Happy 100th, Woody

Today would have been Woody Guthrie’s one hundredth birthday. To celebrates, below is a link to a PDF of a song sheet of the public domain version of “This Land Is Your Land.”

PDF of This Land Is Your Land: public domain version

It’s sized to fit on half of a standard 8-1/2×11 inch sheet, which means it will fit into most orders of service. You will have to print and trim the sheet before you use it. If you want just the lyrics, the public domain version lyrics are easily obtained on Wikipedia.

“But,” you say, “isn’t ‘This Land’ a copyright-protected song?” Quick answer: No, not the version he published in 1945…. Continue reading “Happy 100th, Woody”

“Religion Is Not About God”

Dick said I should read the book Religion Is Not About God by Loyal Rue (Rutgers University, 2005). Dick is right, I do need to read this book: Rue manages to link two of my primary concerns, religious naturalism and the growing crisis of overpopulation. I’m slowly working my way through the book — slowly, because periodically I have to stop and think about what Rue is saying.

To tempt you into reading the book, I found a 5 minute online video in which Rue presents one of the key concepts of the book. Come on, you have five minutes — sit for a moment and watch this video:

By the way, Jerome Stone, a recognized authority on religious naturalism, passes this positive judgment on Rue: “One of the best treatments of religion by a religious naturalist is Loyal Rue’s Religion Is Not About God” (in Religious Naturalism Today [SUNY Press, 2008], p. 4).

Creatures of habit

I’ve been thinking about the nature of human beings recently — “theological anthropology” in theology jargon. Unitarian Universalists have this myth that we are rational human beings. Neuroscience increasingly confirms that this is a myth, not fact, and that we humans are not particularly rational beings.

If we were rational in the way Unitarian Universalist myth seems to assume, all of us would floss our teeth regularly — of course many of us don’t floss regularly, because we are not as rational as we’d like to believe. But you can use your rational mind to change your behavior by making use of the power of habits — tiny habits, that is. Jenny told me about a technique being developed by BJ Fogg, director of the Persuasive Tech Lab at Stanford, called “Tiny Habits.” Back in January, KQED summarized the difference between Fogg’s approach and classic behavior models:

“The strength of a habit is defined, at least the way I see it, is how much of a decision was that behavior. So if you’re deciding ‘yeah, I’m going to go to the gym today,’ it’s a pretty good indication it’s not a habit. Habits are things you do without deciding,” says Fogg.

Classic behavior models focus on decision-making as a key component of behavior. Fogg is trying to get away from that by working on a new model of habit formation that’s built on baby steps.

Read more at Fogg’s Web site, TinyHabits.com. (And thanks, Jenny, for the tip!)


It all started on the drive back from General assembly in Phoenix. We turned off Interstate 5 to head up over the Pacheco Pass, and soon Carol turned the car into a roadside fruit stand. “This is the one,” she said. Some of the apricot trees hung over the parking area, and the owner of the stand charged just fifty cents a pound for fruit she picked from the parking lot. She must have picked ten or fifteen pounds of apricots. I’m vaguely allergic to apricots; I ate half a dozen, got the beginnings of a little itchy rash, and that was then end of my apricot season. But Carol’s apricot season was just beginning.

When we got home, the kitchen was soon dominated by jam-making. On the counter near the stove were pectin, canning jars, jar lids, and bags of sugar. On the stove sat a big pot for cooking fruit and another big pot for sterilizing jars. On the counter on the other side of the sink was the big bag of fruit waiting to be processed. Before long, all that fruit had been cooked into jam, and Carol got some more cheap apricots at a farmer’s market, and made more jam. Jars full of deep orange apricot jam sat cooling on the kitchen counter, and every once in a while one would make a little “tink” sound as the lid sealed into place.

Apricot season is coming to an end. Soon there will be no more bowls full of apricot pits in the kitchen, waiting to be put on the compost pile; there will be no more jars cooling on the counter, and no more “tink” sounds at unexpectedly moments; no more orange drips of jam in odd places. The kitchen will return to normal. Two or three dozen jars of jam now sit quietly in the kitchen closet waiting to be given away and eaten. And we’ll wait for apricot season to return again next year.


After services this morning, a visiting Unitarian Universalist from St. John’s Unitarian Universalist Church in Cincinnati, Ohio, told me while he was in California he was going to visit Rosemary Matson. He told me that Rosemary Matson’s husband, Rev. Howard G. Matson, had been a chaplain to Cesar Chavez and the United Farm Workers, and Rosemary herself continued to be involved.

On the Farmworker Movement Documentation Web site, I found more information about Rosemary and Howard Matson. Howard Matson helped found the National Farm Worker Ministry, an interfaith group supporting farmworkers. Together, Rosemary and Howard had created the Unitarian Universalist Migrant Ministry. Both of them worked with Cesar Chavez and other major figures in the struggle to gain rights for Mexican Americans. Rosemary Matson recorded this anecdote about Chavez:

I remember my unexpectedly providing lunch for Cesar and 15 of his delegation at our home in Berkeley. They were between meetings in Oakland. A trip to the deli for pans of lasagna sufficed for all except Cesar, who I found out was a vegetarian, drank carrot juice, and needed a nap.

We have just completed a “Justice General Assembly” focused on immigrants’ rights. Although Rosemary Matson received an honorary degree from Starr King School fo the Ministry, I cannot help but think we should be paying more attention to those Unitarian Universalists who have been working on this broad issue since the 1960s.

A general review of the Justice GA

For me, the story of Justice GA begins like this:

We Unitarian Universalists have to reserve General Assembly sites several years in advance, and we incur financial penalties if we break a reservation. The central purpose of General Assembly is to carry out business required by our bylaws, and our bylaws require us to hold a General Assembly each year. All the other activities that take place at General Assembly — the workshops, the lectures, the conflicts and scuffles, the political maneuvering, and so on — are incidental to that central purpose.

At the 2010 General Assembly, a sentiment arose that Arizona’s newly-enacted draconian law targeting Latino and other immigrants was unjust, and that we Unitarian Universalists should observe a boycott against Arizona called by immigrants’ rights groups within the state. However, the financial penalties that we would incur if we backed out of our contracts in Arizona would mean that we could not afford to hold another General Assembly elsewhere; and we are required by our bylaws to hold an annual General Assembly. We needed a compromise. Out of this need of compromise, Justice GA emerged.

That’s the beginning of the story. Here’s how the story continues: Continue reading “A general review of the Justice GA”

Parker, Arizona

We stopped in Parker, Arizona, on the drive home from Phoenix.

We visited the Colorado River Indian Tribes Museum, which has artifacts from the Mojave, Chemehuevi, Hopi, and Navajo peoples. Carol and I have been reading The Blue Tattoo: The Life of Olive Oatman, a book about a White girl who was adopted into the Mojave tribe in the 1850s, so I was particularly interested to see a Mojave bark skirt on display, presumably similar to the one Olive Oatman would have worn. In the gift shop, they were selling a Red Sox blanket, and I asked why. “Jacoby Ellsbury plays for the Red Sox,” said the pleasant young man at the cash register. “He’s enrolled in the Colorado River Indian tribes.”

Carol went to a thrift store. I stopped to admire the engine facility of the Arizona and California Railroad, a shortline railroad that runs from Phoenix to Cadiz, California, and owns a bridge across the Colorado River.

Carol hugged a saguaro in a public park in Parker.

We drove across the Colorado River, and on the other side we stopped at the tiny U.S. Post Office for Wyatt Earp, CA 92242. Of course we mailed some postcards, making sure they were hand-cancelled with that distinctive name.

GA coverage

For the sake of reference, below are links to posts I wrote this year for UU World’s General Assembly blog. Coming later this week here on my own blog: a more extensive report on the Fahs lecture, a short post on prophetic poetry, a review of the year’s GA, and perhaps a post on the Berry Street lecture.

Fahs lecture: Race, immigration, and religious education

Building the world we dream about

Tse: “Do the one thing you can do”

Talking about immigration with children and youth

Worship: Dreaming a better future

Religious witness at Tent City

As I write this, Unitarian Universalists and local allies are holding a protest rally, or “religious witness,” at Maricopa County’s infamous Tent City. The local temperature is 101 degrees (38 C.) right now, at nine o’clock at night: that’s the kind of temperatures prisoners have to endure during the long summer months at Tent City, which is part of the reason why many people consider Tent City prison to be cruel and unusual punishment, and inhumane.

The Web site for 3TV Phoenix News interviewed Sheriff Joe Arpaio yesterday, and reported: “‘They’re not going to stop me with their little demonstration,’ said Arpaio.” This is a true statement: the voters of Maricopa County have kept Arpaio in office for the past two decades, and a couple of thousand people protesting at Tent City is unlikely to influence the electorate.

I decided not to attend the religious witness at Tent City tonight. I’m not doing well with the heat, I’m trying to get another article written for the uuworld.org GA blog, I’m past tired. But I’m also wondering how this is religious witness action is going to make much of a difference. I hope our presence heartens our local allies; I hope it makes us feel less powerless ourselves. But on the other hand, Joe Arpaio loves this kind of controversy: it gets him press coverage, and gives him additional publicity for his nasty agenda.

I’m watching live streamed video from OPHKMickey — here’s a screen shot showing people streaming in to the protest site:

Update 11:00 p.m.:

A newly-posted video on 3TV Phoenix News shows Sheriff Joe Arpaio at a microphone flanked by Rev. Peter Morales and Rev. Bill Schulz. Arpaio says exactly what you’d think he’d say: “[unintelligible] for people to come in here from out of state, think they’re going to tell this sheriff how to run his operation.” No one likes outsiders telling them what to do, and Arpaio is obviously milking that for all it’s worth.

Service of the Living Tradition

I attended the annual Service of the Living Tradition yesterday, and was struck by both the sermon, and the new way that religious professionals were recognized during the service. You can find a video recording and a script of the service are online here, and my post on the uuworld.org blog here.

Here on my own blog, I’m going to take the time to reflect at greater length on this service:

The Rev. Sarah Lammert, Director of Ministries for the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) welcomed the congregation to the large hall at the Phoenix Convention Center in which the service was held. “Ministers are called forth from the lay people they serve,” said Lammert, and the purpose of the Service of the Living Tradition is to honor professional ministry. She added that as those being honored went up onto the stage, the congregation was invited to “raise a glad noise.”

This represented a change from recent Services of the Living Tradition, when the ministers and other religious professionals being honored did not go up onto the stage, but merely stood up where they were sitting. Also in recent years, worship leaders discouraged the congregation from cheering those being honored.

Another change was that the ministers and other religious professionals did not process in to the service together while the congregation sang the familiar hymn “Rank by Rank Again We Stand.” Instead, they were seated throughout the congregation, with their family and supporters. Each group — ministers achieving preliminary fellowship, ministers in final fellowship, credentialed religious educators, credentialed musicians, etc. — was introduced with the words, “I call forth from among you these persons….” The symbolism was clear: religious professionals gain their power and authority from the people they serve. Continue reading “Service of the Living Tradition”