Helen of Marlowe's Blog

A UU Forum on Occupy

Posted in "North Carolina", corporatocracy, Economy, Government, NC, Politics, Unitarian, UU, Winston-Salem by helenofmarlowe on February 7, 2012

At our Sunday morning forum yesterday (2/5/12), our guest speaker was Ethan Smith, representing the local Occupy Winston-Salem group. Most UUs (Unitarian Universalists) are familiar with Occupy and some have been participants.  I’ve been an enthusiastic supporter and occasional participant.

Here's a screenshot of me (on right) at a protest against Wells Fargo, when the top Wells Fargo management was speaking our the convention center. Since we don’t have a TV, my son Chris sent me this screenshot. I was surprised he recognized me, since it was such a fleeting report, and he didn’t know I was participating (probably didn’t even know about the event).


Occupy’s mission includes public education and civic participation to reveal the 1%’s crimes centering in war and money, end the crimes through arrests of the criminals, and enact policies for 100% of Earth’s inhabitants.

A hand-out gave a little bit of the history and philosophy of Occupy, and talked about local issues:

“Occupy Winston-Salem stands in solidarity with our brothers and sisters across the globe as a non-violent, leaderless movement of Americans united to fight the corporate abuse of our democracy, and to take the reins of power away from profit-driven interests and assert our rightful place in the political process.” The handout goes on to mention “the shackles of corporate greed.”

Ethan recounted some of the recent activities of the local group, talked about the commitment to non-violence, and  about the reliance on rotating facilitators at meetings.   Although there have been extreme police reactions to protesters in some cities, the local Winston-Salem police have done their profession proud.  Our local police, our protesters, and our city officials have worked in co-operation.  Some Winston-Salem churches have given strong support.

A UU member (one who is not involved in Occupy, and I don’t know whether or not he sympathizes) objected to the word greed, saying our narrative is wrong. I (though I didn’t speak out) think some of the language often used to describe the Occupy movement reveals a lack of understanding.  I often hear that the Occupiers are pushing for  “redistribution of wealth” (or of income). There are many people who will mis-interpret that, sometimes deliberately.  I think  “redistribution of opportunity” or “expansion of opportunities” is a more accurate description of what we in Occupy want.  Or how about distributive justice.

Ethan talked about our government’s encroachment on liberties, such as the Patriot Act, NDAA, laws and ordinances limiting free speech, arrests of journalists, mass arrests of protesters, such as, in NYC, 700 protesters arrested at once, with journalists being swept up along with protesters.

Freedom of the press in the US has fallen to 47th in the world

Other UUs wondered why Americans are complacent. The data has been out there for years – the data on the wealthy getting richer while the middle class fades into history amidst government policies that favor the powerful.  Why are people so complacent? Is it because we are constantly told we must keep up with sports, fashion, acquisitions and amusements, and so we don’t pay attention to our democracy?  Another UU  suggested the nature of coverage in the news media invites confusion and shallow understanding – everyone tries to look as though they are  “fair and balanced” – and gave as an example the Komen controversy in which news reports did not link this with  faith-based initiatives and the connection of a Komen leader with the congressional investigation of an organization that didn’t need investigating.

I believe there is much than can be done to make America work for all of us.  How about  a tiny tax on stock trades, especially on high frequency ‘flash’ trading.  How about huge fines for corporate criminals, the CEOs of the “corporate people”, aka banks,  responsible for evictions based on robo-signing?

Economic mobility in America has stalled. “Parental income is a better predictor of a child’s future in America than in much of Europe, implying that social mobility is less powerful.” (From The Economist) And as Jason DeParle writes in the New York Times, social mobility is a lot lower in America than in most other developed countries.   The   “work hard and save” formula doesn’t work any more.   Now the best advice for Americans is to choose your parents wisely.

Regardless of where Occupy goes from here, the movement has forced our nation to discuss the increasing inequality that has been hurting middle-income workers for thirty years.

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Do UUs Worship?

Posted in NC, Religion, Unitarian, UU by helenofmarlowe on February 4, 2011

Some of us at our UU Fellowship are beginning to feel unhappy with changes that have been made.

For many years, we had a Sunday Services committee.  And a podium.

Now, it seems, we have a Worship Committee.  And a pulpit.

A group of us wrote a letter to the “Worship Committee” asking them to change the name back to the name we’ve had for years.

Dear Members of the Worship Committee
We who are signatories of this letter wish to express our concern regarding relatively recent changes in the language used by the committee that, until recently, has been known as the Sunday Service Committee.

For many years, our Unitarian Universalist Fellowship has had a Sunday Service Committee, and we attended Sunday Services. But significant changes in language have been recently introduced regarding each of these designations. In our Fellowship Matters , we are given to understand that we now have a Worship Committee and that on Sundays we are attending Worship Services. We believe this shows a disregard for the diversity of beliefs in our membership.

Since our Fellowship has been growing, this change will not have been noticed by newer members. But it certainly has been noted by a number of long-time members, including the signatories to this letter.

We are concerned about this change because, from the beginning of our Fellowship, there have always been members who do not believe in any deity. And we believe that one important function of the UU Fellowship is to encourage other non-believers to join us in our celebration of life and the seven UU principles.

We are aware that the term “worship” might be and probably is construed by some members of your committee to mean something less than the adoration of a deity. But such a construal is not in accord with the common usage of the term, and is therefore misleading.

For communication to work, we have to use words in the way they are commonly understood. We are, accordingly, requesting that the Worship Committee change its name back to Sunday Service Committee, and that the monthly calendar be changed to read Sunday Service instead of Worship Service.

In response to our letter requesting that the “Worship Committee”  reclaim its historical name “Sunday Services Committee”  the chair of the committee responded:

We strongly support use of the word “worship” as finding worth and not as directed toward any deity. We agree there is value in taking regular opportunities to educate members of the congregation to the broader meaning of “worship”…

This seems Orwellian to me.

Our Sunday religious services within the UU tradition of this Fellowship are not and (so far as I know) never have been worship services.

Instead of re-defining words, why don’t we use words as they are commonly understood.
And the common understanding of the word “worship” is not what we do.

We will re-visit the matter at an upcoming meeting.

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