Category Archives: Unitarian Universalism

Good Riddance to Anthony Kennedy, Who Was Not Going To Save You

It might be better if Anthony Kennedy stayed on the Supreme Court, but things would still be so dire that better is not quite the right word for it.

With Kennedy on the court, this week was still one long bummer. A single Fourth Amendment case was firmly decided on the side of liberty. Every other case was either decided for bad or was sent back to return another day, to a more conservative court. One political gerrymandering case was crafted to show that its target matched Kennedy’s detailed description of a gerrymander that violated First Amendment rights. Kennedy voted to send the case back on narrow grounds. If it returns to the Supreme Court, he won’t be there.

Some say Kennedy punted.  That’s fair.

Who will win this game?

I say he went onto the field on third down, seconds remaining, to win the game with an easy field goal. The snap is good. Kennedy runs. And he kicks half a yard to the left of the ball, missing it completely as the other team swarms the holder.

TIme runs out! Kennedy leaves the field untouched, his dignity held high. He’s kept himself above the fray, yet determined the outcome.

The team doctor is still working on the holder. Poor Charlie Brown. Poor you.

Kennedy is a conservative and a believer in civility and compromise. He’s spent his career on the Supreme Court splitting differences in the interest of compromise.

(Except on issues which determine who controls the government. There he votes consistent conservative.)

In his last term, he gave up on compromise. As Dahlia Lithwick and Mark Joseph Stern point out:

There have been 13 5–4 decisions so far this term that have pitted the conservative justices against the liberals. Kennedy went with the conservatives all 13 times.

This is the true Anthony Kennedy: A Reagan appointee whose older, more genteel style of conservatism is next-door neighbors with hard-right radicalism, when push comes to shove, when it comes to who holds power. As Dahlia Lithwick says,

To the extent we wrote paeans to Kennedy, it was for his occasional defections in areas that materially affect the lives of millions of people—women, minorities, LGBTQ couples, voters, Guantanamo detainees. And to be sure, each of those votes was well worth it. But we knew that for each such vote, there was a Bush v. Gore, a Citizens United, a Shelby County.

Each of those cases was about who holds power. There, Kennedy was a conservative’s conservative, yet in “fan fiction…Justice Anthony Kennedy was a moderate centrist”. Does any other living conservative politician besides John McCain have such a hold on the wishful liberal imagination? And so here we are, “In Nineteen-Nineties Orlando with Trumpy and Stormy!

Mark down Justice Anthony Kennedy as one more thing which will not save you. Institutional power will not save you, either. We will have to save ourselves.

The UUA Call for the Abolition of ICE and This Weekend’s March

Last weekend, the Unitarian Universalist Association’s 2018 General Assembly passed this Action of Immediate Witness: End Family Separation and Detention of Asylum Seekers and Abolish ICE.

It includes a call to “Participate in the June 30th nationwide Mass Mobilization”, whose lead organization is Families Belong Together. In Little Rock, several organizations, from mainstream liberal to near left, are sponsoring a rally at the State Capitol.

I spent Thursday afternoon at a spirited  demonstration at the State Capitol, sponsored by local groups and the national group Mijente, with whom the UUA is partnering, as part of their Chinga La Migra/Abolish ICE* tour.

They and we are calling for the Abolition of ICE:

#AbolishICE

Families Belong Together is calling for Defunding ICE:

#DefundICE

The UUA has been most successful in producing justice over the years when it has taken a visionary approach to issues. Line 51 in the Action of Immediate Witness, in which we are called to “Host interfaith vigils to lift our prophetic voices”, claims a theological grounding in our Second Source, “Words and deeds of prophetic women and men which challenge us to confront powers and structures of evil with justice, compassion and the transforming power of love.”

We have a choice about how we participate in this weekend’s rallies. We can pick up the call to #AbolishICE or to Defund ICE or make some more general call. We can show up and blend in and not be visibly Unitarian Universalist. We don’t even have to show up.

What are you going to do? What is your congregation going to do?

Have you spent time working together to discern what you believe in common? Where you differ? What you can do? What you will do?

If not, then you have another chance to do so, this time under the pressure of time and events. It won’t get any easier if you wait.

*A language note: “Chinga” does not literally translate to “Abolish”.

“Babies in Cages”, by Patterson Hood

I used to mock Deadheads. Now I’ve seen Drive-By Truckers and various members over five dozen times. Below are two reasons why.

This Is What Resistance Looks Like, Too.

Babies in Cages

The world wakes up this morning
I’m sorry for the news
Wrapped up in a tinfoil blanket without any shoes
Babies in cages

I’m sorry to my children
I’m sorry what they see
I’m sorry for the world that they’ll inherit from me
Babies in cages

Are we so divided
That we can’t at least agree
This ain’t the country that our granddad’s fought for us to be
Babies in cages
_______________________________________________

Surf’s up in the cities
Where the next wars will be fought
I’m sorry we’ve forsaken every word that we were taught
Babies in cages

I bang my head against it
Smash guitars and scream and shout
Standing on the beach watching the tide go out
Babies in cages

Standing in the darkness
To answer for our sins
Children changing each others diapers in a pen
Babies in cages

Copyright Patterson Hood – Dunwoody GA. June 19, 2018

It’s Not A Silver Lining. It’s Just Hope.

Over a decade ago, I first read about the rock-bottom level of W’s support at 28% as a rough estimate of current bugfuck crazy levels. I took that to heart and have repeated it as wisdom, so I’m not shocked that there are people cheering for caging children.

(Afraid? Yes. Still.)

What has been a pleasant surprise is seeing people building capacity to resist. That capacity wasn’t nearly enough during 43’s term to hold him back, and it wasn’t there to sustain the Occupy movement.*

Now we’re a third of the way through a Presidential term, and people successfully pushed hard enough to make a public policy change. It’s still a bad policy–I’ll still be at a pro-immigration rally after work today–but the spiritual boost people get from publicly backing an authoritarian down and the corresponding morale drop on the other side is pure power. If it’s used well, if politicians don’t drain all the effort into electoral politics only, this can be a turning point.

It’s not a position I’d’ve chosen to get into. The suffering at the border and elsewhere isn’t “worth it” for change. But it’s not a position we chose, is it? It’s where we’ve been forced to by cruel humanoids. That suffering is on their heads.

If we miss this moment, if we fail to learn electoral politics can’t be won without a robust non-electoral political movement to maintain us during the times we are out of power–and to remind politicians who claim they are on our side that they can’t pee on our leg when they are in power and expect us to thank them for the rain–then the suffering from that will be on our heads, and quite a few of us will fully deserve what we get from it (though most of us will not).

This is not the 2018 I’d hoped for, but it has great potential. Or you can call it high stakes. Pretty much the same.

*The Occupiers themselves weren’t the problem. They were plenty determined. It was a support failure.

He Doesn’t Mean Us. We Take The Summer Off

But everybody else better search their consciences: If Your Church is Silent This Week—You May Want to Leave it

Standing on the corner, suitcase in my hand

If you’re a member of a church, synagogue, mosque, temple, or other spiritual gathering place, and the leaders there don’t specifically reference children being caged by our government and push back hard against it—you should ask them why they aren’t.

Ask them directly, and if you aren’t satisfied with their answer, seriously consider leaving then and there. This may be your greatest spiritual declaration, the most concrete affirmation of your beliefs that you’ll ever make.

If you are keeping company with polite cowards and smiling frauds whose faith is quiet, you may need to empty the pews and exit the buildings, and go loudly speak the words of truth and compassion and justice that need to be spoken right now.

If History Won’t Save You, What Will?

I fondly remember the death of Richard M. Nixon, on Earth Day, 1994, like the planet finally taking out trash gone rancid decades ago. It’s rare that a death makes me happy, but this one did. He was an actively evil man who got away with it and died old and free with a clear record.

Get caught with a nickel bag brother-man
Get caught with a nickel bag sister-lady on your way to get your hair fixed
You’ll do Big Ben, and Big Ben is time
But the man who tried to fix America will not do time

Gil Scott-Heron wrote those words and he did not die free and clear.


In the liner notes to Winter In America, Gil Scott-Heron made the earliest on-record call for the impeachment of Richard Nixon that I am personally aware of. There may be an earlier one, but I haven’t seen it, though I have seen later ones which claimed to be first. The same country that showed Nixon mercy because he had phlebitis showed Gil Scott-Heron–who said of phlebitis, “Rats bite us. No pardon in the ghetto”–to prison for crack addiction. Gil Scott-Heron died too young on parole with a felony record.

Continue reading If History Won’t Save You, What Will?

Internalized Anti-Intellectualism

Yesterday, Kim Hampton asked this question (it’s short and good–read it!):

Why is it, for all of our supposed intellectualism on a wide range of subjects, most Unitarian Universalists show absolutely no curiosity regarding religion itself?

This is true enough. I’d qualify it by adding there are Unitarian Universalists who effectively practice another religion and have some interest in their own. Very few of them have the sort of wide-ranging curiosity about religion she’s talking about.

What I had noticed is that most Unitarian Universalists I’ve met are particularly uninterested in Unitarian Universalism. They aren’t interested in Unitarianism or Universalism, either. I’m not sure this is internalized anti-intellectualism, but that’s my working theory.

In Praise of Amber Ruffin, or How Seth Meyers could help your church

For a comedy fan, YouTube and late-night talk shows are the perfect combination. All the monologues, all the skits and sketches, none of the boring interviews. Just the laughs, and the hard thoughts sometimes behind them.

My current favorite of the late-night comedians isn’t a host but a writer-actor, Amber Ruffin, a writer on Late Night with Seth Meyers. Meyers is very funny, and he’s confident enough in his abilities to put his writers on stage with him. At least weekly the woman writers–most of the sketch/skit acting is done by women–are on the show, with good juicy parts, often upstaging Meyers. Here he’s playing straight man so Ruffin can be top banana:

There is so much to love in that sketch. Ruffin pulls laughs out of unpleasant places. Her girlish demeanor is a great pivot point. She can go from there to sarcastic, contrarian, sexy, angry, almost anywhere. Here she makes the hugest move with it: At the time of the Charlottesville attack, a frightening time, she shows us how she guards her soft spots with a happy “Come oooooon!” Most comedians don’t ever get to that level of public insight.  She’s early in her career and doing it in front of a national audience.

Until I started to write this, I did not know that in 2014, Ruffin became the first black woman to write for a network late-night talk show, but I had figured she’s on track to be the first black woman–and maybe the first woman–with a late-night network talk show.

Apparently I’m not the only person who’s considered that. Just this week, Seth Meyers was interviewed in The Atlantic:

Continue reading In Praise of Amber Ruffin, or How Seth Meyers could help your church