nothing moderate about the fundamentalist, apocalyptic, Christian-right ideology of Pastor Hagee

July 30, 2008


I highly recommend the article Going Undercover at Mad Pastor Hagee’s Christians United for Israel Summit” by Ali Gharib published on on July 26.

Why undercover? Because in an effort to control the message the press was kept out of the conference.

There was nothing moderate about the fundamentalist, apocalyptic, Christian-right ideology of the attendants and speakers at the CUFI conference.

 “For us,” Hagee said, “there are only two ways to live: The Bible way and the wrong way. Christians United for Israel is a Bible-based organization now, tomorrow and forever, without apology to anyone for anything.”



on Do Shock Jocks Spur Murder? Opportunity to chime in.

July 30, 2008

People may want to chime in and perhaps also educate other readers about Unitarian Universalism on (registration required).

Editor Joshua Holland asks Did Right-Wing Shock Jocks Motivate Knoxville Killer?

astrological signs on blogger accounts – how to get rid of them

July 29, 2008

In the course commenting about the UUA elections and reading about this Sunday’s tragedy in Knoxville I’ve come across many UU blogs and have often encountered a blogger’s astrological signs listed in their profile. And lo and behold, my own profile showed them!


Most of you know that astrology is a pseudo science that has conclusively been proven to be utter bunk. There’s no mechanism to effect the supposed influence of ‘the stars’, the so called alignment points to empty space in the sky because the earth has rotated away from the position that it had when the ‘constellations’ were first put on paper, the attribution of ‘properties’ is totally arbitrary and assigned differently in different cultures, the predictive track record of astrology is zero and always has been, and the psychological mechanism of ‘recognizing’ horoscope descriptions as personally valid are well studied as cognitive delusions.

It’s utter rubbish for the gullible.

People have an aversion to hearing that something is false, claiming we can’t ‘really’ know what is true. This is a logical reverse that doesn’t hold up. Astrology’s claims have been shown to be false, unsupported and contradicted by evidence, and without predictive power. There is no way to assign astrology any likelihood of being somehow true. That’s when you have no choice but to call it false.

I would urge you to get rid of those absurd ‘descriptors’ if you have a blogger account. Just go to your profile and look for the appropriate check box. Unfortunately, it’s checked by default.

What’s next, I’d like to ask Blogger? Make it mandatory to indicate my “personal Feng Shui color”?


(The image is linked from the fabulous James Randi Education Foundation whose aim is “to promote critical thinking by reaching out to the public and media with reliable information about paranormal and supernatural ideas so widespread in our society today.”)

resource re church shooting: Helping children handle disaster related anxiety

July 28, 2008

Here is a link to a 
website with excellent advice for parents (and other adults) helping 
children deal with anxiety after a 
disaster. The list below has been of tremendous help after 9/11.

Please add others or use it elsewhere.

sorrow, survivor’s guilt, and censored rants

July 28, 2008

Saturday evening I chatted on the phone with the woman who had designed and then made all the costumes for our childrens’ musical at church. Today I saw her crying in the pews after her husband, also fighting back tears, announced the terrible news from Knoxville from the pulpit. The woman who had had the exact same job at Tennessee Valley UU Church is now a widow, Greg McKendry was her husband.

Our emotions are in turmoil. Our thoughts are with the victims, and at the same time something not unlike survivor’s guilt is creeping up. It could have been us. They were us. We are them. Here in the Denver area, we still sometimes see bleached stickers: Columbine is everywhere.

A footnote on the horrible events: I was reading the comments by viewers of the local station. Apparently, several posts had been marked as abusive and were taken off, leaving the reader to wonder what was said. Reactions from other readers tell me they were (probably) of two kinds: 1) an angry atheist who made assumptions and generalizations about a dogmatically motivated attack by a fanatic Christian; 2) someone who derided UUs, knocked the performance of an ‘un-Christian’ musical, and said something to the effect of ‘serves them right’, or “God’s wrath”.

Part of me wishes those deleted posts were still there. Maybe I’m naive and we can’t really learn anything from them, but this is the country where “free speech” is a universal idea, and yet, we’re timid and censorious in many situations.

My guess is that uncivilized ranters often say things that are an undercurrent in certain groups of society, expressing prejudice, irrational fears, rumors and hate speech that are prevalent but not on the surface.

The other part of me hopes we can minimize the pain for the victims who have already suffered too much. 

But what also surfaced in the reader statements was that some people either couldn’t place UU or had some odd ideas about it. In these coming days we may be asked about our faith, be ready.

Of course, this may turn out to be just a sad case of untreated mental illness, a specter that is haunting the United States whose voters so far have been denied inclusive healthcare available to most other industrial nations. We may know more soon. Let’s hope we don’t have reason to be fearful that UUs are now an identified target.

Finally, if you are sending letters to Tennessee don’t forget that several visiting members of the Westside Unitarian Universalist Church were also injured and traumatized (one, Linda Kraeger, is among the dead).

Peter Morales’ “Repelling fewer visitors” can’t be easily dismissed — an endorsement

July 25, 2008

Thanks to Philocrites I noticed a blog post by Rev. Anthony David, who had criticized Peter Morales‘ growth strategy of ‘repelling fewer visitors’. On many levels, Rev. David’s post (here) is insightful and worth considering but his facile dismissal of the ‘repelling’ issue looks shallow to me when he paints it as a lifeless, mechanical exercise in contrast to a supposedly much more sustaining spiritual nurturing of our ‘deeper’ UU identity.  

This view ignores that almost all of those people had already thoroughly checked out UU online prior to their visit, had read beliefnet, listened to sermons on that church’s website, or called for details. They came through the church door because they had concluded that in principle, they should fit right in, spiritually, ideologically. So it must be something we’re doing wrong to make those quarter million people leave. 

How could we possibly justify to continue doing things wrong and shunning those who are actively seeking our community, denying them the religious home they seek?

Is this only about us lucky bastards who are already in the UU club?

A president who can shake up people to live up to their own stated desires (with growth at the very top!) will be a blessing for our movement. 

In his critique, Rev. David used the term ‘mechanical’ with regard to growth strategies in a somewhat tendentious way. Peter’s growth workshops have proven effective because they don’t rely on one-size-fits-all ‘mechanisms’ but instead lead a congregation to look soberly at their ingrained disfunctional practices and habits, and to come up with individual solutions themselves that work for them. Yes, there are ‘mechanisms’ to be dealt with and ‘mechanisms’ that need to be replaced by better ones. But done in the right spirit this can be a deeply meaningful, and, yes, spiritual, practice. 

In the context of growth, a vastly more useful term is critical mass“Growing our souls”  (what Rev. David and most of us aspire to) is much more easily achieved in a congregation that takes steps – any steps! – to leave stagnation and decline behind. A growing, rejuvenating congregation has more volunteers, more children, more task forces, more services of different kinds, (and, yes, eventually even more tenors and basses).

You need critical mass to be able to start more appealing programs or forms of service and action, and we don’t have critical mass for a lot of those (including, incidentally, youth RE and nurseries!) in the vast majority of our congregations.

I may be reading too much into David’s blog entry but I see there a call for the UUA president to preach, appeal and inspire us to strengthen our spiritual UU self esteem and sense of direction. I cannot imagine that his would have any effect whatsoever. Such appeals might even be counterproductive in that they might be received as an invitation to feel smug about ourselves because our religion is just sooo wonderful.

Rev Hallman says our faith is unstoppable. Is it really? What, then, explains our continuing decline?

Making us more inviting must not be misconstrued as shallow cosmetics. It is not, because those efforts will be sustained by our sincere desire to share our faith more deeply and to offer and nurture that connection that visitors and members both seek. What shape that faith eventually takes is not in anybody’s hand, least of whom the president of the UUA.

Back to that sense of smug optimism: it may have been that same kind of optimistic ‘inebriation’ with self-delight and hopeful vision that made a number of UUA high rollers, led by Laurel Hallman, choose the most difficult of all possible models for a church planting instead of a less bold but more achievable church planting model. I’m talking of course about what was initially known as the Pathways “Fast Start” Congregation. I’ve just reread the 2006 report about it and it looks to me like the planning was extremely poor: a long list of very predictable high hurdles had apparently only been drawn up after the events, instead of in the early planning stages when that same information would have been available for those asking prudent questions.

Why do I bring up this painful chapter?
Because it highlights how important it is to have leaders who to anticipate arising problems, ask probing questions early, and proceed using proven strategies that are within our means.

I see Peter Morales as just such a leader who has researched a sober analysis of very concrete problems facing UU. These problems don’t even seem to be on Rev. Hallman’s radar screen: the demographic shift that will tremendously shrink our historical core constituency, the need to replace half of our ministers shortly, the continued slide into statistical marginality and the resulting reduced effect of our faith as a force of good in society. 

Not only do I see problems ignored or denied, I see solutions ignored and denied.

I want a UUA president who can shock congregations into facing those realities and into tackling them with creative use of simple tools they already possess. Business as usual in conjunction with inspirational feel-good talk won’t do.

If you want spiritual growth I’m predicting it will come with congregational growth in a similar way in which increasing mental well being is related to getting off one’s butt and starting physical exercise: once you start doing things as opposed to just pondering possibilities or reveling in either self pity or self aggrandizement you’ll soon find yourself on a different, more fulfilled level. 

I’ve created a blog website where the two candidates’ positions are featured side by side, in a neutral framework.
While the posts on there are completely neutral (only what both candidates said, with the candidate forum at GA as its starting point), the comments are a free forum for discussion.  I invite you all to contribute with civilized critique or praise.

For balance, I included Aaron Sawyer of as co-moderator with equal rights, and we’re seeking an outside ombudsman so that readers have assurance that there are real mechanisms for fairness in place. (Details on our About page).

I think in time it will develop into a prime spot for discussion and will enable a conscious, educated choice in 2009 that is based on policy decisions rather than seniority or personal loyalty. I hope to read your comments there, regardless of your choices.

Martin Voelker, aka jUUggernaut



PS: I’ve recently received this praise from an East coast minister whom I’ve never met:


 I’ve just had my first visit to the excellent candidate forum you have established. Thank you for a truly useful site. We owe you a debt of gratitude – this will be a valuable tool in the months to come.”


Craigslist and the hUUman Condition

July 14, 2008

It sounded almost like a Harley Davidson but the bubbling engine outside my bedroom this morning belonged to an ancient battered pickup truck with a homegrown wooden rack: Hurray! Someone had seen my Craigslist ad in the FREE STUFF section and was haulin away several doors that had been clogging my neighbor’s garage. I quickly got up and helped the guy load.

Humans like making presents – and they love to scavenge.

It ‘cost’ me five minutes to measure the doors, take a picture, write a two sentence ad, and post it on Craigslist. And someone else saved (or delayed) some increasingly valuable space on a landfill (the one near the airport is called Mt. Trashmore, highest point east of the Rockies for hundreds of miles).

If you’re not yet familiar with Craigslist: this free online classified board has now reaches most metro areas in the US and is spreading rapidly world wide.

I’ve bought and sold many used things, from a $10 electronic part, to a $200 bicycle, to a $2500 computer. And one thing I like about it is that I get to drive to parts of town I’ve never been to before, from gated communities to low income housing to farms.

Your congregation can also use Craigslist, eg. to to advertise the annual rummage sale or crafts fair, to offer left over items from those events, to announce services, to post help wanted ads for a YRE helper or the new caretaker position. Endless possibilities. Using Craigslist could be one piece of the puzzle to benefit your congregation without costing you anything. Think about it. (then look for your city)