Thursday, April 29, 2010

May I see your papers?

I'm going to try to write this without flinging world like Nazi around here.  I believe we need to step back from that level of rhetoric.  Save the Nazism allegations for genocide.

That being said...

The new Arizona immigration law which allows for anyone who is suspected of being an illegal alien to be asked for their papers at any time is clearly egregious.  We all know that as citizens in this free country we shouldn't have to carry proof of citizenship at all times.  And we all know that I won't be asked for my papers--I'm not a Latina, after all, and that's what this is really about.  It wouldn't matter if I was an illegal immigrant, I still wouldn't be asked for my papers.  But it won't matter if your family has been in this country for ten generations if you are Latino,  you can be asked to show proof of citizenship.

We need to stand on the side of love on this one.

And that's going to mean more than writing a letter of protest, or wearing a button that says, "I'm illegal."  The study/action issue "Immigration as a moral issue" is on the ballot for this year's General Assembly.  That's a start.  An action of immediate witness about this particular law might make sense, as well, in terms of our UU process.  We need to connect with the Standing on the Side of Love campaign and see what can be done through use of their resources.

Most importantly this means actually continuing to care and to connect on this issue.  It's an issue that, for me, as someone with northern European heritage, and living in the Midwest, would be easy to ignore.  It's not my problem; it's not in my face or in my backyard.

So, without devolving into Nazi analogies, let me still offer up this poem by Martin Niemöller as a way to remember that even when it's not my problem that I still need to care and get involved:

In Germany they first came for the Communists,
and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Communist.

Then they came for the Jews,
and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Jew.

Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Catholics,
and I didn't speak up because I was a Protestant.

Then they came for me —
and by that time no one was left to speak up.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Praying for Harm

There's been a lot of talk about the individuals and groups that have been praying for Obama's death.  The groups and individuals are varied and take different forms.  For example:
On one hand on the left, we want to uphold freedom of religion and freedom of speech.  Those are two very strong ideals which say we ought to fight for the right for these people to express themselves in this way.

On the other hand, that assumes that we believe that prayer has no effect, that words are just words, doesn't it?  If someone was taking violent action against the president, we'd believe it was the right and responsibility of the law to stop that action, even if that action was done in the name of religion.

And the case has been strongly made before, in such circumstances like Dr. Tiller's murder, that there's a link between this rhetoric calling for harmful action and the harmful action that follows. 

But setting aside the question about whether or not these groups and individuals should be boycotted or even prosecuted, I want to address the question of imprecatory prayer iteself.

In the Wiccan tradition, there's talk about good magic and bad magic, and there's the three-fold law and the Wiccan Rede to follow which tell us that magic is only acceptable if it harms none, and that anything negative you do will come back to you three-fold.

I just wish the average Christian using the Psalms to pray for our President's death had half the moral fiber of the average Wiccan.

Maybe one has every right to pray this sort of prayer.  But just because, once again, one has the right to do something, doesn't mean it's the right thing to do.  Just because imprecatory prayer exists, is legal, and is in the Bible, doesn't mean that it's right or appropriate or Christian of someone to choose to pray that prayer in any circumstance just because he or she disagrees with an elected official.  Everyone has the choice, the ethical choice, given a situation like a president one disagrees with, to choose to pray the psalms for his death or to choose to turn the other cheek like Jesus.  This is a moral and ethical choice.  Maybe both are Christian answers, but both aren't morally right.

And, yes, maybe liberals were secretly or even openly wishing Bush were dead while he was president, but I never heard them praying, to a God they believe answers prayers, for that death to come about.  More often I heard things like, "Well, I wouldn't wish him harm, just wish him out of office." 

My thoughts: praying for the president's death may not be illegal, but it is immoral, and it does make those who choose this path bad Americans and bad Christians.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

A Movement in Decline?

The UU World reports that the latest UUA numbers show that our movement is in decline.  They say:
A year ago UUA membership declined by 132 members for a total of 156,015 adult members. This year membership dropped 267, a decline of .16 percent. Total adult membership this year is 155,748.
 And also:
Religious education enrollment dropped 1,262, for a total of 55,846 children and youth this year. A year ago it dropped 809. In 2002 it was 60,895.
Now people are quick to point out that we're in a recession.  And that churches report their numbers to the association, and then, for all small and mid-sized congregations, the UUA bases their fair-share dues on the number of members they have.  Our UUA and district dues last year were $76 per person.  So therefore, in a time when our congregations are having financial troubles, congregations will naturally want to trim every member off their rolls that they possibly can.

This is true.  But I think that we always want to trim our membership numbers like this.  We may be doing it more, but I don't think this accounts for this drop in membership.  The reason why I don't think so is those religious education numbers.  We pay our dues based on our adult members.  We don't pay our dues based on our children.  Religious education enrollment can include the children of non-members who are enrolled in our programs.  So what explains this drop?  A drop in children over all in our country?  Well, the next census may tell.

But meanwhile, I'm saying, if you want to know the truth about the health of our congregations, look to our religious education.  If we're dropping off there, which this report is saying we are, then I think we really are dropping off over all. 

My guess, based on the way it is here, is that yes, we trim our rolls every year by a little--we look at who has moved away, primarily.  But there are some people we never trim every year, because they're maintaining some small connection to the church.  However, our religious education numbers report not how many children our members have, but how many we're actually seeing enroll in our program in the fall.  If that number is down, that's the real truth.  Membership means a whole lot of different things to different people, but it's the numbers of people who come and sit in our pews and go to our religious education classes that we should be really focusing on.