June 8, 2009

MSG Religion

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , , , at 11:46 am by Rev. Thomas Perchlik

Appearing back to back, two articles in the Summer 2009 UU World Magazine caught my attention[ http://www.uuworld.org/currentissue.shtml .] Both echoed (for me) the closing quote in the “Blog Roundup” from Joel Monka: “UU itself is still like monosodium glutamate in my life – a flavor enhancer for what I already had, rather than a stand-alone religion in its own right.” Wow,” when I read that I thought, “The purpose of  my life, as a UU Minister, is to improve the flavor of various religions.”  In “Natural Aptitude” Laura Pedersen tells us it is hard to distinguish UUs from Hippies and says, “… UUs believe that there is truth to be found in all religions, but no one relgion holds all truth.”On the next page, Ken Collier tells us that “Religion is about the healing of brokenness,” which is a powerful purpose but, though he speaks of the religions of Buddha and Christ, he says nothing about UUism being “a religion.”  He ends with the idea that religions are just different cultural methods of achieving the same goal of wholeness and healing.   Furthermore Pedersen notes that UUism is not so much a choice as a found quality, “Finding that one is UU is “… like discovering that one is gay or has a natural aptitude for clog dancing.”

The point for me is that even if a candidate for the UUA Presidency tells us “We are the religion for our time,” the fact is that most of us do not think we are a religion, but either a smorgasboard of religions, or something that enhances the flavor of religion cooked up somewhere else.  To be sure, there are many who think we are a particular religion, such as the religion of Existential Humanism, or the religion of  “God is love,” or the religion of “be reasonable and openmided,”  or the religion of  particular liberal causes.  But each of these are minorities who favor one cooking style over others and ultimately see the UU movement as a flavor enhancer for their own particular dish.  There are those who think of UUism as “an approach to religion” but certainly not a religion of its own. 

Maybe that is just fine, and we should accept our place as a “liberalizer of religions” or something like “fusion cooking,” an approach with endless variations.  However, when I meet Unitarians from the Kasi hills, or people in North America who’s lives have been utterly transformed by finding a UU congregation I think we can be something more.  I think our best churches are offering not just MSG but the substance of universal truth, prepared as religion that feeds the hungry soul.  I can’t say my church is “one of the best” but we do struggle to make each worship service not just a sampler of all the good spiritual food in the world, or a place to get something to suppliment your own spiritual cooking, but full meals that have real integrity and their own unique flavor.

Advertisements

May 20, 2009

Unscience Fiction

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , at 8:54 pm by Rev. Thomas Perchlik

I went to see the latest Star Trek movie this past week. It was lots of fun, but I came away wondering again why fantasy with spaceships, but no science of any sort, is called “science-fiction?”

Of course the original Trek series often played loose and free with science.  For example they never took trouble to explain phasers that vaporized bodies down to their shoe soles, without effecting anything near them.  But the latest movie had strange “red matter” that was never explained in any way, starships being built on a planet’s surface (very illogical), huge shuttle bays on a small ship, inexplicable water works on a starship, magic mathematical equations, planets (Vulcan and Delta Vega) that are way too close to one another, (and what does “delta vega” mean?)  etc. etc.  There was, literally, no science ever used or mentioned except in some questions for Vulcan kids being tested in school.

The point is that we communicate our values in the stories we tell.  Unitarians and Unitarian Universalists have long valued integrity between science and religion.  We have long insisted that supernatural ideas be taken with a grain of agnosticism and that science is of great value.  Many of UUs have loved Star Trek shows because they blended science and religion in fun ways (“Who Morns for Adonis,” “The Apple,” to name two original series episodes off the top of my head).  Often there were strange “spiritual” elements that were explained in pseudo-scientific terms, like the energy existence of the Organians, but there was also real science, and the portion of that increased through the Next Generation and beyond.

Now a movie is made with no science at all.  And we wonder why Kansas schools and others are trying to present religious ideas like Creationism (AKA “intelligent design”) as if they were good science!

May 2, 2009

Welcome Back

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , , at 1:17 pm by Rev. Thomas Perchlik

I am back.  I have been away from my blog for quite a while.  I went on a little trip to Paris, Prague and Rome, and I decided not to blog while I was there, but instead to write more personal reflections and to take lots of pictures. But now I am back to writing here regularly.

Today I was listening to the wonderful “This American Life” and it reminded me of my plan to return to blogging.  One of the things I love about that show is that it thrives upon the same power that nurtures great preaching, the simple power of the human voice and the truth of stories well told.  Most of the pieces shared there are also written down, so blogging can share the same power.

Anyway, the piece I listened to today was by Dan Savage, the gay sex advice columnist.  He spoke about his relationship with the Catholic Church, especially as it has been changed, first by his coming out as a gay man and then more recently by his mother’s death.  It was a beautiful piece, evoking the power and vital importance of religion. At one point he talked about finding a “Welcome Back” card encouraging lapsed Catholics to return to the ritual and community.   Of course I wanted him instead to become a UU, or at least mention the possibility.  The closest he came was quoting his mother who said, whenever the pope or a archbishop spoke of the evils of birth control, “It is like they are trying to make us all become Lutherans.”

But more than that he spoke about the power of the sacrament of last rights to sanctify a difficult and very painful moment, and he spoke of the beauty of an old church and ceremony with their sense of well worn sacredness, and he spoke of the comfort of certain beliefs, all of which are rare or impossible to find in UU congregations.  I was glad that the piece ended with him still searching, longing for and yet not finding fully the Beloved Community.  Perhaps someone will invite him to the right UU church that helps him bridge his longing to the reality of a community that affirms him as a gay man, and affirms a more inclusive, universal, and small ‘c’ catholic spirituality and faith.