4. Doug Muder’s Greatest Hits

On a blog, everything scrolls off the screen eventually. Sometimes that’s a blessing, sometimes it’s a loss. The most popular posts since I moved the Weekly Sift to weeklysift.com in July, 2011 are: The Distress of the PrivilegedOne Word Turns the Tea Party Around, Why I’m Not a Libertarian, Six True Things Politicians Can’t Say, Turn the Shame Around, and “Religious Freedom” Means Christian Passive-Aggressive Domination. Out of that list, The Distress of the Privileged overshadows the rest in popularity, having passed 275,000 page views by July of 2013.

Over the longer term, here’s a list of essays I’d like to be judged by. If you don’t like them, nothing else you read here is likely to meet with your approval.

Red Family, Blue Family. This essay meshed together ideas from two sources: George Lakoff’s framing theory and James Ault’s book Spirit and Flesh, an on-the-ground study of one particular religious-right church. Lakoff’s basing the conservative political worldview on the “strong father family” model had seemed a little distant and judgmental to me. Tempering it with Ault’s observations sharpened the theory.

Who Owns the World? This is a sermon I gave at the Community Church of Chapel Hill in 2009. Grounded in Thomas Paine’s Agrarian Justice and the papal encyclical Laborem Exercens,  this essay identifies a basic mistake in the way private property got defined, the injustices that mistake has led to, and why social justice is a fundamentally different notion than charity.

Supporting My Troop. Pundits and politicians invoke the troops with more stereotype than empathy. For 25 years, I thought of “the troops” as one particular guy: my best friend from high school.

Terrorist Strategy 101: a quiz. Three years after 9-11, Bin Laden and Al Qaeda had become mythical boogeymen, maniacs who only wanted to kill as many people as possible. But terrorism is a tactic, and it has its logic. If you understand that logic, a lot of apparent insanity makes sense.

Change in My Lifetime. When Don Imus got taken off the air for a comment whose racism was obvious to anybody under 50, he and a lot of other white guys of his generation were completely amazed. To understand why, you need to appreciate that racism used to mean something different than it does now. (This post got 535 comments on Daily Kos, which are even more worth reading than the article. By being direct and honest about the racial jokes I grew up with, who said “nigger” in those days, and what they meant by it, I got a lot of people talking about their own relationship to racism, and how the racial issue has played out in their families.)

Not My Father’s Religion. This is one of a number of articles I’ve written for UU World, the flagship magazine of my Unitarian Universalist faith. It’s a surprising article for an official magazine to publish, because it points to the difficulty UUism has in reaching out to the working class.

Comments

  • noslenca9300  On August 23, 2011 at 9:05 pm

    “Not My Father’s Religion” so hits the nail on the head WRT the gulf dividing the thought, belief and decision-making processes of the working and professional classes. Your description of limited choices vs. unlimited choices; one chance vs. many chances; the price of failure vs. the freedom to fail and the world of absolutes vs. no absolutes hits the nail on the head.

    I read years ago that back in the late 1700s until roughly the Civil War, Unitarians and Universalists (having similar yet not identical teachings) were similarly split by class, with professionals and merchants dominating one church and artisans and farmers the other.

    Working class people aren’t stupid. But…they usually spent their entire lives in environments where one is not encouraged to think outside the box or question the world around them. For the most part, they’re encouraged to be ‘smart, but not too smart’ in school. Their jobs pay them to perform repetitive tasks, not to think. Theirs is a world of limits and absolutes. Life and spirituality are what they are; questioning is pointless.

    Perhaps that’s why UUs do so poorly at reaching them. Being a UU is about questioning what you believe and why. It’s not about absolutes.

    • Kim Cooper  On December 12, 2011 at 1:42 am

      So, what’s the solution? How do you make people who have been taught not to question, comfortable and welcome in a group based on questioning?

    • Ding  On March 21, 2013 at 3:24 pm

      So, from reading all the ctnmemos so far, I guess the presentation page is still in the working, since there are quite a few options still being added. I have tried every way possible to add, or to embed a youtube video to the presentation page and I can’t seem to find any way that it would work.Is there a way that I can edit the html or the php code of the presentation page directly somewhere, which would give me some much needed freedom?The theme works great otherwise, and it is very well constructed, I was just really excited to use the presentation page, it just has some strong limitations. Please let me know, or when could we be expecting and update to the theme?THX

  • bohemiotx  On September 18, 2011 at 11:07 pm

    Hey Doug,
    I’ve just read my third article of yours. Let me give you a censored version of why I left my local UU fellowship. I went from the guy they sent to a free week-long summer experience called DBLE (2002) to someone banned from speaking even at Sunday School on the second banishment (2010) I’d already started visiting a former colleague’s church that was in my neighborhood.
    Basically, I’m an old hippie exile in a Black neighborhood who likes a more emotional service, complete with hooping to summarize at the end, hand-shaking, and hand-holding. I still have som’n intelectual to hear. I felt like a robot in the Catholic church in which I grew up and was a full-blown agnostic by 6th grade. Some UU’s called my style too raucous or claimed I spoke too fast; yet I managed to win a couple of teaching awards. Declining job status may have hurt me in the UU middle class world, but then several friends have quit over the years–especially recently.
    Oddly the creed in my new church allows for some liberal beliefs. I’m now a Trinitarian who believes in the resurrection. But I’m not prohibited from being som’n of a universalist who doesn’t believe in atonement theology. Once again, I have a lot of friends in church and my cousin and her husband has visited.
    Check out the UU service that never happened, “Public Intellectuals–Especially Richard Florida,” at Associated Content

  • Kim Cooper  On December 12, 2011 at 1:25 am

    My favorite of your essays — of the ones I’ve read– is Right and Left Together. You may remember that I quoted it extensively in a sermon I gave. At least one person thought it was the best sermon she ever heard — and I credit you for it.

  • Charlie Talbert  On February 21, 2012 at 10:45 am

    IMO, your greatest hits should include “Some Assembly Required: Bedford version”.

  • Ean Behr  On July 13, 2013 at 4:09 pm

    Well…interesting. I think I might have been a little more impressed with “Not My Father’s Religion” if you’d actually, you know, asked a working class person or two why the “theology” of UUism wasn’t working for her or him or them.

    I was a UU for a handful of years and attended seminary for two of them. I dropped out because I just could not find one inspiring thing about their message, probably because I could never put my finger on what it was exactly–or vaguely. I decided to stay and decided to serve because I found a few good friends there. I decided to leave because for a religion, it required far too little of me. To this, you may respond as so many UUs have, that UUism in fact requires everything of us because it calls us to find our own truths, to question them constantly or at least periodically, to not only live with doubt and Doubt, but to embrace it. And I respond, that that is not a religion; that is a self-help book. In other words, I don’t need to move off my couch to accomplish those things. They are not just easy, they are habitual. So again, why affiliate? Perhaps then you say to join with others also embarking on their own spiritual quests. Having exposed myself to the opportunity to do so, I can state unequivocally that I found that every bit as communal as eating in the food court of a mall. In the immortal words of Gertrude Stein, “There is no there there,” at least not for me. But not because it didn’t provide me with answers, but because in all sad honesty, I was bored almost all of the time. And, yes, I am one of them, the working class, so I understand if you are skeptical of my uneducated analysis of my feelings.

    By the by, you shouldn’t be too surprised that UU World would publish your cautionary article; they love to lightly chastise themselves. Gives them the odeur of humility.

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