Yes, the Wolf has Inherent Worth and Dignity.

My good buddy Christine has a blog up that calls us to the age old question – do even bad, even evil, people still have inherent worth and dignity.

Quoting her great piece, The Wolf’s Inherent Worth and Dignity,

This is a bit of a crisis of faith for me. My religion has teachings which do not correspond with what I know to be true, at least not in the universal light of which they are cast. Do the principles How much skepticism is appropriate with the UU principles? Does having, “yeah, but” clauses dilute the faith?

Yes.  Even sociopaths have inherent worth and dignity.  Because there’s a difference between being inherently good and having inherent worth and dignity.

Let’s do a quick thought exercise – do diagnosed sociopaths deserve to be tortured?

No, seriously, do they?

I bet just about everyone reading that recoiled and thought “Of course they don’t deserve to be tortured.”  Or, hopefully, “no one deserves to be tortured.”  And if they have no worth or dignity, what would it matter if they were tortured or not?

It clearly matters.  Even the worst people in history and in our society now have some sort of inherent worth and dignity, just by their very nature of being a person.  Even if the only thing we can think about them is that we’re glad they exist so we know how good life can be… by not being around them anymore.

I’ve talked before how I want trust to be my default. And I faced something of this crisis before – when due to bank fraud my checking account was completely wiped clean and had no money to live on for about a week until it got fixed.  Back in 2011 I wrote,

And it would be easy, it would be SO EASY for me to say whomever stole my debit card info (my current working theory is unsecured wifi at some point when making a purchase or restaurant) is evil and ought to, well, go away forever, or that they just aren’t a valid person.  Because they stole/tried to steal 1500 bucks from a relatively decent person who did no wrong and tries to be a good person.

But I can’t.  I just can’t.  Because even with all of this, I still believe…I still HAVE to believe…that this, well, thief has some kind of inherent worth and dignity too.  Part of me right now is telling myself I have to believe that, because if I believe one person has no inherent worth and dignity, then no one has it, and if no one has it then I don’t either.  And if I don’t have inherent worth and dignity, then stealing 1500 from me is fine and dandy.

A person is a person.  By the very nature of being a person, they have some kind of inherent worth and dignity to them, because in some sense they are the same as me.

Believe you me, this belief is being tested.  Mightily right now.  It’s easy to put into theory but hard to put into practice.  (And yes, for those who will comment, I’m aware Inherent Worth and Dignity is technically part of the covenant between congregations.  I have chosen to adopt it as a personal belief as well.)

So yes, even the jackass who stole/has tried to steal 1500 bucks from me today has some kind of inherent worth and dignity.

I may…strongly dislike them right now, but even people I loathe still have inherent worth and dignity.

And that still rings true to me today a couple years later.  I certainly didn’t accept the bank fraud – I fought it, reported it, etc. etc.  I didn’t accept the person’s behavior despite thinking the person has inherent worth and dignity, because there is a difference between a person and a person’s actions.  It goes against my belief to think that people are evil – people’s actions, yes, but people, no.

Even the sociopath is saved.

 

As to another point Christine makes,

If you see a wolf in the wild, you do not engage. You avoid. This advice is easy to follow if your easily recognize the wolf; if the wolf is disguised as a dog, and you know all wolves to be such, then how do you avoid being bitten? Do you avoid all dogs? Do you cast away dogs to protect your safety?

My response would be that this is why we are a covenantal faith.  We come together to covenant to form a community grounded on mutual understanding.   If a wolf appears in a congregation, either at once over time, and the wolf has begun to threaten the safety of the entire community, then we hold them to covenant or respectfully ask them to leave the community, as they can no longer uphold the covenant.

But that’s an answer that only talks about how we as a congregation can respond.  In our everyday lives outside the walls of our congregations, what are we to do?  We bring the covenant home.  If people in your life aren’t engaging in mutually acceptable behavior to further the common good, then talk with them…and then cast out if that’s the only solution left.

You can acknowledge their inherent worth and dignity while letting go of further interaction.  It’s not a contradiction of faith – it’s living up to our covenantal faith.

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Abraham vs. Snopes.com

I saw a story that someone posted that I knew was a satire piece.  It just had to be – I didn’t even need to click the link for it.  It talked about how the pope was going to trade in his pontiff hat for other kinds of hats, and would try out a baseball cap next.  And the guy who posted it, a scholar in religion, seemed excited by the prospect.  Along with the woman who commented.

I, on the other hand, really wanted to post a comment pointing out that it was a satire piece.  How many people reading this have done the same?  A post from a friend or a friend of a friend that takes something obviously satirical as fact.  Oh, how gullible those people are, and isn’t it our duty to point it out, so they won’t embarrass themselves anymore?

And TYPOS.  What about those posts that have a clear typo in it?  Or the wrong to/too/two?  Doesn’t that just get in your nerves, so of course you have to point out their screw ups, goof ups, and misconceptions and misspellings.  And admit it, you feel a little smug when you catch them and comment about the typos, or comment that the story is clearly satirical.

And how many of us Unitarian Universalists do the exact same thing with religion – we see folks embracing a story we firmly believe to be a myth and feel compelled to point out their inherent wrongness, not just that the story is wrong, but really they should have known better than to believe it in the first place.  So it’s up to us to tell them why exactly they’re wrong.

Would there be any great world religions today if snopes.com had been around during the time of Abraham?  Would he have first logged on to check to see if a bush could burn without being consumed, and, noticing it’s not a scientific possibility, assumed it was false and moved on his merry way.

Yes, myths can be dangerous and there is a time and a place for scientific, historical accuracy.  But if that’s all we focus on, don’t we lose just a little of the childhood wonder and mystery of life?  There has to be a balance between accuracy and mythology – if we lean too much one way, we lose out on what makes our religion whole.

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Updates, Changes, and Coming Out

Howdy Folks,

It’s been a long time.  A very long time.  Almost a year in fact.  So, to start off, let me explain why I’ve been gone for a year.  During the Spring I landed my dream job, and I started in the Summer.

And it’s been the most amazing year of my life.  I’ve moved from Atlanta to northern New Jersey, where we just had a couple of inches of snow (brr!)  I’m living my dream and loving what I do.  Words just can’t describe it.

But now that I’m employed by a UU congregation, indeed what I’ve been working toward over the past three or four years, it dawns on me that the initial reasons for writing this blog under a penname have vanished.  I originally wrote under a penname for the sole reason of my old job – I couldn’t be out and loud about pretty much anything back then, but now I can.

So, why keep the penname?  Yah, there are folks who still refer to me as my penname, folks who still don’t know I’m me, and giving it up feels like I’m giving up a little part of who I am…was…am.  But at the same time, I want to try and live my life with a little more vulnerability and a little less compartmentalization.

I’ve got a professional site where I’m posting job relevant things, like thoughts on religious education and such.  But I still need a space to work out my own personal spirituality and my own thoughts, a place that’s not burdened with the intentions of being a professional-style website.  So that’s what this space is going to become, just like what I’ve done with twitter for the most part.

So, Spirituality and Sunflowers will be coming off hiatus.  I’m going to use this for my more “spiritual” thoughts and my professional site, timatkins.net, for my more “religious” thoughts.

I think.  Who knows, this might change again in a month or two.  Never know.  One day I might combine everything into one site, but for now I like them separate.  Although there will be cross links for sure.

For, one thing that will stay gone is the penname.  So, allow me to re-introduce myself to you.  Matt Kinsi, no more.  For those that didn’t know, my real name is Tim Atkins – mattkinsi is an anagram of my actual name, and about a decade ago I was dorking around with an anagram generator and that popped out.  No deeper story than that.

 

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Life Lessons from Curling

So for the first time in my life on Friday I went curling.  In Atlanta.  This is something of a miracle, and I only found out about it from friends on twitter.  In 2002 during the Winter Olympics, I got hooked on Curling.  It was the only thing on late at night, and I was often up rather late as I was still a student at Georgia Tech.  And it just fascinated me.  And this past Winter Olympics I got hooked once again.  I’ve never been ice skating for fear of breaking too many bones, but I did used to go to minor league hockey games growing up in my small town in south Georgia.  That’s about the closest I had ever come to being on the ice.  Until now.  Because I have now curled.

And I learned just a couple of lessons or so while at it.

The first – falling well. 

Every time I let go of the curling stone and attempted to send its way down to the other side of the ice, I fell.  No epic falls from standing straight up – it always happened when I was pretty close to the ice.  And I fell every single time.  Granted, I am sore and my right knee has the biggest bruise on it today, but nothing catastrophic.  Indeed, one of the teachers at this intro to curling event yelled from across the ice that I was falling well – unlikely to do any serious damage, ever.  And by the end I was falling even better and even better had worked out a pretty efficient way for pulling myself up back on the ice (using a curling stone and the hand bracer thingie.)

There’s an art to falling well.  And we really all do fall on occasion, some more often than others.  Sometimes it’s a planned fall (most of mine were) and sometimes it’s completely random (as with my friend Meredith who for no apparent reason near the end took a tumble.)  But there’s a way to fall to minimize any injuries, any fallout, from your fall.  There’s no instructional manual for falling well – you just have to fall and do your best.  But when you are lying down on the ice, hoping in vain your curling stone will make it down to the house, wondering how you’ll get back up again on that slippery surface, there’s just a moment of pride when you know that you’ve fallen well.

The second lesson -They might not tell you ahead of time you need kneepads, but you will.

So I fell approximately 20 times last night, landing pretty much on the exact same spot on my knee or just below my knee each time.  It’s pretty wickedly bruised today, and I can’t stop laughing at it every time I see it (or feel it throb.)  There’s no deeper damage, it’s all just on the surface and all just a simple bruise.  But next time I’m going to wear a kneepad until I get the hang of it.

It’s rare that growing up you get a warning about how tough life can be and how often you’ll fall along the way.  No one tells you how you’ll need a kneepad to soften the blow when you fall.  But everyone needs that kneepad – what form will that kneepad take?  Faith?  Church?  Book club with friends?  Family?  Pets?  We all have our kneepads that help soften the blow when we fall – and it’s past time for me to sit down and think about what my kneepads are, and to remember to wear them next time I know I’m on my way down.

The third lesson – Once you accept you’ll fall, you can get a lot more done and do it well. 

I eventually gave up trying to stay upright when pushing off from the blocks and trying to release the stone.  The first portion of the evening I was hyper aware and doing my best not to fall.  As a result, I usually ended up falling quickly and never really getting the stone to get far at all.  But somewhere around the middle of the evening, I stopped bothering trying to stay upright.  I knew I would fall, so I turned to focusing on putting enough force into that stone to make it down the ice, grace and pride be damned.  And after I made that switch, I was able to get the stone down the ice.  And then I was able to aim somewhat ok.  And then I was able to actually score a point just as we had to pack up.  And after I had accepted I would fall, I was able to prepare on how to get back up again on my own, and by the end, was falling and standing up in quick time.

Isn’t that so true in life – if you think you have to do everything perfectly, eventually you’ll fall and fall hard.  And the stone just won’t make it down the ice.  But if you know you’ll fall, if you know inevitably you’ll fall and crash down awkwardly into the ice, you can actually get stuff done while falling and even after you’ve fallen.  You’ve mentally prepped yourself for the fall, and as a result, once your butt is on the ice you know what to do and how to get back up.

The fourth lesson – if the stone is going too fast, you don’t need to worry about sweeping.

Ok, my least favorite part of curling was the sweeping in advance of a moving stone to try and help it go faster / go straighter.  I just couldn’t keep up with the stone, due to the whole trying-not-to-fall-while-running-on-ice issue.  Our teacher, possibly noting my lack of athleticism, told us that if we couldn’t keep up with the stone, not to try.  It wasn’t worth getting injured for.

I typically kept up with the stone half way and then just let it go on without me.  Sometimes there was another sweeper there to help make up the slack.  But it’s ok that I had to let the stone go and not try to keep up with it.  Sometimes you just aren’t meant to keep up with the sliding stone – you just have to see what happens.  It’s ok to let go of that control and leave it up to something else.

And the last lesson – You never know when your dream might come true.  If I had a bucket list, curling would have been on it.  I’ve been fascinated with it for a decade.  And I finally had the chance to do it.  And it was all because I happened to catch a tweet at the right time.  You never know when your dream might come true, but you should always have an eye out just in case it might pass you by.

 

And one final bonus lesson – curling is a hell of a lot tougher than it looks.  I’m sore in really random places from that stone and pushing off, and my knee looks hysterical.  And I can’t recall ever being happier with such a bruise in my life.  I know I’ll be back.

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Where upon I freak out over a resturant closing. No joke.

It closed.

City Café closed.

So many of my memories from college revolve around walking to City Café, sharing stories over a big slice of cake, planning events of an order of fries.

And it’s closed.

And I feel like a door closed on my entire collegehood.

It was just a restaurant, a mediocre restaurant at that, but it was just off campus and I could easily walk to it from my side of campus.

I was on my way to city café with Sarah and Adam when he first took out his tooth and we were chatting about college democrats.

I was on the way back from city café with Jennifer when we found the hubcap in the tree, after one of our make up dinners after one of our once a semester fights.

And it’s gone.  Closed.  No more.  Replaced with a Chinese restaurant.  I walked in tonight, seeing the sign, and was greeted with a Chinese menu.  I literally stumbled out of the restaurant, desperate to flee.

How many times did I go during college, on the way there with friends, talking about everything under the sun?

How many organization planning meetings did I have there?

And it’s gone.  GONE.

I could still go back and eat there on occasion, and remember everything from my college days.  Sitting there, just off campus.  I would walk in and be instantly reminded of some of my better college days and memories.

And with it closed, with that damn door closed, it’s like the door has officially closed on my college days.   And if it’s true that I’m completely post-college, then I’m entirely in adulthood.

And.  I just.  City Café closed.  The sign is still up but it’s an empty shell of it’s former glory.

And my former glory.

So ends tonight’s random freakout.  Back to regularly scheduled programming.

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A wedding. A bittersweet, complicated wedding.

So I just got back from my best friend’s wedding.  Well, she can claim the title of best friend with good cause at least.  It was perfectly lovely.  She married a guy who I’m also friends with.  I also work with both of these folk – indeed, it’s how we met and how they met.  I’m such good friends with the now wife, I even went to her bachelorette party.  The token gay friend

Ok, that’s being harsh.  I was there because I’m that good of friends with the bride.  Still, it felt like I was token gay friend at times.  But the bachelorette party is neither here nor there.  I want to focus on this evening and all the conflicting emotions that bubbled up.

To start with.  One of my ministers from my congregation did the wedding.  The now husband and wife had different faith backgrounds that neither are all that in to nowadays.  They took up my suggestions to check out my UU minister, and they hit it off.  The same minister did my other best friend’s (at least, my best friend in college and immediately post college) wedding.  I know that if life were different and I weren’t gay, one of those two girls I would have married myself.  It’s somewhat odd that my minister is the one who did both of the weddings to the girls I would have been married to if not for, well, the whole gay thing.

That had been on my mind in the lead up to the wedding.  The wedding itself was quite nice, my minister does a great wedding, and cocktail hour while photos were being taken was as awkward as to be expected.  Fielded a couple questions about what Unitarian Universalism is, as a result of my minister doing the wedding service.  (Got the question we UUs love to hate – “so what do Unitarian Universalists believe anyways?”)

See, since I know both of these people from work, there were a fair amount of work people there including the obligatory bosses.  Whom for other reasons I’m not in the mood to chatty chat with, especially on my day off.  So I lurked around with some of the other employees and some of bride’s friends I knew (especially the ones from the bachelorette party while they weren’t getting photos done.)  I didn’t have a date – I’m not in a relationship, but even if I was, I would not have been able to bring that boyfriend to said wedding because of those very bosses.  I’m not out at work except to a few random people (added one more tonight.  Details later.)   And I live in the South where it’s perfectly legal to fire someone for no other reason than they’re gay.

The dinner was fine – I was at one of the two work related tables, but the “fun” one without the bosses and other stuffy people.  Then the dancing where of course I danced, and had a dance or two with the bride and more.  Including the mother of the bride.

The mother of the bride has had a tough time as of late.  Her sister, my BF’s Aunt, died somewhat unexpectedly last month.  There’s too much family drama to fully adequately explain, and I’m not going to get in to BF’s family drama as it would take about a year to write out, but the mother of the bride did not take it well at all.  As in, she purposefully got in to a single car crash.

I don’t know the mother of the bride all that well – we’ve only met a couple times although we both have heard a ton about the other.  During the bachelorette party, the mom came up to me, kissed me on the cheek twice, and told me to keep looking after her baby.  During the wedding, she pulled me from my seat for a dance.  An awkward slow song, and it got more awkward as she talked to me.  She was raised Catholic and still is, kinda.  And she said she was having such a hard time with her sister’s death she didn’t know what to do.  “I’m sure you’ve heard what I did.”  She doesn’t want to go to a priest to talk about it because she couldn’t take any possible guilt for what she did, or attempted to do.  And she wanted to hear just a little about my religion.  (Most of the dance was spent with her talking about why she didn’t feel comfortable going to a Catholic priest.)  She clearly needs someone to talk to about it all, and it turns out my BF has been suggesting, a lot, that she check out my church.  If I hadn’t been blindsided, I would have gone into pasturing mode.  But she’s on my mind, and although it’s awkward, I’m going to let my BF know that the Mom can talk to me if she needs to.

Then I went back to my seat, occasionally interrupted by more dancing.  Then when the toasts started, the best man took waaaaay too long – I mean awkwardly long – to give his toast and when I started to tune out (somewhere around the college trip to England and the cricket game) I checked twitter.  And saw that it was the anniversary of when Matthew Shepard was found, bloody, beaten, tied to a post and left for death.  And then I couldn’t stop thinking about it – it’s one of the major events of my life….happened when I was in HS and coming to terms with being gay.  And it just nailed my closet door shut for years, and made me terrified of being gay.

And there I was.  At my best friend’s wedding, thinking about how I can’t get married.  I can’t.  Not in my state, and even if I fled to another state to get married to the person I love, it wouldn’t be recognized.  Not by my state, not by my government, and not by society in general, at least down here in my home region.  And it just sucks.  This is the second wedding I’ve been to this year.  The first wedding had this thing on the back of the program that said they were making a donation to a marriage equality organization because they recognized that many of their friends weren’t able to get married alongside them.  It was really touching.  This wedding didn’t have that, but with this wedding it’s a high probability I was the only gay person in the room other than wait staff.  If there were others I certainly didn’t know about it.

It sucks not being able to be fully present with joy for my best friend’s wedding.  The whole evening after that can be summed up as bittersweet.  And I just haven’t been able to stop thinking about the harsh dichotomy since seeing that reminder on twitter.  Joy of wedding vs. terror of the wooden fence.  Thrilled for my friends but devastated I’m not allowed to have the same thrill.  At one point I ducked outside with a co-worker I only somewhat know and ended up coming out as a result.  And I don’t particularly care if it comes back to haunt me at the moment.  She ended up asking lots of follow up questions about gay marriage and thought she thought it’s total BS that even if I were to go to a state where gay marriage is legal, get married, and come back it would be completely invalid in the eyes of the government and benefits.  Yes, there’s a whole lot more to marriage than just tax benefits and hospital visitation, but damn it, it’s part of it.

Sigh.  Of course, what I would normally do to vent about this and to work it through is to talk to said best friend.  And I might.  If it were anybody else’s wedding, I would talk it over with my best friend.  But I don’t want to rain on her joy about it.  I don’t know.

But, can we say that it’s depressingly ironic that the guy in the room whose minister performed the ceremony and the guy that the family wants to talk to for spiritual matters can’t go up and get married too?

Sigh.

Bittersweet.

[Note, this was written right after I got back from the wedding.  But due to my internet being out for some reason, not posted till now.]

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Our summer slowdown is in the freakin’ New York Times?!?

Ok.  This article by the New York Times is making the round, and it’s all about how UU Congregations aren’t taking the summer off anymore.

Sure, it’s a cute article, but there’s a pretty crappy underlying message – that we UUs are smug elitist bastards.  We never used to do summers because we all went on summer vacation to the Cape.  As if the majority of Americans can even GO on a summer vacation at all, much less a vacation for the entire summer.  The article was far from complimentary in my mind.  It’s NEWS in the NEW YORK TIMES that we aren’t going to THE DAMN CAPE AS MUCH AS WE USED TO.

The summer off mentality has bugged me ever since I’ve become a UU.  Our congregation doesn’t close but goes down to 1 service and combined RE classes.  And even THAT bugs me to tell you the truth.  Because I sure as hell don’t get to go on a summer vacation, and the random assumption that I *do* because of my spiritual beliefs pisses me off.  I don’t get why congregations close up shop or shut down over the summer (and, also, don’t get why ministers get the summer off either, but that’s such a different rant.)

Because my spiritually doesn’t shut down for a fourth of the year.

Because my need for community doesn’t shut down for a fourth of the year.

Because I still have issues I’m struggling with that don’t shut down for a fourth of the year.

Because my need for a light in the darkness doesn’t shut down for a fourth of the year.

Because I work a job where I can’t take off a fourth of the year.

Because people who are shopping for a new spiritual home don’t take off a fourth of the year.

The whole summer off and summer slow down just smacks of classism to me.  And we can do better.  And THIS is why we make the New York Times today?  THIS?

Posted in rants, Unitarian Universalism | 4 Comments

Quick thoughts on Love without Exceptions.

So earlier in the year I tried out some different graphics combined with some different taglines, just exploring what worked and what didn’t.  I’m the totally volunteer social media coordinator for my congregation, and I’ve got the freedom to try that sort of thing out.  The one that got the most shares had the tag line, “love without exceptions.”

I liked the line – it can have (at least) two different meanings.  First, as a statement of what I believe Unitarian Universalism is when it’s at its best.  The second as a challenge for each of us to love without any exceptions; a call for us to live up to our own personal ideals as well as our religious ideals.  I think that’s why the tagline was in part popular – it can be taken multiple ways.

Flash forward about half a year, and I found myself with a little bit of time on Wednesday and the desire to try out a couple more graphics.  I’ve got some very limited skills with photo editing – mostly putting text on top of pictures, and Lord knows I cannot draw worth a flip.  But I thought back to that “Love without exceptions” line and a graphic came out of it.  (Which, of course, I hope you’ve seen, but if not, see it on uuca’s tumblr at uuca.tumblr.com.  The one I’m talking about there is the heart one.)

Much to my surprise, it went viral in UU circles.  Well over 250 shares, when previously the most shares we had ever had was 60.    And I didn’t see anything the UUA had posted anytime recently on their FB page that had anything close to 250, and the SSL had one that went massively viral to the tune of around 1000 shares.  (Granted, our congregation has 800 likes, they’ve got tens of thousands.)

A note about shares.  It means more to me as a social media coordinator, a lot more, when someone “shares” or “reblogs” the item I posted.  Getting “likes” is nice, but not nearly as meaningful as a “share.”  And it’s what I keep an active eye out for as a metric to tell me I’m doing a good job posting what people want to see.  But, you have to be aware in the social media realm that things rarely get a second wind – once it’s been posted and gotten it’s first wave of shares, folks move on to other graphics.

Sure, that seems a little depressing, but seeing how many people used the graphic as a way to better help explain their religious beliefs and invite people to come to their congregations excites me.  Who knows if we will see a rare second wind or not, but there are quite a few lessons to learn from this.

a) Clearly, the tagline works.  Love Without Exceptions.  I’ve got a few more floating around in my head (like Love Without Expectations, but having trouble visualizing a campaign around it.) but I’m clearly going to stick with that line for a while.  Both as a PR strategy but also as a personal statement of belief.  There’s a graphic I just posted this morning with the same tagline that develops the challenge side of that statement more.

b) Copy edit!  Oiy.  Amateurs like me need backup.  Also, if you use Gimp like me, save it as a gif and not a jpg.

c) If I, some dude, can do this, why the hell can’t the UUA?  I’ve a total volunteer with very, very rudimentary graphic design skills.  But I can get more people talking about UUism for a couple days than the UUA?  Really?  Really now?  This is something the UUA ought to be doing – not some dude from some random congregation with no resources, time, etc. etc.  People clearly want this.  Why can’t we get this?  Why can’t, like, professionals do this and not some random dude.

d) There will be a flame or two.  Got a couple less than loving replies about TYPOS of all things.   What, you believe in the inherent worth and dignity unless the person in question makes a mistake?  There’s a nice way to give feedback “hey, just to let you know, you misspelled politician” and a not so nice way, like “the longer I look at it the less I like it.”  But even the flamers need that love too.  Of course, I need to work better on that there were something like a 1000 positive comments and 3 negative ones, but it’s the three negative ones aggravating me.  Although, actually, I like that there were a couple of mistakes in there.  I don’t think I *want* church to be completely polished.  Because if anything, I want church to call me to my best but realize I’m not perfect either.  Show your flaws for the world to see.  And among mine…typos.

Posted in Social Media, Unitarian Universalism | 4 Comments

Sexism, Racism, Homophobia, and one pissed off Matt Kinsi.

I’ve been in a ranting mood all day.  And it’s time to rant so I stop obsessing about it all.  Here we go.

Sexism in the Olympics

This started pissing me off, specifically yesterday.  There’s a big kerfuffle with the Olympics, specifically a swimmer from China named Ye Shiwen.  See, she swam good in the 400 Individual Medley.  So good, in fact, she beat the American Male Gold Medal winning swimmer Ryan Lochte on the last 50m freestyle leg of the event.  So, naturally, she must be doping.

What the hell?  People jumped to this assumption because she’s a female.  Who beat a man.  Because no woman could ever beat a man at something sportsy, right?  Bull shit.  It’s sexism.  Flat out.  Now people are saying hey, look, she did way better than she ever did before.  And now since she passed the doping test, well, there are ways around that of course and no one believes the doping tests.  Keep on moving the goalposts.

Now, is anyone asking if Ryan Lochte, who set the world record, is doping because he can swim faster than me?  No.  This is sexism in action.  People are demanding she do the impossible – she prove a negative – “Prove to us you didn’t dope.”  And why is all this attention on this poor 16, SIXTEEN, year old?  Because she beat a man.

Earlier today I was checking the NBC Olympics site to see who was medaling that day, and an American won the Womans Road Timed Trial in cycling.  So I clicked on the name to see who won.  And then clicked on her little profile page on NBC Olympics.  Her name is Kristin Armstrong.  And she won the gold medal last year in the same race.  And after noticing her age (almost 40!  You go.) I checked out the little 3 bullet points which I assume NBC thinks are the most important things to know about her.  The second point?  “Is not Lance Armstrong’s ex-wife.”  That’s right, this two time Gold Medal Winning American athlete who is a year shy of 40….the most important thing to know about her?  She’s not Lance Armstrong’s ex wife.  More bullshit sexism.

Racism rears its ugly head in Atlanta, of all places.  Shock.

Yesterday we had a big election in Georgia which most others across the nation probably could care less about, but it got ugly.  It was a vote on whether there should be a 1 cent sales tax and use the funds for transportation projects.  Called TSPLOST (Transportation Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax.  I won’t be repeating that.)  Atlanta metro is widely known for our craptacular traffic, indeed, businesses have not relocated to Atlanta metro because of it.  It’s terrible.  So they split the state into these regions and have the regions come up with transportation projects, and come together to fund them through a 1 cent sales tax.  It was doomed from the start, although it shockingly passed in a couple regions across Georgia.  But it bombed badly in Atlanta.

Why?  About a billion reasons.  But lets face it, there’s just no way a tax would get approved in Tea Party Happy Northern Suburbs of Atlanta.  Not a chance.  And some groups like the Sierra Club, all probable 52 members in Georgia, came out against it because there wasn’t enough rail, and the NAACP in Dekalb came out against it because no rail for South Dekalb.  South Dekalb county certainly deserves a rail line, and ought to have one.  And I certainly wish the plan had more rail, but come on people, this was the best shot we had at getting any rail.  IT’S GEORGIA.  Wake up.  Now the GOP Governor and GOP Legislature will decided it all in Georgia, and there’s no shot in hell any rail will be passed.  That was just a dumb political move.  But that’s now why I’m angry.  I’m angry because even if those groups had on board, even WITH major businesses in Atlanta that were pushing it, it still had no shot in hell.

And why?  I present to you, this quote, from this article in the AJC, posted last night after the vote was called.

“Deeper insecurities were at play as well. A poll conducted by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution last year found that 42 percent of respondents believed new mass transit brings crime.”

My head exploded at this.  It’s racism rearing its ugly head in just a different form.  White flight.  It’s why Cobb doesn’t have MARTA – afraid of black people.  That’s right – people are going to take the subway and steal your TV and, uh, carry it back on the subway.  What utter and total horse shit.  It’s because the Northern Suburbs, where I live and work, are afraid of black people.  It’s bullshit racism, and it deserves to be labeled as such.  A rail system is never going to happen in Metro Atlanta as long as there’s that sort of racist attitudes in a ring surrounding Atlanta.  This quote still infuriates me, and for fear of dropping dead of a stroke before I finish ranting about everything I want to rant about, I’m moving on to a different topic.

BULLSHIT RACISM.

Homophobia and Chik-fulla-Hate

Ok, before today I didn’t care much about the Chik-Fil-A flap.  Yes, bad Kinsi, but I just didn’t.  But after today, LOOK OUT I’m never shopping there again.  I don’t really know how big of a story this is elsewhere, but in Atlanta, its all everywhere because this is where Chik-fil-A and Bigotry both have their homes.

I don’t care what Cathy said.  I don’t.  He does have every right to say whatever stupid things he wants.  What I take issue with are the donations Chik-Fil-A made as a company towards anti-equality groups.  I’m not going to shop there so my money can be used to directly deny me rights.

This whole Freedom of Speech issue is likewise bullshit.  That’s not why most folks are angry, and now why I’m angry.  It’s the donations made under the Chik-Fil-A name.  And look how it’s Freedom of Speech issues when defending Chik-fil-A, but folks calling for protests apparently don’t have that right.  And believe you me, this would not have been a big deal if it hadn’t been an election in about two months that social conservatives are freaked out about.  Stop being pawns in their political games and buying into this Freedom of Speech argument.

But nothing says southern hospitality like people lining up at the doors to deny you rights!  Way to go.  I’m never eating at Chik-fil-A again after today, whereas before today I probably would have after I eventually forgotten about it.  Suffice to say, I’ll never be able to forget this.  And go read this article about Gay Employees at Chik-Fil-A.  I can sympathize.

Also, on this homophobia front, turns out one of my students?  Fan of Santorum.  And Bachman because her parents are.  And it’s clearly because of social issues because there’s no other reason anyone would ever support them.  I had to bite my tongue since it’s most likely anti-gay at play.  I hate not being able to be out at my job.  It’s not like I want to march through my company in a tutu, I just want to be able to Not. Be. Afraid. Of. Being. Fired.  Please, can we pass a national ENDA somehow?  If I’m sad about anything instead of being angry about it, it’s this.  Sigh.

And to add to my general feelings of rage?  A car hit mine.  While I had been parked, inside the lines.  For five hours.  Happened at work, and suddenly while I’m finishing up teaching some SAT Critical Reading some cops come in and asked if I was me.  Uh.  Yes.  And then told me a car hit mine.  Gave the kids some work to do and followed the good cops outside and sure enough, it was nothing like I had feared.  Yes, some ass hit my car and bolted – a hit and run – but there’s just a couple dents and big black marks but it’s totally drivable and all and honestly, I bet the damage runs even with my deductible.  Still, we’ll see how this whole process goes.  Insurance stuff in process – first time I had to deal with this since I’ve owned my own car.

Now, the bright spots in this day of rage? 

Lets start with the car.  There was a witness.  The witness got a pic of the car (no license) and a description of a driver.  The witness went door to door in the strip mall, looking for me, the owner of the car, while the police were en route.  (The front desk people didn’t know I drive a Camry, well, they do now.)  He stayed the half hour it took for the police to find me (after they ran my tag and went door to door asking for me by name) and that’s just pretty great.  He looked to be about 23ish.  Good kid.  So we’ll see if they catch the guys – doubtful with no plate – but still, they know it was a tan pickup truck at least.  Thanks witness.  Wish I had asked for your name and taken you out for a drink in retrospect.  The cops were ALSO quite nice, and turns out the cop I know that works for the city in question is actually these cops’ supervisor.  Small world.

And I’ve seen all kinds of straight friends posting how outraged they were about Chik-Fulla-Hate today.  Including some folks from back in high school.  And seeing, reading, their anger and sorrow today helped make a crappy day quite a bit better.

So, there we go.  Hopefully tomorrow will now be rant free as I hopefully got it all out of my system.

Yah right.

Posted in Politics, rants | 6 Comments

Making Leadership Accessible

Ten days.

I work in the corporate world with an odd schedule.  I work Saturdays but not Fridays (except 1 Friday a month where I pull a 6 day week.)  I get ten days of vacation a year.  That’s it.  And I’m pretty confident I’m not the only Unitarian in the world who a) has a non-standard work schedule and b) has 10 days of vacation – or a hell of a lot less.  I’m fortunate to get 10 days of vacation a year.  Most people in my company don’t get any paid days off.

I’ve just been appointed to my first denominational committee.  And it’s going to be exciting, challenging work ahead.  I’m really thankful for the opportunity.  And we’ve been trying to schedule our first meeting, and sure enough, it’s going to be a Thursday to Saturday.  Which sounds bizarre to me, but there are ministers on the committee as well whom I imagine that makes perfect sense to.  And I’ve decided that this committee appointment takes top priority in my life right now, right behind work.

But this first meeting, of which there will be more, takes out two of my 10 vacation days.  And as I was drafting an email to bosses to let them know the dates I’ll need off for that, I also tacked on two more Saturdays I have to miss because of Youth Group related retreats at the beginning of the year.  Then I looked at my calendar, because I wanted to take a vacation to San Francisco this year to finally get out to this big fundraising gala for National Novel Writing Month in November, and it’s the week after the committee meeting.  And two or three more vacation days.

So, I could end up using 70% of my vacation days for the year in the span of about 10% of the year.  And I know I’ve already used a couple because of being sick as crap earlier in the year and other churchy stuff.  If I had gone to GA, I’d be up the creek without a paddle right now.  And as much as it makes me want to cry, I won’t be getting out to San Francisco, because even if I could manage the vacation day deficit, I just couldn’t take two weekends off in a row with the weekend after being Thanksgiving.  Not with my job in my company.  So goodbye vacation to something I’ve looked forward to for about 4 years – I’ll try again in a year or two.

It’s a battle of doing work to pay rent versus doing the work that my soul calls me to do.

And despite how I’d love to take the summer off from my job, take a week off here and there to hit up a summer camp, hit up conferences that I want to go to, etc. etc. it’s simply impossible to do for me and so many other lay leaders like myself who work a 40+ hour work week on top of 20+ hours of church stuff a week.   No study breaks for me.

I can see why it’s mostly retired folk or self-employed folk in positions of leadership, either in Congregations, Districts, or Denominationally.  They’re the only ones with enough vacation days to make the meetings.

So how can we make leadership more accessible to working joe schmos who want to change the world like myself?  How can lay leaders do what I hear ministers call “self care” when work + church eats up 60+ hours a week, often more?  How can we evolve past where you have to be a minister, retired, a student, or self-employed to be a denominational leader?  Hell, how are lay leaders able to have outside-church interests or events without going nuts from lack of time?

I’m beginning to feel that the only way for me to do what I want/can do within Unitarian Universalism is…to be on staff somewhere in some capacity, so I can spend that 40-50 hours a week currently designated towards “job”and put it towards “church.”  And how sustainable is THAT for our greater faith?

We do such a great job of eating up people and spitting out the burnt out leftovers.

So, remember that committee that I’ve been appointed to?  It’s the new Appointments Committee of the UUA.  So hopefully I’ll be in a position to do something about this and help change this culture of leadership that demands things that people like me have a hard time providing.  I look forward to helping to change this culture of leadership.

It’s just ironic that this appointment is what’s causing these feelings of frustration I have right now.

(Don’t take this as bitching about the committee – it’s not – and I will be at said meeting with bells on, and I really am thankful to be on the Committee, and can’t wait to start the work ahead.  The other folks on the committee look to be pretty awesome, and I’m not holding this against the committee or anyone on it – I’ll be coming in grudge free.  This is just symbolic of what I’ve felt and seen out there in greater UUdom and a little vent of frustration.)

Posted in me, Unitarian Universalism | 1 Comment