggested she take that beliefnet test, not because it's a significant arbiter of religious belief, but just as a starting point.  Her top was UUism, followed by some of the usual suspects.

So, I believe she has great potential to be a Unitarian Universalist.  However, I do not believe she is a Unitarian Universalist.

And on the other side:  Unitarian Universalist as Identity

I was born into this religion.  Its values are so deeply ingrained in me, they are a part of my identity. Isn't that something we want with our children?  Not to raise them in a way that Unitarian Universalism is not merely a choice of churches in the area, but something that becomes part of their DNA, that affects how they see the world, a way of being?  Progressive, missional Christianity struggles with this; I think we should, too.  What is Unitarian Universalism itself?  Is it a system of beliefs/non-beliefs, the club we belong to at the moment, a history, or a way of life?

For my children, for myself, I want it to be a way of life.  The Way of Unitarian Universalism.

Then, too, there is this:

Ordination vs. Membership

At some point in the foreseeable future, I hope to be fellowshipped, then ordained a Unitarian Universalist minister. Once I am, unless de-fellowshipped, I am forever an ordained Unitarian Universalist minister.  Even if I do not have a church, I will be recognized as a UU minister, by other churches, by my colleagues, by our association.

So how can we say that once a UU minister, always a UU minister, but once a Unitarian Universalist ... "well, only so long as you maintain membership in a UU church." ?

Now, balancing back the other way ... there sure is a lot more involved in becoming that UU minister.  An M. Div. degree, CPE, internship, numerous gatekeeping functions throughout the fellowshipping process and you're still not an ordained UU minister until a congregation makes you one.

Contrast that with:  come forward in a service (perhaps you didn't even have to attend a new member class), sign your name in a book, hear some pretty words (but you probably don't have to state any words of commitment), receive a carnation.  Back to your seat, now.  You're a member of our congregation and hence, a Unitarian Universalist.

So, do we just leave it like that?  Easy in, easy out?  No real commitment required from you to become a UU, but your identity as such is just as ephemeral?

I do not attempt to answer here what a Unitarian Universalist is.  I will answer what I would like a UU to be.  For this, I've thought about other religions -- to be recognized a Catholic, you've gone through rigorous religious education, baptism.  To be recognized a conservative Jew, you've gone through rigorous religious education, a test that you must pass, a ritual bath, a ritual circumcision or symbolic blood-letting.

I'm not proposing we embrace the latter.

What I would like to see --

A Unitarian Universalist has:

* Taken classes in Unitarian Universalism: history, theology, polity
* Been encouraged to journal/pray/meditate/study how this fits with their personal journey
* Taken classes that specifically deal with their local church: its history, mission, what will be expected of them, and what they should expect in return.
* Had a one-on-one conversation with the church minister or the membership person (who takes their position seriously) about why they want to join the church, why they want to be a Unitarian Universalist, and how they will live under the church's covenant.
* Joined a Unitarian Universalist church -- both receiving and giving words of covenant and commitment.

Just as when a church ordains me, that ordination will be recognized by other churches, even after I leave the ordaining church, so should the identity of one as a Unitarian Universalist be honored even if one leaves their "conversion" church. 

(They still fall under the rules governing membership in joining a different UU church -- still need to learn about that church, its covenant, have the conversation, and go through a joining ritual -- but their identity as a Unitarian Universalist remains in effect until they say, "Nay.")

Monday, November 01, 2010

Good news

Little Warrior had scans today.  Big scans.  2 year scans.

And we got those three letters we hold so dear.  N.E.D.  No Evidence of Disease.

On one hand, this is not a huge deal.  It gives no promise against relapse.  But on the other hand, it's a pretty big deal.  2 years off-treatment is a milestone.  She doesn't have to go back for 6 months.  Since she was 7 months old and first diagnosed, this will be the longest stretch she has ever gone without seeing her oncologist, with two months to spare.

Back when she was an infant and we had never heard of Wilms' Tumor, I referred to her on this blog as The Wren.

LW:  Little Wren.  I think we'll transition to that, now.