Useless Thoughts Running Through My Head

various musings of a generation x kad

Archive for the ‘unitarian universalism’ Category

Why I’ve been avoiding church

Posted by thoughtful1 on December 16, 2007

In my last post I mentioned that I haven’t been attending church much this year.  In fact, I think I’ve gone one service in the past 5 weeks, which I suppose is unfortunate.  I like our minister.  She is thoughtful, and gives good sermons.  She brings a centered feel to the worship – it feels solid, not flighty or hippy dippy.  Yet, I haven’t gone to church.

Why?

Because the church members, the church atmosphere, and in some respects, the religion have gotten on my nerves.

Let’s start with the congregational issues.  We’ve had an unstable past few years – problems with a minister, followed by interims, followed by some tensions over the budget and personnel issues.  And I think people have become so focused on keeping the church running that they’ve lost track of what a church is for.  The result is pressure on its members, like me, to do stuff – serve on committees, help out with fundraisers, get involved in social action causes, etc.  Yet, no one seems to stop and ask, “Why?”  Everyone, it seems, is running around like chickens with their heads cut off.  It’s all Do, Do, Do!  And no reflection, no sense of worshipping.  It feels like  there’s no center to anything.  Just a giant swirl of action.

Add to this my usual issues with ageism and married-ism/family-ism.  I am single.  I look 10 years younger than I actually am.  This has led to comments to me along the lines of,  “But you’re too young to worry about that,” or “You’re so young [aren’t you just cute?],” “You’re young and hip, you should be a youth advisor!”  These comments are made infrequently, but enough over the years to grate on my nerves more and more.  My youthful appearance seems to make it OK to talk down to me.  In addition, I know that if I had a child, or was married, I wouldn’t get these remarks.  And that’s not right, either.

I also feel that because of the ageism and married-ism, I don’t get listened to as much as others.  I also believe that my congregation does not handle bad news about itself well.  One of the interims had a session to discuss the general health of the church.  I raised an issue, and immediately I saw heads shaking, “No,” as if I my opinion and observations didn’t count.  I honestly felt that the only person in the room who was listening to me and taking what I had to say seriously was the minister.

In addition, I got sucked into working on a project I had absolutely no interest in.  To make it worse, the people who were interested seemed to leave me to do all the work.  Early in the church year I hit a breaking point and I had a meltdown of sorts.  I said, “No, I’m not doing this anymore.”  (Well, it wasn’t said that nicely or calmly, but you get the idea.)  The other people involved were shocked!  Why?  Because they hadn’t bothered to pick up on the clues I’d been giving for the past two years about how I felt like I needed a break, or when I said at the beginning of the church year, “I’m really not interested in this.”  After my meltdown, I stopped coming.

Another issue I’ve had is that I do not have a good sense of what our theology is.  What is the argument for a Unitarian view of God?  Why do we believe in universal salvation?  What is the center that holds us together?  And why do I fail to feel that sense of gravitas and awe that Anglican/Episcopalian music gives me?  (Note:  UU music, IMO, sucks.  Not completely, but it is pretty lame.)  I’ve been reading The Challenge of a Liberal Faith, but I’m working through it slowly, and it’s a little dated at times.  It has helped, somewhat.  But it’s a shame it’s not as succintly or clearly written as Mere Christianity, which I am also reading, but I suppose that might be an unfair comparison.  Interestingly, while I was reading March I felt a stronger connection to my UU roots than at any other time.  Perhaps because the novel was able to show me something about the religion rather than tell.

So I have been feeling a bit out of it with my church.  And I still sometimes feel the pull of the Episcopalian church.  I cannot explain it – why I want to attend services at Trinity Church in Copley.  I know it has something to do with boarding school and music and my current problems with my church.  But it seems as though there is something more to it, and I cannot put my finger on it.  Is this the beginning of a slow conversion, or just a religious detour for a lifelong UU?

(P.S.  Yes, I have spoken to my current minister about my issues with the church.  She was very understanding, and agreed that the congregation needs to relearn how to worship and meet people where they are instead of pressuring them to serve and do. )

Posted in religion, unitarian, unitarian universalism, universalist | Tagged: , , , | 1 Comment »

Last Sunday morning

Posted by thoughtful1 on August 16, 2007

Last Sunday morning I went to church.  But not my church.  I went to Trinity church in Copley.  And Episcopalian church.  I’m not Episcopalian.  I’m Unitarian.  What was I doing in a church called Trinity?

I don’t know.  I don’t quite know.  A few weeks ago I began to feel that I needed to learn more about Christianity.  It’s a large part of our culture, and I’ve been surrounded by it all my life, yet I suddenly realized that there was very little I knew or understood about it.  I felt this need to know.  I bought Mere Christianity by C. S. Lewis.  Word on the street is the book is a good, readable introduction to Christianity.

A little later, I began to feel this pull to go to Trinity.  I can’t quite explain it.  It’s all jumbled up with boarding school and religion.  I felt this desire to hear the music.  Anglican/Episcopalian music kicks ass.  It beats Unitarian Universalist music.  The Anglicans have gravitas.  We UUs have, as my friend put it, “Mary Tyle Moore with a guitar.”  Not that UU music is completely atrocious.  There have been moments in church where I’ve found it comforting.  But it rarely blows me away the way Epsicopalian music does.  Maybe it’s because they have better organs.  Or maybe it’s just the music.

I first heard Episcopalian music in boarding school.  The first two years I was there we had an organist who knew how to rock out the chapel’s pipes.  It was magnificent.  But I hated chapel.  I hated being forced to go to chapel on Mondays, Wednesdays,  Thursdays, and certain Sundays.  I hated saying prayers that referenced the Trinity.  I hated that my Hindu and Jewish friends were forced to go.  It was oppressive.  It gave me a very bad impression of Episcopalianism.

But I loved the music.

So I found myself going to Trinity Church last Sunday because I hated chapel at boarding school but I really, really wanted to hear the music.  And I wanted to make sense of Christianity.  And maybe my past.  I think I’ve been needing some sort of reconciliation with boarding school.  I can’t quite put my finger on it, but there’s some sort of need there.

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I am still a bad delegate

Posted by thoughtful1 on June 18, 2007

Bad delegate, Bad!

I could not find my delegate card. I e-mailed some other people from my church who are going to GA to see if anyone had the alternate card (we have no alternate delegate), and it looks like no dice.

*sigh*

Posted in my mundane life, unitarian universalism | Leave a Comment »

I am a bad delegate

Posted by thoughtful1 on June 17, 2007

SHIT!

I have misplaced my delegate card for the Unitarian Universalist Association General Assembly. It was given to me at church. I have no recollection where the hell I put it. It might be in my car somewhere. This is bad. I have to present the card when I register. If I cannot find it then my church is down one delegate. I need to find the sucker before tomorrow morning.

I am a bad delegate.

UPDATE: It’s 1:13 AM.  I still haven’t found the damn card.  I checked my car – it’s not there.  This is not good.  FRAK.

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Sudan, China, and the Yellow Peril

Posted by thoughtful1 on May 24, 2007

This past Sunday we had a service on peacemaking. One of the speakers, a member of the church, spoke about genocide in Darfur. She urged us to join the Unitarian Universalist Services Committee and support their work to end the killing in Sudan. She also spoke about divestment and the latest push on Fidelity to stop investing money in companies that do business with Sudan.

The highlighted companies were Chinese: PetroChina and Sinopec. In fact, those were the only two companies I recall hearing about, and I’m pretty they were the only companies mentioned.

She also mentioned that there were rumblings about boycotting the Beijing Olympics in order to pressure the Chinese government to stop buying oil from Sudan. So it appears that China would make a good target for social justice pressure, and its companies good targets for divestment.

But, here is my question: Why only China? Why is China the new Big Bad in lefty social justice circles? And why only about Darfur? Why not about China’s long record of civil and human rights abuses?

After all, India is also industrializing and needs oil for energy. And, as we all know, just about everyone else needs oil…. So something tells me that China isn’t the only country buying oil from Sudan. And something tells me that it isn’t just Chinese companies doing business in Sudan.

I went to the Sudan Divestment Task Force Screener, where you can see if your mutual funds are invested in companies that do business with Sudan. I checked the investments of various Vanguard and Fidelity mutual funds that hold stocks. I checked some of the main funds, such as Vanguard’s Wellington fund, and some more specialized funds for categories such as emerging markets and Pacific Rim, companies that aren’t American, with some located in developing countries.

Guess what?

While I found several funds holding stock in PetroChina and Sinopec, they were not the most common offender held by the mutual funds I looked at. The most common stock held was Schlumberger Ltd. Or at least it was the one that kept popping up when I looked at the different funds. Doesn’t sound very Chinese to me. In fact, it is incorporated in the Netherlands Antilles. (Schlumberger is also traded on the NYSE and is part of the S&P 500… does that make it quasi-American?)

There were also a few other stocks of Scandinavian and Indian companies. But I don’t hear anyone saying boo about the Scandinavians or Indians. Is that because it’s easier to slam evil Communists with a reputation for being diabolical and shifty than it is to slam white, progressive, respectful Scandinavians? (Don’t know why Indians are getting off easy on this one…. Maybe it’s the Bollywood movies? Or perhaps we see them as heroic for throwing off the British Empire with non-violence? That’s probably more likely.)

Mind you, I did not make a scientific study, and I certainly didn’t look at every single fund that held equities. But I did find it curious that I was more likely to see Schlumberger Ltd than PetroChina or Sinopec.

This makes me worry. Don’t get me wrong – I abhor what is happening in Sudan. It is an outrage.  But I have to wonder if this is an example of how lingering racism and colonialism creeps into the way we carry out social justice. Is picking on China rooted, in part, in American fears of the Yellow Peril? Is picking on China a little colonialist? We’re entitled to tell you Asians what to do, but we won’t bother telling our White European cousins what to do? Is picking on China another way in which white liberals carry out social justice with an unconscious racism?

Some may say that with the severity of what is happening Darfur this doesn’t matter. As long we get someone to stop spending money in Sudan then we’ve done good. OK, but by allowing racism and colonialism to narrow our view of who the bad guys are, aren’t we allowing others to continue enabling genocide, albeit indirectly and unintentionally?

[P.S. I’m sure that those who are heavily involved in the divestment strategy know that it isn’t just Chinese companies, and I imagine that others know this as well.  It just strikes me that the companies that have entered into the main UU awareness on this issue are Chinese, and that the overriding sentiment is we have to pressure China.]

Posted in politics, race, social action, unitarian universalism | Leave a Comment »

We have a new settled minister!

Posted by thoughtful1 on May 13, 2007

This morning my congregation took on vote on whether to call the candidate for minister that our Search Committee recommended.  Our board president just sent an e-mail out saying that the candidate has accepted our call!

YAY!!

I wanted to jump for joy and do a happy dance.  I didn’t really expect to be so happy about it, but this morning they told us that she could take 24 hours to decide whether to accept our call or not.  I had forgotten that not only do we have to decide if we want her as minister, but she has to decide if she wants us as a congregation.  So I left church this morning worried that she’d say no, and then we’d have to start all over again.  That, and I couldn’t see any reason why she wouldn’t be a good minister to us.  I didn’t get to know her very well during candidating week, and I was unable to engage in lengthy conversations with her.  However, what I did see I liked.  I was impressed by her sermons – she’s thoughtful and inclusive, and that’s important to me.

Right now I am feeling happy and relieved.  My church had a rough a time and we’ve been healing, but after going through a failed ministry and recovering it feels as though the wind was taken our of our sails.  I’m looking forward to next year when we get to know her better, and perhaps things can begin to settle in our congregation as we find our way again.

On the flip side, I will miss our current interim.  I suppose it’s natural, but I also wonder if the sadness I feel over him leaving is some sort of residual adoptee separation anxiety.  It’s hard to tell sometimes.

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Everyone is a family [bullshit]

Posted by thoughtful1 on May 7, 2007

Kinsi wrote a post on his blog Spirituality and Sunflowers that reminded me of something that struck me as crapola:

Everyone is a family, even single people.

This was in response to my usual complaint about how at times my congregation forgets that we have non-families, and that using the term “family” tends to excludes those of us who are single. I was told that one person counts as a family.

Bullshit.

It’s a well-intentioned stab at inclusion, but I’m not buying it.

When you hear the word, “family,” do you imagine a single thirysomething professional woman eating dinner in front of her TV? Do you imagine a 60 year-old confirmed bachelor cleaning his bathroom? Do you imagine a twentysomething male-to-female transgendered person staring at the MBTA schedule and wondering how the hell she’s going to get to Logan airport in time for a 6 AM flight without forking over $$ to a cab? No, you don’t. You imagine a household with children and teens and the adults who care for them. You do not imagine single people.

Saying that single people count as one family is just a nice little way for family folks to feel like they’re including us when they’re really forgetting about us.

Feh.

Posted in peeves, unitarian, unitarian universalism, universalist | 2 Comments »

Let’s talk about the non-adopted POC for a moment

Posted by thoughtful1 on May 4, 2007

Or, maybe the title should be “Let’s talk with the non-adopted POC for a moment.”

Here’s why:

I recently became acquainted with a UU group for People of Color. It is the only POC group I have ever been apart of, not including KAD (Korean adoptee) groups. I think sharing the same religion is what makes it easier for me to be part of this group. There’s something other than our non-whiteness holding us together. I find joining groups based solely on race makes me feel even more self-conscious and awkward about my identity. At least with UUs of Color there’s other stuff to talk about. And, many of them are also American, which also makes it easier for me to feel comfortable. They’re Westernized, like me!

However, I’ve been thinking that even though they are welcoming to adoptees, there is more they could learn. And I think they need to know more if they want transracial adoptees to feel comfortable approaching their birth communities. I think it would be helpful for them to know about things like loss, identity, and that our insecurity around our racial and ethnic identity may not be the same as theirs. I think many of the non-adopted POC think they have the same issues we have. While I cannot know exactly how another person is feeling, I suspect that it’s not quite the same. For starters, after spending the day in school with white kids I went home to… white people! I didn’t have Korean relatives who looked like me, or could tell me about Korea or Korean culture. Nothing. Inside, I am WASPy girl. Hell, some of my white friends have said I am whiter than they are. (I find this funny, not offensive, btw. They’re very good friends, and it’s kinda true…)

And, for loss, I think it’s important for that to be addressed. I’ve heard of things said to other adoptees that may (or may not) have triggered pain surrounding separation from the birth family. These things were said in jest, and said in friendship. I just think that the people saying them may not have realized the potential impact those words could have had on someone who’s adopted. I attended some sessions at UU General Assembly on transracial adoption. Mostly people talked about racism. The discussion touched on loss, but no one named it! No one said the word, “loss.” I found it surreal. After years in the KAD community listening to people talk about loss as well as race, I found it bizarre that in a discussion about transracial adoption no one was talking about loss. A few people did express feelings related to loss, but no one explicitly addressed. And I think some of the adoptees in the session needed to talk about it, or have it named for them to help them identify some of things they were feeling.

I think it’s necessary to bring this up with UUs of Color because our denomination has quite a few transracial adoptees, and I know from my own experience how hard it can be to join a group of Koreans/Asians. To make it easier for transracial adoptees approaching their birth communities, we need our various groups of UUs of Color to know about adoption issues, and how to be more welcoming to them and more sensitive to adoptees’ needs.

So, if you’re a transracial adoptee, or depending on your politics, a transracially adopted person, what would you want non-adopted people of your race/ethnicity to know about you and your adoption experience? What would help them help you feel welcome and comfortable among them? What have any of them done that’s been hurtful? (I know plenty of KADs have stories of what Koreans have done wrong!!)

What say you all?

Posted in korean adoptees, transracial adoption, unitarian, unitarian universalism, universalist | 1 Comment »

And the church lesson for the day is…?

Posted by thoughtful1 on April 8, 2007

I think God has an ironic sense of humor, and I think He likes to tease me every now and then.

I went to church this morning. I was tempted to sleep in due to being a goob and staying up so late last night, but I didn’t go last week, it’s Easter (not that I’m big into Easter), and I had left over brownies and dolly bars to unload on the coffee hour goodie table.

Blessedly, being UUs, we didn’t have an extra long service. At least I don’t think we did – I didn’t check my watch when it ended, but our current minister is pretty good at ending the service at 11:30. Anyway, in the service we sang two hymns, “Morning Has Broken” and “Joyful Joyful We Adore Thee.”

I love “Joyful Joyful.” It’s one of my favorites, and we don’t sing it very often. However, the joy in singing “Morning Has Broken” was killed in boarding school where we sang it (Hymn #8 in the Episcopal hymnal) ad infinitum, ad nauseaum. I suspect that Hymn #8’s frequent appearances in chapel services was due to some hippy dippy chapel prefect saying, “Dude, let’s sing hymn #8. Cat Stevens sang it… that would sooo cool to sing it in chapel!” So we sang it, and sang it, and sang it some more, until I felt I would be happy to go through the rest of life without ever hearing that song again and be happy. I would even change the radio station if the Cat Stevens version came on. I really grew to hate that song.

But, oh how I loved singing “Joyful Joyful,” especially since for the first few years of boarding school we had a music director who could pull all the stops on the organ. He’d have the organ going full blast, illustrating all the wonder and grandeur and holy gravitas the Anglican musical tradition possesses. It was one of the few things I enjoyed in chapel.

Yet, for some reason, the only times we ever seem to sing “Joyful Joyful” in my little UU church are also the only times we ever seem to sing “Morning Has Broken.” It’s as if in order to enjoy one of my favorite hymns I have to endure one of my least favorite.

And maybe that is what God, the universe, life is trying to tell me. You can’t just have what you enjoy – you have to learn to deal with life’s unpleasantries; accept the good with the bad. Trite, I know. But maybe that is what it is.

Or maybe it is something else. The first time my church sang the dreaded Hymn #8, which is a different number in the UU hymnal, I cringed. I didn’t sing along. I just sighed inwardly and waited for the song to be over. However, since then, over the the three or four years I’ve been attending, my animosity towards the song has waned. This morning I sang along, and I didn’t find it too objectionable. It is still not my first choice of hymns, and I still fail to feel the joy of morning the song is trying to convey. But I did not feel the cringe reflex.

Perhaps enough time has passed since graduating from high school that my negative feelings towards that place have begun to fade. Or maybe I can begin to put them into proper perspective. After all, it really isn’t the song itself that caused me misery. It was whoever picked the song so many times for chapel service. It was my being forced to attend mandatory chapel services done in a religious tradition to which I do not belong. It was my not fitting in, and feeling alienated. And perhaps it is time for me to let go of those teenaged resentments, however valid.

I’m 36 now. It’s been 18 years since graduation. And while there was quite a bit my boarding school did wrong, I still was able to benefit from my experience there, although some benefits I didn’t notice until much later.

I got a good education. I learned, via osmosis, how to better negotiate class, which has helped me to understand different people better. I learned that while some rich people are assholes, there are a good number of rich people who are not. I made friends with people I wouldn’t have met otherwise. Hispanics and Latinos from places like Lawrence and Lowell. First generation Indian Americans. Upper and upper middle class blue bloods. Future socialites of the Upper East Side. Nouveau riche. I learned that you cannot fully judge a person based on their class, income, or clothes. I learned that a person’s true value is based on their sincerity, their respect for others, and their actions.

Which leads me back to the lesson that life is a mixed bag. You have to take the good with the ugly. Or, maybe the more specific point is that few things are purely bad or purely good. And while it is part of our nature to rush to judgment, sometimes it takes time for us to see the larger picture and to be able to put things into perspective.

And part of that step is letting go of past resentments.

Posted in about me, class, oddities, religion, unitarian universalism | Leave a Comment »

Help save the youth of America… Please!

Posted by thoughtful1 on April 7, 2007

Well, I am sure the parents of East Greenwich, RI were just thrilled to read these articles the other morning:

Teen violence, sex and drug use exposed
School officials, police say parents need to seize control

Holy cow. That is just disturbing on several levels. First, EW! Second, lovely attitude towards sex. I’m sure the parents of those involved must be so proud… not. Third, I hate to think of what this says about the boys’ attitudes towards girls and women, and the girls’ attitudes towards themselves.

‘Twould appear that someone could use the OWL program, a values-based relationship and sex ed program created by the UUs and Congregationalists.

[Btw, when putting this post together I found the urls to be goofy. There are actually three articles, but two seem to have the same url…! So I just linked to two urls. Not sure if the second url will consistently give the main article or the associated editorial.]

Posted in news, shock, unitarian universalism | Leave a Comment »