Liveblogging the Ware Lecture

Bringing it home now — back to the image of the beach and the crab. The moment of transcendant glory is past; now the hard work of faith begins. This isn’t a time to lose faith. Quoting the UU hymn:

“Praise song for trouble, praise song for day, praise song for every hand-lettered sign…” (Sorry: the teleprompter typist is faster than I am.)

Melissa Harris-Lacewell giving the Ware Lecture

What we need now is love. “Beware the crabs in the sand, but keep your eyes on the horizon. With reason and faith, let us walk forward into that light.”


It’s easy to write off faith talk as inherently divisive — but if we do that, we cede faith, and lose the use of it as a tool for the struggle for self, community, and justice. (Amen!)

(Your blogger is loving this part: I argue it often with my progressive blogging friends, most of whom are secular and don’t believe in the power of faith to create change.)

Faith is an exercise in intellectual humility, a habit that makes us recognize our own limitations, helps us come to terms with what we don’t know and can’t do.

“We come here together to day to make the most incredible faith claim of all: that we can establish a world that recognizes the inherent dignity of every single human being — and that we can make that world using the power of love.”

(Wild cheering!!) (more…)

Race and culture

Every year, GA is preceded by Ministry Days, an event put on by the UU Ministers Association. Ministry Days concludes with the annual Berry Street Essay, a lecture series that goes back to William Ellery Channing’s “How Far is Reason to be Used in Explaining Revelation?” in 1820.

I’m not a UUMA member or even a minister, but no one was checking badges at the door, so I slipped in to hear Paul Rasor present this year’s essay. Meaning no disrespect to Paul, who is one of our best theologians and spoke well about our UU struggle to be more multi-racial and multi-cultural, the quote that stuck in my mind is from the response by Rosemary Bray McNatt. (Traditionally, another minister “responds” to the lecture. The response isn’t adversarial, but is more of a commentary on the ideas the speaker has presented.)

After humorously noting a few of the quirky (and often negative) tastes widely shared by UUs (rejecting all mass media other than PBS and NPR, refusing to be caught dead shopping in WalMart, distaste for rap music, and so on) she said:

Race and ethnicity have stood in during our conversations for something more ineffable, more complex and edgy than we have been willing to discuss. We have been talking about culture, a Unitiarian Universalist culture that many of us have refused to acknowledge. We have been unable to address these issues because we have been confused about the conversation that we have been having, and we cannot escape the boxes to which we are likely to be assigned if we start talking about it. …

For people who are as blessed as we are by this gift of relgious community, we are also cursed with a nasty little Calvinist streak that we would do well to examine. We would rather be angry and judgmental with ourselves and with each other than be tender and merciful in simple recognition of how hard it is to do what we must do in our congregations.

We must admit that we have a specific, often alienating culture, and we must change it. And we must grieve the loss of the familiar, and gain some measure of courage to embrace the new.

The full list of Berry Street essays, with links to the text and sometimes audio, is a great online resource for anyone who wants to know the history of Unitarian (and eventually UU) thinking.