August 22, 2014
This week I have gotten many requests to help us here in the Saint Louis area. Often the offers have been for donations of food. This is my response.
Thank you so much for your compassionate outreach. You may be happy to know that First U took a food collection last Sunday and all our baskets were filled. We took our collection to St. Stephens and they were very appreciative. Other sites, outside Ferguson, in Saint Louis City and in the city of Florrisant have been selected to receive donations of food, and supplies are being distributed from those places. Another collection of non-food items has been initiated and UU congregations are joining in that.
Yesterday (August 21), all local UU clergy went to a Community Center that is just north of where all the violence took place. It was a crowded, but very mellow, scene. We offered counseling, care, and help carrying supplies to cars. People were getting help with food, utility bill problems, legal services. It was a hopeful event and others are being organized.
Meanwhile, while all the attention is on the people in Ferguson who have been isolated by protests, stores being closed and streets being shut off, there are also poor people all over the metro area who still rely on continued support of food pantries, soup kitchens, shelters and services.
I say all this to let you know that this is not a disaster area, but a very active metropolitan community with many resources.
Given the distances involved, if you want to donate to local food pantries, it would be easier for you to send financial resources to be used to purchase needed items. You could send a check to First Unitarian Church of Saint Louis or to one of the several food pantries in the town of Ferguson.
The other way you can help is to focus on the bigger issues of racial inequality and policing. The best way you can stand in solidarity with us is to look at your own community. If it has not been done, look at how often police in your area stop people of color in proportion to their percentage of the population. Talk to people in your community about how much they trust the police officers to protect them. Ask the Police if they feel trusted. Do people feel that violence is going unchecked, and that the police are one source of harassment and violence in their lives? Ask your local police if they are becoming more militarized or less. Look at mental health practices in your area and the role the Police force plays in that. You may know that only a couple of days ago another young man was killed by police in this city. He was a mentally ill person wielding a knife. Do things like that happen in your town? Do the police kill many people in your city but never see anyone punished for those deaths?
If there are troubles, hold a forum to raise awareness. Hold a rally to protest injustice. Do it in the name of Michael Brown and Ferguson, but focus on your community.
And if things are going well, then hold that up. Be a light. Let the Police in Ferguson and STL County that military responses to unrest and crime are not the norm in America. Let everyone know what justice looks like.
Another thing you can do is look at . This is a site of things happening in the STL area. If a vigil is happening here one night, you can create a parallel event in your church or city to say that you are with us.
Keep being Peace builders. Love mercy, do justly, and walk humbly with what you know to be the one God.
August 4, 2014
As a Unitarian Universalist minister I can be morally strong and clear without needing to set absolute rules. I am moral and also free of eternal punishment for moral failings. I don’t need to condemn others to an eternal Hell in order to tell them I think their actions are wrong. However, there are some people who find any openness or change in moral stance as equal to chaos, or worse. For example, a recent opinion piece by Dr. Michael Brown, posted on the One News Now site, floated to the top of the Google alerts on “Universalism”: Universalism is Next for the Soft Love Crowd
In it Brown says simply that if you become welcoming and affirming of gay and lesbian people, by blessing the marriages of such people, you begin sliding down the slippery slope to having no standards what so ever.
To his credit, Dr. Brown does admit that it is very difficult, even painful, to consider God punishing kind, thoughtful and devoutly compassionate people who do good work in the world. He admits it would seem cruel for God to do so. He writes, “I honestly believe that if questions like this don’t cause us some level of pain then we don’t really have the heart of the Lord.”
His response to this pain is to simplistically assert that it is wrong to move away from preaching about future wrath and divine judgement on issues of anything. Then he encourages his readers to pray that those who disagree with him will be brought “back to the truth as it is found in Jesus”.
Clearly he is writing to his own choir, but he misses two essential points. One is that wrath and judgement are real and serious theological issues, but do not necessarily entail eternal punishment in an eternal Hell. Despite all the condemning passages of scripture one must also deal with passages such as Psalm 30:5, Psalm 107:1, John 12:32, 1 Timothy 2:1-6, and Jeremiah 31:34 “…they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest,” declares the LORD. “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.”
The second point he glosses over is that it is in the Truth of Jesus that people do find love, kindness, acceptance and the spirit of reconciliation that moves them to create a more just and inclusive community, instead of the eternally divisive and unjustly judgmental community created by Dr. Brown.