Saturday, February 28, 2015

A Theology of #SexUUality

Unitarian Universalists have a long history of courage in tackling issues around human sexuality—from campaigning for human rights, to pioneering innovative work in the Our Whole Lives sexuality curriculum… join #UUs this month for a discussion of sex–the challenging parts, the beautiful parts, the spiritual parts, and even the downright goofy parts. UU or not, everyone is welcome to join in the conversation this month at #sexUUality
Most Sunday School offices have shelves of curriculum binders, books, and other resources. Years ago, inventorying my inherited cabinet, I found fifty-three Bibles, a half dozen recycling guides, most every UUA curriculum... and then I came across what looked like a small black laptop bag. The label on the front was something nondescript like "Educator Kit."

I unzipped the bag and laughed as a wooden "condom demonstrator" and a dozen condoms fell to the floor.  Further investigation showed a wider variety of contraceptives and other resources.

In partnership with the United Church of Christ, the Unitarian Universalist Association puts a lot of resources into producing Our Whole Lives (OWL), a comprehensive sexuality education program for people at all ages and stages of life. The materials are fact-based, facilitator training is required, and there's a strong emphasis on community-building and dialogue.

In our current social climate of purity education, legislation against women's reproductive rights, and so much discrimination, faith-based sexuality education can seem a ridiculous combination.

But I assure you--this is deeply theological work. Speaking to what is most dear, most joyous, most painful in our lives--the sublime and the messy, sometimes all in the same moment. It is difficult, maybe even impossible, to embody our values without a healthy and moral understanding of our sexuality.

As a Unitarian Universalist religious professional, I am called to be a theologian. And that theology must affirm all people, with their full selves. 

Unitarian minister and theologian James Luther Adams explained the qualities of liberal religion--commonly referred to as the Five Smooth Stones of Liberal Religion*.

I asked my blogging community if anyone had applied the five stones to a UU theology of sexuality- a fellow blogger quipped that it might be like adding "in bed" to your fortune... let's see how it lines up. For this exercise, I'm borrowing quick snippets from an Adult Ed resource- text in bold is either a quote or a quick restating of JLA's** key concept.

Revelation is ongoing - We are always learning more about our own sexuality, about our communities, and how we can do better at building a world where we are all affirmed for our full authentic selves. And there's definitely no single Gospel truth to sexuality. PASS.

"All relations between persons ought ideally to rest on mutual, free consent and not on coercion." AMEN. This right here is ginormous and worth every blog post I could write for the rest of my life, especially when we're talking sexuality. So much of the OWL values and sessions speak directly to this point. PASS

I'm going to group these next three, as that's how they play out in my mind...

"The moral obligation to direct one's effort toward the establishment of a just and loving community" - We are called to work for justice.

"we deny the immaculate conception of virtue and affirm the necessity of social incarnation." We can't just assume that it's all going to work out--we make it happen. 

"...resources (divine and human) that are available for the achievement of meaningful change justify an attitude of ultimate optimism." There is hope, and the systems and possibilities to make that hope feasible.

The existence of OWL, the many amazing sermons and resources we have created, the important advocacy work we have done as individuals, congregations, and as an association, and the affirmations we make in our relationships with one another--these all speak to a commitment to justice and making change, with real hope and passion.    PASS

This post is only a starting point--but this was a February project--the month is nearly over.  I welcome questions and suggestions, knowing our truths are forever unfolding.

*You can find the full Adams essay, "Guiding Principles for a Free Faith" in the collection On Being Human Religiously. It's a dense but interesting collection. You can preview the essay here(By the way--that Five Smooth Stones allusion was chosen by his editor. Please don't cast stones at me or James.)

**Yes, I still think Justice League of America when I see this acronym.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Breakfast and Transformation

Behold - a farm fresh egg, gently fried, served over cheese grits, with a big dot of chipotle Cholula.

Whenever I can, this is what I make for breakfast. Isn't it lovely?

Of course, lovely doesn't get us fed.

The dish becomes delicious when I break the yolk and stir everything together. 

At that point it is far less aesthetically pleasing.                        Indeed, it is MESSY.

Delicious is often messy.

This is true not only of food, but of community. Especially religious community.

If we all showed up pretty and sat carefully and kept to ourselves, we might make a glossy postcard.

But we would miss out on shared talents and sorrows, wisdom and gut-expanding laughter.

Take a chance. Get messy. Be transformed and be delicious.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Problems We Didn't Know We Could Have

The other day my work email was being bounced by Earthlink and my service provider had to verify this that and the other thing. It was Greek to me and I was just glad when it was handled.

This week the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA)'s new website launched. It's a bold new look and some functions changed. And as anyone who's ever moved can tell you, sometimes it takes a while to realize what you've misplaced and to get everything in the right place. 
404 Error
Style Sheet Not Found

Lots of terms few of us could have imagined twenty years ago.

The UUA's website team is hard at work fixing these slippery bits as quickly as they find them. In the meantime we're learning new ways to navigate to find what we need, or going without for a few days.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Hugging, Boundaries, and The Platinum Rule

The first thing I read this morning was this new-to-me Slate article "I Don't Need a Hug."  I posted it on Facebook with a quick comment about being on the low middle end of general hug appreciation. Not so low as the author of the article, but I found myself agreeing with several of the points.

Over the course of the day there were likes and shares and many comments. I promised that I would blog on the topic this evening. So here goes.

I'm told that many pregnant women have problems with strangers walking up to them and rubbing their bellies. When I was pregnant with twins, not one stranger touched my belly. I broadcast a pretty strong Don't Go There vibe. 

My body is mine, and I like to keep some space around it. When someone I do not much know is touching me more than incidentally, or wrapping around me, I can deal but I get a little twitchy. It wears me out. 

A good friend? Sure, we'll do a hug. Maybe two. I do not need to do the orbit of hugs when I arrive or before I leave a party.

How well do I need to know a person? I tried to come up with some sort of criteria. Someone I've met and gotten to know for X period of time? Well, there are people I know online, and I feel like I know them enough that I'll hug the first time we meet. The best I can figure--I need to know you enough that I'd offer to make you soup when you fall ill.

Have I mentioned that I work for a church? In the South? In a nurturing field? All of these things make for a more huggy (huggier?) atmosphere. 

I spend a lot of time with children. If a child wants a hug, no problem--I can do that. As long as it is their choice. 

It's important for all of us to recognize that power dynamics and consent are a part of hugging, too. Different people have different concerns and conditions they need to feel safe(r). 

The Golden Rule (treat others as you want to be treated) can be trumped by the Platinum Rule (treat others as they want to be treated.) Yes, the Platinum Rule requires communication, and I believe that is worthwhile, especially when we are getting into another's space.

The intertubes are full of articles about the blessings of hugs. How hugs are good for emotional release. But here's the thing--not everyone can just release right where they are. Sometimes a person is barely holding it together, and while yes, a cry or a scream might be in order, they might choose to wait until they are in the comfort of their own home. As much as you might want to help, who is getting their needs met in that situation? Back to the Platinum Rule.

And besides--it's flu season. Get your shots, wash your hands, and practice your favorite parade float wave.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Not Ready To Change

Look! Look! It's a new computer!

I've had my sweet little netbook for most of five years now and it's showing its age--slow, the down arrow doesn't work, and I've bought enough batteries for it.

So spouse told me I was getting a new machine for Christmas. As soon as I figured out what I wanted.

Decisions are hard, y'all.

I finally got this sweet new thing on Thursday.

I've yet to figure out all the bells and whistles, to navigate between touchscreen and touchpad, or the downloading of critical software beyond a few goofy entertainment apps. 

The poor thing is neglected* while I continue to pound out my important works (OK, mostly Facebook updates) on the old comfortable system. 

How often do we stick with the comfortable rather than switching to the new? How much pain is required to push us to change?

*And yes, I have a personification habit.

Monday, February 23, 2015


"Bloom where you're planted," we're told.

That is not always an easy task--we need the right resources, which are so rarely shared equally. What if we're the seed scattered on the hardened path?

The planting piece--beyond our control sometimes.

See the plant growing out of this hole in a rock? It's tenacious in that barren place, or perhaps humus was already in that hole, helping a plant to get established. Still, the plant's unlikely spot reminds us that nature can pretty much handle everything we throw at it.

Whether or not it pleases us, though--that is another question entirely.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

There and Back

 I spent the weekend at a conference in the Hill Country outside Kerrville, Texas. (Which is outside of San Antonio...)

It is quite remote--cell signal was extremely limited, and there's no such thing as a quick trip to the store.

Thankfully the conference organizers had figured out groceries and such, and a couple of days away from the internet don't really need to kill me. Heck--it even gave me a reason to learn how to schedule posts so I could set them up before I left town in the first place.

So I shared meals and hopes and challenges with colleagues, learned from guest speakers and long-known local wise people.

And we had egregiously wonderful weather Saturday, so I took a few nice long walks up actual hills* and looked at actual rocks* and did my best to admire cactus from a distance.

I stood under trees and windmills, tested the cistern/pool with my fingertips, and took silly pictures with the stuffed animal my son sent along on this trip.

And I got some really good sleep.

*Houston is low-lying and near the Gulf coast. We have very few hills or native rocks.