Monday, November 17, 2008

We're Not in Kansas, Anymore...

A new article from UUWorld came out today. It contained the following paragraph:

This urgency comes from major changes in the make-up of the American population that are on the horizon, [Rev. Peter] Morales said. “Of Americans who are 70 years of age or older, three-quarters are white, European-extraction, Anglo.” he said. “Of Americans who are 10 and younger, one-quarter are. If not a single immigrant crosses our border for the next 20 years, three-quarters of young adults in America are going to be African American, African-Latino, Asian, or some mixture thereof.” If UU congregations fail to welcome and include this changing American face, Morales said, Unitarian Universalism faces a strong possibility of becoming irrelevant. He also stressed the need to recruit more ministers to lead this change because it is possible that half of all current parish ministers will be retiring in the next eight years.

This floored me. I don't mean that it scared me or made me worry that I would have to move somewhere else. Having just finished Building the Dream, it struck me that the work we're embarking on is truly the work we need to do to revitalize our churches, congregations and fellowships and that this course came out at the right time because we're going to need it something fierce. This is rebuilding our world.


There are two parts to Morales' quote. First the demographics of our society is changing and our congregations need to meet that challenge and change, too. Second, our Unitarian Universalist ministry will undergo a significant changing of the guard in the near future.

Embracing the Change

Our society is changing - it's always changing, duh! - but it's usually hard to see. We can read the news about demographics but the reality of its short- and long-term impact has a hard time breaching our impervious complacency. I believe I read recently that last year fewer than half of the children born in California were born to white families. It made a bit of a splash when it was announced but Morales' claim is even more radical than that.

Proactive Leadership for a Multicultural Society

Morales says that we will have a turn-over of up to half of the Unitarian Universalist ministers in the next decade. This means that the pulpits of our congregations will be filled with (relatively) younger ministers. As pointed out in Reverend X, these ministers will take us in new directions and I believe they are being trained to work in a multicultural world. God, I hope so!

Hitting Home

This demographic reality must start driving everything we do in our congregations if we are to remain relevant. California, and especially Southern California, is going to be one of the places we find out if we can do this. Each congregation will (as is our UU wont) approach this challenge differently. This is the strength of diversity: first, because our congregations vary quite a bit in outlook, constituency, history, and size and second, because the more ideas we - as a collective - attempt the more ways we will find to succeed.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Building the Dream

Have you ever noticed the similarity between the words "workshop" and "worship"? I've heard my minister, Rev. Dr. Arvid Straube, define worship as "to consider that which has worth". Workshops like the twenty-plus evenings and afternoons I've participated in this year meet that definition.

The series is called "Building the World We Dream About: A Welcoming Congregation Curriculum on Race and Ethnicity". I call the series "Building the Dream" for short and to tie it to Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech. The workshops called me to consider worthy topics and challenged me to consider them and myself in new ways. There were a lot of surprises for me.

I started the year expecting that we would talk about the experience of being "other" in America, black or Latino or Asian. It came as a shock to spend so much time talking about being white. I found out that I took a lot of pride in being "counter-cultural", of not sharing the mindset that others were not as good as me. I was stunned by my dawning realization that this is a luxury that I as a white, male, straight, married, able, middle-class employed person could have because of all the privileges - earned and unearned - that I enjoy. It had never dawned on me how all-encompassing my white privilege is.

I was also surprised at how engaged I became in the process. Part of it was the covenant-group-like structure that encourages intimacy and trust. Part of it was the authenticity and generosity of my companions. Some parts were challenging - hard, even - and I often found myself in uncomfortable territory. It's not fun to realize - again! - that many of the freedoms I enjoy are not equally shared in this country, in this society. Because we are all immersed in this culture, we find it here in my church community, too.

I don't consider myself racist on a personal level and I think that I don't harbor a lot of mass prejudice (though I'm open to guidance, there). Where my racism manifests is by my participation in and support of institutions - educational, political, employment, social, civic, cultural and religious - that have racial and other biases built into their structures and practices. Withdrawing my support for these institutions is not feasible - I would not enjoy being a hermit! - so changing them has to happen as they continue to function. Some, if not most, of those changes will inconvenience those of us who hold privileged status in these institutions. We've seen many examples of this in the educational and employment fields over the last fifty years; desegregation, busing, Equal Opportunity Employment laws, "quotas" and calls of "reverse discrimination".

One of my most painful realizations has been that measured, sustainable change in these institutions necessarily means prolonging and supporting their unjust and oppressive elements for another generation (or more!) but that revolutionary change is risky, too! The good gets thrown out with the bad and everyone suffers until - hopefully! - non-oppressive systems replace them. There are no perfect solutions and yet we must move forward. I look forward to when this curriculum is released and, when that happens, I will take it again.

Saturday, July 05, 2008


General Assembly has been over for nearly a week and, aside from a couple days head-in-sand, I've been thinking a lot about what I learned, what I saw, what I heard. A lot of it had to do with privilege and oppression.

Since I've been asked to serve as the head of the Diversity Action Group of my church's board, I paid a lot of attention to matters of diversity, race, oppression, and privilege. I thought it would be an interesting exercise to count my blessings or, in AR/AO/MC (Anti-Racism, Anti-Oppression, Multiculturalism) terms, acknowledge my privileges in relation to the society and culture that I live in.

  • I am male.

  • People - in general - accord me more power and more relevance than they do women. In general, I get paid more and have better chances for advancement in my chosen career (plus, I have more career options).

  • I am Caucasian.

  • Being white - whether examined or not - gives me a plethora of social advantages, subtle and overt. I am not targeted as a potential criminal. I am not viewed as less intelligent, less hard-working, less responsible to my family. I get paid more and have better chances for advancement in my chosen career.

  • I am paid a living wage (and then some).

  • I have (relative) economic security. I owe a lot of money on a house but even that gives me a lot of economic clout. All my potential whims and tastes are valued and marketed to. I can get pretty much anything I want.

  • I am 50 years old.

  • I am given the benefit of doubt in matters of experience. I am not treated like an "inexperienced youth" or a "radical" nor am I so old that others view me as being "old-fashioned" or "conservative".

  • Most view me as heterosexual.

  • I am not denigrated for being non-heterosexual. No verbal abuse, no physical abuse. I have full rights to marry and have it recognized in every state.

  • I feel that I am heterosexual.

  • Even considering my family story, I still default to a heterosexist world-view.

  • I am a citizen of the United States of America.

  • I get the benefits of being a privileged member of the richest society on Earth. I can get anything I can afford (or almost afford).

  • I have a college education and a bachelor's degree.

  • People assume that I am smart merely because I went to college. I don't have to prove it over and over again.

  • I am part of the power structure in my church

  • Since I am visible in my congregation and I contribute both time and money and because I am a don't-make-waves/don't ruffle feathers sort of person, I have been invited to be a leader in my church.

I recognize that these privileges puts me into the group of people that benefits from institutionalized oppression. What I am less sure of is how to fix it, how to change the power structures so that we all have equal power and equal access to power.

Working through the Building the Dream curriculum (my shorter name for Building the World We Dream About) that my congregation is testing, I finally realize that I'm not stupid for not understanding all this stuff consciously, innately. I wonder if we need an identity-based ministry for white people. I'm not sure whether Allies for Racial Equity fits that bill.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Watch This...

You gotta ask yourself one question: "Do I feel lucky?"

Well, do ya, Punk?

Wednesday, March 19, 2008


In response to my news on Monday of my colonoscopy and my daughters car wreck, my brother wrote: "Glad to hear about your rear end, sorry to hear about your front end."


Also, the Prius is not totaled! We should have it back in a month.

Taarna's question: What do I value most? I value humor as a tool to help handle the rough times and family to provide support (humorous and otherwise) when it's needed.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Good News, Bad News

I had several good news/bad news moments today.
  1. Bad News: went in for my sigmoidoscopy (only 13,000 feet of tube, not the whole 17,000 feet (read that link before continuing).
    Good News: Apparently, "Flying Colors" are various shades of pink. At least, that's what I saw on the screen when the Doc said that I came through with Flying Colors.
    Side notes: I didn't get Abba. No drugs (good or otherwise). I was in and out of there in 40 minutes (including checking in!) and there was no recovery room where I could play the... uh, "trumpet" The tech said, "Pull up your pants, go out the door and to your left to the exit." He was courteous enough to leave off the "don't let the door hit you on your newly-sensitive behindular zone on the way out" part. So I had to drive home with an uncomfortable gut. All was better within an hour and a half, though, so don't any of you think you should get out of doing it.

  2. Bad News: My daughter was caught in the middle of a four-car pile-up this afternoon. I would not be surprised if our Prius is totaled.
    Good News: No one was injured. I drove up and picked her up at the scene of the accident. The Highway Patrol officer was very kind and complemented her on her handling of her first accident. She did all the right things aside from being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

  3. Bad News: My mom's cancer diagnosis is confirmed.
    Good News: They're starting her on a six-month chemo course tomorrow. That is a significantly better prognosis than I was expecting.

As strange as it sounds, all in all, this was a much better day than it could have been. I definitely flashed on Taarna's accident when my daughter called to say she'd been in an accident. I didn't panic at any of this news and I'm weirdly calm. I don't believe that I am in shock or denial.

Taarna's question: What do I value most? I value acceptance of reality as it happens and the flexibility to adjust my actions to cope with it.

Thursday, February 28, 2008


Since about Sunday, I've been back on the Protein Power induction plan that I had such good success with several years ago. (This time for sure, Rocky!) Monday and Tuesday I felt ecstatic! I was dropping weight and feeling good, confident, powerful.

Wednesday evening I ate some very yummy taco casserole. The bottom of the dish is lined with corn tortillas then layered on top are beans, ground meat (turkey, I think), sour cream and cheese. I knew I should avoid the tortilla level but - dang! - it was tasty! I ate two servings.

Now, realize that I really don't to the beating-myself-up thing. Nutritional vacations come and go. No big deal. I get back on the bike and keep going. Then, I started feeling cravings. *sigh* I decided not to take any of the left-overs for lunch because I didn't want to go through that at work today.

Then, I started feeling stupid. Again, I don't mean that in a beat-myself-up way. I started feeling slower, duller, weak. What sprang to mind was Flowers for Algernon. That feeling was a real bummer. I started feeling down, too. The feeling lasted through this morning and started to lift. By this evening I felt good, again.

My name is ScottMGS and I am a carboholic.

Sometimes I wonder if Graham and Kellogg could have been right (in a very wrong way). There's a lot of salacious information on them here.

Taarna's question: What do I value most? I value self-reflection and the insight I can gain by paying attention.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008


I am grateful for the people in my life that give me things to think about (whether you know it or not). Your ideas, challenges and contradictions feed the mill that is my mind. You all make a difference and for that, I'm grateful.

Transition II

It has always been my habit to try to control everything around me. I've suppressed that in my life, knowing that "It's not fair." Now, I see that I need to do what I need to do for internally-driven reasons.

The egalitarian ideal is just that, an ideal. It can never be implemented faithfully, try as people might, and I waste my time and energy trying to conform. There is always a power balance that favors some and is denied others. I have been feeling the stirrings of my own power for several years but I've been whining and fearful about using it, afraid that it not fair to other people, that I would be making choices for them.

Now, I see it differently. I can't empower people to do what they want and need while holding myself back. If nothing else, being in charge of myself is a good example! My community, my family and my friends need me to do what I need to do just like I need them to do what they need to do.

Dang! That sounds so... libertarian!

Taarna's question: What do I value most? I value the ability to transform myself to define who I am and make myself more useful to the world.

Saturday, January 26, 2008


If we want to transform society, we need to start with people because society is not a thing, it is the environment and accumulation of people. We are components of this society. Everything we do and every choice we make affects our society to some small extent.

You cannot hope to build a better world without improving the individuals. To that end each of us must work for his own improvement, and at the same time share a general responsibility for all humanity, our particular duty being to aid those to whom we think we can be most useful. — Marie Curie (1867-1934)

If we believe that we should not choose changes for other people we must change ourselves and be so successful that people are encouraged by our example.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Jury Duty

Okay, so. I was called to jury duty yesterday. I really like the idea of the jury system that we have here in the U.S. It is one of the most successful and egalitarian of our democratic institutions. According to the introduction to jury service that I attended yesterday morning, the San Diego court system (city and county, superior and municipal, I think) is the third largest court organization in the U.S. Over one million jury summons are sent out every year. That is a lot of people and takes a lot of work to keep it running smoothly.

One of the things I like about the system as it stands is that it really only requires the potential jurors to bring their common sense to bear on the case. It does not require specialized scientific, psychological, business or legal knowledge to participate. Indeed, if you have something relevant to the case you will probably be excused from serving! That, in itself, really levels the playing field.

There are, of course, some people who will be overlooked or excluded. People who are deaf or significantly hard-of-hearing and people who don't have a facile grasp of spoken English can't serve. (I wonder if people who can't read are excluded, too.) That essentially makes English the official language of our legal system so recent immigrants are likely to be underrepresented. That said, there are good reasons for this as far as making the system work properly. Translation is a tricky thing - especially live translation - and nuances are tricky enough for native speakers. Nevertheless, it is no less exclusionary even if it is necessary to make the system work.

Another aspect is the number of constraints placed on the jury. Again, there are many good reasons for some, or even most, of these constraints but it seems to me that some get in the way of finding the truth. Admittedly, the jury is expected to decide the truth but a jury is (supposedly) limited to the facts (and incident information) presented during the testimony and evidence phase of a trial.

One aspect that does bother me is how many people want to avoid serving on a jury. I admit that it is daunting on several fronts. My work will pay for me to perform up to ten days of jury service but other companies pay for fewer and some don't pay at all. The law only requires that the company not fire people for serving.

I think some people are uncomfortable with making decisions for or about other people - I speak for myself but I am sure that others feel the same. Some of these decisions are life-and-death, multiple years of incarceration, loss of rights, loss of access to loved ones, the chance that the wrong decision is made, lost hopes for justice (or revenge), lost wealth, lost health, etc. The people on a jury will be responsible for choosing who loses - somebody always loses. The loss is always a big loss. That is daunting.

I wonder if people in our society are less community-oriented and so feel less responsibility for the community and, therefore, less responsible to their community. I know that I tend to pick and choose what sub-communities I feel responsible for and to. It might be better to say that I have different levels of commitment to various aspects of our society.

Anyway, to Taarna's question: What do I value most? I value our system of justice for how effective it is considering the pressures on it. Even with its flaws, I appreciate its basis as a distinctly democratic institution.

Monday, January 14, 2008


This is a weird one for me. I've always been leery of people claiming to be "proud to be an American". To me, pride is a foreign concept but should be associated with personal accomplishments or, at least, something that participated in significantly. Just being born isn't really a justifiable cause for pride.

Nevertheless, I find myself contemplating being a privileged citizen of the United States of America. I didn't deserve to be born here nor did I earn the rights and privileges. So I ponder the privilege and the responsibility that I feel goes with it. The responsibilities I feel aren't the drive to fight (and risk death) against our "enemies", the drive to export our way of life, to absorb the rest of the world into our demesne.

No, rather, I feel the need to extend the way our government is, by law, required to treat its citizens to the people who are not our citizens. When someone, for whatever reason, comes into the control of any branch of the U.S. government (e.g. the legal system, the Immigration and Naturalization Service, the military, the CIA, etc.) they should be accorded all rights accorded to citizens.

I am aware that the Declaration of Independence is not a document with legal standing but, oh, how I wish that the first sentence of the preamble:
"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."

...was included in the Constitution!

Now, allowing that "men" means "people" (and some would like to extend that to "beings"), it would seem that, being equal, all people should be accorded those "unalienable Rights" regardless of their nationality and even discounting their animosity toward our nation. That, alone, might reduce some of the animosity we've earned during the "war on terror".

As opposed as I am to some of the actions of our administrations through the years, I do not oppose our form of government. There are many changes I would make but I would not suggest that they be made except through the system that the Constitution put in place. Even with our human failings, the framework is good.

I understand that I have the unearned privilege of being a citizen of the United States of America and because I am a voting citizen I can make more of a difference by participating than by withdrawing. Making change happen means more than paying taxes and voting, though. How can I use my privilege to make the world a better place?

I am grateful that I am a citizen of the United States of America.

Taarna's question: What do I value most? I value the ideals of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United State of America and believe that our government should extend these inherent privileges when dealing with nations and people at all levels.

Sunday, January 13, 2008


Balance is dynamic and requires some degree of flexibility.

Physically, balance is an acquired skill. Generally, children get the ability to stand in less than a year. It seems easy but it's a complicated process - we just don't have to think about it. Later in life, balance is harder to maintain as the body and the nervous system take a beating from time.

Mental balance is the ability to stay sane with all the input we receive.

Life balance is finding the (ever-changing?) mix of seeking challenges and having fun.

I am grateful to be mostly balanced in most areas of my life.

To answer Taarna's question; What do I value most? I value balance and the awareness it takes to maintain it.

Saturday, January 12, 2008


"Consumerism is the belief that things will make you happy. Simplicity is the acknowledgment that they will not." - From a blurb on the book "Rational Simplicity"

Taarna's question: What do I value most? I value simplicity as a way of life. I am not there and I am aware that what I call simplicity will strike some people as not simple enough and other people as unnecessarily spartan.


I've been driving myself crazy by watching myself fritter away weekends and evenings. I'm stressed and I'm stressing myself for not reducing my stress! Realizing this, of course, (and feeling more dualistic when I'm stressed) leaves me two options: 1) relax to reduce my stress levels so I can be more effective and 2) Come on! Get to work! These problems aren't going to solve themselves, you know, you lazy bum!.

Hmm... Maybe there is a middle path. How can I both relax and work on what needs to be done? How can I avoid feeling overwhelmed with the magnitude of what I want to do?

Baby steps!

I haven't been writing my gratitude journal entries because it's been too daunting to come up with five new entries every day. Okay, how about one?

1) I am grateful for hot, home-made chicken soup. Mmmm, that's good.

Sunday, January 06, 2008


1) I am grateful for a house to live in. I am comfortable, warm.

2) I am grateful for internet access so I can have fun, learn new things, appreciate beauty and be challenged. I can stumble across ideas that I would not have thought of on my own. I can hold conversations with people across the country and around the world. I can "meet" with like minds and converse with people with viewpoints different from my own.

3) I am grateful for my body. It does need work but I am able to do what I need on a day-to-day basis and I am able to improve it in the areas that I want to improve. I am healthy.

4) I am grateful for my church community. These people like and support me and their confidence in my makes me feel and helps me feel competent.

5) I am grateful that I became aware of our financial state before it got too bad. I can fix it.

To answer Taarna's question; What do I value most? I value having a place to live, a way to communicate, a community to lift me up, a body that can take me where I need to go and the awareness to fix the things that need fixing.