Monday, January 21, 2008

Church, State, and ID

Ogre (in the comment to the last post) nicely spells out the part of the ID-at-GA problem that seems to have pressed the most buttons in folks. In short, the REAL problem with the requirement to show ID to get into the GA neighborhood is not that some people won't be able to get to come to GA, it's that some people won't be able to come to the WORSHIP SERVICES at GA. Worship services, we feel, should by definition, be open to everyone. The specter of a federal official telling some people that they can't come to our (or any other, presumably) worship service seems especially scary. "What if the feds declared the blocks around your church a security zone and only let people through who had proper ID?" Ogre asks.

(Ogre also remarks that us UU's with our backpacks and Birkenstock's can hardly be considered a threat to port security, especially in a port where containers are not well inspected. The container issue is a huge one, and I sure hope somebody is working on it, but I think we all could easily be convinced that a person with ill intent could certainly dress up just like us if they wanted to. The point of asking for an official ID is to save us all, especially those of us who "look" like foreigners, from the indignity of being singled out, profiled, or subjected to prejudicial activity. )

Back to church and state.

A case where Homeland Security cordoned off a church and required ID for entry would certainly be a challenge to separation of church and state and go to the Supreme Court, and I imagine that we'd all be sending our contributions to the ACLU for that one. There is a considerable body of church/state law in place about such conflicts of rights and values, and the church does not always win.

But my friends, GA isn't our church, though we might hold worship there. We're the most temporary of occupants of the Port of Fort Lauderdale. The doctrine of separation of church and state doesn't mean that anybody can do something they call worship anywhere they please and enjoy immunity from government regulations. We can't hold a worship service in public parks, in the middle of the street, or on other people's property. From the perspective of Homeland Security, we UU's have chosen to enter this sensitive piece of property, and we have to follow the rules that make the nation more secure. Consider this analogy. Suppose a church which had a prison ministry insisted that the prison gates must be thrown open so that anybody could attend because the government has no right to regulate attendance at a worship service. We're in the same position at our GA in the Port of Fort Lauderdale. If we protest showing ID at GA for reasons of separation of church and state, the world is going to laugh at us and wonder why they ever thought Unitarian Universalists were bright, well-read people.

We could, of course, be angry with our own GA Planning Committee, who signed us up for a GA in a secure area, on promises that the ID problem would be solved by now. That wouldn't be very productive, but at least it would be reasonable.

Actually all these "reasons" for the hullabaloo about ID at GA strike me as side issues to what is really bothering us. More about that in another post.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Disecting ID

There are a number of arguments in the "Why we should protest having to show our ID's to get into GA" fracas. I propose to take them one by one. But first let me say that "disliking" and "protesting" are two very different things. I'm going to find the whole ID business disagreeable, like most people will, I imagine. While I've gotten quite used to showing my ID to get on an airplane and kind of used to showing my ID to buy decongestant, showing my ID to get into a convention is new, and I don't like new. And the fact that the convention is my very own precious GA, where I want to be with "my people" and feel like we're powerful....that's going to be an ongoing grief about how things have changed hitting me in my very heart.

So. I'm sad and will no doubt get sadder. But protest? Let's see.

The most dramatic reason that some people will be boycotting GA or protesting is that in their minds, government requirement for ID's in possible terrorist targets such as the Port of Ft. Lauderdale is just another step on the path to fascism. I don't agree with this line of reasoning. I think that there are legitimate reasons for a government to ask for ID, and that there are ways to handle this which are just, democratic, and non-threatening to civil liberties. (There are plenty of other steps on the road to fascism which I worry about quite a bit more, but I still have faith in the political process and the good sense of Americans to deal with.)

For those who make this argument, I ask: Why draw the line in front of a Convention Center? Why not protest your local airport or Federal Court?

Monday, January 14, 2008

Contemporary Worship

Firstly, a shout-out to our church's band, "Spare Parts", a beloved group which plays for us as often as invited, sometimes even when invited on Very Short Notice. (as for the January 6 service featuring commentary on the famous figures who died during the past year, when they treated us to some Dan Fogelberg. Thanks, guys!) Spare Parts is an intergenerational folk-rock sort of band, but heavy on the baby-boomers. It's wonderful, if not quite what people picture when they think, "church band."

Secondly a note that we're starting to think seriously about adding a third service to our growing congregation which is currently almost filling two services. One possibility is to continue with the music and staffing we have for the current two services, and add a "contemporary" style worship service, appealing to young adults, which would be music-heavy and band-led. That's what most churches seem to do, and I'm willing, though pretty much illiterate in the current music set. (Dan Fogelberg was the last pop musician I paid much attention to. I'm totally out of it.)

I set the possibility of a contemporary service before my church's young adult group yesterday, in frank hopes of getting them interested in helping out with such a venture. They were luke warm. We already have a good mix of classical, popular, and world music in our weekly line-up; they're happy with that, they said. (of course, they are the ones who are here...) Then somebody said something else which really surprised me, and they all seemed to agree. "In those Evangelical churches, they have to have a band and screens and all those toys to get people interested in coming and keep them listening. But you don't need to do that. We come because what we hear is helpful to us. We don't need any other rewards."

I'd never thought of it that way.

Do any UU churches have a true contemporary worship service, I wonder? Readers?

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Proud to Present...

One of the young adults in my church, currently away at college, has written most interestingly on his blog about various candidates. Find it here.
He's a lot more informed than I am, so I'm watching him carefully. I commend his blog to you, too!

Friday, January 04, 2008


Doesn't get it.

Her husband's behavior in the White House was not her fault, and I honor her for apparently forgiving him for it and continuing with the marriage, but in making him such a prominent part of her campaign she's forgotten something that nobody else has, which is what a miserable episode that was and how it laid an important part of the goundwork for the even more miserable time we're having now.

Maybe, in order to forgive Bill she had to tell herself it was all no big deal, but it was a big deal. So while I admire Hillary the wife, Hillary the politician has made a terrible mistake.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

How to Find Your Daemon-a meditation

A reader asks exactly how we did this, so here is the script for the guided meditation.

Now, we are going to go on a journey of our imagination, to meet our daemon, or our animal guide…an animal who is just right for our personality. This might be an animal who is a lot like us…shy if we are shy, for instance, or a good runner if we are a good runner…but this animal might have a quality that we don’t have…slow and patient, if we are hyper and impatient, for instance, or smart if we struggle at school. You never can tell with daemons…and you can’t make up your mind in advance. If you go to the right place in your imagination, your daemon will find you. It may be a surprise.

So I want you to wiggle one last wiggle and get yourself comfortable. (big breath…sigh loud, medium, soft) Keep breathing. notice how your breath feels as it goes in and out of your chest, your tummy, your nose. Just breathe. Now, in your imagination, picture yourself taking a walk on a road or a path. Notice what is around you…trees? sky? mountains? And notice what you are walking on. Grass? dirt? pavement? ice? Keep walking. Is the wind blowing? Are you hot? cold? As you walk, you are hoping that the daemon you are about to meet will be just right for you.

Up ahead you see a shelter of some sort. A little house, perhaps…it has a door, and you know that behind that door your daemon is waiting for you. You walk up to the door and stop and take a deep breath…and you open the door.

Your daemon may be right there. If so, say hello and make friends with it. If you don’t see anything, look around the room and wait…see if something comes. Or perhaps you overlooked a very small animal. You were looking for an animal, but some people have invisible daemons, or daemons who are more like people…even objects sometimes.

If you have identified your deamon and made friends with it, tell it, thank it for showing itself to you. Promise that you will come back and visit in your imagination, and ask it for help in your life.

Now, it is time to return. Remembering that you can always come back to this place in your imagination, say goodbye to your daemon, go outside, and start walking back down the road.

When you are ready, come on back and open your eyes….

Now I invite you to turn to the person next to you, or perhaps two of you, and tell them what you found on your imaginary trip.

And now Daylene is going to bring the microphone around so we can hear a variety of daemon stories. If you’d like to tell everyone about your daemon, think up one sentence….

The Daemons discovered ranged from family pets to dragons and Shrek.

I have to say that the intergenerational ongregation was dead silent through this entire guided mediation, which is not something I can say many Sundays!

At, there is a widget which will assign you a daemon after a short personality inventory.