Ironicschmoozer’s Weblog


Larry’s move to a place of employment
November 21, 2015, 11:44 am
Filed under: Social Action & Social Justice, Uncategorized

I received notice from a friend of UUSS that a man who used to attend a school at our church campus has been homeless and has found both a job, but needs help with moving expenses to the town it is in.  His name is Larry Burkhart, and this is Larry’s Go Fund Me site for donations.

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Racist Big Government Crushes Minority Neighborhood– in Romania

A Unitarian Universalist I know sent me this summary and this link.  It’s pretty terrible, so I hope we can raise awareness and voices of protest.

Over 100 people living in a yard of houses on 50 Vulturilor Street, Bucharest, Romania, were forcefully evicted on Monday, September 15. The community has decided from the outset to protest and reclaim their rights. This fundamental right has been gravely violated when local police brutalized several members of the community on the 15th and the 16th of September. Among those targeted were children, elderly persons and persons with disabilities. The evicted have currently no genuine alternatives for relocation. They consider the treatment of officials a blunt breakage of their rights and a racist act given that most of the evictees identify as Roma So far 50 Romanian organizations joined the solidarity network progressively built with the evicted community on Vulturilor Street, either by asking local authorities to find immediately an adequate housing solution or by helping the people resist and organize in the street. The community is determined to keep protesting until their demands are met and the housing issue becomes a priority for the state and local authorities! More details here: http://www.criticatac.ro/lefteast/call-for-action-solidarity-with-vulturlor-str-bucharest/

They need money for food, medicines, tents, blankets, sleeping bags (wet and they keep changing), diapers for babies, plastic foils, fuel.



Breaking news: More Saturday dinner tix available for UUSS auction, plus a UU justice conference Saturday

#1

Good news from Glory, our head chef for the New Discoveries auction dinner.

We have enough tickets left and enough fresh ingredients purchased that if you have not yet reserved or bought your ticket, you are LIKELY to be able to get one at the door! To be certain, you may email Elaine in the UUSS office today or call her at 916-483-9283.

Doors open and silent bidding starts at 5:30 PM. Dinner served at 6:30 PM. The live auction starts after dinner with Rev. Lucy as auctioneer. TOMORROW, April 5!

Dinner tickets $20. Kids under 12 eat for free. For the live auction only, tix are $10.

Professional child care provided at no extra charge in the Room 11 Nursery! If you’re coming you might email Miranda so she can let our caregivers know whom to expect.

I hope to see you! Let’s give our thanks to our hardworking team of auction volunteers for making this big event possible.

#2

UU Economic Justice Summit Saturday, April 5, in Walnut Creek

The UU Justice Ministry of California’s new executive director extends an invitation to the UUJM economic justice summit for UUs from around the state. It features inspiring worship, area experts on suburban poverty and food inequality, and the Robert Reich documentary, “Inequality for All.” The host minister is the Rev. Leslie Takahashi Morris, of Mount Diablo UU Church in Walnut Creek. It will be over in time to make it back for the UUSS Auction & Dinner. Read about it at uujmca.org/advocacy/economic-justice-for-all/



Icons and Agitators: Maladjustment to the Way Things Are–UUSS Sermon for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Sunday

Rev. Roger Jones, Acting Senior Minister

Unitarian Universalist Society of Sacramento

January 19, 2014

Hymns: #116, I’m on My Way; #155, Circle Round for Freedom; #1018, Come and Go With Me

Choir:  Hush!  Somebody’s Callin’ My Name

Piano:

Prelude:  Lift Every Voice and Sing.

Meditation:  Precious Lord, Take My Hand

Offertory:  Amazing Grace (My Chains Are Gone)

Postlude:   It Is Well with My Soul

 

Sermon

What fascinates me about the study of history is learning how the social advancements we consider to be normal, to be “the way things are,” did not come about easily.  To people who lived in the past, the achievements of equality and fairness that we take for granted were not assured or guaranteed.  Indeed, every step toward equality involved struggle and upheaval.

Should women have the right to vote and run for office?  Of course!  Few in public life would now say that’s a debatable question.  But until 1920, the road toward voting equality was messy and full of setbacks.  Some states allowed voting, others did not.  After the Senate approved the 19th Amendment to the United States Constitution, and enough states ratified that amendment, voting equality became the way things are.  Twenty-five senators had voted no, but history moved on, passing them by.  Many women who had begun the struggle in the 1800s were dead by then. They had given themselves to a cause that would outlive them.  Success was not predictable or guaranteed.

Likewise, ending American slavery was not predictable or guaranteed.  Nor were any of the gains of the Civil Rights Movement, of which Martin Luther King Jr. was the most prominent and inspiring leader.  But after we expand the circles of opportunity and freedom, it becomes easy to talk as if justice was obvious and success inevitable.

It is tempting to frame the history of a struggle for freedom in sweet words and warm images.  We can use the words of daring women and men not to urge us to achieve more, but merely to comfort ourselves, to make ourselves comfortable with the status quo.

We can use the words of heroic people only to honor them, while we avoid hearing them.

Martin Luther King worked against racism and segregation.  But he also preached against militarism and economic inequality.  According to scholar Michael Eric Dyson, in the later years of his brief life Dr. King’s views grew more radical.  Upsetting his colleagues and staff, Dr. King became one of the first high-profile leaders in America to oppose the American military involvement in Vietnam.  King highlighted the hypocrisy of suppressing freedoms in the name of protecting freedom.  We could not defend freedom by supporting rule by generals in Southeast Asia, he said.

Many politicians and the press ridiculed him for expressing his opinions about the war.  They questioned the ability of a southern black Baptist preacher to analyze international affairs (according to Dyson).  However, King had a Ph.D. from Boston University.  He had won the Nobel Peace Prize.  The historian Taylor Branch writes that King was the “the moral voice of America,” more than any office holder or elected leader.[i]   His opinions mattered, and he felt compelled to speak out.

His colleagues didn’t want his involvement with another controversy to dilute and distract from civil rights.  They feared he would alienate the Congress and President Lyndon Johnson, who had been a forceful supporter of the civil rights agenda.  Indeed, Johnson did feel betrayed by King’s opposition to the war, according to Dyson.[ii]

King’s response to his critics was this:  “I have worked too long now and too hard to get rid of segregation in public accommodations to turn back to the point of segregating my moral concern.” By articulating the linkages among types of injustice and oppression, he raised our discomfort, raised our national tension.

This was Dr. King’s gift and his role as a leader.  He could orchestrate a mix of tension and inspiration, the right blend of discomfort and conciliation.  To change, America needed challenge.  This took standing up and sticking his neck out.  That is a challenge that many of us can recall having in our own lives from time to time.  Dr. King did it for all our lives, for our common life and the common good.  Many times, Dr. King said:  “If a man hasn’t discovered something that he will die for, he isn’t fit to live.”  Such words, and his commitment to them, unsettle my comfort with the way things are.

Since his assassination in 1968, Dr. King has been turned from a strategist and an agitator into an icon. Leaders from all across the political spectrum and the range of religions now salute Martin Luther King.  It’s easier to honor someone who’s dead.  You don’t have to listen to him for real.   Leaders from across the spectrum make their own assertions about what Dr. King wanted for our society and what he would want.  This is what you can do with icons. With real people who carry out real movements for change, you have to wrestle.  They make us uncomfortable.  They unsettle our adjustment to the way things are.

We may be comfortable imagining Dr. King and his challenges to the America of 50 years ago, but what would his challenges be for us today?  What tension and what inspiration would he bring to us?

In King’s last years, he addressed poverty and economic injustice.  He launched the Poor People’s Campaign and argued for another March on Washington, like the one in the summer of 1963, but one lifting up economic injustice and poverty.  Men on King’s staff opposed this campaign—and they were all men on his staff.  They feared it would be a disaster, generating only the resistance of Congress and the anger of President Johnson.

According to Michael Eric Dyson, in 1966, King admitted that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 had failed to improve the condition of poor blacks.  He said that progress had been “limited mainly to the Negro middle-class” (Dyson, 87).  With his Poor People’s Campaign, King endeavored to focus on the need to lift all people out of degrading poverty, including all black people.

He saw people as connected, no matter our identity and life circumstances.  “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere” is how he said it.  “We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny.”

In private, Dr. King told colleagues that he believed America must move toward democratic socialism. However, in public he did not use the term socialism.  The FBI under J. Edgar Hoover had waged a campaign to discredit the movement by smearing Dr. King as a Communist sympathizer.        King did not have Communist sympathies or alliances.  Communist regimes were anti-democratic, and Communist theory was anti-religious.  King said:  “I didn’t get my inspiration from Karl Marx.  I got it from a man named Jesus.”  He said that Jesus was “anointed to heal the broken hearted” and to deal with the problems of the poor, and those in captivity” (Dyson, 130).  In this spirit, King called for job creation programs, for full employment and for a guaranteed minimum income.

Dr. King said that full-time work should yield a person enough money to support a family.  In the years since 1980, for most of this nation’s people, income and wealth have stagnated, even shrunk when you consider the eroding effects of inflation.  Wealth has been concentrated more and more in the hands of a smaller percentage of people at the very top.  Two years ago, the Occupy Wall Street Movement brought to public attention the idea of the 99% and the 1%.  At the top, the 1%, are those who have gained by the shifting structures of economic policy, international trade agreements, tax breaks, and lax regulation in the financial services industry.[iii]

Meanwhile, for a growing mass of people, it has become harder to support a family on full-time work, even if two parents work full-time.

If Dr. King were alive right now, perhaps he would embrace campaigns for better funding of public schools and a restoration in financial aid for college.   Perhaps he would lead campaigns for a single-payer health care system available to all and for a higher minimum wage.  In pursuit of economic fairness, he might advocate for regulation of the financial services industry, and a reform of crop subsidies to move away from industrial agriculture and toward smaller, sustainable farms.  Perhaps he would speak for these goals, but I can’t be sure.

Such goals have come to seem less radical in these times, as ordinary American have grown more desperate, and as more working people feel the loss of economic security, and the loss of food security.  I am sure Dr. King would have would have made us uncomfortable.  He would have turned up the tension that political leaders feel about these issues.  Maybe he would call for more subsidized housing for low-income families and more mental health care for the lost souls wandering and sleeping on the streets.  He said: “We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny.”

If he were speaking to most of us right now, would he ask us if we need all the square footage many of us enjoy in our homes?  Would he challenge us for having a car of our own and the petroleum to run it, given what oil extraction does to local and global environments, not to mention to indigenous tribal communities who live near oil wells?  Would he ask us if we couldn’t still do okay financially without investing in portfolios that grow by pushing down worker’s wages and benefits, and by tearing down rain forests for beef grazing?

In India, Martin Luther King met with Mohandas K. Gandhi, to learn about the “soul force” of nonviolent resistance, which had been a tool of the Indian Freedom Struggle.  King saw dissent and rivalries among Gandhi’s inner circle, something he would find among his own leaders and staff members at home.  And he saw the massive poverty of people sleeping on the streets in Calcutta, hungry children and begging parents and elders.

Ten years ago I traveled in India, during a sabbatical for five weeks.  In cities around the country, I saw masses of barely housed and homeless and hungry people.  Many were begging, but some only were sitting in the heat, exhausted.  I even saw some of them weeping.  What came to my mind on my journey was the idea that most Indians seemed to accept this as normal, inevitable, the way things are.  There will always be destitute people around you.  Your task is to learn how to refuse the destitute, walk around them, ignore them.  The task of one who is not hurting in that way is to do anything except ask why such hurt persists.   If this is the way things are, you need not imagine how to change the system or why.  I could be wrong about Indian social attitudes—I bet I am wrong—but it made me think about us.

I see people begging for money at street intersections around here, holding cardboard signs.  I see more of them at more corners than I did just a year ago.

In thinking about India, I’m thinking about the person I saw Friday night at my apartment building in a sleeping bag, lying in the car port by the dumpster.   I’m doubtful that a handout of money would change such a situation.  But I wonder how normal we have let it become that so many people live on the street.  Is this now the way things are?  Is the choice now merely whether to give a dollar, or smile, or look the other way?

Is the question no longer, how did we let this happen?  Is the question now just whether to call the cops or the landlord so the person can be rousted from beside our dumpster, and find another dumpster to sleep near?

In May of 1966, Dr. King addressed the ministers and lay delegates of the General Assembly of Unitarian Universalist Association, meeting in Florida.   Every year the General Assembly holds a major lecture, the Ware Lecture, and he gave this lecture in 1966.[iv]

He called on our congregations to assert the basic sinfulness of racial segregation, refute the idea of racial superiority, and engage in action on legislation to expand the circles of equality and fairness.

And he cautioned us against the “myth… of exaggerated progress,” the idea that we’ve arrived.   He said:  “We should be proud of the steps we’ve made…. On the other hand, we must realize that the plant of freedom is only a bud and not yet a flower.”   He said we cannot stop with the way things are.

He spoke about the psychological term or label of a maladjusted personality.  He said:  “I must say to you this evening, my friends, there are some things in our nation and our world to which I’m proud to be maladjusted….  I call upon … all people of good will to be maladjusted to those things until the good society is realized.”

He listed the problems of life in America to which he wished we could remain maladjusted.   He said:   “I never intend to adjust myself to economic conditions that will take necessities from the many to give luxuries to the few, and leave millions of people perishing on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity.”

King’s life, and the deeds of so many people in the struggle for civil rights, unsettled a country that had adjusted to the way things are, as if it was always how things were going to be.

His words and life and the movement he led continue to challenge us to pay attention, take steps toward healing, stretch ourselves and let ourselves feel discomfort and maladjustment/ for the sake of a better world.

King said that life’s most urgent and persistent question is, “What are you doing for others?”  His legacy is the legacy of standing up for others, and standing up with others.

This legacy should discomfort us, and unsettle us, but it shouldn’t paralyze us.  His words and deeds should not freeze us in a sense of smallness or shyness or shame.  We should hear his words as the call to community, the call to standing up with others.

Part of the King legacy is the fact that today many organizers, leaders, volunteers and advocates of all generations are doing this work, bringing attention to unfair and unsustainable conditions.

I give thanks for those who give of their time in service, their treasure in generosity, and their courage and hope toward a better country and a better world.  I give thanks for those who dedicate their lives to the needs of others and those who risk their lives for the betterment of all of us, everywhere.

May the deeds of all those who struggle, serve, hope and give of themselves give us the courage not to get too adjusted to the way things are.  May their deeds challenge us.

May they awaken us into attention, imagination, action and courage.  So may it be.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Notes


[i] Branch, Taylor. The King Years: Historic Moments in the Civil Rights Movement. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2013.

[ii] Dyson, Michael Eric.  I May Not Get there with YouThe True Martin Luther King, Jr.  New York:  Free Press, 2000.

[iii] See more analysis and stirring comment in columns by Chris Hedges on truthdig.com.



Holiday Cards of Compassion and Connection
December 4, 2013, 8:14 pm
Filed under: Inspiration, Social Action & Social Justice | Tags: ,

 

A greeting card can mean so much to immigrants detained by ICE

 

Not all can visit the local immigrant detainees, incarcerated due to their undocumented status.  But anyone can send cards to one or two (or three!) of them at the Rio Cosumnes Correctional Center in Elk Grove.

 

The UU Faithful Friends / Amigos Fieles committee is launching Holiday Cards of Compassion & Connection. Any member can send a card and a brief message of remembrance to isolated detainees — 140 currently held in Sacramento.

 

To take part in this simple gesture that will mean so much to recipients, chat with JoAnn on Sunday, either between services or after the 11:15 service.  She will be at the right side of the worship hall and will even provide the cards if you’d like.

To learn more about Faithful Friends/Amigos Fieles, members and pledging friends of UUSS may call the UUSS Office to request a copy of the shared worship service that four of us did on August 18m, 2013.

 

 



Recap of UUSS Summer Worship Services 2013

This past summer we had a variety of service topics, styles and speakers.  We said farewell to Doug in June and to Eric in September.  

Religious Diversity:  Whether in sermons, special rituals, or with meditation, prayer or Yoga practice in the service, we covered a variety of religious traditions and perspectives, including longtime Unitarian Universalists and UU children showing how they put their faith into practice in the ways they try to make a difference in the world.

Behold:

May 26–Grievable Deaths (Memorial Day), Roger’s sermon.

June 2 — Czech Unitarian Flower Celebration (Flower Exchange), Roger’s sermon, plus a 10-year salute to our Grasshopper Groundskeeping volunteers

June 9 — Doug’s last dialogue service

June 16 — Worship Committee Ensemble Service:  Father’s Day

June 23 — The Common Good?  Part 1 (Adam Dyer, Starr King School for the Ministry, with my participation)

June 30 — Doug’s Farewell Message (Concluding 13 Years of Ministry with UUSS)

July 7 — Rev. Bob Oshita, from the Buddhist Church of Sacramento

July 14 — The Death of Me: A play in place of a sermon, offered by Theater One with Roger’s participation on the other parts of the service

July 21 —  Becoming Love’s People (Rev. Meghan Cefalu of UU Community of the Mountains, in a pulpit exchange with me; Roger preached “Money and Life” in Grass Valley)

July 28 —  Yoga Etc.:  Care for the Body is Care for the Spirit with Paige, Roger, and UUSS Monday Yoga class members

August 4 — The Common Good? Part 2, with Adam Dyer

August 11 — Faith Theatricals:  Tell a New Story, by Rev. Sonya Sukalski, with Roger’s participation.  Blessing Ritual for Youth Departing Sacramento for the First Year of College

August 18 — Touching Hearts Through Bullet-Proof Glass:  Visiting Immigrants Held in Federal Detention in Local Jails:  Roger, JoAnn, Mary Helen, and Joan.  Blessing Ritual for Youth Departing Sacramento for the First Year of College

August 25 — Annual Ingathering Water Ceremony.  Buddhist Metta Guided Meditation by Erik B.  Roger’s Sermon “Roots and Wings.”  The Water Ceremony has Earth-based themes and was first created several decades ago as a feminist ritual at a UU women’s organization’s retreat.

September 1 — Modern Slavery:  Kids Making a Difference:  Roger, Aliya, Ben and other UU kids  from the Kids’ Freedom Club.  Pastoral Prayer by Petra.   Farewell solo by Eric S.

Now what?  Two services starting September 8:  9:30 and 11:15 AM.  Religious Education for Children and Youth at 9:30 AM.  Nursery Care during both services.



ArtWorks! Comes back. But How Can “Religious Education” Be Religious When We Are Not Talking about “Religion”? –>this is Part 1 of 3

Since 2009, our summer Religious Education (RE) program has been ArtWorks

Artists in our congregation introduce children and youth to their medium and work, and to engage the group in trying out that art form.  These arts include, among other things, painting, fabric, sculpture with mixed media, origami, crafts, music, and acting.

A question has intrigued and challenged me:  Where’s the religion?

What does all this have to do with religious education?

First, I want to say (paraphrasing Dr. Maria Harris):  that the curriculum is the whole life of the church.  The congregation is teaching all the time, in all its program areas and activities.    The congregation teaches by how it worships (and with whom), what it says and what it doesn’t think to say, how it celebrates and mourns,  how its members treat one another, how it relates to music and the other arts, how it responds to the larger culture, and how it reaches out beyond its walls (and whether it does at all).  If we all do these things together, and reflect together on what we are doing and why, we are a community of learners–all of us–and we are providing RE to one another.  Whatever is going on…there is a religious or spiritual lesson there.

So, if all we do here becomes part of  the Religious Education of the whole church, what is our purpose?

What are the intentions behind what we choose to do?

The following explains what is most important in my eyes:

Ours is a fragmented society.   Americans are lonelier than many other cultures, and our loneliness is increasing.   We are more isolated than folks have been in all of human history.   I know the Web connects people in unprecedented ways, but after hours in front of a screen with no in-person contact, I can’t say I feel more connected than I did 20 years ago!

Economic relocation and dislocation interrupt friendships.  Our transience and mobility mean that many do not have strong roots anywhere.   Consumerist individualism does not fill the void of not having people who know us as we truly are.  In light of this, the progressive church’s number one purpose is not the transmission of knowledge, but the practice of community, the rare and real experience of belonging.

Ours is an age-segregated society.   Rare is the household that includes more than parent and child these days, but in years past extended families of three generations often shared a home.   It’s common these days for grandparents and grandchildren to live far from one another, and rare to be in the same town.  In contrast to village culture in other lands, or the days of neighborhood friendships in our own country, today’s children are unlikely to have ongoing relationships with adults who aren’t their parents, school teachers, or (sadly) social workers.  Elders with no grandchildren (or none living nearby) might see a few that come by once a year for Christmas caroling at the retirement home.

What kinds of wisdom and love do our kids miss out on because they don’t grow up around their grandparents?  What joy–and what opportunities for loving and giving–do adults miss out on because they don’t have kids or grand kids of their own, or because they see theirs so infrequently?

Given our larger culture, the most radical and religious thing we can do as a church is to introduce people to one another without regard to the categories and separations imposed on us by secular culture.  The most powerful thing we can do is to build connections!

What I want our children and youth to learn at UUSS is a sense of belonging.  They belong here.  They can develop roots here.   People here love and care for them, are proud of them, are willing to spend time with them.  I also want them to learn that they can be friends with kids who are not in their own narrow age group.  Most schools put kids into segregated classes, and it makes some sense, developmentally.  We have some general age breakdowns too, in some of our RE programming.  Yet we promote and provide activities in which younger kids and older youth can help, watch and learn from one another.

What I want our elders and other adults to learn is that in this community their presence and their talents are life-giving, and their mentoring friendships are formative.  They have much to share, and they have much joy to look forward to.  They can build a legacy here.

The vehicles or programs by which we promote such relationships are important, but what matters more is not the particular input, but the product of our time together:  a sense of relationship, a sense of belonging, the spirit of gratitude and of giving back.