Universalist Correction: A Reply To Mark Morrison-Reed's 'UU World' Essay

I am sensitive to and mostly agree with the overall gist of Mark Morrison-Reed's essay, "The Black Hole in the White UU Psyche." UU in its history has both held promise and failed to fulfill the promise of a diverse community, and that the present day lack of historical grounding influences this. However, as a Christian Universalist minister and a member of the Christian Universalist Association's Board of Directors, I feel the blatant anti-Universalist slant weakens the strength of Mr. Morrison-Reed's argument. First, for all the Unitarian advantages and Universalist disadvantages that Morrison-Reed describes, by the very numbers he lays out, Unitarians and Universalist were on par up to the time of merger in 1961. By 1929, there were no African-American ministers in either the Unitarian or Universalist denominations. By 1955, there were four (no mention of the ratio of Unitarian to Universalist ministers though even 4 Unitarians to 0 Universalists is nothing t…

UU & the Ignoring of Black Jesus, the Humanist

DeReau Farrar’s brilliant piece titled “Moving Beyond ‘Whites-only’ UU Theology” certainly took the UU world by storm this Spring. It courageously “went there,” pointing to the ever-present elephant in the room. If diversity is what UU wants, it must acknowledge the fact that when it comes to African-Americans, as well as Latin/x Americans and to a lesser degree Asian-Americans, a secular humanist approach is anathema for all but a small percentage. Farrar puts it in a very succinct and wonderfully blunt fashion: “atheism is a White Thing.” And the data don’t lie. Farrar highlights them: “11 percent of white American adults say they do not believe in God, compared to 2 percent of black adults and 6 percent of Latino adults.”

Farrar also eloquently speaks to the spiritual potency experienced in the Exodus / Easter story. In God’s preferential option for the oppressed, Black Americans sense chosen-ness in spite of the godless nation that continually discards them. In the face of oppres…

Collective Grief & Public Displays of Confederate-Affection

The more I do this pastor-thing, the more I realize how facing the reality of grief, a reality we will all eventually share, is essential to our societal healing and wholeness.
We as a society are caught between running from that reality, the truth of suffering and loss, and the inescapable reality that we cannot escape it. The first noble truth – there is suffering. We cannot escape it in our individual lives and we cannot escape it in our collective lives, either here and now in the present or in throughout history.
I want to talk a little bit about collective grief as found in our history. There is so much loss, so much pain and hurt in history that we as a society have never resolved. Unresolved grief, bereavement counselors call it. It is a collective, society-wide unresolved grief and goes all the way back to slavery if not before.
After Apartheid in South Africa was put to rest, and Nelson Mandela was freed from prison, there was a government led process called “Truth and Rec…

A Poem & A Prayer in the Wake of Charlottesville

Lee's Legion

General Lee in stone, stoned on his horse -
maybe the horse had a name
like childhood "heroes" of lore.
If I could, I'd name it Golden Calf.

Lee gallant, gigantic, so legend
says, this one, this one to let end,
to let into hell, to let ground and grave
overtake, one to forget or at least
remember like gout or guilt. This is Lee's last stand, my friends.
This is Lee's legion, his deluded children's
last grasp of long shallow breath,
at a lie of a world ending and ending them. I've been to Charlottesville once.
My partner got really sick en route
north to New York. The university
hospital there gave good care. Didn't visit or notice the idol Lee
in the center, on the center,
as the vestiges of the confederacy
astride Golden Calf on its last legs. We whistled past Lynchburg just up the road,
ignored as much as we could
Falwell's lee and glee liberty,
the un-university. An idea comes to me now decades later
as I see on the news what doesn't want to change.

Gwangju Han 1980

In 2000, I wrote a long poem after visiting Gwangju on the 20th anniversary of the uprising in that city. The pain and heartache 20 years later still wafted in the air. It was such an unimaginable tragedy. It was a tragedy that America had a direct hand in. It was an utter failure and ended in thousands of lives taken in a brutal takeover of a city. 

Of course, America is "too exceptional" to learn such lessons as evident by our continual repeating of the same mistake. The pattern continues, to nth degree, with the current U.S. president.

Anyway, in case one doesn't know the history, here is some background: In May 1980, student protests against the military dictatorship of General Chun Doo-hwan were put down in a violent way by national troops sent at the behest of Chun and with the knowledge and backing of the U.S. government. While the number of casualties remains a source of contention, the number is believed to range in the thousands. 

This fictional poem about a new l…

Feed Those That Hunger (Times 6)

Do you know what the most frequent story in the Gospels is? Well, the answer is it is a story that has 6 examples of being told. Can you guess what that story is? Here’s a hint: all six stories tell a tale of the distribution of resources. Yes, the resource we are talking about is food.
That’s right. Its the story of Jesus Feeding Multitudes. It is told 6 times, the most frequent story told in the gospels. Here is story from Matthew 14:
13 Now when Jesus heard this, he withdrew from there in a boat to a deserted place by himself. But when the crowds heard it, they followed him on foot from the towns. 14 When he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them and cured their sick. 15 When it was evening, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a deserted place, and the hour is now late; send the crowds away so that they may go into the villages and buy food for themselves.” 16 Jesus said to them, “They need not go away; you give them something to eat.” 17 They repl…

Cultural Appropriation (or Monk Springsteen?)

I have been thinking a lot lately about the topic of cultural appropriation. What got me thinking about it was my inner discomfort any time I see a Westerner with shaved head and dressed in Buddhist monk garb. I don’t know exactly what about the image discomforts me. Is it my own complicated history with Buddhism? I once contemplated such a path yet realized it was too big a leap for me and would have emotionally devastated my family. Is it jealousy that they were able to do it and did? Or is it the Baptist in me that sees any overt external expression of ritualized religion as suspect?
When it comes to religion, the issue of cultural appropriation is made all the more complicated. Yes, religions are inextricably tied to culture, but most religions seek to evangelize, seek to make appropriators out of everyone.
Maybe my apprehension lies partly here. As a natural skeptic, saying yes to such proselytizing and then taking it as far as becoming a monk of a new tradition seems questionab…