Friday, June 24, 2005

GA Bloggy goodness

I took a red eye flight and arrived at 4 in the morning and got to the Ft. Worth Convention Center before anything was happening. Even before I could register I found this:

Here is Reverend Phil in action. His workshop was the first one I went to at GA today. He shared lots of good information about sharing UU values within our families.

Here is a picture of the UU blogger meetup at General Assembly.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Divine office

On Sunday after church I went to a baby blessing at the Abhyagiri Monastery, a monastery in the Theravada Thai Forest Tradition. The aesthetic was very different, more low church compared to the Pure Land Buddhists at the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas where my daughter goes to school.

I wsa struck by how similar the hall reminded me of a Masjid al-Iman, a Sufi mosque I visited last year. Perhaps it was because we were all sitting on a rug in rows. We did not do prostrations, but Buddhist prostrations feel very much like Salat to me.

While superficially, Ajahn Pasanno could not be more different from Sheik Yassir, but their presence in their communities were very much the same. Both are very much regular people, yet also larger than life in their own divine offices. I know this idea of divine office may be difficult for some. I know in my lay led fellowship we have mixed feelings about it, both on the question of divine and the question of office.

It is a goal of mine to encourage people, particularly Unitarian Universalists to approach Christianity, Judaism and Islam with the same reverence and curiosity that we typically apply to Buddhism and Native American spiritual practices.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

No timetable for withdrawal

This post will probably be better suited to my DailyKos diary but I am going to post it here.

I was driving home from work today and heard the latest news about the refusal to create a timetable for troop withdrawal from Iraq. I did a quick search at the National Archives and Records Administration and it looks like US casualties are about equivalent to the Vietnam war in 1965 (including 9 deaths from 1956-1960). In reality, 1965 was about as bad as the entire Iraq war.

I'm increasingly losing patience with so-called liberals (especially of the religious variety) who call for a better run war or want to argue the relative merits of World War II and theoretical pacifism whenever anyone questions the war in Iraq.

If this is 1965, this war still has 8 years left. My stepson turns 14 next month. Recruiting figures are looking bad. One of the local recruiters got caught having sex with girls from the high school who wanted to enlist. If this goes on, I have a hard time thinking there will be any alternative to conscription. I was trained by the National Interreligious Service Board for Conscientious Objecters and the Central Committee for Conscientious Objectors to do draft counseling two wars ago. I really hope I never have to use that knowledge.

I will tell you right now, I am not a pacifist. And I will tell you that it is not any Iraqi that I would kill before they take my boy to fight their war. I don't really care if responsible centrists think I am not credible on national defense issues or if responsible liberals think people like me will hurt the Democrats' chances of getting reelected to vote for the next war before they vote against it.

I'm a parent and I take my responsibilities very seriously.


I read today that the good Reverend Peacebang is taking a much deserved little blogging break.

I just want to thank her here for some intense and wonderful posts lately that really remind me why I am in seminary and why I am spending so much time away from home. Sometimes with grades and papers and paperwork I lose sight of it all.

Thanks for keeping it real, sister. Do take care and may the spirit grasp and shape you.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Happy Flag Day from Unitarian poet ee cummings

i sing of Olaf glad and big
whose warmest heart recoiled at war:
a conscientious object-or

his wellbelov'd colonel(trig
westpointer most succinctly bred)
took erring Olaf soon in hand;
but--though an host of overjoyed
noncoms(first knocking on the head
him)do through icy waters roll
that helplessness which others stroke
with brushes recently employed
anent this muddy toiletbowl,
while kindred intellects evoke
allegiance per blunt instruments--
Olaf(being to all intents
a corpse and wanting any rag
upon what God unto him gave)
responds,without getting annoyed
"I will not kiss your fucking flag"

straightway the silver bird looked grave
(departing hurriedly to shave)

but--though all kinds of officers
(a yearning nation's blueeyed pride)
their passive prey did kick and curse
until for wear their clarion
voices and boots were much the worse,
and egged the firstclassprivates on
his rectum wickedly to tease
by means of skilfully applied
bayonets roasted hot with heat--
Olaf(upon what were once knees)
does almost ceaselessly repeat
"there is some shit I will not eat"

our president,being of which
assertions duly notified
threw the yellowsonofabitch
into a dungeon,where he died

Christ(of His mercy infinite)
i pray to see;and Olaf,too

preponderatingly because
unless statistics lie he was
more brave than me:more blond than you.

Namo Guan Shi Yin Pu Sa

Michelle at Michelle's Ministry Blog mentioned that she has a tatoo of Kuan Yin, the bodhisattva of compassion. It reminded me of some funny moments at my daughter's school this year.

I've mentioned before that my daughet goes to a Buddhist elementary school. It is only recently that my daughter has figured out that her principal is actually named Heng Yin not Kuan Yin. Heng Yin Shr is wonderful and if I were to be rescued by a vision of Kuan Yin I suspect it would be someone like her. Might cause some problems with the Dalai Lama though. (The bodhisattva avalokitsvara is known as the goddess Kuan Yin in China, but is typically male in Buddhist tradition and is apparently reincarnated as the Dalai Lama in Tibet).

When my daughter started at the school, my favorite misunderstanding was that she knew the word Buddha but not Buddhist, so any monk or nun was simply a Buddha. My daughter would say "My principal is a Buddha," or "A Buddha visited my class today." She has a classmate name Madison, and when they talk about Medicine Buddha they would always say Madison Budha.

In Spring they celebrated Guan Shi Yin's birth and my daughter started to recite her name more formally "Namo Guan Shi Yin Pu Sa." Namo is to return, Guan Shi Yen is to contemplate the world's sound's (Guan Yin hears the world's sounds and can help you if you call her) and Pu Sa is the Chinese for bodhisattva or enlightened being. The girls a the school will sometimes call Guan Yin Pu Sa if someone gets hurt.

The Chinese Pure Land Buddhism that the girls are learning is rather different from the intellectual, distant and bookish Buddhism that seems especially popular in white California. It has a fully functioning immanence and transcendence and a practical simplicity. There are aspects of the system that I don't agree with, but I think in general they do a good job of being true to their core tradition while still being open to other beliefs.

Heng Sure
, a monk from this tradition teaches at the Graduate Theological Union (I'm registered for his Buddhist Christian Dialogues class) and is also a blogger.

Saturday, June 11, 2005

A message to new parents

Sometimes at night when you lay your kids down to sleep there is nothing better than being a parent.

Sometimes, the only thing harder than being a parent is tolerating the advice people give you.

With three kids in our family, in that regard we have some advantage (finally). The disadvantage of having three kids is about what you would expect, mainly logistics. The advantage is that while it is possible that you are an awful parent to one kid and a great parent to the others, most likely you can tell by the average that you are probably at least doing a reasonable job.

So many parents with an only child get so worried that they will make the wrong decision and ruin their child's life forever. With three, you soon realize that you have to make a lot of decisions and that all options come with their own consequences.

When you have a few kids (or when I was a teacher with 180) you quickly learn that a little discipline is not going to irreparably harm anyone's self esteem. Most of the things new parents obsess about will probably be fairly meaningless in the long haul.

Sure, breasfeed your kids as long as you can (if you can at all). The benefits are real. Don't hit your kids, even in a very stylized way on their buttocks. The consequences are real too. As much as your can, keep your kids from junk food and junk TV. The consequences are pretty well known now too.

But mostly, find out what works for you and yours. Don't just do what everyone else does, and ignore most of the advice you get from people. You don't have to accept it (and mostly shouldn't) but you will act just like your parents did when you are under stress. If you must, make automatic routines for yourself that are second nature to rely on. As silly as the time out may seem, it is a good start if your first instinct is to spank or slap a child who is really being horrible. (not my sweet child!) (just for the record, my parents didn't so I don't have that baggage to deal with)

You will not be a perfect parent, and for the most part that is just fine. Don't be afraid to get help, and find other parents to talk to.

Kids will eventually eat. Sometimes babies will just cry. Most teens will pout for extended periods of time no matter what you do. Your daily routines will matter more than the right summer camp or preschool. Two of the only memories I have of my father are the way he we went to bed when we were little and reading the paper on Sundays. I also remember him driving his work truck home at dinner time.

I'm not telling anyone this from some pinnacle of parental bliss. I've got one that got sent home from school in trouble this week. I've got one who behaves a lot better for teachers and sitters than she does for me. And I've got one that everyone thinks is just darling, but he's the baby. They are all pretty great kids. But they get in trouble and make me hopping mad and lose my tools and papers and all the other things you might expect. So I guess for all that we seem like vegan hippies and left wing lunatics, we're a pretty normal family too.

Thursday, June 09, 2005


I'm a sucker for goofy internet quizzes like the belief-o-matic, so I couldn't help but follow Chalice Chick and take the "What New York Times Op Ed Columnist Are You?" quiz. No surprises here:

Paul Krugman
You are Paul Krugman! You're a brilliant economist
with a knack for both making sense of the
current economic situation and exposing the
Bush administration's lies about it. You
somehow came out as the best anti-war writer on
the Op-Ed staff. Other economists hate your
guts for selling out to the liberals. To hell
with 'em.

Which New York Times Op-Ed Columnist Are You?
brought to you by Quizilla

Sunday, June 05, 2005


It was Phil Ochs who said that liberals are 10 degrees left of center in good times but 10 degrees right of center when it affects them personally.

When you mix liberalism and scientism in the way that Unitarian Universalists often do, this can easily lead to to an odd competition to appear more moderate or more reasonable, independent of the actual issue at hand.

In lifestyle issues, this is particularly troublesome. You meet vegetarians who want to prove to you that they are reasonable and not as extreme as vegans. You meet protestors who want to prove that they are the good ones unlike so-called anarchists. For UUs it is often, we are religious but not like that.

In coarse language, I would like to ask: who do you shit on to prove you are not a freak? So many of my UU friends struggle so hard between being so middle of the road, middle class and middle America and the knowledge that they are also on the fringe of maintream American culture.

A lot of the time, people pick on groups that overlap with my community such as vegetarians, hippies, militant breast feeders, union members, anarchists, Buddhists, or any other group that can serve as sufficiently beyond the pale. It is even more fun when it happens within a group (such as when pre-consolidation Unitarians and Universalists used to do this to each other or when Democrats try to do this to left leaning members of their own party)

Friday, June 03, 2005

Read myirony

I don't think I will be writing a post today. I am too engrossed in a discussion with Chutney over at Eventually I will use some of my comments there to make a post here.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Obligatory GA post

I'm finally booked for GA. I'll be staying offsite and renting a car. Vegans need to forage wide for food in Texas. Actually it appears that there is a wealth of south Indian restaurants in Dallas so I think I will survive. Between that and Wholepaycheck Foods I should be just fine.

James Luther Adams mention in Harpers

On TerranceDC's Diary on Dailykos I found out about an article by Chris Hedges (whose War Is A Force That Gives Us Meaning I sometimes argue against) in Harpers entitled "Soldiers of Christ II: Feeling the hate with the National Religious Broadcasters" Hedges closes with a recollection of JLA's teaching at Harvard Divity School:

I can’t help but recall the words of my ethics professor at Harvard Divinity School, Dr. James Luther Adams, who told us that when we were his age, and he was then close to eighty, we would all be fighting the “Christian fascists.”

He gave us that warning twenty-five years ago, when Pat Robertson and other prominent evangelists began speaking of a new political religion that would direct its efforts at taking control of all major American institutions, including mainstream denominations and the government, so as to transform the United States into a global Christian empire. At the time, it was hard to take such fantastic rhetoric seriously. But fascism, Adams warned, would not return wearing swastikas and brown shirts. Its ideological inheritors would cloak themselves in the language of the Bible; they would come carrying crosses and chanting the Pledge of Allegiance.

Adams had watched American intellectuals and industrialists flirt with fascism in the 1930s. Mussolini’s “Corporatism,” which created an unchecked industrial and business aristocracy, had appealed to many at the time as an effective counterweight to the New Deal. In 1934, Fortune magazine lavished praise on the Italian dictator for his defanging of labor unions and his empowerment of industrialists at the expense of workers. Then as now, Adams said, too many liberals failed to understand the power and allure of evil, and when the radical Christians came, these people would undoubtedly play by the old, polite rules of democracy long after those in power had begun to dismantle the democratic state. Adams had watched German academics fall silent or conform. He knew how desperately people want to believe the comfortable lies told by totalitarian movements, how easily those lies lull moderates into passivity.

Adams told us to watch closely the Christian right’s persecution of homosexuals and lesbians. Hitler, he reminded us, promised to restore moral values not long after he took power in 1933, then imposed a ban on all homosexual and lesbian organizations and publications. Then came raids on the places where homosexuals gathered, culminating on May 6, 1933, with the ransacking of the Institute for Sexual Science in Berlin. Twelve thousand volumes from the institute’s library were tossed into a public bonfire. Homosexuals and lesbians, Adams said, would be the first “deviants” singled out by the Christian right. We would be the next.