Thursday, March 31, 2005

Peacebang is Deliriously Happy

Well, I'll be. I am just now picking my jaw up off the floor after reading a smashing, challenging, throw-down-the-gauntlet sermon composed by Funky Ethan and given at a recent gathering at the Unitarian Universalist staff at 25 Beacon Street.

Ethan's sermon reads like something out of my own journal and basically begs the question: "Hey ya'll, um, why can't we consider ourselves a Christian denomination, and why should we let the skeevy right-wing hypocritical bastids who make Jesus cry and bite his nails claim the 'Christian' title when we're historically and culturally Christian, and plenty of us are Christians theologically and spiritually, too!? Just not in the orthodox sense!"

Ethan's low christology may cause some of my more Christ-centered UU comrades to wince (I hope not), and he's not as clear on Unitarian christological tradition as I'm sure he will be, but by gum, the kid's got at least half a dozen breathtakingly intelligent points, and he makes them with affection and panache, and best of all... he's a life-long UU, so he's got that particular street cred.

Could this be the beginning of the real revolution in UUism, when the next generation doesn't break out into hives every time we crack a Bible of mention Mr. Jesus of the Christ family?

Go ahead and read what he said, won't you?

And read the comments of the kids afterward. It will warm the cockles of ye heart; if you have cockles. I'm not sure I do.

Peacebang to Ethan: "Holy Ghost power! Holy Ghost power!" (a la Robert Duvall in "The Apostle

Sunday, March 27, 2005

My Easter Sermon Excerpt, With Love

Happy ending, Peacebangers! Just know that what originally appeared on this blog wound up serving as fodder for one of the most joyous and memorable Easter services I am ever likely to celebrate with my congregation:

From the Easter Sermon, "It Matters To This One"

...The church is a kind of training ground, or gym, if you will, for the soul. We spend regular pew time in here with the aim that on the other days of the week, we might find it easier to remember that the Earth is a living organism that needs our care, and that each person upon it is actually a brother or sister of ours.

Here we train ourselves to look at the insides, rather than the outsides, of people and situations. We remind ourselves of the need to speak peace, bring peace, act peace, be peace. Our children desperately need to see this in us and we desperately need to extend it to each other. I dare say that the dominant culture of our day does not much encourage the peacefulness and sense of kin relation between us.

So we come together on Easter morning affirming the things that need to be affirmed if we are to endure as a species, and we do it knowing that it’s tough work indeed. We are such complex and secret creatures, as you know. You know as well as I do that we can spend an hour in here with the very best intentions and with full hearts, but that the minute we walk through the door we are going to see a whole lot of evidence that everything is crazy and broken, and we might as well chuck the church nonsense, go shopping and stay drunk on chocolate and denial for the rest of our lives.

If you think the Easter story is crazy, it is. It is absolutely crazy and ridiculous, as we are. Deciding together to experience life and joy where there is every reason to proclaim death and failure is absolutely ridiculous. As the composer Stephen Sondheim wrote, “Send in the clowns. Don’t bother; they’re here.”

We celebrate a ridiculous story here today, a fantastic story. Jesus’ original community of disciples went home on Friday afternoon thinking the whole enterprise was over, failure. Enough with this kingdom of equals, enough with the promises of God’s healing and love for all. It was done. Finished.

And then the women went back to tend to the body of their rabbi the next day and they found the tomb empty. They saw an angel. Or a figure in white, it depends who you ask. The details of their vision aren’t consistent among all the gospel accounts, but it startled them just about out of their skins and they went running off to tell the men. The men said, of course, you’re being ridiculous.

This is what we usually say when something seems an enormously obvious failure and ending by our conventional wisdom. “Don’t be ridiculous, there’s no life to be seen there, and there certainly aren’t any angels.”
So a couple of those downhearted men walked to a town called Emmaus, seven miles out of Jerusalem, as S. just read to us. They were doing some Monday morning quarterbacking, no doubt, and assessing what went wrong, who screwed up, getting ready to label everything with a big black marker called “We Lost” and going to get back to their oppressed, frustrating lives.

But you know, there is that human spark of hope and God that beats in every one of our breasts and has since the beginning of time, and lo! these men too had a vision. It began ordinarily enough, with a stranger walking beside them. The two men had already decided the women disciples were fools for believing that Jesus was still alive, and yet they got pulled into the very same experience of life and faith as the women did. They got pulled into just as much ridiculousness.
Wait a minute!
Wasn’t that Jesus?
Where’d he go?
Was that really him?
Wait, that was him, wasn’t it?
Oh my God, you’re kidding me!

All that time they walked along the road together, but they didn’t see who it was keeping them company, Luke tells us, until the breaking of the bread at the table. When they finally got it, they just about fell over themselves. And in this wonderful line, one of them says to the other, “Wait a minute. Let’s go over this. Didn’t our hearts just burn within us as he was teaching us on the road?”
Yeah, mine did. Now that you mention it. Yeah. My heart was burning. But I didn’t think I’d mention it or anything. I thought I was being ridiculous.

I love that Jesus himself in this resurrection appearance even says to the disciples, “You’re such fools.” He knows better than anyone that when your heart is full, when it is burning within you for love and inspiration and recognition of the holiness at the heart of being, you don’t worry about making sense.

I’m so glad that our Unitarian Universalist faith says in its first Source that our living tradition receives wisdom from many sources, including the “direct experience of that transcending mystery and wonder, affirmed in all cultures, which moves us to a renewal of the spirit and an openness to the forces that create and uphold life.” It’s right there on the first or second page of your hymnal. Now that’s the Easter experience in a nutshell, isn’t it? Direct experience of a transcending mystery and wonder. I’m so glad, because it gives me permission to be ridiculous. ... I’m grateful for it. It says that spiritual truth is just as valuable as scientific truth in how we make meaning. It affirms the mystical. I respect that. I especially respect it when a group of people’s direct experience of transcending mystery and wonder leads them to see the possibility of life, ministry, healing and hope where there was death.
How blessed to be that ridiculous. It’s what I live for.

If you want to set out to be that ridiculous, and I hope you do, here’s how: set out to find bits of light, love and understanding wherever you can. Have a direct experience of ridiculousness that turns the way you perceive reality from death to life; from destruction to creation. Pick one small ridiculous act of life and commit it. (Commit random acts of ridiculousness!)

There is a corny story that I like about that kind of small, ridiculous act of finding life amid death. A boy is walking along the beach where thousands of starfish have been tossed up and stranded by the tide. He is tossing them back to the sea, one by one. An older man stops and watches him for awhile, and he chuckles. “What does it matter, son? There are still thousands of starfish on the beach.” And the boy throws one more starfish back into the tide and he says, “It matters to this one.”

It’s a corny story but it came back into my mind a few weeks ago and I couldn’t get it out. Here’s how it happened.

I went to see a production of the musical “Gypsy” at a local theatre. One of the characters, a pushy stage mother, is a real animal lover and she gets her daughter a lamb for her birthday present. The girl, Louise, sings a lovely song to the lamb, called (appropriately enough), “Little Lamb.” I know the show pretty well and I wondered how this theatre would handle the live animal situation. Would they do it with a stuffed animal or what? So I was just as charmed as everyone else in the audience when a real, snowy white lamb got pushed onto the stage in a diaper at the beginning of the scene. It was just as cute as can be, going “baaa baaa” and pulling at its harness while the actress sang to it.

Later, backstage, I asked the producer about it: “Getting that lamb must have been a real challenge for you!” Yes, it was, he agreed. And I congratulated some friends who were in the show. “LOVED your performance, LOVED the lamb!”
“Oh, we love the lamb, too!” they said. But one of them pulled me aside and whispered to me that they had gotten the lamb from a slaughterhouse and that the lamb was going to go back there after the show. To put it delicately, she was scheduled to become lamb chops.

In the interest of full disclosure I will say that I am a carnivore and I thank my brother and sister chickens, cows, sheep and pigs for much of the food that I eat. But I am also a lady of the stage and it seemed to me that this little lamb was also a lady of the stage, and ladies of the stage are should not be served up with a side of mint jelly on anyone’s dinner plate. Even if they do pull at their harness and bleat while fellow actors are trying to sing.
It bothered me.

So I prayed about it. “I know I’m being really ridiculous, but I just feel I am supposed to protect that lamb.”
The still, small voice inside answered me. It said, “Well, you have ten fingers and a mouth: get on the phone!”

So I called around, and I visited around, and through a lovely lady of this congregation, P., I was put in touch her daughter-in-law A. We had a great rollicking talk one afternoon at the Science Center down the street, along with An., and A. was more than happy to provide a home for the lamb. She had had sheep before and she was happy to get another one. And the farmer was just as happy to sell the lamb to me.
The lamb is now named Little Compton. She is living happily in Pembroke. There is no mint jelly in her future.

And we welcome her and her mistress our church this morning.

(At this moment, A.and Little Compton entered the back of the meeting house and walked up the center aisle. The rest of the sermon was delivered with Little Compton standing beautifully and calmly by my side).

Go ahead and be ridiculous. And when you are practicing the ridiculous Easter faith of loving the world, of finding life amidst lost causes, of practicing hope amidst despair, and of letting your hearts burn within you for joy -- remember the disciples, and remember the starfish, and remember this lamb. And remember that it matters.

It matters to this one.

I'm Coming to Church!!

I'm Coming to Church!!
Originally uploaded by Peacebang.
Happy Easter to everyone from Peacebang and Little Compton, who will be making her church debut at approximately 10:30 a.m.

Please pray for us. We like our rug very much.

Saturday, March 26, 2005

Happy Chocolate Risen Bunny Christ Day!

Passion Bear
Originally uploaded by Peacebang.

This is just so many different kinds of wrong. Go ahead, click on it. Get a good look.

Thanks to H. for sending me over to for some truly horrified, irreverent laughs.

:::shakes head, slinks away to finish Easter sermon:::

"Not Dead Yet"

A colleague sent off an e-mail to a group of us this morning, asking us to think again about the Terry Schiavo case, and this time from the perspective of the disabled community.

She directed us to several links; this one among them:

The argument put forth by this group, "Disabled Queers," is that we should think of Terry as disabled and that those who advocate for the removal of her feeding tube are thereby participating in discrimination against a disabled person.

While I appreciate the bold witness on behalf of Terry's life, I simply cannot regard someone without a cerebral cortex as "disabled." She is far beyond that Pale at this point.

However, the group raises for me this question: if we are to respect the right of disabled persons to have as full a life as they can (and I do), and if we are to respect the value of every life -- even one as limited as Terry Schiavo's in her current condition -- let me ask you this: what do you think is the value of Terry Schiavo's life right now? Ontologically speaking? Outside of the sense of purpose she provides to her parents, her other caregivers, to politicians, and to right-to-lifers who are right now keeping vigil outside her hospital room?

A second point the group makes is that keeping Terry alive via means of a feeding tube is not particularly high tech at all, and does not really amount to "extreme measures." I find this a compelling point. Do you?

Third, all of these groups point to Mr. Schiavo's conflict of interest in standing to benefit both personally and financially from Terry's death. This seems strange to me, or at least terribly naive. I have not kept vigil with a great number of family members and loved ones after a decision has been made to withdraw life support, but I have some. And in every case, yes, there would be some financial and/or personal freedom earned by allowing the loved one to die.
I believe that Mr. Schiavo has already spent close to a million dollars on medical and legal expenses for Terry. Can we really believe that after fifteen years, this is all about hard, cold greed? I think of Schiavo's girlfriend with whom he has a child or two. I imagine she might like to marry the guy. Is that really so depraved?

I truly don't mean to be hurtful in saying this, but I wonder if any of the most outraged folks out there advocating for Terry's life have even thought to connect her eating disorder with her long sojourn in this unconscious twilight, and thus to regard her in a more complex role as one of absolute victim or martyr. The fact that some of them (including children) are actually trying to get into the hospital with bread and water for her -- and they don't mean the bread and water symbolically, either -- speaks to me of a kind of a kind of intentional ignorance that insists on making a saint or martyr out of an ordinary human woman.
People, she can't eat that bread. She can't drink that water. No way, no how. What are you thinking?

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Mr. W. Works Beyond "The Wince"

I like this blog I found by another Unitarian Universalist:

I am directing you to one of his recent posts referencing a sermon his minister gave on "Saving Jesus," directed partly at so-called "Jesus-wincers" in his congregation (I call them "Jesus counters.")

I commend Mr. Wilczynski for expressing a mature Unitarian Univeralism that says, "This particular religious thing makes me uncomfortable and so I am working to heal my knee-jerk reaction." It's everything I hope for Jesus-counters of my own acquaintance: not that they become Christians, but that they become better UUs for moving beyond a censorious, angry rejection of any of our sources of religious wisdom.

Too often we forget that although we may be, as my friend Tom Schade says, "a hospital for the religiously-wounded," we should help lead our co-religionists to the goal of healing and integration.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

"I Am Convicted" (Con.)

For those of you who are following the thread of the March 16th post, "And I Am Convicted," I'd like to refer you to the comments section, and particularly to my exchange between myself and a religious educator, Steve Caldwell.

I hope our conversation will encourage you to consider these questions: are
Unitarian Universalists generally even aware of the theological differences between liberal and conservative (or orthodox) forms of Christianity? Are they in your congregation? Are the youth? If so, can they articulate those differences with any confidence, even if liberal Christianity is not their own chosen spiritual path?

Does it matter?

Monday, March 21, 2005

Sarah Jessica Dumped!

Sarah Jessica Dumped!
Originally uploaded by Peacebang.

I know it's Holy Week and there are more important things to worry about, like Terry Schiavo and all, but I wanted to let you know that fashion icon Sarah Jessica Parker has been dumped from her lucrative Gap endorsement deal in favor of some blonde singer named "Joss."

Joss. I ask you...!

And so goes another chapter in the war between the "interesting" looking girl (who might have a big nose and man hands, but who is also an accomplished Broadway actress and creator of one of the most endearing characters in all television series history)and the Generic, Younger Pretty Blonde.

SJP, I so feel you. If I had the dough I'd buy you a pair of Manolo Blahniks as consolation.

Thanks to for the photo and the scoop.

Sunday, March 20, 2005

Thin Soup, Not Bread

(I found this posting in my "drafts" folder from back in February. I am in the process of deleting some posts that mention my church, even though they mention my church with great pride and appreciation. Peacebang is undergoing a very subtle make-over; so subtle that you'll wonder if she had any work done at all. -- P.B.)

Phil's Little Blog on the Prairie tells us that a group of folks over at the First Universalist Church in Minneapolis came up with this answer to the question of "What are our essential religious beliefs?" They decided, in part,

You are loved in this world (the simple message of Universalism) and
You are good (the simple message of Unitarianism).

Phil writes,
"These simple messages articulate the essence of both our traditions—historically and theologically."

I think the statements above are nice, and religiously true -- but they feel theologically amuptated to me. Since the original statement was made in the context of a religious education forum, it may be enough to teach our children that they are loved and they are good. They are worthy of love and they are worthy, and therefore they should go forth and love and bless the world, themselves and each other, and live for this life rather than the next life, etc. and all that good stuff. I'm for it.

But I dearly wish that among us grown-ups, we would be willing to expand those statements to reveal a glimpse of where in Reality we locate those claims to love and goodness.
The "simple message of Universalism" in its classical expression was not quite that simple. The Universalists who bequeathed upon us this lovely spiritual heritage said, We are loved in this world because God loves us, and all love flows from that eternal source. I don't care if people nowadays want to define a spirituality that has no transcendent referent, but if we're invoking the past we should do so in a way that's honest, and not revise it to accomodate today's discomforts.

Likewise, early Unitarian faith in human goodness and improvability was tied to their conviction that humans are created in the likeness of a benevolent God (a proposition most disstasteful to the Calvinists). There is no ontological condition of goodness outside from that bestowed upon us by the Father (hey, I don't like the gender-exclusive language any more than you do, but that's what they said and wrote and lived, okay?).

Our children should know these things. Our adults should know them. You cannot reject the God of the fathers and mothers and painstakingly work your way to a sustaining personal theology unless you know the God of the mothers and fathers. Watering it down to "you are loved and you are good" is thin soup, indeed.

Saturday, March 19, 2005

Suicide Smocks

Suicide Smocks
Originally uploaded by Peacebang.

I'm still thinking about the Future of Peacebang, but meanwhile I thought you should see this. An alert Peacebanger (who happens to be related by blood) alerted me to a website for a company that manufactures these smocks for suicidal prisoners.

Really, I don't WANT to laugh. I don't think it's a bit funny in the true sense of the word.
Perhaps what I feel gurgling in my throat is that existential kind of laughter, where we think fondly of the day we will be released from this extended absurdist performance called Life. Or perhaps it's due to the unintentionally hilarious smock models, who look for all the world like Noah and his wife upon disembarking from the Ark.

This text lifted directly from one of the pages on the website, at

Clothe Your Suicidal Inmates
and Save Money

Medical Expenses
Clothing prevents the need for treatment of hypothermia
Warmth reduces the likelihood of illness, particularly upper respiratory diseases
Risk of Personal Injury Suits
Removal of clothing from particularly vulnerable inmates such as females and youth puts a facility at risk
Providing clothing protects your facility against a suit for harm caused by hypothermia
Staff members, the "patient", and other inmates are more likely to report suicidality or implement necessary precautions knowing that the interventions do not include stripping (particularly in borderline cases and difficult judgment calls).
Demands on Staff
Inmate's comfort and reduced anxiety means less harassment of staff
Overseeing naked inmates is uncomfortable for staff
A clothed inmate can be more readily moved
Staff gets a break from noise and demands when inmate sleeps
Duration of Suicide Watches
Clothing decreases the inmate's sense of being punished or "treated like an animal"
A clothed inmate is better able to sleep which allows:
The bloodstream to be cleared of drugs
The therapeutic effects of sleep
An opportunity for a new beginning upon awakening

By God, the parousia can't come fast enough.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Peacebang On Self-Imposed Time-Out

I just googled myself and found SIX pages of links to Peacebang, this li'l ole blog that I started right at the turn of the new year without one single-dingle consideration for what I was doing, what purpose I had in posting, and what kind of persona I would be putting out over the Internet.

I found that Peacebang is linked lots of places, and that way more people than I thought are noticing it and commenting on it. People I don't even personally know! Yikes! Who knew? I thought my site meter was mostly reflecting about nine readers who click in a few times a day. To be honest, I don't have the site meter programmed in correctly and I have no idea how many people are visiting.

My google search revealed that I have posted with impunity on lots of other people's blogs, making incredibly snarky remarks and sometimes even using cuss words. Bad ones too, Pa.

On this blog, I've thrown in some fun stuff, some serious stuff, and some puppies and lambs for good measure.

I've created a monster! A monster I actually really like, but a monster nonetheless.

I need to take a little time off and think about what this monster should be, if this monster wants to stop writing anonymously (in which case I would adopt another, very secret persona for the sole purpose of writing bitchy things on the celebrity gossip blogs), if this monster wants to be more thoughtful and responsible about what she posts and says, etc.

The ethics of blogging: what are they?
If Peacebang disappeared, would you be sad?


And I Am Convicted

Thanks, Peacebangers, for all your cool comments. Nice to see some new names. By the way, I just discovered Jess's Blog, and you might want to see her sad commentary on the state of some belligerently anti-Christian UU seminarians here:
Is there anything more unintentionally comical than a worship service where the idea of Communion is discussed and dissected, but no one actually takes communion? Stop the madness.

I finished my essay this afternoon and toned down some of my inflammatory comments, trying to infuse my criticism with the genuine love I have for my co-religionists. I'd like to share with you some of what I submitted for the Skinner House anthology of writings by UU Christians. I call the essay, "And I Am Convicted" (I mean that in the evangelical way, not the criminal way):

"I remained a closeted Christian for several years, reading and thinking and teaching myself how to pray, discovering and respecting the troubled sibling relationship between Judaism and Christianity, and giving my heart and soul over to Christ as both man and spirit. I explored some Christian churches but was turned off by their literalism, their supercessionist treatment of Jewish religion, or their lack of commitment to social justice causes that were widely supported among my Unitarian Universalists. I began to have more affection for Unitarian Universalism, now that I could see it within the larger context of American religious life.

But where was Jesus in our UU worship life? I had never once questioned his absence in my childhood church, but I now began to wonder: since Jesus’ radical inclusivity, love of humanity, and passion for justice was so harmonious with all the “good news” I was hearing in our congregations, why did our ministers and congregants so assiduously avoid the gospels? I found it comical on some Sundays, depressing other Sundays, and consistently baffling. I could not understand why UUs would allow the perversions of the religious right to define the word “Christian” (or “religious,” for that matter), why they would concede religious language to the conservatives, and why they would go out of their way to construct a religion intentionally bereft of theology, rendering themselves a quasi-religion and many of their churches temples of denial and hypocrisy, where every spiritual path but the Christian path was considered valid, and where all evidence of a Christian past was removed, revised, and painted over.

It took me over ten more years of committed Unitarian Universalist life to consider that perhaps my dear UUs were the most strangely faithful Christians of all: having either intuitively or consciously embraced Jesus’ gospel of love, service and justice, they could not stand to affiliate with any so-called faithful who claimed to have received their inspiration for discrimination, exclusion, superstition, and damnation from the same source. The well, for too many UUs, had been irrevocably poisoned, and they would thereafter drink of the living waters from another source. Any other source, it seemed, but the Christian well. I felt called to abide with my religious community, to remain patient with my own sense of religious difference among them, and to pursue the ministry."

I continue later:

"I call myself a Christian because I am a disciple of Jesus Christ; not just Jesus-that-great-guy-and-teacher-with-the-long-hair-and-sandals, but Jesus the living avatar of the great God, and Jesus the Christ of Easter morning. I have always said that I am a mystic at heart, and that if I had been born in pre-Christian times I would have been a devotee of the mystery religion of that time and place; perhaps the Eleusinian or Orphic rites. Christianity is the mystery religion of my time and place, and I am a devotee of it.

This last point, of course, distresses my rationalist Unitarian Universalist friends to no end, and I understand and accept that with affection and forbearance. But when we say that our living tradition draws from “direct experience of that transcending mystery and wonder, affirmed in all cultures, which moves us to a renewal of the spirit and an openness to the forces that create and uphold life,” I think of that original community of disciples, who had a direct experience of the risen Christ which I revere and respect. It matters not at all whether I believe a dead man can be brought back to life or not, and although I used to research this question with some energy at the beginning of my Christian journey, today I have lost interest in exploring the scientific or historic “what’s, when’s and how’s” of the first Easter. Do I believe, then, in the Resurrection? I believe that the original community of disciples had a direct experience of one who was truly dead, and who soon thereafter experienced his appearance among them to send them out to love the world, to serve, to heal, and to overcome the forces of hatred and oppression.
And I am convicted.

So, Sari, we do discuss theology sometimes, although not often enough in our congregations -- out of a misguided pandering to the religiously wounded among us, which causes us to avoid many of the conversations and much of the theological education that could most heal the angry, ex-Somethings who join our congregations. We discuss theology on our blogs now, I suppose, and that's going to have to do for a start. You should know that the average UU blogger is not representative of the average Unitarian Universalist, many of whom proudly sport a "Famous UUs" T-shirt while they drink Fair Exchange coffee of a Sunday morning, and most of whom will never give a good hee-haw about what year the First Parish in Quincy officially transitioned from Calvinist Congregationalism to Unitarianism.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Inflammatory Comments R Us!

I am working on an article for our publishing house on why I am a Unitarian Universalist Christian. This thing is very overdue, and my friend and colleague K. is being very kind to accept it from me tomorrow morning as opposed to three freaking weeks ago.

Anyway, it has been very hard to write, as the whole story is really a book and who has time to write a book, and who in the world wants to read a book about me? No one. Okay, maybe my mom.

At one point in the essay I ask why Unitarian Universalists would "go out of their way to construct a religion intentionally bereft of theology, rendering themselves a quasi-religion and many of their churches temples of denial, hypocrisy and crimes against memory."

Ouch. Them's fighting words. I 've been chewing my cud on them for some long minutes now, and I think, well that's what I mean, so that's what I think I'm going to say. I don't know how else to put it. What do I mean by "bereft of theology?" Well, I mean exactly that. I mean no theological discussion allowed. Not even a lively and mutually respectful inquiry about what we might mean by "God," why many of us reject "that" God, and why some have no God concept and all. No God allowed, period. It's gotten better, but for much of my growin' up years, this was the norm everywhere I went. We were the great project in non-theistic religion -- which might not have been a disaster -- but we did it with such arrogance, such certainty that secularism was the wave of the future and baby, we were hanging TEN! Religion was OUT!

Wasn't THAT prophetic!

What do I mean by a "quasi-religion?" I mean, again, the "we meet on Sunday mornings, we sing hymns and hear a sermon and take an offering, and we're tax-exempt, but we're THE RELIGION FOR THE NON-RELIGIOUS."
Isn't *that* cute? That was actually -- I'm not making this up -- the title of a very popular brochure we actually used to provide to NEW MEMBERS.

What do I mean by "temples of denial, hypocrisy and crimes against memory?"
Just this: "We're the non-religious religion -- we don't have a creed, we're theologically open, we really accept everyone, and ... excuse me? Did you say 'Christian?" Did you say 'Bible?' Oh, well that was something some of us did a long time ago, but those who did mostly approached the Bible with a pair of scissors*, and we've never observed traditional Christian practices in our church."

Pardon me, ma'am, may I show you the archives of your very own congregation's orders of worship? Was that a lapse in knowledge, or an intentional obfuscation of a past that makes you distinctly itchy?

And I'm sure you want to revise that "welcome and affirming" spiel. I think what you mean to say is, "We welcome and affirm you if you're willing to speak our language, conform to our politics, and share a sneering distaste for anything that could be vaguely described as traditional religion."

Disclaimer: I haven't seen nearly so much of this behavior lately, and this is in no way a reflection or report of conditions in my current congregation which is perfectineveryway.

*= P.S. Despite what you have heard or seen on any number of T-shirts, Thomas Jefferson was NOT a Unitarian!! He said he thought it would become a very popular religion for thoughtful lads and lasses in America someday, but he was not one himself. Practically speaking, for God's sake, there was no such formal denominational designation in his lifetime. He was theologically unitarian. And a Deist. 'Taint the same thing.

Monday, March 14, 2005

Little Compton Goes Home

Amy and Little Compton
Originally uploaded by Peacebang.
So I went backstage to get the lamb yesterday, and then A. showed up to take her home. When she walked through the door she got tears in her eyes and we all knew it was Meant To Be. Not a dry eye in the house.

The lamb, whose name is Little Compton, is officially living happily ever after now, and I am hoping that she will come to church to be the central message for my Easter sermon, which I am right now writing in my mind. Do you think it would be too irreverent to have her walk down the center aisle while the organ plays "Let Me Entertain You?"

The Lamb Meets The Stripper

The Lamb Meets The Stripper
Originally uploaded by Peacebang.

Picture the lamb leaping *straight* in the air and almost giving S. a hoof in the mouth (hoof-and-mouth disease?). I had no idea those little critters could get so VERTICAL! (That's why S. is totally cracking up.)

Immediately after this photo was taken, S. opened the door and the lamb knocked her way past her and went bleating out into the hall while S. and I ran after her, trying not to scream and laugh too loudy and disturb the show. The trainer tackled and subdued her outside the lobby and brought her back to her little pen.

People, it was a total scene.

P.S. S.O. isn't REALLY a stripper -- she was just playing one in "Gypsy." And I know she's bodacious and fabulous and all, but she has a boyfriend.

Saturday, March 12, 2005

Conference Bike! The Wonder Ball Of the 00's!

This absolutely wins my first prize for "Fun Ways To Get Into a Car Accident."

Please. See this. Make sure your volume is on.

OR, for the longer version with the puppy,

And please.... explain it to me.

(From new favorite web site,, referred by Peacebang's web-savviest sis, who has patiently taken at least three phone calls this morning from a hysterical Peacebang laughing about ConferenceBike).

Friday, March 11, 2005

Lunch With Philocrites

I had some business on Beacon Hill today and had the unexpected pleasure of stealing dear Philocrites ( away for lunch at a charming nearby bistro. Having just endured a really harrowing business meeting, I had a Bloody Mary with my soup, and he had a sandwich and Freedom fries.

He is such a gift to Unitarian Universalism and we're really so grateful to have imported him East from Utah. Mitt Romney, you can have.

As I was walking down the Common to the "T" (if you're not a Bostonian, that's okay, you can figure it out), two reporters from Fox TV asked me, on camera, what I would nominate for the official Rodent of Massachusetts. I wanted to say "Mitt Romney" but I stuck with the good old field mouse, three of whom I found floating in my olive oil back in December. You remember that, don't you?

It's snowing again. Please, South Beach Diet Gods, give me the strength not to turn to buttered popcorn and chocolate for solace.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

The Pieta of Michaelangelo

The Pieta of Michaelangelo
Originally uploaded by Peacebang.
Another story from my trip to Italy: we were spending the morning at St. Peter's, which is really, for my money, THE knock-down architectural wonder and holy-ghost-power dwelling place of the Most High. Anyway. A lady still occasionally needs to freshen up, so after some jaw-gaping appreciation of the larger cathedral I went off to find the powder room, and almost fell out when I happened upon the Pieta in the hallway, just sitting there in all its silent numinosity.

I approached it with baited breath and practically on tip-toe, and stood there plucking at my shirt buttons and trying not to sob. A minute or so later I was distracted by the sound of footsteps, and turned to see a kind of doofusy American tourist (trucker hat, big camera around the neck, windbreaker)catch sight of Michaelangelo's Mary and Jesus. He stopped dead in his tracks, pulled his cap from his head and began to weep. I moved aside and he approached, and just stood there with his face in his hands and cried.
(damn, there goes my mascara just remembering it)

I am teaching a class at church this spring called "The Creative Spirit," which invites all the participants to share art, literature or music that has a particularly powerful spiritual impact on them.
What would *you* bring to the first session?

And, for the record, I find a lot more miraculous in Michaelangelo's gifts, and not so much miraclulous about the honey-mustard Rold Gold pretzel version of Mama and Jesu.


Originally uploaded by Peacebang.
This item is on auction on e-Bay. It's an apparition of the Virgin and Child incarnate in a mustard-flavored Rold-Gold pretzel. Do you see it? Can you see it? Isn't it tender and luminous? I mean, for a carbohydrate?
According to the seller, they all experienced a feeling of warmth and spiritual well-being when holding the pretzel.

Last time I checked, bidding was up around $11,000. Glory.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

A Lamb of the Stage

Yittle Yam
Originally uploaded by Peacebang.
I went to see "Gypsy" last weekend at a local community theatre, and was just as charmed as everyone else when a real,live lamb was pushed onto the stage to appear in Louise's birthday scene. The lamb was wearing a diaper, and pulled at its harness and baaa'd plaintively throughout most of the song that was sung to it (appropriately called "Little Lamb" -- one of the dumbest, throw-away tunes of the musical theatre... clearly composed so that the leading lady could go make a costume change).

As it turns out, our little fleecy friend was obtained from a local slaughterhouse and was scheduled to be returned to it after the run of the show.

My heavens. Just because a guy makes a few mistakes on stage doesn't mean he ought to wind up on a plate with a side of mint jelly!

Peacebang took it upon herself to find a home for the little starlet, and is happy to tell you that he (or she) will be living at a farm very nearby, courtesy of some wonderful, warm-hearted neighbors. The lamb's new name, by the way, is "Little Compton."
But Peacebang will always think of him as "Gypsy."

You may make your Paschal lamb/Agnus Dei joke here.

Sunday, March 06, 2005

Michael Dearest, and BTK

Michael Dearest
Originally uploaded by Peacebang.

No comment on the photo. Courtesy of

I'm avoiding the Michael Jackson trial but watching the BTK situation with some interest. There is something bone-chillingly creepy about a sadistic murdering psycho giving himself a moniker that sounds like a fast-food franchise. A reliable source tells me that the pastor of the accused, days after publicly affirming that his maniacal congregant is part of the body of Christ, has had a nervous breakdown.

My Reliable Source asked me what I would do if one of my own dearly beloved congregants turned out to be a serial killer. I'll have to think about that. We talk about the "inherent worth and dignity" of all human beings but of course "inherent" is not the same as "inviolate."

I certainly don't think I'd be using that "Body of Christ" line in public, that's for sure. I'd be talking about the victims, and our compassion for them, and keeping my mouth pretty much shut about my relationship with the accused. That's what pastoral privilege is all about.

I am well aware that, given the opportunities and plenty of time in the Big House, even the most heinous of evil-doers are capable of true repentance, spiritual growth and evolution of character. I've seen it with my own eyes. When that happens, it is very difficult for the loved ones of victims to appreciate the reformation of that individual. After all, they got a chance to move into another phase of life; an opportunity not granted the dead. When the families and loved ones can recognize the goodness in change, reconciliation can occur. When they can't, the perpetrator lives with the knowledge of that permanent hatred and resentment as best he or she can.

I do not generally support the death penalty. I say generally, because when there's a true sadist among us, my heart gets very cold and very unchristian. I want that person off the planet. They are living (or have lived) too far beyond the Pale of the basic human covenant, and they incarnate evil, which I believe is an absolute. So it's not a question of "eye for an eye" but of the kind of spiritual harm and danger represented by the truly unrepentant sadist.

But then... I remember the Hasidic saying: We should love the wicked, too, because as long as we do not love in this way, the Messiah will not come.

Justice is the most difficult human work.

Saturday, March 05, 2005

Santa Francesca Of the Dogs

Assisi Cloister
Originally uploaded by Peacebang.

What I remember about Assisi was how I would walk out onto our balcony every morning and the valley below was shrouded in fog. Everything had a kind of pinkish glow, and huge flocks of birds would suddenly lift off from one rooftop and fly in swooping, Busby Berkley-esque formations to the next rooftop. I got to see the Giotto frescoes before the big earthquake that destroyed them, and the whole few days was one big swoon. We went in January (golly, that was 9 years ago already - I was turning 30) and there was no one around but the occasional nice little group of Japanese tourists.

So I can imagine myself there this summer, even with that weird "who am I without my church" summer malaise I always get into, just soaking in some Jungian theory and happy to simply be there in that medieval setting.

Assisi is the one place in the world that I think is equally romantic whether you're totally solo or totally in love. You feel like a lover of life in Assisi. Go ahead and laff. But Virginia's not for lovers. Virginia's for right-wing nut jobs and really nice magnolia blossoms in the spring. ASSISI is for lovers, man. You're not at all surprised to learn that two major saints came from there, as you think it you only spent a few more days, you might score a major mystical vision or two yourself.

I'm seriously thinking of taking the course, although it's expensive and I've already been there, and there's that whole country called SPAIN that I'm dying to see...

I forgot to tell you how I was walking up this big hill to the Rocco Maggiore when I was there, chatting away to this little raggedy stray dog who walked the whole way with me (I have photos of him that I should post sometime). A group of schoolboys were following my progress from the bushes, shouting that I was crazy and calling me "St. Francesca of the Dogs." I know enough Italian that I could tell what they were saying.

It's my favorite nickname ever. Oh, in case you didn't know: the two saints from Assisi are St. Francis and Saint Claire.

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Are You Brushin' With Me, Jesus?

Dental Jesus
Originally uploaded by Peacebang.
M. went to the dentist and got a partial crown the other day, which kind of traumatized him although he was able to eat a salad before the novocaine wore off without chewing his lip off by accident.
I am positively dental-phobic and M. and I share a horror of the smell of vaporizing tooth enamel going up the nose, and the sound of the drill. I wish M. had had this picture with him when he went to the dentist. I'm sure it would have helped -- just like the time he stopped by church for a special traveling blessing before leaving the country.

Send Your Condolences

As you have heard by now, Judge Joan Humphrey Lefkow has suffered the murder of both her mother, 89- year old Donna Humphrey, and her husband, Michael Lefkow. They were shot in the basement of her home, and the authorities have every reason to believe that this was the work of white supremacists whom the good Judge had prosecuted in the past.

You may want to send a note of condolence, support, prayers, etc. to Judge Lefkow care of her church, St. Luke's Episcopal Church in Evanston, IL. She is currently in protective custody and preparing for the funerals.

St. Luke's Episcopal Church
939 Hinman Street
Evanston, IL 60202

We pray for their souls.

"I remembered you, O God, and I groaned:
I mused, and my spirit grew faint." - Psalm 77, N.I.V.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

My Earlobes Are Stretching Just Thinking About It

Biggest Earrings Award
Originally uploaded by Peacebang.
No win for Best Supporting Actress, but Miss Madsen did take honors for biggest earrings.

Go Ahead, Make My Bread

Go Ahead, Make My Bread
Originally uploaded by Peacebang.

According to Page Six, the gossip section of the craptastic New York Post:

"March 1, 2005 -- EVERYONE knew where Clint Eastwood was going after his "Million Dollar Baby" won four Oscars: to Dani Janssen's Century City apartment. The widow of "The Fugitive" star, David Janssen, has known Eastwood since she was 16 and they were contract players at Universal. Eastwood never misses Janssen's Oscar party if he's in town. Dani, who does all the cooking herself, including her famous "monkey bread," limits the guest list to close friends like Jack Nicholson and Shirley MacLaine."

I just know you have a church potluck to go to one of these days, and I just know that you will want to bring along some monkey bread, so here's the recipe, dear Peacebangers:

3 packages of buttermilk biscuit tubes

1 cup sugar (divided)
2 tsp cinnamon
1 cup butter
1/2 cup brown sugar

Take 3 packages of buttermilk biscuit tubes (10 per roll) and cut each roll into 4 pieces. Drop roll pieces into 1 cup sugar and 2 tsp. cinnamon. drop sugar coated pieces into a well buttered bundt pan (don't squish roll pieces when placing them in the bundt pan).
Put 1/2 cup of the left over sugar/cinnamon mix and 1/2 cup packed brown sugar and 1 cup of butter (2 sticks) into small sauce pan.
Bring this mixture just to a boil, take off heat right away. Carefully drizzle over the roll pieces.
Bake at 350 degrees for 30 min.
Cool slightly in an upright position, then tip pan over onto a plate to remove monkey pull-apart bread.
Tear apart with hands, screech and lope around the room while eating. Smear butter on self. Screech some more.