January 28, 2011
I have a friend who fears Muslims. If I speak of Dr. Baharami, or Dr. Ansari, if we talk about the woman who started Muncie’s AWAKEN or Eboo Patel and the Interfaith Youth Core, she admits readily and happily that a Muslim can be a force for good. But any moment the conversation drifts into groups, even the local Islamic Center, just as readily and with great certainty, she insists that Muslims are bad. Even a “good” Muslim, like the doctor we know, if she thinks of him fighting the Soviets as a young man, or thinks of his wife segregated with other women in that center, she begins to speak of the underlying hatred, oppression and violence of Islam.
One of my roles, as I see it, is to help generate thoughtful and informed conversation in the midst of a sea of sound-bites and shallow reactionary “talk.” But the currents of pop culture, like the currents of the ocean, are terribly powerful.
One of the blogs I am happy to subscribe to is ‘Sightings’ from the Martin Marty Center. On January 27, 2011, Omid Safi posted an essay on this subject, “Good Sufi, Bad Muslims.” He speaks clearly of the American pop cultural tendency to lump Muslims into two groups, either the violent type and their supporters, or the non-political and “spiritual” Sufi type.
“There are many versions of this game, but the basic contour stays the same: The assertion that the general masses of Muslims are evil, terrorist-supporters, anti-western, patriarchal, misogynist, undemocratic, and anti-Semitic; and that these masses are set off and defined against either the solitary, lone Muslim good woman or man. The “Good Muslim” is often an individual, or a small circle, because to admit that the larger group of Muslims could be on the right side of the human-rights divide is to have the house of cards of the Muslim demonization game collapse on itself.”
Professor Safi, goes on to invoke the Islamic ideal of prophets and of prophetic speaking truth to power, both ideals that are central to Unitarian Universalist culture and theology as well. He ends with these words: “If our public discourse about religion and politics is to evolve to a more subtle, and accurate, space, it must get to the point where religious voices that speak from the depths and heights of all spiritual traditions can do more than simply acquiesce in the face of the Empire. They can, and should, speak for the weak, and give voice to the voiceless.”
I hope that we all become agents of good conversation about the needs of the weak, that we affirm those who nurture justice in giving voice to the socially voiceless.
January 11, 2011
The one thing I want to say about the shootings in Arizona is the same thing I say every time we have one of these shootings. In America it is difficult to get good mental health care.
Lots of people are talking about the fact that he read Hitler’s book, few point out that he also liked reading the Harry Potter Series, The Phantom Tollbooth, and Siddartha. If only he had decided to obsess about the Buddha rather than the U.S. government. Read the reports and you will find lots of talk about improving political discourse and almost nothing about improving our mental health systems.
When this young man was kicked out of community college, and told he needed a mental health review before they would readmit him, it was clear he was on one of three tracks.
One: if he had lots of money or very rare and good insurance, and a network of family or friends that would work with him, then he would have gotten counseling, if he was lucky a useful diagnosis, and if very lucky some long term counseling, medication and guidance.
Two: if he did not have those resources he would burn out his friends and family till he became a homeless “troubled” individual shuffling in and out of various shelters and food programs until he either found a good ministry that would give him a place to land or continued to drift downward and out of human community.
Three: he would become more and more frightened, angry and anxious, and would find a way to lash out at the world that he saw as the source of all his suffering.
In a better system the Community College could have brought this man to the attention of local mental health workers who could have begun tracking him and working with him to set a better course for his life. I know that mental health science is still in its infancy, but we know at least something of what anxious and angry people need and it is not being ignored till they go away.
Most often the approach is to do nothing but glare at people who are talking violence, rambling about conspiracies or showing obvious signs of trouble. We expect their friends and family, and perhaps their own self-control or hunger for community, to reign them in. If they continue to live in anxiety or anger, if they continue to suffer by imbibing the poisons of the mind (passion, hatred, anger, fear), we might isolate these people, we might tell them to “get help,” but we do nothing productive. We wait until they have burned out their family and friends and let them twist in the wind. Even after that we wait, but do nothing, until finally the person proves themselves to be “a danger to themselves or others.” Very, very often the first line of mental health care in this country is the police force. Religious leaders by and large have very little training to know how to respond effectively to mental health issues other than to offer the palliatives of religious doctrine. I feel frustrated when people come to me with these troubles because the options are so limited. We have almost no psychiatrists in Muncie because the hospital system drove them all out about ten years ago. Some things are better than they used to be, but mental health care still has a deep stigma attached and often the primary option is to give up all your freedom and check into a locked facility while they experiment with various psychotropic drugs. Most people avoid mental health check ups altogether. The whole system is still very bianary. They way our society tends to think of mental health is that you are either crazy or you are not with nothing in between. The explosion of various anti-depressive medication options and their advertising is changing things, but we have a long way to go.
UU Churches have in our heritage Dorothea Dix. As part of the liberal Christian tradition she decided that love and compassion had to be expressed not just individually but also through our institutions and social structures. When she was a young adult the approach to troubled people was also to hide them away or give them to the police force and prison. Through her life she created the foundations of the mental health care system in our country. Now more change must be made. Good mental health care is expensive, but it is less expensive than the cost of living in a society where angry and frightened people have nothing to do but hurt themselves or pick up a gun and start shooting.
January 2, 2011
Like the Witch of the West, WordPress.com has helper monkeys who mulled over how my blog did in 2010, and here’s a high level summary of “Rev. Thomas Perchlik’s Weblog’s” overall health:
The Blog-Health-o-Meter™ reads This blog is doing awesome!.
However, they give me no clear and obvious information about what is better than “awesome,” or what label they would have given me if my blog was sick. Looking about briefly I find several WordPress blogs that were rated “Wow.” According to the “crunchy numbers” the monkeys give me, blog health seems to be based on number of visitors, number of archived posts and the weight of heavy traffic days:
A Boeing 747-400 passenger jet can hold 416 passengers. This blog was viewed about 1,800 times in 2010. That’s about 4 full 747s.
In 2010, there were 6 new posts, growing the total archive of this blog to 45 posts. There was 1 picture uploaded, taking a total of 35kb.
The busiest day of the year was April 5th with 38 views. The most popular post that day was Ethnic UUs.
Where did they come from?
The top referring sites in 2010 were uuchurchmuncie.org, discoveruu.com, uupdates.net, facebook.com, and uuworld.org.
Some visitors came searching, mostly for thomas perchlik, rev. thomas perchlik, theodore parker, “joel monka”, and “thomas perchlik”.
I rode in an airplane more than four times this year. So the comparison does not impress me much, and it does not tell me much.
The abstract “painting” one monkey put together is nice, but what does it mean? What is blue, green or yellow?
Last year I know I blogged at least four times as often. I wonder if I would have gotten a “Wow” rating in 2009?
The links to my blog have no surprises, except for the name Joel Monka. After a brief look he seems to be an active UU blogger, but why did a search for him lead to my blog? When I get incoming links to my blog I usually check them out because it is interesting to see who and why people link to my words. I don’t remember seeing Joel’s blog before.
I have always liked the stats on WordPress. I like a lot of things about WordPress blogging. I am glad that the monkeys summarized some of my stats for me.
Finally they end with my most visited posts for the year. This year I will need to write more so that “About” is not on the top five.
Attractions in 2010
These are the posts and pages that got the most views in 2010.
Ethnic UUs April 2010
President Obama, Theodore Parker, M. L. King Jr. and God September 2010
Jesus with a Gun February 2010
Faith Formation February 2010
About January 2008