Ironicschmoozer’s Weblog

Philippines UU Travel and International UU Conference in 2012–

You can read on page 3 of the November Unigram about the March 9-22 Partner Church Pilgrimage trip to visit our UU friends in the Philippines.  Please take a look and let me know if you have questions.  If those dates are not good, or it’s too long, or if you’d like to meet African, European, Indian, U.S., and Latin American UUs also, then consider the conference of the InternationalCouncil of Unitarians & Universalists, Feb. 6-12, 2012..  It will be hosted on Negros Island by the Philippines churches, (The theme of “Sharing Our Faith, Transforming Our World” asks how we can live in right relationship. Creative tension in our multi-cultural dialogue will be explored through a variety of talks and other interactive experiences focusing both on our diversity and what we have in common. Some sessions will consider how the ways we express our faith can make an impact on social justice and the environment in our local communities. Among other speakers, Bruce Knotts will consider how the UU United Nations  Office might speak for and to the worldwide UU community.)

There will be an optional tour of Manila two days in advance of the ICUU Conference and an optional visit to a few of the Philippine UU churches on Negros Island two days after the conference, both at an extra cost.  Save $50 on registration if you register before Monday.  Click here to read about the ICUU meeting!



Unitarian Universalists and the Occupy Movement

Peter Bowden’s UU Growth Blog covers this very well, so start there!

Doug’s Words on Doubt & Skepticism and Using all Sources of Wisdom, Insight, and Discernment

In Doug’s brave sermon on “Channeling” this past week (Part 4 in his sermon on “Selflessness”), I liked especially what he had to say about DOUBT and about using all our faculties and sources of discernment.

Here are my excerpts from his sermon.  You can find the whole October 23 sermon in PDF and podcast at


Now we come to the final phase: sorting out what to do with impressions that came from a mysterious source.

Up to now I’ve encouraged you to keep your skepticism at bay. For this final phase, it’s fine to open the gates and let you doubts tumble back into the room. But use doubt wisely. Don’t let it dismiss impressions out of hand – that’s just prejudice. Use it to form focused, open minded questions like “What’s real? What’s really going on?”

Here’s my best answer:

There are times when I’m dense, stupid and clueless. There are times when I’m relatively clear, insightful and wise. Mostly I’m somewhere in between.

When I’m channeling, most of what comes out of my mouth comes from the wise end of the spectrum.

Beyond this, I’m less certain.

My hunch is that we are all more deeply embedded in the web of life than we realize. And these practices use our relational instincts to overcome our hyper-developed sense of self and tap into the wisdom and knowing that is the fabric of life itself. But I don’t know this for sure.

Perhaps there are literal disembodied teachers in the flux and flow of life. Perhaps they are metaphors. Perhaps the process sensitizes us to subliminal cues.[1] Empirically I don’t how know to sort these out. I do know that fighting about things that we can’t prove or disprove is a waste of energy at best and a path to holy wars at worst.

So I prefer to let our doubts be doubts and focus on the practical question of how we make wise use of impressions that come from mysterious sources.

Don’t Ask What to Do

I learned three things from this about wise use of prayer, guidance and channeling.

First, ask for insight, not direction. Don’t ask channeled teachers, guides or gods to tell you what to do. Wise teachers – whether embodied or disembodied – don’t want our dependence. So instead ask for wisdom and insight that can help you know what is best.

Ultimately we are responsible for what we say and do. We don’t get to blame mistakes on God, teachers, the devil or well-meaning friends. We are responsible for our actions. We should use spiritual practices in ways that are harmonious with this reality.

So, if we are wondering if it is time to leave a job, don’t pray, “Tell me what to do?” Instead ask, “What might be the effect of staying on?” “What might be the effect of leaving?” “What is it that I’m not seeing clearly?” Ask questions that would help you gain insight and understanding not dependence.

If it’s not clear what to do, keep dialoging with your teachers-guides- sources until it becomes clear. Keep exploring until a course resonates inside you. Act on insight not because something told you to but because it resonates with you.

Second, know the dark side of channeling – ways that it can go wrong either by creating dependence or by confusing channeling with repressed feelings.

All intuitive knowing is filtered through our unconscious – that part of the mind-heart where we store old hurts, pains we don’t want to face and habits we don’t like to acknowledge. Prayer, guidance and channeling work to the degree that we can temporarily step aside from them. We never do it completely. So the more self knowledge we have of our own dark side, the less likely we’ll confuse our unwise tendencies with wise knowing.

I once met regularly with ten therapists in a peer support group. They decided they wanted to work with channeling. It was the most awkward and painful group I’ve ever been in. People who should have known better projected their unconscious fears and control needs onto each other. It wasn’t pretty.

As I said last week, if the guidance we receive would needlessly harm ourselves or others, if it would inflate or deflate our ego, if it’s coercive, dictatorial or autocratic in tone, or if it clashes with our highest values, then it is probably distorted by repressed feelings.

We should use our discernment to sort it out. We can also use channeling or guidance to help deside.

This leads to the third lesson I learned:

Never make a big life decision based on channeling, guidance or prayer alone. We have multiple resources to draw upon, including self-knowledge, experience, reason, emotional intelligence and intuition. In making big decisions we want all these counselors at the table. We don’t want intellect stomping out feeling. We don’t want past fears shouting down intuition. We don’t want intuition blotting out reason. We want all of them constructively and compassionately engaged. None of them is as smart as all of them together. None of them is as wise as all working as a collective.

In Unitarian Universalist circles, intuition – including prayer, guidance and channeling – is often underdeveloped or under appreciated. So it is helpful and healing to take the time to cultivate intuitive knowing.

I am wiser than some people who are smarter than me because I draw on a wider range of resources than they do. And there are people a lot wiser than me simply because they’ve cultivated a wider range of faculties and know how to integrate them harmoniously.

So if you haven’t cultivated relational instincts through prayer, guidance or channeling, I encourage you to not shy away from them. Cultivate them as an experiment. See what you can discover. This may require temporary suspension of disbelief – but not permanent suspension.

Ultimately we want to use our relational instincts to enhance our intuitive abilities so we can invite them all to be full partners at the table. Not as ridiculed children, dictatorial tyrants, or spacey hippies. But as smart, heartful partners to be part of our collective as we become wiser members of the larger collective – the circle of all life and spirit and being which is all of us.

Blessed be.

[1] Malcom Gladwell in Blink (Little Brown and Company, 2005) describes some of the research on subliminal processing of information.

Catholic Social Teaching—comments on how it’s perceived by the media—by Martin E. Marty

The Rev. Dr. Martin E. Marty, an ordained Lutheran pastor, is professor emeritus of American religious history, University of Chicago Divinity School. He is a prolific author and commentator on PBS and other broadcast networks. I took a course with him while in seminary in 1993. This comes from the online journal Sightings 10/17/2011.

Martin E. Marty writes:

Maureen Dowd wrote an almost innocuous column in the New York Times in which she noted, or argued, that “American bishops have been inconsistent in preaching their values.” Any reader who is up on the teachings of the company of bishops should not be surprised that they are inconsistent or that Ms. Dowd caught them in action. Such a reader who is up on the parties in play can also expect that the columnist is zeroing in on a zone of teachings about sex, which are of a different nature than are the rest of the social teachings. Someone had to notice her generalization.

Someone did. An authoritative if informal response came in the Letters to the Editor column from Bishop Howard J. Hubbard of Albany who wrote on “The Values of the Bishops.” He argued that Ms. Dowd and so many like her were not paying attention, so he cited all kinds and degrees of interest they had shown in focusing on the social teachings. Since we don’t often hear about almost all of them, it pays to note his list.

Bishop Hubbard pointed out that the bishops consistently raised grave moral concerns regarding the decision to invade Iraq back when that stance was unpopular, before the war became unpopular in the mind of the larger public. Who noticed? The bishops have been consistent supporters of efforts to repeal the death penalty, and have held this position for decades. They challenge the capital punishment culture and routinely request clemency for death-row inmates, in low- and high-profile cases alike. Who noticed?

The full body of bishops in 2007, Bishop Hubbard argued, overwhelmingly adopted “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship,” a document which showed them “preaching their values.” Who noticed it? Bishop Hubbard listed some of the specific “values” positions, e.g., against torture, racism, and the targeting of non-combatants in acts of terror or war. These were “intrinsically evil.” Facing up to the need to deal with the suffering “from hunger or a lack of health care, or an unjust immigrations policy” also escaped public notice among many. “Today, we bishops are exercising our leadership in advocating for the protection of poor people at home and abroad in the continuing budget debates.” Notice, anyone?

Included in the values list were condemnations of “abortion, euthanasia,” and he could have added, “homosexual” activity. Now, check these three as “noticed,” “noticed,” and “noticed” by much of the Catholic public which likes to ignore all the other “values” here, and by non-Catholic publics who never heard of other parts of the “seamless” or consistent ethic about which we heard some years ago. Now we are left to ponder: which zones of values get noticed by Catholics (including “by which Catholics?”) and which not? Who praises the bishops for what they put on the extensive values lists which are as old as 1893 or 1917 or other times of the formulation of social ethics? And is “consistency” among them to be valued? Also, which consistent instances help the Catholic “values” cause, and which are counter-productive? An election year is a good time to ponder some answers to the questions. One hopes that the whole range of issues will get noticed.

A last question: how do these values differ from those of most humanist, mainline Protestant, and Jewish choices? Believers and unbelievers are in much of this together. Do the old lines and definitions still serve? It’s time to notice.


Maureen Dowd, “Cooperation in Evil,” New York Times, October 1, 2011.

Howard J. Hubbard, “The Values of the Bishops,” New York Times, October 5, 2011.

Martin E. Marty’s biography, publications, and contact information can be found at

Great Events–Universalist Women–1893: the Rev. Augusta Jane Chapin addresses the Parliament of the World’s Religions

This is from the wonderful online UU resource founded some years back by a minister of First Parish Cambridge (MA), Harvard Square Library. Read about this Universalist woman minister at this link.

“The Human Right to Clean Water”– a recent Letter from President of the UU Service Committee on recent legislation approved here

Dear California Unitarian Universalists,

I am overjoyed to celebrate the passage into law of four bills in the human-right-to-water bill package. After months of hard work from you and other UUSC supporters in California, the following four bills have become law:

A.B. 983, which will help communities access funds for drinking water systems
A.B. 1221, which will allow communities to be eligible for already allocated clean-up funds
A.B. 938, which will make sure people know what is in their water
S.B. 244, which will require cities to develop plans for providing service to small communities
This is a tremendous victory. With leadership from the Unitarian Universalist Legislative Ministry of California (UULMCA) and UULMCA Executive Director Rev. Lindi Ramsden, and from our partners the Environmental Water Justice Coalition, Community Water Center, and Food and Water Watch, you have helped California take an enormous step forward in ensuring safe, sufficient, and affordable water for all.

More than 500 Unitarian Universalists from 37 states around the country have written messages to you and your fellow Unitarian Universalists in California, expressing deep gratitude for your work. Click here to read quotes from these e-mails.

Your perseverance for the human right to water serves as an inspiration to us here at UUSC, to Unitarian Universalists around the country, and to all people who continue to struggle for access to water for basic human needs.

These letters written to you by UUSC supporters are also a testament to the commitment that hundreds of UUs have made to stand in solidarity with you as you continue the work to pass A.B.  685 (the human-right-to-water-bill) in this next legislative year.

Thank you,

Rev. Bill Schulz
President and CEO

Occupy Wall Street– reflections from radical Christians in Philly–and from Unitarian Universalists in different venues

This is a blog posting from the Christian Century magazine on faith and the Occupy Wall Street movement. Key word: “Jubilee” is the Hebrew tradition of liberating families from debt bondage every 50 years, so that inter-generational bondage does not persist. Recently it’s been demanded that rich countries and banks grant a jubilee of debt forgiveness to poor nations burdened by enormous loans.
Read the posting here:

Unitarian Universalists have also been involved in the Occupy movement in various places.  Read a posting by the Rev. Dr. William Schulz, head of UU Service Commitee, on the Huffington Post, and read news capsules about Occupy involvement.