Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Letting go so that the prayer may begin

Freedom is great, kids at camp; amazing. But stir into that mix two people who work from home and feel passionately about their work, and the days can get long!

I have been fuming a little about a couple of things that are happening in the UU blog world. Not the people saying them, just some of the "stone skipping over water" depth given to a comment or two swirling around out there. This makes me stop mid teacher-recruitment-email and say to my husband things like "what are they thinking?" I mean really....?" he types a few more words, then pulls his gaze from his screen to my face and says "What?"

"Oh never mind, know. Ah!"

I am headed out for a long walk, whenever I put together our teacher teams for the upcoming year for our Sunday morning programs I do some deep prayer about who will be the best fit, both with the age group of kids and the other adults on the teacher team. I've found that a good fit can make for an amazing experience for the children and the adults. Even though we have no building and we tuck our classrooms into every dingy spare corner we can glean from the Masonic Temple we meet in, our classrooms become holy places. Our children are holy beings, our teachers, holy guides. We make it so just by coming together. The prayer helps.

But I have two comments that I just have to put down so I can let them go:

White people have a different experience of race than do people of color, at least living for the last 25 years with my husband (an Asian American) has led me to believe this. He says in this country he wears his race on his face every day, the white among us don't. He tells me it's different. We dishonor his experience to say so. And yes this comes from one tiny comment in Peace Bang's rant from yesterday: "When I visit a Methodist or Episcopal or UCC or Baptist church, am I looking around to see how many half-Jewish people of Eastern European descent there are? What is up with that?"

Maybe she's not, but the racial mix of the group does matter to my husband. He can tell you exactly how many non-white folks there are in our congregation each time he visits. No he doesn't care what the race or ethnicity of the UUAs president is, but he sure as hell cares if that Latino man is in our seats.

OK, only one comment. The other one doesn't matter as much now that I've laid that one down.

Now, off to walk the path with the clouds and drizzle. Holding the dear faces of each of the children I know from our ministry in my heart and my hands. It is good work, if you can get it.


ms. kitty said...

Yep, too easily we white (or hetero, or abled or young or old) people shrug off the very real experience of those who have a different way of being in the world. We can be so dismissive if we aren't aware that to do so is to reveal something very unfeeling about ourselves. Thanks for the reminder.

PeaceBang said...

Chalice Spark, you've lifted one remark out of a very long post and interpreted it negatively. I'm sorry for your consternation.
Ms. Kitty, seeing an easy opportunity to finger-wag, jumps right in with a great big "YEP!" She likes to do that, and she should know that I am keeping track of her insults.

I include here a larger portion of what I wrote in order to provide a context for you and your readers.

"One minister who very publicly wailed and gnashed teeth about Morales’ election (after campaigning for Laurel Hallman) exemplified the problem for me: I had fairly recently attended worship at this minister’s congregation and was deeply distressed by the poor quality of the service and the unfriendliness of the congregation. Unless I have to for professional reasons, I will certainly not visit that congregation again. Need it be said?…
Unitarian Universalism is the local congregation. It is not its president. Let us look to the strength, goodness and integrity of our own houses. There’s work enough to do there.

About growth:
I am fascinated by people’s hopes that Peter Morales might “bring in” more Latino members to our congregations. This amazes me. Such irrationality for a people priding themselves on their intellectual strengths! Why in the world would any UU assume that the most pressing religious need for Latino/a peoples is to have a denominational president be of the same heritage as they? When I visit a Methodist or Episcopal or UCC or Baptist church, am I looking around to see how many half-Jewish people of Eastern European descent there are? What is up with that?

Do UUs with this irrational assumption have any idea of the incredible diversity within Latino culture? What do you mean, Latino? Puerto Rican? Mexican? Central American? Where in Central America? Spanish? South American? How many of our congregations are anywhere near sizeable Latino communities in the first place?"


In other words, the post was about UU "exoticization" of racial minorities and some UUs irrational zeal about what I call salvation through diversity. I would find it deeply insulting if someone came up to me as a Latino (if I was Latino, which I'm not) and said, "The Unitarian Universalists have a Hispanic president. Therefore, we assume that this religious tradition will now appeal to you!"

That kind of skewed mentality, not the obvious human desire to know that someone like us, who shares culture, history and heritage with us, is sitting in the pews, was the focus of my post.

What I was objecting to was the UU mindset that constantly places the politics of identity first among our deep soul needs. As I wrote, if we assume that people's "most pressing religious need" is to worship with people of their own ethnic/racial/sexual orientation, etc., we're destined to continue our sad little march to the grave of religious history. Most pressing religious need. Not "it doesn't matter at all," but "We claim that it matters so much that *we neglect to attend to many other deeply important things about our congregational health and religious life.*" There's a big difference there.

As I said in the post,I also find some UUs naive lumping together of hugely diverse peoples into one convenient category ("Latino," "Asian," etc.)problematic. This assumes a kind of homogeneity within extremely diverse populations that leads to cringe-inducing situations such as the one I witnessed recently, where a well-meaning parishioner at a coffee hour beelined from a Korean-American visitor to an elderly Japanese-born member and introduced them thusly, "Oh, you two will have SO much to talk about!"

I am betting that that Korean-American woman will never step foot in that congregation again.

I ain't shrugging anything off in regard to these issues. There's too much at stake.

Take care, PB

Kari said...

Hey PeaceBang,

Thanks for stopping by my little blog. Please call me Kari.

I appreciate your comment, and really, I agree with almost all of what you wrote in the comment and in the original post. That’s why I only pulled out that one very small part of the post. But that one thought really had me running circles. I simply disagree that the experience of a person who is perceived by society as white, visiting a congregation, has any relationship to the experience of a person of color, visiting a congregation. I know that in similar situations my husband is looking around to see how many Asian people and people of color are in the seats. I disagree with your point of view. You have your thoughts, I have mine. My life has given me the perspective on the way I feel, and your life has given you yours. C’est la vie! We disagree.

What I am a little uncomfortable with, is your specific comment about a colleague. Rev. Kit is my real friend in the real world. When she is a guest minister in our pulpit, our congregation laughs out loud and sings joyfully with her. I’ve worked with her on a blog workshop we presented together. I feel like her comment was directed toward me to support me during a frustrating moment. It did not have the ring of an insult of you, not to me anyhow.

I hope you’ll stop by and read my little blog sometime when it’s just about dogs or kids or prayer or cleaning out the craft closet. I know the Religious Educator that you serve with is an absolute treasure, but it’s always good to read other folks’ stories.