Jan 15, 2017 Service about Martin Luther King
Today Madeline opened by asking who are the people who inspired or influenced those who inspire us? She researched three individuals who greatly influenced the thoughts of Martin Luther King. Martin Luther King was an unknown minister to a fairly small congregation until the now famous Montgomery bus boycott of 1955 brought on by Rosa Parks' act of non-violent civil disobedience.
The first influence was Henry David Thoreau who was an early proponent of civil disobedience when he went to jail when he defied the system that supported the Mexican War. (Mexican War was also opposed by Abraham Lincoln... but that is another story.) King said he read and re-read Thoreau's Civil Disobedience and that it was his first introduction to nonviolent resistance. In his "Letter from a Birmingham jail" King wrote "I submit that an individual who breaks a law that conscience tells him is unjust, and who willingly accepts the penalty... is in reality expressing the highest respect for law."
The second influence was Howard Thurman, grandson of a slave and a Baptist minister. Thurman had met Mahandas Gandhi in 1935. Thurman was a believer in nonviolent social activism. He wrote "Jesus and the Disinherited" where he argued that Jesus taught the oppressed a faith-based unconditional love that would enable them to endure their oppression. King carried the book with him when he was organizing the Montgomery bus boycott.
The third influence was Gandhi himself. King said nonviolence was a way of catching your opponent off balance. When practiced effectively, it can disarm one's opponent by weakening his moral defences and disturbing his conscience. In Gandhi's philosophy there is the doctrine of Satyagraha or "truth force" or "holding firmly for truth." Gandhi described it like this: "I have also called it love-force or soul-force. In the application of satyagraha, I discovered in the earliest stages that pursuit of truth did not admit of violence being inflicted on one’s opponent but that he must be weaned from error by patience and compassion. For what appears to be truth to the one may appear to be error to the other. And patience means self-suffering. So the doctrine came to mean vindication of truth, not by infliction of suffering on the opponent, but on oneself."
This invoking of Satyagraha may be happening again this year as groups rise in opposition to the actions of Donald Trump as President. The week of President Trump's inauguration found the nation with several large gatherings of women who are trying to stand together to let the weight of their truth serve as a message to those who would denigrate their worth to the world.
Jan 8 Service about Empathy and Compassion in Society
Madeline played a video of Karen Armstrong presenting her thoughts on Compassion and Empathy and then we took some time as a group to discuss the ideas.
Armstrong began with the statement that in her youth, she never associated Religion with Compassion. It is a remarkable thing to say, except that so many others have had the same experience with Religion. And yet the 6 major religions all agree on compassion as an essential element of working toward a better world (even thought they can't agree on a lot else.) Compassion is essential to the existence of humanity and of Religion.
And yet, she points out, we are addicted to our pet hates. We feel threatened when our pet hates are attacked. And in a sound bite world, defeating opponents seems to also include humiliating them.
To us as Unitarian Universalists, Armstrong really touches us when she says: We must learn the art of compassion again. We are all in this together, the world is connected. An assault on the other side of the world is not an assault that will be unnoticed or forgotten. Religion is at its best when it teaches us to ask questions and at its worst when it tries to answer questions.
“Ibn al-Arabi gave this advice:
Do not attach yourself to any particular creed exclusively, so that you may disbelieve all the rest; otherwise you will lose much good, nay, you will fail to recognize the real truth of the matter. God, the omnipresent and omnipotent, is not limited by any one creed, for he says, 'Wheresoever ye turn, there is the face of Allah' (Koran 2:109). Everyone praises what he believes; his god is his own creature, and in praising it he praises himself. Consequently, he blames the disbelief of others, which he would not do if he were just, but his dislike is based on ignorance.”― Karen Armstrong,
Jan 1, 2017 Service about Letting Go an Hope for the New
Today Madeline spoke to us about what we hope for and what we are willing to leave behind. She quoted:
In this new year, let us be amazed.
Let us search for new life and hope in our midst.
Let us nurture creativity in every form.
Let us be reminded that new insights of the universe are always being made.
In this new year, let us be amazed.
By Aaron Stockwell
Each of us wrote down something we wanted to let go of and we took that paper to the urn where we drowned it in the water in the urn. Madeline then lead us to a discussion about our hopes. as Andy pointed out, we are teachers, veterans, government workers, office workers, customer service agents and warehouse workers. We are not the powerful or influential people of our state, but we come here to join with open hearts and minds to worship together and to find what is sacred among us.
Other ideas we shared: We hope that new people ... younger people ... will emerge as new leaders who will champion good ideas. We hope that clinging to old ideas do not choke out the new. We hope that the promises made by the new administration will be tempered by reality (and, dare we hope, justice.) The nation has elected a man who used the tactics typical of a demagogue to get elected. We do not live in a safe secure world, though in our fantasies, we want it to be. A demagogue typically removes our liberty in the pursuit of safety and security. A demagogue requires followers. We hope that the institutions given to us by the Constitution of the United States are strong enough to resist. We hope that our elected Representatives and Senators are strong enough to defend the Constitution.
Here is a little known fact unless you are a great artist of trivia or American History. The very first law passed by Congress under the new U.S. Constitution was to establish an oath of office and it is still in force. Every Office holder, government worker, Army soldier swears this oath of allegiance. Our protection from demagogues is that the oath of office does NOT say you will support the President... it says you will support the Constitution.
Let us be amazed at the hope in our midst.
Oh... one more thing. There is a one minute youtube video out there that was posted under the title Andy Griffith vs. the Patriot Act. I recommend it. You can search for it or click this link:
Dec 18, 2016 Service on Winter Solstice
Today Shawneen spoke to us about celebrations of the Winter Solstice now and in the past. The word is a combination of the latin terms of In other words it means the time of making the sun stand still. Because the earth rotates on a tilt, the day where the axle of the tilt is pointed away from the sun has the shortest amount of sunlight of any day (at least in the Northern Hemisphere.) As a result most primitive cultures had a celebration to mark the day when the sun stops moving to the south as dawn breaks and starts moving back north again. As Shawn pointed out, Axial tilt is the reason for the season.
There are three prominent Neolithic sites that demonstrate that primitive Europeans were devoted to marking the day when the sun would begin its march back north. Stonehenge in Wiltshire, England is the most famous. However Maeshowe on the island of Orkney, Scotland and New Grange in County Meath Ireland are (probably) both older (2,500 to 3,000 B.C.E.).
There are several reasons why we humans would want to mark such an event. Predicting the event enables humans to feel like they have some control over their world. It gives the priestly class an opportunity to perform a ceremony which appears to the common people to make the sun reverse the process of diminishing daylight. In an agricultural society, sun is necessary to grow things. Things that stayed green through the winter would have magical properties ascribed to them; the holly and the pine. At this time of year, the harvest is in and the hard work of farming is not demanding so much time. In most cultures there is some provision for sharing the bounty across the community if some members of the community are in need. We continue that tradition today although much of that has been transferred to the Thanksgiving celebration.
The Roman celebration of Saturn (Saturnalia) took place at the Solstice and by 374 C. E. the birth of Jesus was being celebrated at the same time. All of the celebrations were taken together and bits and pieces ended up in our modern Christmas celebration. Joy of Community... Return of the light... celebration of survival of the long night... reverence for the green things... the return of prosperity... all have their roots in ancient celebrations of the Solstice.
This is a photo of Newgrange in Ireland: