Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Please Don't Make Me Check In!

When it’s time to check in at church meetings, I cringe.  Every time I’m put into such a position of such forced intimacy, I feel as though I’m being asked to rip off a piece of skin and feed it to the group.  Contrary to Joys and Sorrows, where only those willing share, everyone is expected to share something at the check-ins.
The idea that the check-in ritual is valuable at all meetings has taken on the force of dogma.  In an article “Check-In, Check-Out” in The Systems Thinker, May 1994,  Fred Kofman articulates the popular view of check-ins:  “The basic meeting ‘check-in’ gives each participant a turn to briefly share what is happening in ‘their world’—what they are thinking, feeling, and wanting at that moment— [and] have it acknowledged by the group, which allows them to ‘set it aside,’ so that they can be more fully present at the current meeting and not distracted by everything else.”
Let’s examine the assumptions.  Do they always apply?  Kofman states checking in “. . . gives each participant a turn to share . . . ” which assumes each participant is eager to tell the others “what is happening in their  world.”   This first questionable assumption implies that psychologically healthy people want to share their feelings even in business meetings.  As I see it, fellow committee members aren’t strangers or enemies, but they’re not therapists or intimate friends, either.  They’re friendly acquaintances, not people to whom you would reveal you’re on the verge of a breakup.   Besides, checking in encourages oversharing.  “If it’s about me, it must be interesting.”  What’s happened to discretion, healthy boundaries, privacy?  It embarrasses me to go on a tour of someone’s colon.
“Have it acknowledged by the group” is the second questionable assumption. Is a group murmur an acknowledgment?   I often wonder if group members are focusing on the speakers or figuring out what they’re planning to share?   And will the group share what I say with the rest of the congregation?  It’s claimed there is confidentiality in church meetings, but to be safe I only say things in groups that I don’t mind the whole congregation knowing.
Kofman’s third premise is the hydraulic theory of emotion, the concept that emotions expressed are emotions dissipated, implied in the phrase, “which allows them to ‘set it aside.’”  Psychologist and author Martin Seligman explains in Authentic Happiness, “Freud and all his descendants. . . [see] . . .emotions as forces inside a system closed by an impermeable membrane, like a balloon.  If you do not allow yourself to express an emotion, it will squeeze its way out at some other point, usually as an undesirable symptom.”
Contrary to the hydraulic theory of emotion, research on anger and depression (cited by Seligman) has shown expressing a feeling reinforces the feeling. Going over an issue over and over again digs a rut in the mind.  In dog training, we don’t let the dog rehearse behaviors we don’t like before we train an alternate behavior.  We keep food off the coffee table until we have  trained the dog to reliably “leave it.”  As well as to do business, maybe people come to a meeting in order to distract themselves from something they’re ruminating on.  Having to dredge it up for the group defeats that purpose.
“So that they can be fully present at the meeting.”  Get real.  People have just reminded themselves of what was bothering them, thus making it even harder to be “not distracted,” otherwise known as paying attention.  Whether or not I mention my mother’s death, I’m not going to forget she just died.
Another supposed benefit of check-ins is learning to listen with empathy.   However, people have no time to tell their full story.  How can the group be truly empathetic to a fragment? Suggestions about policies can be a lot more controversial, therefore more challenging to hear, than feelings.   Why couldn’t we  practice listening by attending to other people’s ideas about the business of the meeting?  At least talking about the meeting’s business could get something done, which is why we dragged ourselves out to the meeting in the first place.
Sometimes I do have something on my mind, something I don’t want to talk about.  I cope with the pressure to share by dredging up something innocuous such as the morning’s pleasant walk with my dog, but lying about what’s really on my mind makes me uncomfortable.  Moreover, trivial news defeats the purpose of check-ins, making the whole exercise a waste of time.
But wait, I just learned I have the Ebola virus, may I share?  

Monday, October 17, 2011

Better Angels, Part 3

    Looking at the decline of violence on a more recent time scale, Rebecca Solnit says in Hope in the Dark that when she was born in 1961 there weren’t even words for things like domestic violence, hate crimes, homophobia, or sexual harassment.   I was a young adult then and that stuff was just called  life.
    Back in the 40s and 50s, gays and lesbians were considered sick and wrong so it was OK to persecute them.  People with brown or black skin were considered subhuman so it was OK to punish them for being uppity.  My mother’s pediatrician told her to throw cold water on me when I cried, child abuse today.  When I got my first dog in the mid eighties, collar jerk “corrections” was how you trained  dogs.  In the 90s and 00s, Karen Pryor brought no-punishment clicker training to dog training and Temple Grandin advocated for humane slaughter of livestock animals.
    Why the change to less violence?  Pinker says there are four reasons: 1.  With the rise of modern states, police forces keep the peace.   The state has a monopoly on violence, vastly reducing violence between individuals.   2. Life used to be cheap.   People led short and painful lives, so it was no big deal to inflict pain and death on someone.  3.  It benefits both parties to trade with neighbors instead of fighting them.  Robert Wright says in Non Zero we now have developed “expanding networks of reciprocity.”   4.  More empathy for people who are not like us because we can identify with them through journalism, memoir, film, and realistic fiction.  By now, because of the previous three factors we can actually practice the compassion inherent in all faiths, which include some form of the Golden Rule.  
    In conclusion, I am proud to have contributed in a small way to the diminution of violence.  I’ve published a couple of short memoirs, generating empathy for people who’ve had experiences like mine.  I’m a clicker trainer for dogs, a system that uses only rewards to modify animals’ behavior. 
       King's often repeated statement, "The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice" was his summation of 19th century Unitarian minister Theodore Parker, who, in "Of Justice and the Conscience" (1853) asserted: "I do not pretend to understand the moral universe; the arc is a long one, my eye reaches but little ways; I cannot calculate the curve and complete the figure by the experience of sight; I can divine it by conscience. And from what I see I am sure it bends towards justice."
    Parker divined the bend towards justice by conscience; Pinker proved it with statistics.  We humans still have a ways to go; our standards rise faster than our actions, but I have hope by the next millennium, violence will have become what people used to do to each other.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Better Angels, Part 2

    I’ve noticed this decline in violence in my reading.    Jared Diamond says in Guns, Germs, and Steel,  “In traditional [hunter-gatherer] New Guinea society, if a New Guinean happened to encounter an unfamiliar New Guinean while both were away from their respective villages, the two engaged in a long discussion of their relatives, in an attempt to establish some relationship and hence some reason why the two should not attempt to kill each other.”  Now, if civility doesn’t arbitrate a dispute the  police will.   
    The Hebrew Bible, a book recounting the history of a nomadic tribe transitioning to agriculture, features human sacrifice, slavery, and execution by stoning to death.  The New Testament pastoral society still had stonings, with the Romans having added crucifixion.    As Pinker says, The Bible is one long celebration of violence.”  Given this violent society, how remarkable is it that the Bible tells us to practice compassion to all.  The Prophet Micah said what is required is to “do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God.”  The Rabbi Jesus showed a despised Samaritan as an example of how to be a neighbor.  Jesus told us to practice the Golden Rule, to do unto others as you would have them do unto you. 
     Karen Armstrong spoke about the Golden Rule and compassion during the Ware lecture at the 2011 General Assembly of the Unitarian Universalist Association.  I quote from her lecture:   “Each one of the major faiths, I discovered, has at its core the ethic of compassion. Every single one of them has developed its own version of the Golden Rule, never to treat others as you would not like to be treated yourself, and has said that this is the test of spirituality; that it is this which takes us beyond the prism of ego and selfishness and greed, that enables us to enter into our best selves and into the presence of what some have called God, others Nirvana, Brahmin or Dao.
    “The first person, as far as I know, to enunciate the golden rule was Confucius some 500 years before Christ. Never treat others, says Confucius, as you would not like to be treated yourself.
    “My favorite Golden Rule story belongs to Hillel, the great Pharisee, who was an older contemporary of Jesus. And it said that a pagan came to Hillel one day and promised to convert to Judaism on condition that Hillel could recite the whole of Jewish teaching while he stood on one leg. And Hillel stood on one leg and said that which is hateful to you do not to your fellow man. That is the Torah, and everything else is only commentary. Go and study it.”
    Armstrong says we see formulations of the Golden Rule in all three Abrahamic faiths: Judaism, Christianity and Islam.  “Love the stranger, love the foreign, says Leviticus. Love your enemies, said Jesus. Reach out to all tribes and nations, says the prophet Muhammad.” Our own second Unitarian Universalist principle affirms and promotes justice, equity and compassion in human relations. 

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The Better Angels of Our Nature

    “The arc of the moral universe is long but it bends towards justice.”  Fuzzy idealism?  Steven Pinker in his new book The Better Angels of Our Nature has stats and graphs to prove Martin Luther King’s statement is true.  Pinker’s key points: first, our perception that we live in extremely violent times, second, the actual fact that there is less violence between individuals than ever before in human history, and finally the reasons why violence has declined.  I rejoice; there is hope for us humans.
    Most people, living in an age of terrorism, would say we live in extremely violent times.  Why do we have this perception of living in violent times?  First, because we remember events that happened more recently, such as the slaughter of 76 people in Norway in July 2011.  But only historians recall much about the Hundred Years War from 1337-1453, when the population of France shrank by about one-half. 
    Second, we have better reporting that extends world wide.  Associated Press staff are better reporters than medieval monks.   Third, our standards rise faster than our accomplishments. We get upset over executing tens of murderers in Texas by lethal injection, forgetting the millions who were burned at the stake.  Fourth, it’s fashionable to romanticize non western European cultures;  we don’t want to denigrate aboriginal peoples by calling them barbaric savages. (Note that the words “barbaric” and “savage” connote cruelty which we will see is a property of pre-state societies.)  However, it’s not the people, it’s how they treat each other we’re opposing.   Finally, no activist ever recruited volunteers or collected money by saying things are getting better. 
    But the facts say we have become less violent.  Homicide used to be how we settled differences.  The murder rate was forty times greater in medieval Europe than present day.  Torture was routine to get confessions and you always got a confession even if you didn’t get the truth.  Mutilation, as well as corporal punishments like flogging, stocks, and the pillory were standard punishments for infractions that today would only warrant a fine. Many more crimes were punishable by gruesome means of execution.   Slavery with its concomitant violence was a labor saving device.  Cruelty to animals and children was how you taught them something.  Yes, 100 million people died in the two world wars of the 20th century, but if the same proportion died as die in hunter gatherer wars, we would have lost two billion people, twenty times as many.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

How Atheists Can Pray, Part II

    As well as the potential to be inspired by everyone that’s ever lived, there is our own light from within to inspire us.   We can access our inner light by meditation, using any of various techniques that turn off our mental chatter such as counting our breaths or repeating a mantra.  Mental chatter is the continuous stream of stuff like “What are we having for dinner tonight?”  “I need to check my email.”   Once mental chatter is turned off, insights we weren’t aware of rise to our consciousness.  Nothing supernatural is involved.
    Let’s move to the largest possible picture and consider Ultimate Reality, everything that is and its emergent properties.  (An emergent property is a property that a complex system has, but that the individual members of the system do not have.)    I see Ultimate Reality as being like the Hindu concept of Brahman, an all-encompassing, impersonal force.  All other Hindu gods are regarded simply as personal manifestations of that impersonal force.   Individual devotees then pray to a particular personal deity like Shiva, Vishnu, Kali. 
     Like the Hindus, we can subdivide Ultimate Reality into manageable bits.  As well as matter and energy [because I’m a scientist] I see Ultimate Reality comprising the immaterial like love, theorems, beauty.    Hence, the bits of ultimate reality we can address would include the characters of all people who have ever lived, our own inner knowing,  abstract aspects of Reality like beauty or truth, and the traditional God.
    Let me twist your mind a little.  Consider that the traditional Judaeo-Christian God, the one “who created the world and may from time to time intervene within it” is an aspect of ultimate reality, just like Shiva is an aspect of Brahman.  Imagine for a moment a world where a Heavenly Father makes sure everything works for the greater good of all.   Do you feel comforted when you do this?  I do.  Because we Unitarian Universalists affirm our fourth principle:  “acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations,” we must respect those who pray to a Heavenly Father.
    We can also consider aspects of reality that have nothing to do with gods or persons.  The Native American tradition invites us to consider the Four Directions. According to Tom Barrett, when a Native American prays to the four directions, it is a prayer to the spirits of the world, to life, and to the Great Spirit that encompasses the four directions and everything that is. Everything that is sounds like the concept of  Brahman.   Or we can consider each direction in turn. The powers of the East signify creativity, intellect, spring, and new beginnings; the powers of the South, passion, summer, and adulthood; the powers of the West, healing, fall, and harvest; the powers of the North, wisdom, winter, and old age.  As the year cycles, so do our lives. In any particular aspect of our lives,  we are in one of the four quadrants.  For instance, one might be retired, in the winter of  work life, but in the spring or summer of being a grandparent.
    In conclusion, we can pray any of the four modes without reference to the supernatural.  We say Thanks by being grateful for what we have.  We say Oops when we’re sorry for what we’ve done and make amends.  We say Please when we recall any inspiring person, access our own inner light via meditation, or we consider any aspect of reality in order to reach the insights we need. 
    And sometimes, when we have a direct experience of Wow! of awe and wonder,  we are a prayer.  I close with a poem.  “Epiphany” by Pam Kremer.    The poem states:
    Lynn Schmidt says
           she saw You once as prairie grass,               
           Nebraska prairie grass;
           she climbed out of her car on a hot highway,
           leaned her butt on the nose of her car,
           looked out over one great flowing field,
           stretching beyond her sight until the horizon became
           vastness, she says,
           responsive to the slightest shift of wind,
                                full of infinite change,
                                all One.
                                She says when she can’t pray
                                she calls up Prairie Grass.   

Monday, August 29, 2011

How Atheists Can Pray, Part I

        I HAD to clean out my garage last summer.  I couldn’t put off this odious task any longer. Donna was moving in.  Who knew how much stuff she'd have?  It was June, not too hot, not too cold, perfect garage cleaning weather.  For years, I’d saved stuff I might need some day.  Piles of junk lined the walls.   There was room to put the car in, but just barely.  I needed help. 
    So instead of hiring someone, I thought of my friends named Joanie.  All of the Joanies I know are organized.   At least in my mind, they have a place for everything and everything is in its place.   I visualized my garage as if it belonged to a Joanie.  Tools hanging on the wall, the lawn mower in the corner, the snow tires in the cubbies.
    I moved the car out to the driveway.  Every day I chipped away at the project.   In a couple of weeks the junk was sorted into six piles:  trash, rummage sale, hazardous waste, recycle, giveaways, and keepers.  The job was half done!  I got rid of the piles except for the keepers.  The job was all done!  I couldn’t have done it without my mantra: WWJD or What Would Joanie Do?     
    My blog today is about prayer, and you will see how prayer relates to garage cleaning.
    We can think of four sorts of prayer:  Thanks, Oops, Wow! and Please.  These were conceived with a supernatural being in mind, but what if you “are among the one billion people in the world who identify...as agnostic, freethinker, rationalist, skeptic, cynic, secular humanist, naturalist, or deist; as spiritual, apathetic, nonreligious, “nothing”; or any other irreligious descriptive.”  [Greg Epstein].   What if you think there’s nobody to pray to?
    Let’s consider the four modes of prayer without reference to a “supernatural being ‘out there’ separate from the world ...who may from time to time intervene within it” [Marcus Borg].     First, the Thanks aspect.  We can be grateful FOR things like life, health, friends, sunsets, the Earth without being grateful TO a Divine being who allegedly provided them.  Each night before we go to sleep, we can think of good things that happened that day.
    Next, the Oops aspect.  We can be sorry for the wrong we have done and make amends to those whom we have offended without reference to anyone supernatural.  We can stay away from bad influences and redirect our lives.
    And then the third aspect of prayer – Wow!  Consider our first Unitarian Universalist Source: “Direct experience of that transcending mystery and wonder...which moves us to a renewal of the spirit and an openness to the forces that create and uphold life.”   That’s Wow! and it’s non-supernatural and Unitarian Universalist. 
    The last aspect, Please, is easy for traditional Christians and other believers.  “Ask and ye shall receive.” is repeated over and over in the New Testament.
     For those of us who aren’t traditional believers,  I’m going to enlarge on my garage  cleaning story to extrapolate to three ways to say Please.    First, we can access a worthy person’s life;  second, we can get in touch with our inner knowing; or third, we can contemplate an aspect of reality.    
       My Catholic background taught me to ask the saints to intercede for me:   “Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us...”   Most of us Unitarian Universalists don’t expect a miracle or even an answer from a saint or holy person, but we’re saying please by considering what some good person would do in our situation.   We all can be inspired by worthy lives.
     In other words, instead of channeling the Joanies for their tidiness, we can channel the goodness of a saint’s life.  Maybe some of us have been on a committee with a difficult person.  Listen to what St Therese of Lisieux in the 19th century (1873-1897) said in such circumstances: “How do I react when in my mind's eye, I see the defects of someone who doesn't attract me? I remind myself of all that person's good qualities, all her good intentions.”
    Do you think your life doesn’t matter?  I quote from the Therese website, the Society of the Little Flower. “‘What matters in life,’  Therese wrote, ‘is not great deeds, but great love.’ Therese lived and taught a spirituality of attending to everyone and everything well and with love.  Her spirituality is doing the ordinary, with extraordinary love."    
    Or maybe we think we’re better than people who listen to country western, smoke cigarettes, and shop at Safeway.   To get over that affront to the inherent worth and dignity of every person, we can reflect on this story from the life of  Bishop Wulfstan of Worcester who lived from 1008-1095. According to Richard Finn in The Radical Tradition edited by Gilbert Marcus. “...[Wulfstan’s] steward had sent out invitations to select and rich local dignitaries.  They were sitting at their places, when Wulfstan walked in leading a rabble of poor peasants, as many as he had been able to find, and whom he instructed to sit down and eat.  The steward, in high dudgeon at this, thought it more fitting for the bishop to eat with a few of the rich than with many of the poor.  But Wulfstan got his way.”   We can remember how Wulfstan, a real person, coped with social injustice and inequality in the 11th century and go and do likewise.  
    My next post will cover getting in touch with your inner knowing and contemplating an aspect of ultimate reality. 

Thursday, August 18, 2011

A Win-Win Solution

    One hot afternoon,  I headed for the couch with my magazine, but the dog I’d adopted a few months back was already settled in the good spot next to the cushions.  I reached for his collar to pull him off so I could sit where I wanted.  Bozeman, possibly wary of my abrupt reach and my magazine, responded with a hard stare and a low growl.   Uh-oh.
    This was the first time Bozeman had growled at me and I needed it to be the last.  I did not want Bozeman to learn that he could control humans with growls, nor did I want the growls to escalate to snarling, snapping, or biting.
    What to do?  Doing nothing was tantamount to teaching Bozeman that aggression works. I had to defuse the situation right away.  I lured him off the couch with a treat, installed myself in the good spot, and pondered my options.
    What I had just done, luring him off the couch, amounted to bribery and wouldn’t work in the long run. What if Bozeman decided he preferred resting on the couch to eating a treat?  Score Bozeman 1, UU Clicker 0.
    I could sit on the floor but it is my couch.  Again:  Bozeman 1, UU Clicker 0.   Keeping Bozeman off the couch when I wasn’t around meant I’d have to remember to lay the dining room chairs on the couch every time I left – too inconvenient.  Score:  Bozeman 0, UU Clicker 0.  So far, UU Clicker wasn’t getting any points.
    Doing what some traditional trainers advise, punishing him for insubordination, would put the score at Bozeman 0, UU Clicker 1.  But if I flattened Bozeman with the magazine, a collar jerk, or yelling, he might flatten me with a bite.  I’d have to keep escalating his punishment.
    Also, the next time I reached for his collar, Bozeman would be afraid of another correction, defend himself, and maybe bite me.  Ever after, I’d have to keep a leash on him to protect myself and be ready to give him a good corrective collar jerk for growling at me.  Score diminishes:   Bozeman 0, UU Clicker 1/2.  Even worse, what if punishment taught Bozeman to skip growling and go directly to biting?  I couldn’t harbor an incipient junkyard dog in my living room.  I’d lose my pet and Bozeman, after a one way trip to the shelter, would lose his life. Final score:  Bozeman 0, UU Clicker 0.   Lose/lose.  There had to be a better way.
    That evening, pouring kibble into Bozeman’s bowl, I realized  what I really wanted was for him to get off the couch when asked.  Yes!
    Once I reframed the problem away from what I didn’t want, defending the couch, to what I did want, getting off the couch on request, the solution popped into my head. All I had to do was teach Bozeman to get off the couch by training him to alternate between jumping up onto the couch and jumping off it.  If we could do this simple exercise, we’d both win.
    The next day when Bozeman and I were both calm, I got out my clicker and treats.  At the sight of the clicker, Bozeman perked up, ready to learn. I patted the couch.  When he jumped up onto it, I clicked my clicker then fed him a pea-sized bit of hot dog.  Then I pointed to the floor with a bit of hot dog in my hand, and clicked and treated when he jumped off.  Boze relished this new game.  His tail wagged and his eyes shone with anticipation. We did the on-couch, off-couch routine a few more times. Soon I only needed to use my empty hand to point where I wanted him to go.  Then I added  the verbal commands “Up!” and “Off!”  Bozeman  learned to get on and off the couch on command in just five minutes.
     Now when I want to sit on my couch, I tell Bozeman “Off”.  He hops off with no objections.  I nestle in by the pillows, then I invite him “Up” to cuddle.   Final score:  Bozeman 1, UU Clicker 1.   We both win.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

A Trinity for Unitarian Universalists

    I’m going to use the image of the Trinity as an example of how thinking in Mythos terms can lead to greater understanding.  (See 8/6/11 post about Logos, Mythos, and the Literalist heresy.)  When one thinks in images or Mythos terms, it doesn’t matter whether something is real in Logos terms.  In the 4th century CE, before the Literalist heresy took hold, Gregory of Nyssa [335-395] wrote the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit were not objective facts or Logos, but terms we use to express the way the divine nature adapts itself to human minds. [Karen Armstrong, Battle for God p 69.]  In other words, the Trinity is true the way Huckleberry Finn is true. 
     Back in 1994, when  I first started coming to our fellowship, I took our former minister Art Wilmot’s class on the religious archetypes in the Wizard of Oz.   We learned the Tin Woodman represents love, the Cowardly Lion represents action, and the Scarecrow represents understanding.  Art explained these are three ways of approaching life and they recur in human symbology.
    In a moment of revelation, I realized the Christian Trinity was another manifestation of this same triad.  The Father means love; the Son, action; and the Holy Spirit, understanding. So in the irony of all ironies I came to appreciate the concept of the Trinity at the same time I became a Unitarian Universalist. 
    Professor Lloyd Geering came to a similar conclusion in an article entitled “Christianity Minus Theism.”    He generalizes the concept of Incarnation and suggests, “we are coming to acknowledge a new but secular form of trinity or three-in-one.
    1.  The creativity in the cosmos itself
    2. The human species that cosmic creativity has brought forth
    3. The world of knowledge which our collective consciousness has brought forth.”
    Geering also points out the image of the Trinity says God is dynamic, ie the Persons are in relationship to each other.  In his secular version, the cosmos, human beings, and the world of knowledge are likewise in relationship to each other. 
    You see, throwing away images like the trinity limits our thinking.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Logos, Mythos, and the Literalist Heresy

    As you probably noticed, the world didn’t come to an end May 21, 2011 and probably won’t end December 21, either.   Why not?   I think it’s because the person who made the prediction mixed up what is literal (a calendar) with what is symbolic (the end of the world).  In other words, he mixed up two ways of thinking – what Karen Armstrong (who just spoke at our UU General Assembly) calls Logos and Mythos.   
    I’d best start by defining Logos, Mythos, and what I have named the Literalist Heresy.  Logos, Greek for word, means the kind of logical reasoning we use for the scientific method, legal attribution, and historical analysis.  We Unitarian Universalists are comfortable with Logos Logos brought us penicillin, DNA testing, and put a man on the moon.
    Mythos, on the other hand, we’re not so used to.  Mythos isn’t intuition, which is based on non-verbal cues we may not be aware of, but is thinking in analogy or metaphor.  Mythos is about what something means, not what it is.  For instance, “The fog comes in on little cat feet” means fog comes creeping in the way a cat does.
    You former Catholics and medieval historians have heard of various heresies: the Arian, the Albigensisan, etc.  One error in thinking we’ve seen in the last 300 years since the Enlightenment is what I call the Literalist heresy – that religious truths are true in the same way scientific or historical truths are or that Mythos must be the same kind of truth as Logos.
    For a literary work, thinking in Logos yields patent nonsense. Take Mark Twain’s story of Huckleberry Finn.  The meaning of the story is one young person learning to think for himself about racism and slavery.   What is true in this story is that racism and slavery are moral evils.  Although the events of the novel aren’t real in the Logos sense, in the Mythos sense the message of the book is true.  People who think in Logos would argue that if Huck wasn’t real, then neither was his message.  They would add that cats don’t transport fog particles with their feet, either.
    But in religious matters it seems to matter a great deal whether story or image is “really” true.    For instance, Literalists try to make the Genesis story of the creation scientifically true and thus claim Darwinian evolution didn’t happen.  Biblical literalists force what was intended to be Mythos into Logos and create the absurd hybrid creation science – both bad religion and bad science. 
    These Biblical literalists maintain Mythos like the Genesis story is objective fact and therefore literally true.  They become Fundamentalists. 
    Other literalists maintain Mythos is supposed to be objective fact but it can’t really true in the Logos sense. They become secular humanists.  
    UU Clicker thinks both Fundamentalists and secular humanists miss the point of religious stories. 

Thursday, August 4, 2011

About Me

    I’m a lay minister in a midsize Unitarian Universalist church in the Pacific Northwest, a clicker trainer for dogs, and a published writer.  The various facets of my life connect.  The advice, show don’t tell, applies equally to writing and dog training.   Dog training and life work best by reinforcing the positive.  I’ll be blogging about theological issues, dog training, and life.