Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Tolerance and Compassion?

Yet again I return to the subject of sin, this time in conversation with Stephen of Reignite, who wrote this excellent post:

Notice in the comments section, when one reader innocently inquires what Unitarians need to be "called out" for (in this context, to have our shortcomings and sins named and confronted). Fascism? Satanism? he asks.

I shake my head in dismay. Are you kidding? You really wonder what UUs need to be called out for?

Oy vey. We constantly mistake our ideals of tolerance, compassion and open-heartedness for a lived reality of tolerance and love. As of yet, they are ideals. They are principles. They are not the reality in most of our churches. One of the greatest, most destructive sins of the current UU movement is that we actually think we are living out our professed ideals, and worse yet, we think we're actually doing a better job of living out our ideals than mainstream Christians are doing at living out theirs. What a tragic misconception. We are not. What we are doing is making sure that we attract and truly include only those people whose attitudes, proclivities and preferences are exactly like ours, and then collectively congratulating ourselves at how well we're doing as a vibrant religious faith.

I do not excuse myself from this sin.

Someday, Unitarians here and in Britain might actually learn how to live in a spirit of true compassion and open-heartedness in our congregations. We might learn that the care of the soul should be the first order of business among us, not achieving intellectual and political conformity by means of hard-core intellectual wrassling. We may learn to live peacefully together with a shared sense of wonder and delight at the ways God moves within each of us, or, if you prefer, how reverence makes its way into our hearts even without a sense of a transcendent Presence.

We may learn to unabashedly worship together, where people will feel uplifted and know that they are responsible for their own experience. They will know how to worship together, and those who come to the minister bearing a list of every word, message, prayer and hymn that did not meet with his or her personal approval will be guided and companioned in a process of pastoral healing, not pandered to.

We may learn to truly welcome the stranger, not to erect barriers of smug superiority between us and thousands upon thousands of seekers who come to us actually thinking they will find authentic tolerance and diversity.

We've got plenty of besetting sins and demons to struggle with without messing with Satan and fascism, friends.

If I sound especially cranky, it's because I just read my GA program and realized that in three weeks I'll be cast out of the lovely environment of my own congregation -- where I can so often forget the besetting sins of UUism as I have experienced them all my life -- and directly experiencing all that dysfunction I have just named.

God give me strength, a loving heart, and unfailing humor.

Herr Doktor Jung Und PeaceBang

I love me some Jung, but although many favorite and most important books in my library are by Jungians James Hillman, James Hollis, Aldo Carotenuto and Nor Hall, I find some Jungian material mighty dense to get through. I started a Jungian dream course in Boston a few years ago and found it deadly dull, while my course two summers ago on The Archetype of Home with the NY Center for Jungian Studies was a jim dandy.

Before I go and excitedly order a slew of these, do any of you have any opinions or experiences thereof?

You Can Quote Me

I was talking with some non Unitarian Universalists the other day when they asked me why UUs, who have such a proud heritage in the liberal Christian tradition in America, seem so eager to jettison their Christian identity.

PeaceBang responded:

"We sold our birthright for a mess of potlucks."

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Christian Voices In UUism

Christian Voices
Originally uploaded by Peacebang.
I can't wait to read this. I just bought my copy for $14 from the UUA Bookstore online.

I'm so glad they didn't do a gooey Jesus cover, or something with people with their hands together in prayer looking skyward like they left their brains on the ceiling.

Teck & Tonka

I bought this incense at a fabulous store in Barcelona and fell so in love with it that I was bereft when I couldn't find it in the states.
I finally located it through Google, and ordered some more.

If you're an incense nut, I have to say that this is the most sophisicated, earthy, delicious, sweet tobacco-ish, chocolatey, sexy stuff you've ever smelled. It doesn't really "go" with my sweet little 18th century farmhouse but I still love it. That is, when I'm not burning some kind of floral or herby Aveda type fragrance oil.

From the description:
"The aroma of Teck and Tonka is a wave of the world's most precious spices, nutmeg, Madagascar cinnamon, coriander, Zanzibar clove. Flowing in from the depths of patchouli, cedar and sandalwood. Leaving in its wake the intense aromas of ambergris and musk, softened by the Tonka Bean."

What do you mean, I'm procrastinating?
Don't worry, I stayed up late doing a whole boatload of work last night. It's too warm to work right now. I have senioritis.

A Sense of Home

Since 1984, when I graduated high school, I have lived in the following locations:

Evanston, IL (4 different dwellings in five years)
Oak Park, IL (one apt. for two years)
Minneapolis, Minnesota (one apartment for a few months)
St. Paul, Minnesota (two different apartments in 1.5 years)
Rochester, NY (one house for one year)
Somerville, MA (one house for three years)
Berwyn, PA (one apartment for two years)
Ellicott City, MD (one apartment for one year)
Columbia, MD (one condo for one year)

You can't imagine how much it means to me to go into my fifth summer here in Boston-ish, New England. I have worked with the same staff for four wonderful years, the same congregation, and lived in the same house.
I know my neighbors and am friendly with all the people who work in our tiny town center (especially the bank tellers who are total buddies by now). I know when the lilac bush comes into bloom, and when my neighbor Jackie's amazing bright orange flowers flare into sight. I have walked the cemetery many times. I know the local festivals and traditions, and when to put up my Christmas lights. I have great pals in ministry and in theatre, and I know my way to their houses without looking at directions. I get to see their children grow up.
This is the fourth time I have dragged my "new" gas grill out of the garage with trepidation, wondering what critters may have nested under the cover over the past winter (this year: mice).
I have had the same hairdresser and colorist and manicurist for at least four years. I have had the same massage therapist, spiritual director, and health club. They are all part of my self-care team.

I know the smells and the seasons of this place. This is home.
It is the first real home I have had since I left my childhood home at the age of 18. As many ministers do, I keep my resume updated and my boxes ready to pack, because I know how volatile ministries can be. I don't worry about it, I just keep my feet on the ground. But still, this is home. For now, this is home.

And now, your moment of Zen from someone who always lives in the moment:


Originally uploaded by Peacebang.

As you know, I took up the BANJO a few months ago. The idea was that I would give my brain a new challenge at the age of 40, fulfill my dream of strumming along with a Dixieland band, and just be stupid with my BANJO.

When I went in to buy a 4-string, tenor banjo, I thought the nice kid at the best music store in the area sold me one, but when I got home I counted five strings, not four. I figured this must be some esoteric BANJO thing I didn't understand, but as it turns out, I can count to five just fine. He had sold me a regular bluegrass five-string.

The owner of the store, one of the sweetest and coolest guys around (he goes to my church sometimes, and he plays with Jimmy Buffet, so he's 11 on the 1-10 coolness scale), explained to me that tenor banjos are really rare and he hadn't seen one for at least a decade. He was sorry for the misunderstanding.
I was a little crushed but figured hey, my cute instructor can make my new five-string sound like a Dixieland banjo by teaching me to play it in plectrum tuning (a little BANJO LINGO for you musicians out there).

A few weeks after I started my lessons, the store owner greeted me with a special smile when I came in one afternoon. "Wait 'til I show you this." As it turns out, a man from a neighboring town had just that week brought in a beautiful honey of an antique tenor banjo that had been in his family for probably about 80 years. It needed some restoration, but as soon as I held it in my tiny hands I knew it was MY honey for all time. I love music people: as I held my little BANJO, all the guys who work at the store stood around and grinned like fools. We all grinned like fools.

So today I got to play my restored antique Orpheum BANJO for the first time. It sounds just right: all twangy and Dixieland and it feels just right on my lap. There she is. Isn't she beautiful? Did you see the mother-of-pearl inlays?

You can say "mazel tov" if you want.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Have You Been To Beauty Tips Lately?

This week in Beauty Tips for Ministers:

caftans and muumuus!
summer preaching garb!
summer pantyhose!
scarf abuse!
Lisa Welchel!
side-swept bangs!
more frumpy shoes!
why suits rock!
the perils of self-tanner!
men in color!

Come on by!

Friday Cat Blogging

the sentinel
Originally uploaded by Peacebang.

She fell asleep on the modem, I fell asleep on the love seat in the parlor.

Could someone maybe take a big gun and SHOOT this pollen out of my head? Please?

And have you EVER SEEN such cute nibbly popcorn toes?

Geography Quiz

Well, I failed this miserably. How did you do?

Reservations at Mirasol, St. Louis

PeaceBangers, Friends, Countrymen,

I have made a reservation for 25 at Mirasol tapas restaurant for 5:30 p.m., Friday, June 23rd. We have five tables in our own room in the back.
Thus far, I have the following people as confirmed:

CK (1)
Ron Robinson (and family?)
ChaliceChick and Linguist Friend (2)
Philocrites (1)
Rev Thom (1)
Bret, Errant Frog (1)
Clyde G (tentative)
PeaceBang (1)

Those above, please let me know pronto if my numbers are right on your reservation. Others, there's a 25 person limit, so let me know now if you want on the most exclusive and glamorous guest list at GA!

Mr. Malaprop

David Lee Roth quoted in the Boston Globe:

"It's not rocket surgery, people."


Thursday, May 25, 2006

Pollen Brain

I was thinking of writing a new "Welcome To Our Church" letter that goes to new families in the area, but my mind is so pollen-fogged that all I can do is stare at the computer and drool and try to keep my eyes open.

I did come up with one usable concept, but I can't write today for monkey doo-doo. Care to wordsmith this for me, blog geniuses? It's just two big run-on sentences right now. Help. Even recommending chucking the whole thing would be fine. Or you chuck it and rewrite it. Or just bring me a slice of chocolate cake. Something.

"Unitarian Universalism is a movement whose members come together around the idea that sharing religious life with people of diverse beliefs is of great benefit to personal spiritual development. We try to live out our lives in the spirit of South African civil rights leader Stephen Biko, who said, 'We regard our living together not as an unfortunate mishap warranting endless competition among us, but as a deliberate act of God to make us a community of brothers and sisters jointly involved in the quest for a composite answer to the varied problems of life.'"

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Taylor or Katherine?



As I said to BoyInTheBands over the phone tonight as "Idol" played in the background, if you want to hear genuinely moving, gorgeous singing get an Eva Cassidy album.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Verbal Violence

I know I've already posted enough today for the entire week, but Kim told a story in the comments of "What Are Violent Movies For?" that's got me thinking.

Read her story and think about how numb you've become to seeing violent scenes on the screen. I certainly have, even though I don't consume a lot of on-screen violence intentionally.

But Kim reminds me that not only is visual violence spewed at us through the entertainment and news media 24-hours a day, so is verbal violence. It seems to me that vile, truly hateful insults are an accepted part of our everyday environment now, and particularly in the blogosphere.

For me, it comes mostly as an onslaught through the celebrity blogs I love to read as a form of relaxation and entertainment. Yes, I love scrolling through paragraphs about Brangelina or TomKat or Britney Spears' latest baby disaster. What I don't understand is why so many bloggers feel it's okay to describe celebrities in the most disgusting, often obscene terms. Should it be any surprise that drunken, bloated oil heir Brandon Whatshisname was recently videotaped spewing absolutely pornographic insults about movie star Lindsay Lohan? And that a giggling Paris Hilton was by his side the entire time, cell phone firmly pressed to her ear?

This goes on on political blogs, too, when the likes of the incisive, very bright and entertaining Rude Pundit makes his fame spinning every tale of corruption in the Bush Administration into a pornographic scenario. I loved it initially and now it turns my stomach (and I have a lot of stomach to turn, kids).

When MotherBang and I were looking through the Time Out magazine for theatre listings this past Thursday night, I noticed that at least three articles had outright cusswords in them. And I'm not talking about the more mild cusswords, either. Why the egregious potty-mouthing?

I'm a rather saucy-tongued gal myself, and certainly have no problem with the occasional expletive or spicy insult. But I notice that I'm playing rather fast and loose lately with certain words I could never even bring myself to say ten years ago, let alone gleefully sling around in conversation with my sister (we're very naughty because it makes us laugh so hard). What happened?
I became inured to the ugliness of these words by hearing them all the time.

Maybe that's not such a bad thing; to reduce a previously ugly word to a naughty giggle with my sis.
But it certainly is a bad thing when it's fair game to express our casual dislike of this or that public figure -- whose only real crime is to not live up to insane standards of physical perfection, wealth and power among the entertainment elite -- by using the most hateful, richly abusive language we can contrive.

The Crucified Madge

crucified madge
Originally uploaded by Peacebang.
My friends, as we can see from this photo taken last night at the first concert of her "Confessions Tour," Madonna has officially jumped the shark.

My Answer to Matt Stone

A cool guy named Matt Stone commented on PeaceBang on May 20, asking me where I thought my journey was going.
I looked him up and it turns out he has this cool blog, which he is apparently moving, but these posts are quite terrific:
Plus, he has a really cute new baby. Congratulations to you and your wife, Matt.

So, where do I think my journey is going?

I think it's going on as I am led by the Holy Spirit. I don't know what else to say.
I'm passionately committed to the potential of Unitarian Universalism -- not to its current reality, in case I haven't made that abundantly clear -- and I am going to do what I can for its survival as long as I have the energy and sense of calling to do so.

While I am tepid and skeptical of the larger movement that is "UUism," I am red hot about my own congregation. They keep me inspired and excited. They remind me every day that this is about an association of congregations doing good ministry in local settings.

As far as my theological journey goes, who knows? I was a mystical child, an atheistic teenager who thought she might like to be a parapsychologist when she grew up, an angry, anti-Christian young adult, a Wiccan practitioner, and then, nine years ago, a baptized Christian with special interest in Jungian archetypal psychology and Tibetan Buddhist concepts of the afterlife. Anything could happen from this point on. God will do what God will do with me.

Matt, your blog has all the energy and intelligence and spirited curiosity I am missing so much within my own movement, which so often has an incredibly navel-gazing, energy-draining perspective. Glad you found PeaceBang, hope you come back, and thanks for asking.

What Are Violent Films For?

I don't get it. Please explain this.

Film critic Ken Tucker explains in the recent issue of "Entertainment Weekly" that we should watch the brutally violent films of Michael Haneke because "Haneke doesn't splatter the screen or make stupid dead co-ed jokes."

Hey, that's a reason to watch a film about a young man slaughtering a girl like a pig if I ever heard one.
Tucker praises another Haneke offering about two young sociopaths torturing a family because "it makes you feel the agony of violence, thus raising his work to a higher purpose: to recall the distinction between civilized and craven behavior."

You know what, Ken? I don't need to see horrific images of people being tortured and murdered in order to know the difference between heinous and civilized behavior. If you get into the sick thrill of watching such stuff, go for it. That's why Haneke makes it; for people like you. But let's not get all high-falutin' about "the higher purpose" of it all.

Elsewhere in the same issue, Lisa Schwarzbaum reviews the DreamWorks film "Over the Hedge" and expresses concern that the cute little animated animals are a little bit too vengeful toward the humans.
Hey, EW, how about some editorial balance here?

Preaching Forgiveness

Forgiveness is one subject that a preacher can address at least once a year and no one will complain.
I tend to preach on the subject around Yom Kippur, Day of Atonement, when I'm not preaching on my favorite subject, SIN!

One of the favorite sermons I ever gave was called "Who Are We To Forgive," with a double meaning on who are we to forgive, and who are we to forgive (as in, how can we ethically express forgiveness when crimes against God and man are committed by others?). That was a sermon that left me wrung out, indeed.

For those of you looking ahead, I thought that the inspiring life of Freddie Boyce, chronicled in Michael D'Antonio's book The State Boys Rebellion (which I've written about here before), would make a great starting point for a reflection on forgiveness. Freddie, who was treated with relentless cruelty and neglect throughout his childhood, managed to have true compassion for his abusers as well as for their victims.

I am going to try to see this movie, which contains the same themes, and addresses even more vile and evil acts of cruelty and torment:

Has anyone seen it? Comments?

Preachers, start your engines.

PeaceBang Reviews "Doubt"

MotherBang and I saw John Patrick Shanley's magnificent play "Doubt" at the Walter Kerr Theatre in NYC last Thursday evening.

Here's a review of the cast we saw:

I had read the play a few months ago and was struck by its spare dialogue, its comfort with ambiguity, and the main character, Sister Aloysius (please, Mr. Producer, can I play this part somewhere someday?).

MotherBang and I loved it. Having already read it, I was prepared for some of the emotional revelations and particularly, for one incredibly disturbing scene between Sister Aloysius and the mother of a boy who may or may not have been molested by Father Flynn.

Dame Eileen Atkins is smashing in the role of Sr. Aloysius -- it was one of those commanding performances you'll never forget-- a master class in acting and in claiming the stage on behalf of a great character.
(A few others, in no particular order: Ian McKellen as Richard III; Charlie Janasz as Richard II at the Guthrie; Stephanie Mills in "The Wiz"; Dixie Carter as Maria Callas in "Master Class" ... care to add to the list?)

Jena Malone, known to most of you as a cute movie actress, was appallingly bad as the naive Sister James. According to the reviewer, she copied every detail of her performance from her predecessor, which is never a good idea (a lesson I learned in a very painful way by watching Lorna Luft mimic the every last bit of comic timing and vocal inflection of the marvelous Faith Prince as Miss Adelaide in the national tour of "Guys and Dolls"). Such aping of a previous, acclaimed performance is the sign of a very bad performer and worse yet, a very irresponsible director. I'm surprised that whoever was responsible for rehearsing Miss Malone allowed it. She is so bad that even the bridge-and-tunnel crowd up in the mezzanine with us was smirking behind their hands and punching each other.

Miss Jena Malone, this is for you:
(1) Get a vocal coach to help you learn how to use your voice on the stage. You're adorable in the movies, but your Broadway debut is a crime against the theatre.

(2) If you've stopped meeting regularly with your dialect coach for brush-ups, assuming that you've got Sister James' Bronx-tawk down, let me assure you that you have not. Between the strained quality of your weird, simpering yet strangely monotonal falsetto and the overdone dialect, you sound scarily like Marlon Brando in the final moments of "On the Waterfront," and not in a good way.
You could not have been a contendah.
(3) Creasing your brow and wringing your hands does not a convincing performance make. Although you do warm up a bit in your later scenes, your atrocious showing in that first all-important show-down between Sister James and Sister Aloysius almost kills the play within the first ten minutes. You should send Dame Atkins a very large bouquet of roses for being brilliant enough to save the scene from your total inability to deal with it, and thus save the entire show. Better yet than roses, ask for her help. She's a genius. Let her mentor you!
(4) Do you sing? Singing lessons might help you find some other colors in your voice, which remained on exactly the same note all night long. Would you like to attend the opera and hear arias sung on one note all night long? That's what it was like every time you opened your mouth. Maddening, my dear, simply maddening.

(5) Don't despair. You're very young and we believe in you. We loved you in "Saved" but if you're going to continue on the stage, you'll need to work harder at it. Best of luck.

To the rest of the cast, the lighting designer and Mr. Shanley, thanks for a provocative, upsetting, and wonderful night at the theatre. Not to mention some whizbang sermon material.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Theological Rock Stars

As you know, I attended the commencement exercises at Union Theological Seminary on Friday afternoon.
My pal, L'il Flava, Ph.D., invited me to share a champagne toast up at her professor's apartment on the fifth floor (we had to walk down several cement basement corridors to get to the elevator, and my friend Eddie and I played "Titanic" and "Poseidon Adventure" all the way there, slamming our bodies against the walls and pretending the waters were rising).

The toast was given by Emilie Townes, which is cool, but it was in Professor Gary Dorrien's home, which was even more cool, and he was there and gave a toast.

I was very star struck. It's so nice when brilliant people you admire from afar turn out to be very nice and cute in person.

Protesting McCain At The New School

You've probably seen this if you read the lefty politico-blogs, but SisterBang forwarded to me and I was most impressed:

Go ahead and burst my bubble if you have to, smartyheads.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Confession Of a Christian Witch, Or a Witchy Christian

As soon as I got in from NYC I went to the concert of a women's vocal ensemble because I promised one of my dear congregants that I would.

Most of their songs are goddess oriented and I loved a lot of them, but I wondered why a few of them made me a little bit itchy when they very intentionally avoided any male imagery for God while naming the Holy in one female image after another.

Why would this make me itchy? Sure, I roll my eyes a bit when the old hymns go into the old Lord Sovereign Master Father routine, but of course I do! I'm a feminist UU!
I pondered this. What was the quality of my discomfort around Goddess/Mother/Grandmother/Birther/Creatress, etc.?

After a few moments I realized that underneath my irritation was sadness and regret. Sad that these songs seemed to me to be written out of a kind of corrective impulse with more than a bit of competition and "us vs. them" spirit to them, as in "YOU can do all that God and King stuff and WE are going to get it RIGHT!"

I knew it wasn't fair to react that way, but I just felt bonked on the head with the religious divisiveness a few of the songs represented. I sat and fervently wished that my nephews might know a day (in their very old age, I should think) when people would gather and sing spiritual songs for hours, and never even notice the mixing and mingling of multi-gendered and non-gendered images for the Divine. Please, Dear Goddess. So mote it be!

My feelings, of course, had their origins in experience: specifically, my experience of leaving goddess-oriented Wicca for a feminist Christian path in the late 80's and early 90's. I don't like to say that "I left" goddess religion, but the fact, is, I was pretty much kicked out.

Or at least it felt that way at the time.

I always thought that, as a UU, I was truly free to follow whatever spiritual path my heart would lead me to take. I thought I would be supported in my religious endeavors by my fellow UUs. As I became more and more drawn to the life of the gospel and the Risen Christ (oooh, PeaceBang said "Risen Christ!"), I realized that not only would I be going into a kind of diaspora community among my fellow UUs, but that I was making myself quite unpopular in many pagan circles.
When I shared my interest in Christian spirituality and theology at a few feminist spirituality gatherings, I was greeted with cold disdain or open horror. When I led goddess spirituality groups or workshops and shared my affection for Christian saints and mystics, some women were interested, but most felt no compunction in telling me that I was a spiritual traitor to my sex.

The worst response came whenever I critiqued some of the spurious scholarship of the feminist revisionist historians, just as I would critique lazy scholarship of any kind. I was accused of "selling out to the patriarchy" for even working toward a degree at Harvard, and that's a direct quote. It mattered not at all that at Harvard I would have the opportunity to study with world-class feminist theologians and women scholars such as Elisabeth Schussler-Fiorenza and Sarah Coakley and Margaret Miles and Kimberly Patton and Clarissa Atkinson, bless all their good hearts and brains. They are all amazing women and scary-brilliant scholars. Great mentors, all.

Meanwhile, when I traveled liberal Christian circles not one person raised an eyebrow when I spoke of God as "She," talked about the feminist Christ, or expressed a commitment to gender inclusive liturgy. It was like, "join the club."
For a time I even described myself as a Christian Witch (and then "A Witchy Christian") and still felt unconditionally welcome among the Body of Christ.

I understand this dynamic, of course. The Goddess/thealogians have not been in a position of cultural power and dominance as have the Christians, and had and have every reason to feel more threatened by the defection of one of their own. Of course, I don't feel that I defected.

And I know that many UUs feel that they are in a diaspora right now: Humanists, Atheists, Pagans... we all take our turns.

The good news is that things seem to be changing. The pagans I meet nowadays aren't threatened by critique of some of that early matriarchal-fantasy stuff, or by accusations that they're making up a new religion based on someone's best guess of ancient indigenous practices. They say, "Yea, that's true, and that's what religion is. Get over it." No one from the pagan/Wiccan scene has told me I can't be a Witchy Christian, or that they care one way or another. It's true that UUs still seem to be largely unaware that there are millions of very progressive, liberal Christians out there who share many of our exact same theological questions, skepticism and social concerns, but that's changing too.

It was a very good concert and I'm glad it gave me a chance to confront those old hurts and to realize that it's 2006, I've been baptized now for seven years, and I'm still a daughter of the Goddess. You can do both, you know. It might hurt along the way, but you can do it.

There's a lot of hope in that.


Wednesday, May 17, 2006

The Big Apple

times square
Originally uploaded by Peacebang.

PeaceBang is headed to the Big Apple for various professional reasons, but mostly so she can see MotherBang and SisterBang and stay up way too late giggling in an overpriced hotel room.

See you in a few days.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006


Speaking of tapas,
PeaceBang, MotherBang and SisterBang will be converging at Bobby Flay's tapas joint in NYC on Friday night at 8 pm:

Does this not look swoonable?

Alert the society pages, ya'll. PeaceBang does NOT support bolo ties, but she supports Bolo the restaurant.


We have a location, my friends:

Mirasol, a sexy Nuevo Latino restaurant on Del Mar Avenue, apparently mere steps away from public transportation.

Philocrites, I need your help with this: how many should we reserve for?
And what time?

Bataan Rescue

I saw this special last night on PBS:

What got to me most of all was how one P.O.W. described how the Japanese censors worked over the prisoners' postcards home so that they contained no taint of the horrible truth. The man choked up when he remembered how his mother told him she knew he was alive only because the handwriting was his, even if nothing in the message was.

Over sixty years later.
The body remembers things that we would just as soon forget.

Monday, May 15, 2006

The Second Coming Of The DaVinci Code

Oh God, it's coming any day now, and we can't stop it.
Dan Brown's craptastic novel will undoubtedly make a craptastic movie --it's got Tom Hanks starring and Ron Howard directing, after all -- and we all need to go see it together to share the pain.

I saw "The Passion of the Christ" seated between the UU Enforcer and our friend Steve and I will never forget how we giggled and smacked each other throughout while the reverent hordes around us solemnly crunched mouthful after mouthful of popcorn. It was like watching the Passion unfold during a locust infestation.

I think I'm going to need a martini before *this* one.

The Reverend Liz Lerner has written a fine piece for the UU World online about the mistreatment of Mary Magdalene in the Code:

Sunday, May 14, 2006

More On Fred Boyce

Another reason to be disgusted by Mitt Romney. What would it have cost him to issue a formal apology to Fred on behalf of the Commonwealth before Fred died?

Happy Mother's Day

Two things that made me sniffly today:

1. A congregant gave me a mother's day card &
2. MotherBang popped off an e-mail that ended, "I'm glad I was chosen to be your mom xoxoxoxo"

PeaceBang's I-Mixes

In Praise of "How To Cook Everything"

SisterBang got me this book for Christmas and it is sheer fabulosity:

I learned how to make fiddleheads from this guy.
I learned how to make the most delicious savory white beans from this guy (the Southern kind of beans, I learned how to make from BoyInTheBands).

I learned from this book just yesterday that you shouldn't try to grill shoulder cuts of London Broil for steak, but should upgrade to something loin-ish.
Well, you could have knocked me over with a feathah. There I was all prepared to grill my defrosted London Broil for the Bloggers Picnic, to accompany my proscuitto-wrapped asparagus and green salad with scallions, arugula, mandarin oranges and crispy pea pods.

What would I do?
Listen to Mark Bittman, of course, and make a garlicky beef daub instead!

People, let me just tell you that there is nothing more comforting on the sixth or seventh straight May day of freezing cold and rain than a garlicky beef daub over buttered noodles. I don't even know what "daub" means, but it was the easiest recipe ever and one of the most delicious comfort food meals I've ever had.

I would ask you carnivores what your favorite cut of steak for grilling is, but since it's never going to stop pouring and I won't be taking my grill out of the garage at all this year, I won't bother.

Sorry Alison, I Can't Kill You Now

Poor Alison wrote in the comments section,

"After we found our basement flooded this morning, I decided to look up the 10-day forecast to find some hope. But it said the next non-rainy day in Boston is a week from Tuesday! Please kill me now."

Well Alison, I do belong to an organization called Compassion & Choices which advocates for death with dignity and end-of-life choices,

but I'm not sure that a forecast of rain from now through next Tuesday is a valid reason for me to hand over the cup of hemlock.
Be assured, dear Bostonian sister, that I DO FEEL YOUR PAIN.
I have considered driving to the zoo and throwing myself into the lion's habitat a few times this week. Vitamin D deficiency can do that to you.

I got out of bed this morning at 8:15 a.m. More driving rain. Usually I rise at 6:30 or 7:00 on church days. The cat was most alarmed. She woke me at 7:00 explaining that she was trying to make me breakfast in bed for Mother's Day, but since she doesn't have opposable thumbs she couldn't work the spatula to flip the pancakes. I said I understand and please go away, Human Mother is trying to sleep. We had cereal later.
Took the world's shortest shower (for me) and did a quick primp.
Strolled into church at 9:30, joined the Second Sunday discussion on the Lord's Prayer for twenty-five minutes, went and put on my robe, dealt with last minute details and led the service. I think my preaching, which I took in a more slow, considered and relaxed manner than usual, was at its best. I wrote the sermon between 10-12:30 p.m. last night.
Maybe water-logged crankiness and Vitamin D deficiency is good for me.

Coinky-Dink? Or MYSTICAL EXPERIENCE? You Decide!

This is molto bizarro.

For absolutely no reason whatsoever, this page came up on my blog just now as I was shutting down the computer:

This page, as I am printing out my Mother's Day service and thinking how close we are to summer.

Very, very strange and inexplicable. Is there a God of Blogs?

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Burning Questions

1. What makes something "cute?" How do we really define cute, and does it include a component of humor? I think it must, because things I think of as really cute always make me laugh a little.

2. How do people without access to de-greasing dish soap really get their pots and pans clean? And does it matter?

3. When I thoroughly rinse out all my bottles and cans for recycling purposes, is all the water I am using a worse waste of natural resources than it would be to just throw those items in the trash? In other words, what's worse: not recycling, or wasting water rinsing everything out?

4. What's more fun than five consecutive days or rain and occasional torrential downpours in Eastern Massachusetts?
a. a bout of food poisoning or b. sticking pins in your eyes?

5. Why does the top of my cat's head smell so much cuter than the top of your cat's head?

Bonus Question:

How hard could it possibly be to write a decent Mother's Day sermon between now and midnight?

Void Bladder Before Watching

Just for you, PeaceBangers, 3 minutes and 43 seconds of unintentionally hilarious musical hell from Finland...

Which one is Armi and which one is Danny?

What do I love most about this video?

Extreme Nordic blondeness
The wankiest dance moves since Olivia Newton John tried to keep up with John Travolta doing "The Hand Jive"
Tight satin pants+ open pirate shirt + huge medallion = take me now, Danny! (Or Armi!)
Pants-wettingly bad choreography
The fact that Armi (or Danny, whichever is the girl) can't even walk in rhythm down the center of the "stroll" line in the middle of this fabulous dance extravaganza
The boy-and-girl-waving-in-the-car-as-it-flies-into-the-sky finale stolen from "Grease"
and the fact that the whole ensemble appears to be eating trail mix in the final thrilling moments.

Many thanks to PlanetDan

Most Unfortunately Named Product Of All Time

I always wondered what became of this product...

I actually remember these commercials from the 80's.
I wonder how much Joan Kelly regrets wearing that powder blue leotard get-up to this day?
And I think that Linda Parker might have had a lobotomy along with her weight loss.

Best line: " The appetite surpressant in AYDS is not a stimulant!"

Thanks to PlanetDan!

Friday, May 12, 2006

The Pretty Good Samaritan

I was walking to my car in the T parking garage tonight after a concert --feeling "wicked tired" as we say in Boston, when a woman drove up in one of those ginormous Ford Behemoths and asked me if she was in the right spot to pick up passengers from the T.

Well, no, I told her, and then patiently explained how she was going to have to leave the parking garage, kiss $3.50 goodbye, and drive back through to the Pick-Up Only level. It's confusing, there are no signs, welcome to Boston, no one gives a damn if you get lost or if you drive the wrong way down a one-way bus lane (and risk both death and a $50 fine -- whichever comes first) or have to pull a treacherous U-turn to get where you're going. We Just Don't. Care.

The woman, a cute chubby middle aged lady, looked like she might gently and mildly have a nervous breakdown. It had just occurred to her that her family might be at ANOTHER T-station waiting for her. She quizzed me on those: were they nearby? Did I think her husband, who was from out of town, might be confused? I told her that both stations would be very hard to find in the dark and the pouring rain, and that her hubby might well be confused but if she had a cell phone she should call him and have him come to this station. I told her that she would have well nigh impossible task finding the other two stations.

She told me that her cell phone had just died. But otherwise she thought it was a jim dandy of an idea.

Oh, heavens. To make a long story short, I wound up phoning her husband with my own cell phone, leading her out of the parking garage (paying her $3.50 fee because I'm a nice gal) and around and around until we found the right entrance to the Passenger Pick-Up only level (this involved getting a bit lost and me rushing out in the pouring rain at a stop light to tell her I was sorry, just follow me!), and I hope, reuniting her with her husband and kids soon thereafter.
(Don't think I just went and abandoned her or anything: she made me go home as soon as we established that her brood was on their way down the stairs from the train)

She was in town for her mother's funeral.

Now, here's what went through my mind when she drove up to me and unrolled her window.
Women: "Excuse me, can I ask you something?"
PeaceBang Interior Monologue:
"Let's see. I'm all alone late at night at the T station garage. This woman pulls up in a huge SUV. There might be some guy in the back seat ready to abduct me and harvest my organs, or molest and torture me and then kill me. She could be his cute, harmless-looking accomplice. Maybe she got into terrible, crippling debt shopping for all that jewelry on QVC and she promised him that if he paid her credit card bills she would help him capture one juicy looking woman for his sadistic desires.
This could be true, and I could be in real trouble.
On the other hand, it's probably not true, and even if it is, I do have good healthy organs and someone might be able to benefit from them. And people get tortured and killed all the time, and God receives their souls in the end and the torment doesn't last forever.
And who do I want to be, anyway? Someone who helps or someone who is too afraid to help? How would I feel if this was me? I HATE being lost. I ALWAYS wish there was someone kind around to rescue me when I get lost. Now I can be that someone for this lady. I think I'll help."

As I finally drove away and thought to myself, "Well PeaceBang, you're not always such a bad kid," I remembered in a flood a sea of faces of people I've helped in just this way over the years. The old woman I met in college when she fell on the sidewalk and I helped her to a bench and talked with her until she was less shaky. The kids I stayed with at the side of the road until help came following an accident. The pregnant woman I stayed with on the side of the highway until her husband came along to fix the flat tire (I can't fix a flat) and to drive her home. The woman who hit the deer on the street in front of my house and who was clearly in shock, who I steered gently into my house and let her stay there for hours while I called the tow truck and filled out the police reports, and then drove her to her job and explained everything.
The necklace I took off my neck and gave to the young Navy recruit who so admired it, and for whom the symbol had greater meaning than it ever had to me. None of these people friends, none of these people parishioners.

The next time I fear asking for help, I hope I remember how much joy and deep feeling of love and connectedness I have had with strangers who have allowed me to help them in some way. It's a wonderful feeling. I should remember that the next time I'm accusing myself of being a miserable sinner or snarky beeyotch.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Best, Last Statement on Easter

An excerpt from the Archbishop of Canterbury's Easter Sermon this year. It sums up quite perfectly how I feel about Easter:

"For the Church does not exist just to transmit a message across the centuries through a duly constituted hierarchy that arbitrarily lays down what people must believe; it exists so that people in this and every century may encounter Jesus of Nazareth as a living contemporary. This sacrament of Holy Communion that we gather to perform here is not the memorial of a dead leader, conducted by one of his duly authorised successors who controls access to his legacy; it is an event where we are invited to meet the living Jesus as surely as did his disciples on the first Easter Day. And the Bible is not the authorised code of a society managed by priests and preachers for their private purposes, but the set of human words through which the call of God is still uniquely immediate to human beings today, human words with divine energy behind them. Easter should be the moment to recover each year that sense of being contemporary with God's action in Jesus. Everything the church does - celebrating Holy Communion, reading the Bible, ordaining priests or archbishops - is meant to be in the service of this contemporary encounter. It all ought to be transparent to Jesus, not holding back or veiling his presence."

This ought to be sent out to every Unitarian Universalist minister on Ash Wednesday to give them 40 days to think about how to bring a living Easter to their people, and not a dead academic analysis or a total avoidance of the powerful Jesus story.

Amen and amen.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Frank Rich Does the Colbert Report

Stephen Colbert has notoriously brutal former NY Times theatre critic (and now op-ed columnist) Frank Rich on his show right now and Rich is actually giggling and muffing all over the place. He just said that President Bush isn't doing much right now, "he's just sitting around lactating." LOL!

It's hilarious. He's nervous! But Colbert, an actor himself, just asked a great question. He said, "You're a former theatre critic. Why are Republicans so much better at the theatre of politics than the Democrats?"
At which Rich responded, "They're so much better at it, it's not even funny. They like the simple plot line better..." At which point Colbert broke in, "'Oklahoma.' 'The Pajama Game.' 'Annie. The sun'll come out tomorrow.'"
And the Democrats? Rich and Colbert agreed that they prefer epics like "A Long Day's Journey Into Night" or "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf" or "Sweeney Todd."

Great point, and Rich is blatantly admiring of Colbert and happy as hell to have gotten through his mock grilling without too many gaffes. The lactating remark, though, will live on. I can't believe I just saw the infamous FRANK RICH blush and giggle. I mean, when I was growing up he totally made and broke careers. He closed Broadway shows with a a withering glance.

frank rich

"King and King"

I wanted to love this book, which I read at the store yesterday,

I love the idea, but I found the book itself to be misogynist. All of the women are cruel stereotypes, especially the big, fat, overbearing queen mother.

"American Idol" Moment

Simon Cowell and I have disagreed for the first time!! Not that I watch this show often (like twice or three times a year), but I generally LOVE Simon!

I am on the couch curled in the fetal position and whimpering.

P.S. Katherine McPhee, you were NOT "manic and shrieky." You killed in that first Elvis montage, and that last dance move was brazilliant! I didn't even care when you ran out of breath and dropped a lyric.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

A Message From L'il Flava

L'il Flava graduates from Union Theological Seminary with her Ph.D. two weeks from now. I will be there, proud as a mama and wearing 4" Kenneth Cole cork sandals.
I got a message from her today. She's flying all over the place singing and interviewing and God knows what else. Giving papers at conferences.

"Hi, it's me. Calling to tell you that I played to a crowd of 10,00 in the Anaheim Arena. Granted, they were all Methodist woman, but I saw my face on a Jumbotron, and I had a fog machine behind me, and I even opened for one of the Indigo Girls. How about that."

(Methodist women, what do you think of that blow-off!?)

I cannot WAIT to hear about the fog machine.

"Did You Mean 'Wendy's SQUID'?"

I was reading "Entertainment Weekly" just now and came upon an ad that offered this tasty proposition:


Reading that, dear PeaceBanger, you could be forgiven for thinking, as I did, "Hell NO, a squid would NOT taste cool right now! What the hell is this?"

But then your eye would fall on the photos of three dishes of ice cream sprinkled with various candy, and to the following explanation,

* Solid + Liquid = Soquid. That's a Wendy's Frosty!

And then you would think, as did I,
Worst. Name. Ever.
Most Stupid Ad Campaign. Ever.

Someone's gotta lose their job over this. Maybe an entire department.

Try googling "Wendy's Soquid." If you've had a bad enough week, it may give you a fit of the giggles.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

PeaceBang's New Favorite Vegetable

I had these for the first time tonight and pronounce them a TYI: Totally Yummy Item. Get 'em while they're hot,

It's A Perfect Day

Wow, am I sad.

Two deaths in one day -- one person I knew a bit but greatly admired, one person I did not, who was only three years old. May they rest in eternal peace.

Found out that my two clergy gals pals in town will both be gone next year. Leaving only two male clergy who have made it abundantly clear they don't do fellowship with chicks of the cloth.

Much pastoral sadness, carrying big things with people. Secrets revealed, many tissues handed to sobbing people.

It was a sunny day and I had a good BANJO lesson. We had an astronomy event at church and I saw Saturn with all its rings. Life goes on.

And I am, as my sister would say, "Saddy McSadster."

On my i-Pod: "Perfect Day" by Lou Reed

Friday, May 05, 2006

Just FYI

PeaceBang has been feverishly posting fashion do's and don'ts today.
Don't miss them at:

Kiss, kiss! TGIF! Happy Cinco de Mayo!

Thursday, May 04, 2006

A Dingo Ate My Savior!

I had dinner with a colleague pal tonight and good-naturedly berated him for suggesting on Easter morning that the tomb was empty because ("some scholars think") Jesus' body was ripped apart by wild dogs before he could be buried.

Me: "You did NOT. Please tell me that wasn't your main message."

Him: "No, no, just an aside, I promise."

Me: "It's like that movie with Meryl Streep about that dog... what do you call them.. stealing her baby..."

Him: "A Dingo Ate My Savior!"

Both of us: "BWA HA HA HA HA!"

Thy Rod And Thy Cat

Pastoral crises come in waves.

I'm getting a lot better at riding the waves.

It's not a thicker skin, exactly, it's a kind of protective shield that seems to come over me as I'm hearing another revelation of terrible suffering or attending to the sick or dying (or both). In the last 24 hours I've spent, by a quick count on my fingers, nine full hours in a chair being with suffering people. In my office. In a nursing home. On the phone. In someone's home.

I have a mantra. It's called the 23rd Psalm. It helps me more than anything else to enter into the truth that God is holding this, and I don't have to. The Lord is my shepherd. Thy rod and they cat, they comfort me.

(I know it's not reverent. It just happens to be true).

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Ayudame, Por Favor

Someone asked me today what I thought about the incredible firestorm over immigrants happening right now and I thought, "Oh damn, I was REALLY hoping to have more time to understand this issue before being asked to open my mouth about it."

So I decided to use that as my answer.

And it was fine.

I feel a bit gobsmacked by it and I don't want to say stupid or simplistic things. What should I be reading, please?

More On Stephen Colbert's Brilliant Riposte

Philocrites has written a wonderful piece about Stephen Colbert's shocking 25-minute monologue at the White House Correspondent's Association Dinner the other night:

I just watched the video tape (I suggest that you read the transcript in its entirety at after having heard most of the great bits from my sister two nights ago. What really struck me was how much of a kick the women in the audience seemed to get from the most wicked comments, while the men mostly sat stony-faced.
This is a huge generalization, but women in a mostly male industry love it when male power is lampooned. Those gals were eating that stuff UP.

I noticed that Stephen's religion line got a really huge, genuine laugh. Actually there were lots more laughs than I had been led to expect. From what I had heard, Stephen was too "unfunny" and too extreme to be appreciated. But if you listen, there's plenty of big laughs on the soundtrack.

I am incredibly proud of Steve for managing to stay in character with such integrity while standing ten feet away from the most powerful man on the planet. No one I've read has commented on the fact that Stephen is not just a comedian and a clever faux pundit (a job that must require a massive daily onslaught of information and interpretation -- you've got to understand it before you can satirize it, right?) he's also a marvelous actor. He created a wonderful character in Stephen Colbert of "The Colbert Report" and he totally inhabits that character at all times. The real Steve Colbert is nothing like his on-camera persona. He's a sweetie, in fact.

I cannot believe he had the nerve to bring it on like that. At the end of the transcript all I could think was that silly line from that teen dance-off movie of a few years ago:

Mr. President...YOU GOT SERVED!

Monday, May 01, 2006

Speaking Truthiness To Power