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What in the World?

A guide for discussion groups and personal reflection
By Marjorie Bowens-Wheatley

November/December 2000

These questions, based on this issue's contents, are designed to stimulate adult education group discussions and personal reflection.

Morality and the economy. Kathy Thornton, national coordinator for NETWORK, a Catholic social justice organization, says religious liberals should ask these questions about economic policy: "What does the policy do for poor people? What does it do to poor people? How does it affect poor people's ability to make decisions about their lives?" (p. 20).

Question. Pick an economic relationship in your community. Who benefits? Who loses? What would it take to restructure your local economy to bring greater equity?

Taking the next step. Author Neil Chethik suggests five steps toward greater involvement in social justice: noticing, connecting, joining, forgoing things you don't need, and sustaining the work (p. 23).

Question. Have you or your congregation gotten stuck on any one of these steps? Which one? How might you move on to the next step, thus deepening your commitment and effectiveness? How do you understand the relationship between spiritual growth and ethical action?

Globalization or cultural imperialism? Clinical psychologist Mary Pipher worries about the impact of globalization on families and cultures the world over ("Reflections," p. 14).

Question. How do corporate values differ from Unitarian Universalist values? How are they similar? How can ordinary people change the rules by which corporations operate?

Competition and empathy. UUA President the Rev. John Buehrens ("Horizons," p. 5) writes that competition is good for the economy but only when limits have been placed on "the most dehumanizing and brutal forms of competition."

Question. How can we change the economy to limit extraordinary benefits for some and end extreme hardship for others? If you were speaking at a local town meeting, what might you say about this issue to your elected officials?

Religious freedom and cultural diversity. US Muslims are increasingly schooling their children at home because they want to keep their cultural traditions alive ("Religion News," p. 59).

Question. Given the growing ethnic and religious diversity of the US, how can we preserve religious freedom in public education and at the same time promote cultural diversity? What implications does growing diversity have for Unitarian Universalists? What is our duty to the community?

Canadian self-determination. The Canadian Unitarian Council has voted to move toward greater autonomy (p. 46). Council President Kim Turner says Canadian Unitarians and UUs will soon begin providing "services directed more from Canada to Canadians."

Question. Take any program provided by the UUA (e.g., setting ministerial compensation guidelines, training lay leaders, publishing). How might it be changed to better serve Canadian needs?

UU history. The Rev. Ezra Stiles Gannett, an important figure in founding and shaping American Unitarian Association (AUA), called for a gradual rather than immediate abolition of slavery in the hope that this would help preserve the Union ("Looking Back," p. 72).

Question. If you were a member of the AUA in the period leading up to the Civil War, what stand would you have taken on slavery? Why?

Intergenerational stewardship. The Unitarian Universalist Service Committee's Guest at Your Table program demonstrates the potential for stewardship involving the whole family (p. 60).

Question. What other habits of stewardship do you advocate and practice? What more could you do?

Justice and staff pay. Barbara Brown, compensation consultant for the UUA's Central Midwest District, calls pay for ministers, religious education directors, music directors, and church administrators a social justice issue ("UU Trend," p. 50). She suggests that congregational social justice committees be involved in discussions about staff compensation.

Question. Do you agree that compensation is a social justice issue? Explain. Has your congregation met or made a plan to meet the UUA guidelines for staff compensation?

What binds us together? According to Warren Ross, our Unitarian Universalist principles have been "woven into the fabric of our denominational life" (p. 34). While there is no plan to amend the language of the principles, some people feel they don't address 21st century realities; others suggest that our principles bespeak "a kind of creeping creedalism."

Question. How can we embrace our principles, in all their richness and integrity, without feeling that they constitute a creed being imposed on members of a creedless faith?

A religious car? Anne Heller, district executive for the UUA's Pacific Northwest District, lives her Unitarian Universalist faith through her buying decisions. She calls her new Honda Insight a "seventh principle car" (p. 54).

Question. How do your consumer choices relate to Unitarian Universalist values and principles?

The Rev. Marjorie Bowens-Wheatley is adult programs director for the UUA Department of Religious Education.

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