Flipgrid

This year, the Religious Education Association (REA) invited anyone who’s going to participate in their online annual meeting to post a video response on Flipgrid, answering the question, “Why REA?”

Of course I had to try it. I’m always a sucker for trying out new forms of social media, especially when they’re designed for educators. And Flipgrid advertises itself as a video making Web site that can be used from preK to PhD — how cool is that?

But then I logged in — you can log in using your Google account — and Flipgrid told me it only supports Google Chrome and Microsoft Edge. Seriously? no support for Firefox or Safari? Oh, right, it’s a Microsoft company. At least they allow video uploads, so I recorded a quick-and-dirty video and uploaded it. But I won’t be using Flipgrid with kids, because what about that kid who doesn’t have Chrome or Edge….

Aside from that fatal flaw, Flipgrid seems like it has potential. You as teacher can post a video, kids can respond to it, Flipgrid gives you a QR code that you can send to parents so they see the video responses. Although, uh oh, what about media releases to show videos of legal minors? Given the safety policies in our congregation, that’s another fatal flaw if I want to use it with kids.

Even though Microsoft has incorporated at least two fatal flaws in Flipgrid, the basic idea still has potential. And it still could work with adult programs.

Downside to decline

The report by the Unitarian Universalist Association’s Commission on Institutional Change puts it starkly: if Unitarian Universalists don’t figure out how to become less white, we will die out (because: demographics).

Fair enough. But we’re seeing rise of the “nones,” people who have no religious affiliation, and so maybe it’s time for organized religion to die. If it’s time for organized religion to die, why should we care?

In a recent article titled “White Christian America built a faith-based safety net. What happens when it’s gone?”, Religion News Service has an answer to this question.

“The growth of the so-called nones doesn’t mean that belief is disappearing, but ‘loosely organized spirituality’ among people who have few ties to each other lacks precisely the organization that can marshal thousands of key volunteers.

“‘They don’t congregate,’ [Brad] Fulton [associate professor of nonprofit management at Indiana University] said. ‘And that is the key thing.’

“Religious congregations, on the other hand, he said, ‘ask people to give once a week, week after week. They tell people about volunteer opportunities once a week, week after week. There is no other social institution like them.’

“In some ways, the infrastructure of religion matters more than the spiritual part. The so-called nones, at least for now, can’t replace that.

“‘There is some upside to organized religion that has very little to do with religion,’ he said. ‘They have a great mechanism to bring people together. It is really hard to identify an organized secular equivalent.'”

This is not far from what Unitarian theologian and sociologist James Luther Adams said in the mid-twentieth century: congregations function as voluntary associations. And congregations provide real and tangible benefits to society.

Another point worth noticing here: Fulton, a scholar of management, says that what congregations do — that no one else does — is to congregate, “week after week.” The loose networks created by social media (so far at least) don’t do this, so unfortunately we can’t expect social media networks like Black Lives Matter to fill this void.

Sacred myths of Abrahamic religions, parts 1-3

Three video lecturettes on the shared myths of Abrahamic religions. I’ll include links to all three videos below the fold, followed by texts of the talks.

Some of the books referenced in this video series:
“Cosmopolitanism: Ethics in a World of Strangers,” Kwame Anthony Apiah (W. W. Norton, 2006)
“J.B.: A Play in Verse,” Archibald MacLeish (Houghton Mifflin, 1958)
The children’s story books are:
“Bible Stories of Jewish Children: Joshua to Queen Esther,” Ruth Samuels (Ktav Publishing, 1973)
“The Pilgrim Book of Bible Stories,” Mark Water (Pilgrim Press, 2003) “Goodnight Stories from the Quran,” Saniyasnain Khan (Goodword Books, 2005)

Continue reading “Sacred myths of Abrahamic religions, parts 1-3”

Bertrand Russell on humanism

“I should not have any inclination to call myself a humanist, as I think, on the whole, that the non-human part of the cosmos is much more interesting and satisfactory than the human part.”

As quote in Phillip Hewett, Unitarians in Canada, 2nd ed. (Toronto: Canadian Unitarian Council, 1995), p. 234.

Close-up of lichen, probably Xanthoparmelia spp.

Obscure Unitarians: The Franklin family of Palo Alto

The Franklin family of Palo Alto included Edward Curtis Franklin, expert on nitrogen compounds and professor at Stanford Univ.; Effie June Scott Franklin, professor of modern languages at the Univ. of Kansas; and Dr. Anna Comstock Franklin Barnett, physician and professor at Stanford Medical school. They were all affiliated with the Unitarian Church of Palo Alto (1905 to 1934) at one time or another.

Family tree showing two generations of Franklins
Continue reading “Obscure Unitarians: The Franklin family of Palo Alto”

Akhenaten, part one

There used to be a Unitarian curriculum on the Pharaoh Akhenaten, purportedly the first monotheist, maybe the first unitarian. This is my take on the Akhenaten story….

Click on the image above to see the video on Youtube.

As usual, the full text of the script is below.

Continue reading “Akhenaten, part one”

How to make Halloween costumes for your stuffies

If you can’t go out trick-or-treating this year, or go to a Halloween party, how about making costumes for your stuffed animals? You could even hold a costume party for stuffies. Here’s a video with some idea on how to make easy, effective costumes for your stuffed animals:

Click on the image above to take you to the video on Youtube.

In the video, you’ll see Dr. Sharpie Ann get costumed as a queen (Queen of the Universe, of course), Packie the Dusky-footed Woodrat as a pirate, Possum as an angel, and Hedgehog as a cowboy.

Once you dress up your stuffies, take their photos and post them on social media.

The wild diversity of Christianity, part two

This second video in the two part series explores Christian diversity in the U.S. through Christian music, touching on everything from Christian K-pop to Primitive Baptist hymns to Mainline Protestant choral music to an AME Zion hymn choir — and more. The people who write, perform, and listen to this Christian music come from widely divergent religious perspectives, and very different cultures and ethnicities, and the musical diversity covered in this video should challenge anyone who thinks Christianity is a monolith.

(A disclaimer that will be obvious to my Unitarian Universalist readers: I’m looking at Christianity from the outside; Unitarian Universalism can no longer be considered a Christian religion, it is now quite firmly post-Christian — and whatever that means, it definitely isn’t Christian, though it is related historically.)

Click on the image above to go to the video on Youtube.

Below is the text I was looking at while making the video (but I deviated from the script more than once). The videos from the associated Youtube playlist are embedded below.

Questions that are implicit in the video: How do you define the boundaries of a religious tradition? What makes a piece of music Christian — Christian text, Christian performers, Christian context, Christian intent behind the music, Christian musical genre, or more than one of the above, or all of the above? What are the boundaries between culture and religion? — or are culture and religion somehow intertwined? How can we listen across religious and cultural boundaries? — what do we have in common, and how do we get past what we don’t have in common?

Continue reading “The wild diversity of Christianity, part two”

The wild diversity of Christianity

A short (5 min.) talk for an adult class in which I talk about some stereotypes of Christians, and then suggest listening to the wild diversity of Christian music as a way to get past the stereotypes to begin to understand something of the wild diversity of the Christian religion….

Click on the image above to take you to the video.

Below is the uncorrected text that I was reading from (I diverged from the text a bit, but this is most of it):

Continue reading “The wild diversity of Christianity”