About the Author
UUA Social Justice

Florida Bound

Dear Readers,

As I type, we are putting the finishing touches on all our resources and last minute packing for General Assembly.

The entire Advocacy and Witness Team will be in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida for GA this week.

But, fear not, we will still be blogging all week long.

We will be liveblogging GA 2008 bringing you updates of plenary, workshops and events.

Faithful Democracy

This isn’t exactly news, but five months from now, our nation will be choosing a new President and a new Congress. Participation in the electoral process is perhaps the most sacred act of citizenship. It is the most direct involvement each citizen has in determining the future of our country. History will be playing out over the next five months and undoubtedly a lot of you will be getting involved in the elections. We encourage you to get involved by volunteering for your favorite candidate or by becoming a poll worker as our Program Associate for Peacemaking, Alex Winnett, did during the D.C. primaries.

Some congregations may want to get involved in the elections as well. If your congregation wants to play a role in the upcoming elections, please remember there are some things you can do, like voter registration drives, and some things you can’t do, like put yard signs for candidates on your church property. For a more thorough explanation of the electoral restrictions on non-profits, view our enlightening resource, The Real Rules.

We also invite you to discover Faithful Democracy. Faithful Democracy is a living Web-based project that aims to inspire people of faith to participate thoughtfully in the 2008 electoral cycle. The Unitarian Universalist Association is one of the faith partners that founded this project in order to encourage civic participation based on religious beliefs, values, and ethics.

This is an exciting time! Get involved, and bring your faith with you.

Summer Reading

Summer Reading

Adam’s Pick

I recommend The Travels of a T-shirt in the Global Economy by Pietra Rivoli. This book is an insightful and balanced chronicle of the economic lifespan of an actual t-shirt purchased out of a Florida bargain bin by a Georgetown economics professor. The t-shirt’s journey takes the reader from its birth in a Texas cotton field to its manufacturing in a Chinese factory, back to the U.S. marketplace and then on to the second-hand African clothing market. The story is rich with fact, intriguing characters, and fascinating textile history. This book provided me with just as much insight into the workings of globalization, as an entire semester course in college I took called “Globalization”. Read an excerpt at http://www.fastcompany.com/bookclub/excerpts/0471648493.html.

Alex’s Picks
A Problem form Hell by Samantha Power. This book is written by Pulitzer Prize winning correspondent for the New Yorker Magazine, Samantha Power. Here, Power systematically traces the history of genocide in the 20th Century and the American response to these events. Power shows the daring and ironic escape of the coiner of the term “genocide” from Nazi Germany. She also shows how the United States dragged its feet while cultures were wiped out in South East Asia, The Middle East, Eastern Europe and Africa. This is a must read for people concerned about the current state of affairs in Darfur.

The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck. I plan to reread this novel this summer. It tells the heartbreaking story of the Joad Family, a migrant family forced off the land by a bank during the Great Depression. This amazing book speaks to me right now as we see xenophobia in our political discourse surrounding migrant workers, a new generation of people without homes, and an economy teetering on the brink of collapse. It is especially special to me as my family had left their dust bowl farms for California during the Great Depression, just like the Joads.

Eric’s Pick
Three Cups of Tea-is the inspirational (and true) story of the international relationships formed between American mountain climber, Greg Mortenson, and the people of Korphe – a village in Pakistan. The book’s title is based upon a regional aphorism that, “The first time you share tea, you are a stranger. The second time, you are an honored guest. The third time you become family.” These relationships lead to the creation of Korphe’s first school, and ultimately to the creation of more than 50 schools in Central Asia.

Grace’s Picks
A People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn. This a great book for those interested in a comprehensive history of the United States that isn’t sugar coated. The detail and depth of this book is amazing and Zinn accurately portrays the struggles of all people in the United States.

Feminism is for Everybody by bell hooks. Whether you are new to feminism or were on the front lines of the reproductive choice movement this book is a great read. bell hooks breaks down what feminism is and the variety of issues it addresses in an easy to understand way that leaves you feeling empowered and proud to be a feminist.

Lisa’s Picks
My Year of Meats, by Ruth L. Ozeki. Ozeki’s story follows Jane Takagi-Little, a Japanese-American documentary maker, who is hired by a beef company to film American women preparing their favorite beef dishes for broadcast in Japan. Jane’s experiences touch on race, gender, sexuality, nationality, and the environment in ways which are both hysterical and sobering.

My second recommendation is The Year of Living Biblically, by A.J. Jacobs. Jacobs chronicles a year of trying to follow the Bible as literally as possible, and along the way he meets Isreali Samaritans, Appalachian snake handlers, biblical creationists in Kentucky, and the Pennsylvanian Amish. What Jacobs and the reader learn is that there are many, many ways to “literally” interpret the Bible. In addition to making me laugh out loud, I learned so much from Jacobs’ book that I proceeded to talk about it at work every day for the next three months.

I love My Year of Meats and The Year of Living Biblically because they fuse social concerns with art, romance, spirituality, and humor. But if you need a dose of straight up facts, you can always print out the following reports and build your activist knowledge with some powerful data about sexism and racism:

* Report of the APA Taskforce on the Sexualization of Girls.
* Foreclosed: State of the Dream 2008.
* Cracks in the System: Twenty Years of the Unjust Federal Crack Cocaine Law.

Rob’s Pick
Happy All The Time by Laurie Colwin. Since I’m in seminary, the reading I do for pleasure tends to be on the lighter side. This is a fun, easy read about the relationships (friendly and romantic) of four compelling characters.

(Photos by:Paul Watson, Lin Pernille ♥ Photography, Rumintarix , Spigoo, LWY courtesy of Creative Commons)

Thoughts on MLK – his life and legacy

For this, the 40th anniversary of the assassination of Dr. King, a few members of the A&W staff group offer these reflections.

It’s too late at night for me to still be wrestling with this simple assignment: a few words about the legacy of Martin Luther King in my life. And yet, though my daughter is goading me to ‘write something already and turn the light out’ in the room we share in the UUA’s Beacon Hill bed and breakfast, I’ve been struggling. I’ve been alive 52 years; Dr. King has been dead for 40 of them. I was about the age of my daughter when I ceased knowing the man and began knowing the legend: the holiday written into law by Ronald Reagan which gives me the day off, to lie in my warm bed in Minnesota February and listen to the sanitation workers out there in the cold picking up my garbage. Which one of us was it he died standing with in Memphis, again?

The junior high student that I was in April, 1968 stepped into a dark auditorium set aside for first period, for those who wanted to have ‘a time of meditation.’ Sitting weeping in the darkness, I realized with a start that I was about the only white student there, though the school was majority white. Later, one of the popular girls, a cheerleader, whom I had spent months cultivating as a friend, ridiculed me for this. “So, you MEDITATED?” she asked me loudly at lunch. This was a clarifying moment when I realized that I would never be a popular girl, and didn’t want to be. This was a moment when those UU values gave me strength and I said loudly back, head up, “Yes, I MEDITATED.”

– Rev. Meg Riley

On March 18, 1968, days before his murder, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King told striking sanitation workers in Memphis, Tenn., “It is criminal to have people working on a full-time basis . . . getting part-time income.” Dr. King said, “We are tired of working our hands off and laboring every day and not even making a wage adequate with daily basic necessities of life…Now is the time to make an adequate income a reality for all of God’s children… Now is the time for justice to roll down like water, and righteousness like a mighty stream.”

Last month on March 13th, the UUA co-sponsored an event with the Let Justice Roll Living Wage Campaign held in Memphis, Tennessee to commemorate the 40th Anniversary of Dr. King’s address to the striking sanitation workers. Along with leaders of faith, one of the speakers was Taylor Rogers, a striking sanitation worker who witnessed Dr. King’s “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” Speech, the night before King’s assassination, and became President of the Memphis sanitation workers’ union, AFSCME Local 1733. “We got tired” striker Rogers told the gathering, “And so we stood up and said ‘I am a man.’ Without Dr. King and the ministers who helped us, we never would have won that strike.” [Click here to read about it.]

Forty years later millions of Americans are still making poverty wages and Dr. King would indeed still call it criminal. His legacy inspires today’s movement for a living wage. It was while I was putting together Resources for Living Wage Days a couple of years ago that I actually read the entire “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” speech. The linkages King makes between the various injustices of war, poverty, and racism, the strategies he was moving toward, including boycotts and community investing, most certainly threatened the power structure, and the prescience with which he discusses his possible death are just incredible to read and show a leader who was so clear on the direction forward. He is completely relevant today.

In the course of my research I found a wonderful resource that I heartily recommend to all:
The Martin Luther King, Jr. Papers Project
at Stanford University

– Susan Leslie

I have joked amongst UU friends that if there were a pantheon of UU saints, Rev. King would be at the top. He is that much beloved amongst us. In my church, All Souls Church, Unitarian in DC, the Sunday closest to MLK’s birthday is second only to Easter in terms of attendance and energy. Just why is King so beloved? There have been other champions of social justice in our history, people who have been every bit as dedicated as him to their respective causes. But while King started in the struggle for black equality, he ultimately transcended personal causes. That is why, exactly a year before his assassination, he spoke out against the war in Vietnam and in support of peace. Even some of his own supporters told him that he should stick to his own issue, but King recognized that all causes for justice are inter-related, mutually dependent. That is why he supported the rights of workers, as both Meg and Susan talk about above. That is why his widow Coretta Scott King could state unequivocally that MLK would have supported the current struggle for BGLT equality had he lived to see it. King spoke for all his people.

Dr. King was a prophet – a modern day Moses. He delivered his people out of the bonds of legal segregation. Since we lost him 40 years ago we have been wandering in the desert, delivered from overt institutional racism but still struggling with systemic racism and more. We are not yet at the Promised Land, but we are a heck of a lot closer because of him.

Addendum (2008.04.13 4:43 pm)

Tracing back through a series of blogs, I found this great news article about Dr. King that pertains to the Wright controversy:

– Kat Liu

A Common Word

In the Fall of 2007 a diverse group of 138 Muslim leaders and scholars signed a statement entitled, “A Common Word Between Us and You” and distributed it to 27 Christian leaders and to “leaders of Christian churches everywhere”. The purpose of the statement was to promote world peace through embracing two theological commitments made by Muslims and Christians.

  1. “love of the One God,”
  2. “and love of the neighbour”

The authors offer numerous citations from the Qur’an and Christian Scripture that point towards these two agreements.

For example,

(from the Qur’an)

  • “So invoke the Name of thy Lord and devote thyself to Him with a complete devotion (Al-Muzzammil, 73:8).”
  • Ye will not attain unto righteousness until ye expend of that which ye love. And whatsoever ye expend, God is Aware thereof. (Aal ‘Imran, 3:92)

(from Christian Scripture)

  • But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. / Then one of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, and saying, / “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?” / Jesus said to him, “ ‘You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ / This is the first and greatest commandment. / And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’ / On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 22:34-40)

Following the citations and commentary, the authors offer the following summary:

“Whilst Islam and Christianity are obviously different religions—and whilst there is no minimising some of their formal differences—it is clear that the Two Greatest Commandments are an area of common ground and a link between the Qur’an, the Torah and the New Testament.”

And, highlighting the importance of this project clear, the authors close by writing that,

“Christians and Muslims reportedly make up over a third and over a fifth of humanity respectively. Together they make up more than 55% of the world’s population, making the relationship between these two religious communities the most important factor in contributing to meaningful peace around the world. If Muslims and Christians are not at peace, the world cannot be at peace. With the terrible weaponry of the modern world; with Muslims and Christians intertwined everywhere as never before, no side can unilaterally win a conflict between more than half of the world’s inhabitants. Thus our common future is at stake. The very survival of the world itself is perhaps at stake. “

Since the letter was first published, nearly 100 additional Muslim leaders have become signatories, and many of the Christian leaders it was addressed to have responded individually and collectively. You may have seen the response signed by more than 300 Christian leaders that was published in The New York Times last November.

While the Unitarian Universalist Association was not a specific recipient of the original letter, a response from UUA President William Sinkford’s was gladly received. Among other things, his letter seeks to highlight the inspiration that Muslim/Christian rapprochement can have for the wider interfaith community.

The Budget is a Moral Document

President Bush released his budget request last Monday. In addition to being the first budget in U.S. history to top three trillion dollars with a projected deficit of 409 billion, there were some other items of note. Members of the Washington Office comment on some of the issues.

Global Climate Change (Kat):
One of the most striking contrasts about Bush’s budget is that it requests less money for environmental measures and more for nuclear weapons and nuclear energy.

Despite the fact that Congress last year refused funding for the “Reliable Replacement Warhead” (RRW) program and a nuclear bomb plant, Bush requested funding for both. The budget requests $10 million for the RRW and $100 million to begin construction on a facility that will make plutonium pits, the core of atomic weapons.

To reduce our dependence on oil, Bush is going nuclear, requesting a 79% increase in funding for the Nuclear Power 2010 program – $106.6 million more than the current year. He’s also requesting a 27% increase in funding for the DOE’s used nuclear fuel management program.

In contrast, Bush cut the budget of the EPA once again, this time by $330 million making a total of $7.14 billion in cuts; his budget eliminates funding for a new national registry to track global warming pollution and cripples environmental clean up of polluted water ways.

Other environmental cuts include $410 million budget taken from the Department of the Interior, $104 million taken from the Land and Water Conservation Fund (which acquires lands for parks and wildlife refuges), $800 million taken from the Army Corps of Engineers Civil Works Program, and 183 million taken from the Bureau of Reclamation.

Sexuality Education (Grace):
President Bush has once again asked for an increase for federal funding for abstinence-only-until-marriage programs. The president asked for $204 million in abstinence-only-until-marriage funds; $141 million for Community-Based Abstinence Education (CBAE), $50 million for Title V abstinence-only funding, and $13 million for the Adolescent Family Life Act. His request increased CBAE funding by $27.7 million from Fiscal Year 2008. These programs have been proven to be ineffective in decreasing sexual activity among teens and do not help to reduce the amount of unprotected sex.

Apparently, the President feels that it is more important to promote his religious views about sex than to take the advice of numerous studies and 16 governors and fund comprehensive sexuality education programs which would decrease the rate of unintended pregnancies and STI’s. Last year President Bush also requested increases for abstinence-only-until-marriage programs which the House approved but the Senate cut back to be equal to the previous year. Let’s hope that this year the House and Senate step up and deny all funding for abstinence-only-until-marriage programs.

Economic Justice (Lisa):
Bush proposes to significantly reduce or eliminate 151 programs. The Urban Indian Health Program, which provides healthcare for 100,000 Native Americans, would be one of the programs eliminated. You can send an email from the National Council of Urban Indian Health’s webpage to oppose the elimination of this important program. The budget would also severely cut programs such as Indian Health Professions, which provides scholarships and loans to students. Overall, the proposed budget puts a stop to recent growth in funding for Native American programs.

On the other hand, Bush has selected border security as one of the few domestic areas to receive increased funding in 2009. He has proposed a budget increase for immigration and border security enforcement of nineteen percent. Additions to border security are to include 2,200 new border patrol agents and 1,000 new detention beds for immigrants caught crossing the border illegally. $775 million dollars will go to fencing and border-enforcing technology along the U.S.-Mexico border. By now we know that fences and detention beds do next to nothing to fix our broken immigration system. They serve only to spread fear and distract citizens and lawmakers from real solutions, like a path to legalization for the 12 million undocumented who are already living within the United States.

And finally, the President has proposed cutting 77% of the funding for the World Trade Center Medical Screening and treatment program—the program that provides healthcare for the workers and volunteers who responded to the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center. Bush wants to cut the program from $108 million to $25 million. These workers put their lives on the line to help fellow citizens and their country. Many of them are now sick as a result of inhaling toxic dust at Ground Zero, and now the government is pulling funding from their treatment, which—as you’ll know if you’ve seen the story of one Ground Zero worker’s abysmal medical care in Michael Moore’s documentary Sicko—was flawed to begin with.

If you can bear to read more about how Bush’s proposed budget for 2009 will hurt American workers and the economy, check out ALF-CIO President John Sweeney’s take on Bush’s proposed budget for 2009.

Peacemaking (Alex):
President Bush asked Congress to give the Dep of Defense a whopping $515 Billion plus an extra $70 Billion just for Iraq and Afghanistan for a grand total of $585 Billion. For those of you playing at home, that means a full 24% of our nation’s spending will go to the military.

While 24% does not seem like a whole lot of money, keep in mind this is the largest military budget the United States held since World War II. It is also 5% of our nation’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). For every $100 spent in the United States, $5 goes towards developing and executing war.

Traditionally, the United States has dedicated only 4% of its GDP to the pursuit of war. This increase of 1% is unheard of.

Allies of the United States will traditionally spend half that on their military. And other large nations, such as Germany, spend only 1.5% of their GDP on military exercises.

One thing is for certain, American hegemony is super expensive.

Responses to the State of the Union Address

Last night, President Bush delivered his final State of the Union address to the nation. The purpose of the address is to allow the President to share his/her vision of our current situations and future directions. Members of the Washington Office watched the address and below are some of our responses as they pertain to our portfolios:

After beginning his remarks on immigration with a call to secure the border, President Bush spoke about the need to create a “sensible and humane solution,” and “a lawful way for foreign workers to come here and support our economy.” But those compassionate-sounding words are belied by their omission of the need for a path to citizenship for the twelve million undocumented persons living in the United States, the continuance of Operation Endgame, and Bush’s own opposition this Fall to the DREAM Act.

We cringed while President Bush mentioned the 2006 termination of “catch and release” policy. While this is a positive step, describing the treatment of human beings with a phrase usually applied to fish is another way in which undocumented immigrants are dehumanized, similar to use of the phrase “illegal alien.”

Bush also stated, “We reaffirm our pledge to help them [the Gulf Coast] build stronger and better than before.” It is scary to reaffirm a pledge that has not been upheld in the first place. Two and a half years after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, the area is still plagued with problems. Abysmal disaster response followed by bungled rebuilding, a diaspora, toxic trailers, and exploited workers embody one of the United States government’s most drastic failures of its people in modern times.

– Lisa

Little was said last night in relation to women’s issues or BGLT equality. President Bush chose to focus his energy on what he knows best: terror and security. However, he did make a few key comments. In regard to the discovery of adult skin cells to act as embryonic stem cells he said,

“This breakthrough has the potential to move us beyond the divisive debates of the past by extending the frontiers of medicine without the destruction of human life.”

Later, he then went on to speak about the need to protect Americans and continue funding for security measures,

“To protect America, we need to know who the terrorists are talking to, what they are saying, and what they’re planning.”

We would know what the terrorists were saying if the Pentagon had not fired upwards of 37 Arabic translators for being gay. Yet there was no mention of the harmful effects of the current Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy.

– Grace

On global climate change, it was gratifying to hear President Bush (finally) recognize that human activity is a cause and that human action is necessary to reverse it. However, while Bush claimed that the U.S. would take the lead in addressing global climate change he offered no concrete steps to do so. It is indicative of the president’s fundamentalist faith in corporations that he thinks supply and demand will automatically cause businesses to create painless solutions to our environmental problems. Our office certainly does not question the power of American ingenuity. However, we also recognize that without government regulation of emissions, there is not enough demand to motivate the research and development of much needed solutions. If the president were serious about U.S. leadership in this area, he would propose emissions caps while providing economic assistance to those individuals and families who will be most hard hit by rising costs.

– Kat

As for peacemaking, President Bush made several comments surrounding domestic and international needs. The President asked Congress to reauthorize warrantless wiretapping, which did not did not make the Supreme Court too happy. He asked Congress to reauthorize Federal funding for faith-based initiatives and while that endeavor has its pros and cons, one phrase stood out to me. He called the millions of volunteers, NGO’s and faith-based community improvement projects in the United States the “Armies of Compassion, marching to bring in a new day.” Here is an administration so reliant on militaristic rhetoric that, in Bush’s America, even relief organizations, churches and loving neighbors have been conscripted into his war-on-evil.

With international peacemaking, there was nothing new. His efforts to stay relevant in a world that obviously cannot stand his policies led to more saber rattling toward Iran, Cuba and Venezuela. Comments about progress in Iraq and Afghanistan and promises for more in Pakistan shows his belief that peace and justice come most efficiently from behind the barrel of a gun. While he made empty gestures toward peaceful efforts toward democracy in places like Burma and Belarus, he made a promise to negotiate a two State solution in Israel and the Palestinian Territories.

– Alex

In 5,795 words, President Bush did not once utter the words “diplomacy”, “diplomatic”, or “diplomat”. While not surprising, it is still a grim reminder of how far our foreign policy has strayed from any semblance of right relationship. Our support for H.R. 3797, the New Diplomatic Offensive for Iraq Act, reflects our belief that diplomacy is the bedrock of accountable and effective foreign policy. I encourage you to respond to this State of the Union Address by sending a message to your representatives telling them to bring diplomacy back into our foreign policy.

– Adam

UU Activist Holiday Gift Guide

The holiday season has arrived! And with it has come the annual shopping frenzy. One way to rise above what can feel like a glut of consumerism is to give and ask for mindful gifts. We at the UUA Washington Office have compiled a list of some of our favorite holiday gifts that support social justice and environmental causes. Happy shopping!


Lisa – I was born without a thumb and some fingers. Luckily, my parents were wealthy enough to pay for reconstructive surgery. So my favorite organization this winter is Love Without Boundaries, which lets you sponsor surgeries for children in China who are unable to afford surgery for birth defects.

Alex – Clothes dryers are the most wasteful and expensive home appliance. A clothes drying rack (made from reclaimed wood) can save over $1500 a year in energy costs. Also, consider a composter for your favorite gardener. But do your research—consider how much space and energy you can put into your compost pile before you plop down the money.

GraceEarth Mama, Angel Baby has a variety of all-natural products for both mother and child. Their lovely gift baskets are perfect for an expecting or new mother.

Adam – Give a subscription to GOOD Magazine, and read about people and businesses that are changing the world. 100% of the subscription fee goes to the charitable organization of your choice.

Shopping For Others – For that loved one who already has everything, why not give a gift in his or her name? Gift It Up lists organizations that let you cover the cost of shipping antibiotics to 100 patients in Gaza, or pay for one night of shelter for a BGLT survivor of domestic violence. You can give ducks, honeybees, or cows through Heifer International. You can even use Heifer International to register for weddings and anniversaries

Sponsor An Animal – A great gift for children and animal lovers! When you “adopt” a sea animal through Oceana, not only will you help protect its habitat, but you’ll also receive an animal-shaped cookie cutter and sugar cookie recipe for the holidays. With Defenders of Wildlife, sponsors receive an animal photo as well as a plush toy.

Fair Trade and Sweatshop-Free – Just want to give a pair of socks or a sweater? Check out the International Labor Forum’s handy-dandy 2008 Shop With a Conscience Consumer Guide. The Fair Trade Federation maintains an awesome search engine to help you find fair trade and/or women-owned businesses in your area.

Good Eats – Give a share in a CSA—Community Supported Agriculture. Local farms sell subscriptions for a year or a growing season, and will deliver boxes of fresh, locally grown vegetables right to your door.

Hello World

Welcome to Inspired Faith, Effective Action, the official blog of the UUA’s Advocacy and Witness staff group. This includes:

The purpose of this blog is to extend our ability to communicate with Unitarian Universalists by complementing our existing web pages and email alerts. This blog will allow us to explore some issues more personally and in more detail.

If you have an RSS reader, you will also be able to subscribe to posts pertaining specifically to your areas of interest. Look for the [Atom] links to your left. We look forward to sharing our faith and hopefully inspiring actions.