Out With The Old, In With The New

Happy New Year from the UUA! As the clock ticked down on truly momentous year for Unitarian Universalism, I reflected on all the amazing work being done in our religious movement and beyond—much of which I have shared on this blog. I started this blog more than fourteen months ago as a vehicle to share some of my own reflections and musings on our movement. How we communicate with each other, how we connect with each other, and how we build relationships are changing at such a dizzying pace. Our world is more social, more connected, more engaged than ever before and there are no signs of that slowing down.

But I have found that the blog format no longer seems an efficient way for me to communicate with you. Instead, I’m posting more to my Facebook page with short items of information and reflection. And I’m now contributing longer pieces to the Huffington Post—subscribe to my feed. So I have decided to no longer update this blog. I hope you will look for my postings in those other venues.

The UUA continues to host a variety of informative and inspiring blogs like Blue Boat and the Standing on the Side of Love blog. Check out our blogs page on UUA.org to learn more.

I’m looking forward to connecting with you in new ways in 2013!

Permanent link to this article: http://president.blogs.uua.org/holidays/out-with-the-old-in-with-the-new/


Thanksgiving has always been my favorite holiday. I cherish it because it centers on a fundamental religious sentiment: gratitude. Gratitude is at the core of any mature spirituality.

Another reason I have always loved Thanksgiving is that it always involves sharing with people we love. Thanksgiving is about relationships that shape and support us. I remember so many Thanksgivings where we drove way too many hours in awful weather on treacherous, crowded roads—or endured flight delays and packed airports. It would have been so much more sensible to stay put. Yet the thought of missing Thanksgiving dinner with family and close friends was always more than we could bear.

When we reflect on what we are truly most grateful for, we realize that loving relationships are what matter most in our lives. When we gather in thanks and in love, we create a sacred space. We also touch base with something central, vital and important.

I now believe that gratitude involves a lot more than feeling thankful. When I think about how fortunate I am, I also realize that so very many people, through no fault of their own, are far less fortunate. Gratitude that has any depth and awareness leads to compassion for those who suffer, for those who are cut off from those they love.

Gratitude must not be blind or indifferent to others. There is too much poverty. There are too many families torn apart by violence, by war, by policies that rip families apart. There is so much needless suffering.

This Thanksgiving I pray that the spirit of gratitude fills our beings. May we celebrate and share joy with family and friends. I pray, too, that the spirit of gratitude moves us to feel compassion for others. And once compassion is deeply felt, it always leads to acts of generosity and healing.

May we realize how blessed we are. May we be a blessing to others.

Permanent link to this article: http://president.blogs.uua.org/holidays/gratitude/

Be Not Afraid

The Huffington Post published a blog post I wrote on this election season. In it, I talk about the fear that lies at the heart of the deep political polarization we saw during these elections and how, as people of faith, we must show another way. Read the full post here.

Photo taken by Bill Kotsatos

Permanent link to this article: http://president.blogs.uua.org/politics-2/be-not-afraid/

UU-UNO: Voice of Our Values

When I think of the great issues that will shape our collective future, I realize that virtually all of these issues are international in scope. The overwhelming issue of sustainability—an issue which includes global warming, environmental justice and global inequality—is obviously an international issue. While we often think of America’s controversy over immigration as a domestic issue, we cannot begin to understand immigration unless we see its international dimension.

We Unitarian Universalists have a long history of speaking out on the vital moral issues of our day. Our core principles that affirm human dignity, peace, democracy, peace and the interconnection of all life call us into the public arena.

One of the places where we UUs have long had a voice is at the United Nations. This week I will attend a celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Unitarian Universalist United Nations Office (UU-UNO).

We will also be celebrating the re-integration of the UU-UNO into the UUA. For a number of years our office at the United Nations existed as a separate nonprofit organization. Both organizations saw the benefit of integrating our international voice at the UN with our overall public witness efforts. Last fall we completed the legal and organizational merger.

Our office at the UN has been a leader in advocating for the rights of LGBT people in the world. We are also a religious voice for the equal treatment of women and the rights of children.

The coming years are going to bring many opportunities for our religious voice to be heard. We can, I believe, play an important role in bringing together the voices of other religious traditions. I am proud and grateful that we have a voice at the UN.

We can do so much together that we cannot do alone. Giving our values a voice in the international arena is one way our UUA speaks for us all.

Permanent link to this article: http://president.blogs.uua.org/travel/uu-uno-voice-of-our-values/

Wealth and the 47%

“I can’t afford my own politician so I made this sign.”
Occupy Boston, Oct 15th, 2011.

As I write this there is a lot of commentary flying around in places like the New York Times and Washington Post about a video in which Mitt Romney makes disparaging remarks about 47 percent of Americans. In case you have missed it, someone secretly took a video of Romney at a private fund raising event. Here is a particularly thoughtful piece in the NY Times written by David Brooks, a leading conservative columnist.

I will leave the political analysis to the legion of pundits who are happily weighing in. I am more fascinated by the situation which helps give rise to opinions like those Romney expressed. I don’t even know if Romney truly believes what he said. Candidates tend to tailor their remarks to the audience. Romney’s audience in this fund raiser (according to another news story) are people who can donate $50,000. These are very, very rich people.

What is important is that these wealthy donors believe what Romney said about half of America being dependent on government and believing they are victims. What is even more important is that millions upon millions of Americans also believe this.

One wonders what America these people live in. They don’t live in the same America I have spent my life in.
They literally don’t live in the same America most of us inhabit. And that is part of the problem in our society today. It is possible for the very wealthy to isolate themselves.

The folks in that living room, the people who can give a $50,000 campaign donation that does not make a dent in their lifestyle or bank account (or, more accurately, bank accounts) don’t live where most of us live. They live in gated communities. They belong to exclusive clubs. They never ride a bus or a commuter train. Few of them ever sit in the economy section of a stuffed airplane (many of these people fly in private planes).

These people are isolated. They do not feel part of an interdependent community. For them, more than half of the population are “other.”

“Rethink the American dream.”
Occupy Boston, Oct 15th, 2011.

This is what happens in a society where income distribution continues to grow more and more unequal. (The latest numbers show that income inequality continues to grow in America.) Not only does this raise all kinds of issues of justice, but inequality corrupts our society. It divides us. It destroys relationships.
Some people use their wealth to help heal others. They give generously to support all kinds of causes and institutions that make all our lives better. Others, far too many, use their wealth to escape. In the long run, concentrating so much wealth among a few people harms everyone.

Ironically enough, the rich pay a huge price for inequality. Many studies show that the very wealthy are not happier. Their great wealth isolates them. They become deeply afraid. They become wary. They fall prey to ideologues who tell them they deserve what they have because they are morally superior.

There is a reason that all the major religious traditions teach us that great wealth is dangerous.

Permanent link to this article: http://president.blogs.uua.org/politics-2/wealth-and-the-47/