When Confronted with Unbridled Fear

When confronted with unbridled fear

I have only one response:  Love one another.

Let me say that in another way:  Be gentle with one another.

Let me say that in another way:  Be mindful with one another.

Let me say that in another way:  Respect one another.

Let me say that in another way:  Honor each other’s dignity.

Let me say that in another way:  Hold on to one another.

Let me say that in another way:  Forgive one another.

Let me say that in another way:  Be fully present with one another.

Let me say that in another way:  Show compassion to one another.

Let me say that in another way:  Recognize each other’s humanity.

Let me say that in another way:  Be fabulous with one another.

Let me say that in another way:  Namaste.

Let me say that in another way:  Treat others as you want to be treated.

And if I haven’t been extremely clear in what I mean,

perhaps these words from Kurt Vonnegut will be helpful:

“God damn it, you’ve got to be kind.”

In other words, Love one another.

 

(c) 2015 Fred L Hammond

 

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A Prayer When Angry

It’s easy to be angry–

and justified in that anger–

Let us turn that anger into righteousness

by using wisdom

by using love

by using forgiveness

to shape our actions

so we can create justice–

a better life for the least of these.

Amen.

Published in: on May 21, 2015 at 1:08 pm  Comments Off on A Prayer When Angry  
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The Spider who Weaves Her Web

I sometimes wonder about the spider who weaves her web.
She knows it is a fragile net between two blades of grass.
She knows wind, rain or even a passerby may destroy
her work and she will begin all over again to weave,

To toil, to struggle to pull the blades of grass together
as an anchor to hang her masterpiece, her life’s mission.
How often is the work we do as fragile like a web;
the slightest breeze can make our common desire seem for naught.

We seek to create a web of interdependence but
so afraid of vulnerability required to build;
still we begin, then a storm blows shaking the filaments
of community loose and we find the web is unhinged.

But when it comes together; when the spiral weavings match
the light of a joyous day, revealing the rainbows of comfort
the purpose of the web is fulfilled; sustaining, nurturing,
freeing us to more than we can ever be by ourselves.

The spider weaves the best web she can for today’s concerns
and those who come after her will build their webs for their needs
and for their journey’s concerns. And that is as it should be.
We, too, weave the best today. Tomorrow we build anew.
© Fred L Hammond 2015

Published in: on May 19, 2015 at 10:12 am  Comments Off on The Spider who Weaves Her Web  
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Purpose of Attending Church

My personal belief is that the church—regardless of denomination—is meant to be a place where people’s lives are transformed to empower them to reach their highest potential. This can be a place that brings healing into our lives as we journey this path called life together. It can be a place where those who have been marginalized are welcomed and affirmed. It can be a place where those who are healthy today can reach out to those who are hurting and in pain to receive comfort and to bring them into a relationship where healing and health can occur enabling them to reach out to others tomorrow.

Church is in the relational business. It is through relationships that community is built. It is through community that restoration of people’s sense of belonging occurs. It is through belonging that healing occurs.

Published in: on May 19, 2015 at 9:56 am  Comments Off on Purpose of Attending Church  
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Making a Case for Darwin Day as a Recognized UU Holiday

I recently attended the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Oxford, Mississippi.  The theme of their service was Darwin Day. Charles Darwin, Unitarian, is credited for developing what is now known as the theory of evolution.  He wrote the book On the Origin of Species in 1859 which revolutionized our understanding of creation.  During this service, I came to the realization that Unitarian Universalists could embrace the idea for a recognized holiday in honor of Charles Darwin, if not in the secular world, then certainly in our faith tradition. Just as Unitarian Universalists celebrate Christmas to honor our Christian heritage, Darwin Day would celebrate our Humanist heritage.

Since 2006, Michael Zimmerman has been the proponent of the Clergy Letter Project which seeks to have congregations hold  a service that would highlight that science and religion are not opposed to one another.  And more emphatically that the theory of evolution can be embraced by people of faith.  Michael Zimmerman recently wrote an article for the UU Humanist Association urging Unitarian Universalist clergy to sign on to the UU Clergy Letter; which is parallel to the Christian Clergy Letter.  I am a proud signatory of this letter. There is also a Christian Clergy Letter, Rabbi Letter, and Buddhist  letter.

The Unitarian Universalist version of this letter begins by stating:  As Unitarian Universalists, we draw from many sources, including “Wisdom from the world’s religions which inspires us in our ethical and spiritual life,” and “Humanist teachings which counsel us to heed the guidance of reason and the results of science, and warn us against idolatries of the mind and spirit.” While most Unitarian Universalists believe that many sacred scriptures convey timeless truths about humans and our relationship to the sacred, we stand in solidarity with our Christian and Jewish brothers and sisters who do not read the Bible literally, as they would a science textbook. We believe that religious truth is of a different order from scientific truth. Its purpose is not to convey scientific information but to transform hearts.

I am in full agreement of this letter and I urge my colleagues to consider adding their signatures in support of Michael Zimmerman’s efforts to demonstrate that religion and evolutionary biology are compatible.

But the reasons given in this letter are not the reasons that dawned on me as I listened to the speaker at the Oxford congregation on Sunday that we need to create a UU holiday honoring Charles Darwin’s work.  The reasons given above are certainly  a part of my reasoning. But what began circulating around in my brain as I listened on Sunday was how important and relevant a holy day such as Darwin Day would be for Unitarian Universalists given our nation’s shift towards religious fundamentalism. Such a declaration would sharpen the contrast of where we stand on matters of faith and science in a culture that is increasingly anti-science.  And to be clear, being anti-science is not just reserved to conservative religious fundamentalists, the recent outbreak of measles at Disney Land is the responsibility of anti-science liberals.

In addition to the sources and the principles of our covenanted association, Unitarian Universalists have proclaimed that truth and revelation is forever unfolding. Along with Ralph Waldo Emerson we propose that not one book can contain the whole of wisdom and revelation for all time.  Here in the works of Darwin is evidence of that unfolding revelation.

For Unitarian Universalists to embrace Darwin Day as a holiday not only honors the compatibility of science and religion as the Clergy Letter Project seeks to do but also highlights one of the unique distinctions of our faith–the belief that  revelation is unending and is revealed through a variety of sources–including scientific study. Our faith is based on a heritage of revelation from its earliest days to the current day. From their earliest beginnings, Unitarians and Universalists have evolved in their understandings of truth.  Today we have a statement of principles and sources for our faith which we have amended and changed as new revelations have become known.

As a people of faith, we have often been at the vanguard of liberal thought and social change–even while the majority of our members may have resisted these very changes. But individuals began with an idea, a revelation if you will, that grew into a movement that not only transformed our faith but the society in which we live.  Whether it was abolition of slavery (Theodore Parker), women’s equality (Judith Sargent Murray), Transcendentalism (Ralph Waldo Emerson),  women’s suffrage (Susan B. Anthony), or ending racism (Mary White Ovington); Unitarian Universalists have been at the vanguard of these transformational movements.  Given that Charles Darwin was a Unitarian, places Unitarian Universalists at the vanguard of the revelation that all life on this planet has a common ancestry and origin. Our faith has added to wisdom of the ages.

The movement to have Darwin Day recognized as a holiday is also an international one. International Darwin Day will inspire people throughout the globe to reflect and act on the principles of intellectual bravery, perpetual curiosity, scientific thinking, and hunger for truth as embodied in Charles Darwin.  This mission is spearheaded by the American Humanist Association.  Darwin Day is celebrated on every continent with various events.  This year’s observance of Darwin Day during the week of February 12th, the 206th birthday of Charles Darwin, has 151 events registered at their website. The mission statement of International Darwin Day is a statement that succinctly reflects Unitarian Universalist principles.

The Clergy Letter Project–Evolution Weekend has 459 congregations registered as participating in their event.  Sixty eight of these congregations were Unitarian Universalist offering an impressive 15% of the congregations listed. Impressive because we are such a small association in comparison to other faiths listed.  But if my experience at the Oxford, Mississippi congregation is any indication, there are many more UU congregations celebrating Charles Darwin’s ideas than are registered on this site.

Attend a Darwin Day event, honor our Unitarian Universalist faith by declaring that revelation is unending and new truths are being made known about the universe in which we live and new truths are being revealed as to how we might live justly with our neighbors on this planet.

2015

Who is this mythical person christened
Twenty-fifteen? A babe in swaddling clothes
at birth, a decrepit hunched being come
final hours of December thirty-first.
Its destiny is the same as yours/mine.

What type of life will Twenty-fifteen live?
As with all newborns we dream wishful hopes
anticipating, desiring, longing
for something better; something wonderful.
The life it lives depends in part on us.

How well we embody our principles—
how well we choose to seek to act justly —
how well we choose to share loving kindness —
how well we walk humbly throughout our days.
Live this day, this hour as the best moment,

as if our December thirty-first draws
near as it must for all creatures on earth.
Who then is this mythical person born?
Twenty-fifteen is our measure of life
Fill it with love, generosity, grace.

© 2015 Fred L Hammond

On the Seventh Day

Creating a universe
filled with galaxies filled
with solar systems made
of comets and planets
with self-sustaining life
forms and sentient beings
expressing awe. This feat
is worthy of the long
pause or even a Sabbath.

© Fred L Hammond

Published in: on January 4, 2015 at 4:11 pm  Comments Off on On the Seventh Day  
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A Transgender Naming Ceremony

The following is a Transgender Naming Ceremony that I developed with a member of my congregation.  There does not seem to be many Transgender naming ceremonies out there in the Unitarian Universalist sphere so we both agreed it would be important to put this one out there for others to use and adapt.

 

A TRANSGENDER NAMING CEREMONY

 

Minister:  The tradition of naming people is as varied as there are countries.  In the US it is typical that a person would be named by their parents at birth and that name would follow the person all the days of their life. But that is not the way it works in many countries around the world and it does not always happen here that way either.

For example my Grandfather was born James Millard but he was always called Millard.  His son, a junior, is called Jim.  But my Grandfather’s brother, born Frank, was called Jim. My cousin, Robert Craig changed his name to Robert Avery when he was 13 in order to be a junior and then adopted the name Avery.  [The celebrant may substitute their own family’s naming story examples.]

Some children are given new Christian names at confirmation and then will go by that name from that point on. Some have names that are only used by the family and their formal name is used only by those outside of the family. Still others adopt a nickname by which they are forever called. Names are not always cast in stone at birth. Some Native American tribes do not name their children until some attribute is discovered about the child.  And the name might change again when the child becomes an adult.

And in the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures names would change as the person was transformed and embraced their true identity. Abram became Abraham, Sarai became Sarah, Jacob became Israel, Saul became Paul all to indicate a new person in relationship with their god.  Today, we are celebrating the adoption of a new name that reflects a truth that has been hidden but is now revealed.

 

 

Poem:  “how to love a person” by AJ Tigarian[i]

just press your palm to their palm

warm and full of possibility

skip across their soul like

a flat stone flung from the river’s edge

and then sink into them

come to rest amid the silt and debris

wiggle your toes in the particles

of everything they are

you don’t have to do anything different

you don’t have to try harder

you don’t have to re-mold yourself

into something that makes you

somehow less you

and neither do they.

stand beside them

as they meet their true self

let them introduce you to their “me”

as they find it, one bit at a time

or all at once.

gather up their tears, their smiles,

their joys and their discomforts

when they can’t carry them anymore

remind them where they’re going

go along with them, whenever they ask

witness their struggles and triumphs

open your heart and your arms

press your cheek to their cheek

and love them more when the sun rises

than you did when it set on the day before

 

 

#211 / #212 We are Climbing Jacob’s Ladder/ We are Dancing Sarah’s Circle

[Sing one verse from We are Climbing Jacob’s Ladder then one verse from We are Dancing Sarah’s Circle using the same key. In the Unitarian Universalist  hymnal Singing the Living Tradition there is a key change between the two songs.  In We are Dancing Sarah’s Circle, we substituted “sisters, brothers, all” with “We are Dancing On” for two reasons:  The first and primary reason is to be inclusive of people of  all gender and non-gender identities and second to be parallel with the call in the first song to be climbing on.]

 

 

Minister: By what name shall you be known? [ii]

Partner or Family member[s]: The name shall be ________.

______: My name shall be ______.

Minister:  May the community respond by repeating—Your name shall be ______.

Minister: Bear this name as a reflection of your true self.  Share this name as a reflection of Mercy.  Offer this name as a reflection of Justice.

 

Created and Celebrated in a service led by Rev. Fred L Hammond of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Tuscaloosa, AL on 9 March 2014  ©

 

[i] “how to love a person” © by AJ Tigarian. Printed here with permission.  Permission is granted by the author to use this poem in other naming ceremonies with acknowledgement of the author.

[ii] This last section is a wildly loose adaptation from a section of a naming  ceremony written by Lutheran priest Nadia Bolz-Weber http://www.patheos.com/blogs/nadiabolzweber/2012/01/liturgical-naming-rite-for-a-transgendered-church-member/    While there is sufficient changes in wording of the final three sentences to stamp my name to it, the origination of the idea is unmistakably the Rev. Nadia Bolz Weber’s. And at Rev. Nadia’s site, credit is given for the naming ceremony there as being adapted from one used by Episcopal Priest Michele Morgan. There is a genealogy of adaptations going on here.

The Baptist Minister Knocks on the Unitarian Universalist Minister’s Door

The other day a Baptist minister and a congregant came to my apartment door.  They were passing out tracts and alerting the neighborhood of a revival his congregation is hosting.  After exchanging a few pleasantries, he found out that I was a Unitarian Universalist minister. He launched into a series of questions of what if I am wrong in my faith and damnation awaited my eternal soul after death.  I assured him I had faith that was not the case for me or for anyone. He suggested I was making a huge gamble.  I assured him my faith was sure.  He requested that I read the tract he was passing out and I told that I would not because I already knew what the tract was going to state and was not interested.  He told me I was afraid of the truth.  I reminded him it was as he perceived it and not truth as I perceived it.  He continued to challenge me on reading it.  And after I stated again I was not going to read it, he told me I was pitiful.  And continued to call me pitiful as he walked away.

I found it quite interesting that he could not accept an honest answer to his question therefore he had to resort to insulting me.  The difficulty that I have with Christianity as it is presented here in the Deep South is that it is based on fear and contradictions.  That fact alone should be a red flag for any would be converts.

The Baptist minister and I agreed that God is love.  Yet, the Baptist minister also believes that if Jesus is not accepted as Lord and Savior then that God of love will condemn the person to eternal damnation of fire and brimstone.  This is a contradiction.  A god of love does not condemn the beloved. A skilled parent may punish their child for doing something harmful to themselves and others but the parent never condemns their child to everlasting punishment.  The parent seeks to protect the child.  The parent seeks to nurture the child.  The parent seeks to instruct the child. The skilled parent does not use fear of condemnation to achieve instruction.  Condemnation destroys and removes all hope of reconciliation.  The God the Baptist believes in is an abusive manipulative parent who uses fear, intimidation, and condemnation to oppress and control his people.

As a society, we try to remove the child from such abusive parents because we recognize the damage such brutal relationships causes within the child’s maturational development. Is it any wonder given that sort of relationship with a god who requires being fearful of eternal damnation in order to achieve loyalty results in state laws that are punitive on those less fortunate?   This is not the teachings of Jesus.  His teachings that refer to damnation are aimed at his followers who become smug in their salvation and do not recognize the divine in each other.  ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not take care of You?’ (Matthew 25:44 New American Standard) This is a parable.   Jesus is not referring to an actual location one will be sent but rather is referring to how far a distance one might be in following his teachings when they only take on the shell of his teachings and not embody them.  How different the world would be if we recognized the presence of the Christ, the Buddha, the divine in each other and nurtured that to blossom to full bloom and then to seed?

The Baptist minister in promoting fear and coercion to convert others is likened to another teaching of Jesus’ “Now you Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and the dish, but on the inside you are full of greed and evil.” (Luke 11:39 International Standard Version).  Having the appearance of salvation but not the spirit of love within is no salvation at all.  If he was truly a follower of Jesus, he would not have needed to resort to insults as he parted. I am sure he felt very smug and good at his ability to cast dispersions on my honesty in telling him ‘no I will not read’ his tract.  His behavior does not speak well of his religion.  He did not impress me with his arrogant stance.

To be honest, I have difficulty with a faith where the message is, ‘See what you made me do to your elder brother because you would not listen to me? You made me torture him and crucify him in the most horrendous fashion all because you refused to obey my commandments.’    This is the abusive parent.  And since the church is considered the bride of Christ, this is the abusive spouse.  ‘It is your fault because of your sinful nature that I strike Jesus with the lash and drive nails into his body.  If only you would just do what I ask and not make me so angry, I would not have to beat up Jesus. Can’t you see how much I love you? I crucified my son for your evil behaviors.’  This is the abusive message the Baptist minister was preaching to me the other day.  Every victim of domestic abuse has heard this rationale for why their spouse struck them. The only difference is that instead of striking the victim, the abuser strikes someone else in their stead with the warning ‘this will happen to you for all eternity if you do not do as I say.’  I was already all too familiar with the subtext of the tract he passed out to have a need to read it.

I prefer a religion that invites me to be more than I am today.  There are versions of Christianity, albeit rare in the Deep South, that  invite others to grow beyond where they are today.  I prefer a religion that calls me to love my neighbor.  I prefer a religion that calls me to make straight the path, to encourage justice to roll down like waters, to be a river of righteousness, to be an up-lifter of people. Such a religion will also lead me to lie down in green pastures and to drink from still waters to restore my soul. Such a religion will place a yearning in my heart to create justice, love mercy, and to walk humbly through-out my days.  That is a religion I can follow, not because it ‘tickle’s my ears”  with words I want to hear as the Baptist minister suggested, but because such a religion confronts my prejudices and biases, chastises my false convictions, and reveals where I have fallen short in my relationships with others.  Such a religion makes me think long and hard on how my life affects the lives of others.  It also reassures me of my humanity when I miss the mark and invites me to begin again.  Such a religion reaffirms my inherent worth and dignity with the love that is offered me not because of anything I have done but simply because I, too, am a child of the universe/god.

My chosen faith, Unitarian Universalism, is not the perfect religion either.  We have our own issues with racism, classism, and other isms as they are manifested within our congregations and denominational structures.  But I believe we strive to not be coercive with fear mongering. I believe we strive to honor our principles and struggle on how to live those principles in our daily lives.  May we seek to fulfill our covenant with love and affection and leave fear behind.

 

 

 

The Spirituality of Ebenezer Scrooge

It might seem strange to be examining in October the life of Ebenezer Scrooge from the classic tale, A Christmas Carol by Unitarian Charles Dickens. Some context to the story itself, Dickens lived in mid-19th century England.  His father was sent to debtor’s prison when he was twelve years old, and as was the custom then, the family joined him in prison and worked in factories for a few shillings.  Many of his stories such as Oliver Twist, David Copperfield reflect on Dickens’ childhood poverty.

His fictional stories as well as his detailed non-fiction articles about child labor, debtor prison conditions, and public capital punishment used as a tourist attraction helped spawn a movement of massive social changes in Britain.  The story A Christmas Carol was the first of a series of stories Dickens wrote about the Christmas season.  In a brief biography online, I read: “He was eventually so associated with Christmas that when Dickens died in 1870, a London costermonger’s girl is said to have exclaimed, “Dickens dead? Then will Father Christmas die too?[i]” A costermonger is a street vendor of the 19th century who would sing chants to sell their wares.

The story A Christmas Carol has gained increased popularity in recent years. There are over 200 [ii]adaptations of Dickens story for Screen, Television, Radio, and theatre[iii].  In addition, this story has been animated and made into operas.  I have this theory about such stories.  When a story line can be easily retold multiple times in multiple ways that story is reflecting a truth about the culture.  Now a popular story line might be a metaphor that is hard to decipher—our current fascination with the story lines of Zombies for example has multiple metaphors layered within them. The story line of Romeo and Juliet also remade and retold various times, perhaps the most famous recasting of this is West Side Story, is a tale more easily to discern. Both of these story lines resonate with our culture.   So there is also something about the story of A Christmas Carol that resonates with contemporary society.

I do not think it is simply that it jives with the current paranormal ghost stories that have become ubiquitous on almost every cable station that exists. These too are resonating with a very core aspect of our current society but A Christmas Carol strikes at another chord of our psyche.

Our society for better or worse is firmly grounded on individualism and this notion of personal freedom versus communal responsibility. This is manifested in a false illusion that the American Dream is attainable by all, if we do as Ebenezer Scrooge did and put our nose to the grindstone and grind away.

What our contemporary society fails to see is that our capitalist mindset is a spirituality that is detrimental to living a full and abundant life. I think the fact that we have produced over 200 variations of this story is proof that we are not fully grasping this point so just as a dog will gnaw at a wound, we need to see, read, or hear this story told yet again in a slightly different voice.  This story is ultimately not about the 1%, while it may apply to them as well, it is about the 99% who have bought into supporting this false notion that career, hard work, material gains is what yields a successful meaningful life.  To be clear careers, hard work, and material gains are only a few of the myriad tools at our disposal to supplement a successful meaningful life. They are not the meaningful life itself.

Shortly after the towers fell in Manhattan, the nation was in deep grieving, so deep a grief that we stopped purchasing manufactured goods.  We needed to grieve.  We needed to mourn our dead. It was a moment when we needed to hear a pastoral message from our President.  In response to this grief, President Bush gave a speech stating that we should continue our participation in the American economy. Buy.  Spend money.  Indulge our pain by layering on material goods and vacations to Disney that at best could only numb our grief.  And because we did not want to appear defeated by the terrorist attack on our soil that is what we did and our economy steered its continuing frenzy towards the crash of 2008.  A crash we have yet to fully recover and now we have a government shutdown with consequences still to be fully realized. But mark my words this shutdown will have profound negative consequences.

The people leading us in congress, I suggest have emulated well the spirituality of Ebenezer Scrooge.  In the story there is a scene where two portly gentlemen visit Scrooge at his office to solicit a donation for the annual Christmas fund for the poor.  Listen to this quote first written in 1843. There have been similar sentiments like Scrooge’s made by today’s leaders.

“‘At this festive season of the year, Mr. Scrooge,’ said the gentleman, taking up a pen, ‘it is more than usually desirable that we should make some slight provision for the Poor and Destitute, who suffer greatly at the present time.  Many thousands are in want of common necessaries; hundreds of thousands are in want of common comforts, sir.’

‘Are there no prisons?’ asked Scrooge.

‘Plenty of prisons,’ said the gentleman,

‘And the Union workhouses?’  demanded Scrooge.  ‘Are they still in operation?’

‘They are.  Still,’ returned the gentleman, ‘I wish I could say they were not.’

‘The Treadmill and the Poor Law are in full vigour, then?’  said Scrooge.

‘Both very busy, sir.’

‘Oh!  I was afraid, from what you said at first, that something had occurred to stop them in their useful course,’ said Scrooge.  ‘I’m very glad to hear it.’

‘Under the impression that they scarcely furnish Christian cheer of mind or body to the multitude,’ returned the gentleman, ‘a few of us are endeavouring to raise a fund to buy the Poor some meat and drink and means of warmth.  We choose this time, because it is a time, of all others, when Want is keenly felt, and Abundance rejoices.  What shall I put you down for?’

‘Nothing!’ Scrooge replied.

‘You wish to be anonymous?’

‘I wish to be left alone,’ said Scrooge.  ‘Since you ask me what I wish, gentlemen, that is my answer.  I don’t make merry myself at Christmas and I can’t afford to make idle people merry.  I help to support the establishments I have mentioned — they cost enough; and those who are badly off must go there.’

‘Many can’t go there; and many would rather die.’

‘If they would rather die,’ said Scrooge, ‘they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population.  Besides — excuse me — I don’t know that.’

‘But you might know it,’ observed the gentleman.

‘It’s not my business,” Scrooge returned.  “It’s enough for a man to understand his own business, and not to interfere with other people’s.  Mine occupies me constantly.  Good afternoon, gentlemen!’ ”

Rabbi Abraham Heschel stated: “There are two primary ways in which man relates himself to the world that surround him:  manipulation and appreciation. In the first way he sees in what surrounds him things to be handled, forces to be managed, objects to be put to use. In the second way he sees in what surrounds him things to be acknowledged, understood, valued or admired.[iv]

The first way is the spiritual path of Ebenezer Scrooge.  The following steps could be taken in order to emulate Ebenezer Scrooge:

  1. Hold a belief that it’s all about me.
  2. Self-interests trump all other interests
  3. Treat everything that hinders my self-interests as personal—if it doesn’t it is not important and should be ignored.
  4. Preservation of privilege is vital
  5. Objectify all others to be tools towards achieving self-interests
  6. Protect self from pain and heartache.
  7. Act as if there is never enough for me.
  8. Take a firm stance of ‘If I can do it so can you.’

Ebenezer Scrooge took on a belief that everything was about him.  Whatever happened within his realm was directed towards him.  His childhood friends’ having different interests than he did was a deliberate shunning of his presence.  Their behaviors were about him.  The actions of others were always suspected to be aimed at hindering his progress towards meeting his self-interests.  When his partner Marley died, death was viewed as an advantage for it meant all the more for him.

What was best for him and his interests trumped anyone else’s interest.  His fiancée telling him he changed after meeting some success at business did not bring about a recognition of what he was about to lose. His financial success was more important than having a relationship with someone who loved him.  He was willing to forfeit love for financial prosperity.

Ebenezer saw the demands of society as being personal against his ability for success. His employee Bob Cratchit was but a necessary evil in order to succeed.  He paid him sub wages, gave him minimal access to heat and expected him to work every day of the year except one, Christmas Day. This one day off with pay was considered a severe sacrifice to Scrooge.

Any law that was passed to benefit others was equally an imposition against his ability to succeed.  He paid his taxes but they cost him his ability to be even more successful.   We see this aspect of Scrooge’s spirituality in today’s businesses refusal to offer health insurance to their employees.

You may recall the stance that Wal-Mart took towards offering their employees’ health benefits.  They resorted to hiring temporary part time workers who had to re-apply for a position every 180 days to avoid offering full time employees health care. Such a move, however, backfired on Wal-Mart.  A recent article in Forbes Magazine stated, “Wal-Mart’s unwillingness to pay most of their workers a livable wage, while avoiding enough full-time employees to properly run a retail outlet, has led to the company placing dead last among department and discount stores in the most recent American Customer Satisfaction Index—a position that should now be all too familiar to the nation’s largest retailer given that Wal-Mart has either held or shared the bottom spot on the index for six years running.[v]”   On September 25th, Wal-Mart announced that they will be converting 35K part time positions to full time status entitling these employees to full healthcare under the affordable care act.

This wasn’t a change of heart but rather an example of self-interests trumps all other interests and objectifying others as tools to promote those self-interests.  It is no longer in Wal-Mart’s self-interest as a business to refuse full time employment status.

But individuals also have taken on this belief of being personally affronted by programs and taxation meant to benefit the welfare of all.  We hear the uproar in our local papers regarding the taxes supporting public education and state taxes that support the social welfare of a community—such as police and fire departments and safety nets for the underemployed.

Ebenezer fought hard to preserve his place of privilege.  Any attempts of others rising up are threats to his privileged placed in society. So his underpaying his employee, Bob Cratchit is an attempt to hold his place of privilege and power over Mr. Cratchit and others like him.  It was Bob Cratchit’s own fault that he decided to have so many children that he could not afford to have on his wages.  It is in Ebenezer’s self-interest to keep Bob Cratchit beneath him.   Cratchit is not a human being to Scrooge, but an object to be used.  If he cannot fulfill his duties, someone else will fill those shoes or as in the case of his partner’s death, simply continue on and reap larger profits.

All other people are viewed in this same manner, as objects to meet Ebenezer Scrooge’s self-interests.  If they do not serve these interests then they are invisible—he hears nothing about them and they do not have any relationship to his life.  They are in Ebenezer’s words “…not my business…”   So to emulate Scrooge, ignore anything that might cause your heart to sway from your self-interest.

If the needs of others do break through to your consciousness, then to place distance between you and them, you must condemn them as different from you. These people must have done something to deserve the treatment they are getting.  They are criminals, the lot of them.  They are moochers and takers; the lot of them. If they are targeted by the police it is only because of the way they dress or talk. They are a threat to your self-interests and therefore they must be kept in their place. Tell yourself and others, if this were not true, then they would be successful.

Declare loudly that everything you have; you earned from the sweat of your own brow. No-one. Ever. Gave you a helping hand.  Keep declaring this aloud to everyone over and over again until you believe it.  If you can do it, so can they, the lazy moochers.

But if they do begin to succeed then you must act as if there is not enough to go around.  You must get your share first before anyone else does and you must hoard it away.  Influence the laws to slap them back down a few rungs.  Seek to abolish affirmative action laws by saying they were so successful they are no longer needed. Pat yourself on the back for allowing a few tokens to rise to the top 1%. Use them as examples of what hard work and ingenuity can do towards fulfilling the American Dream.  If you phrase this right, people will not see through your veil of acting on your self-interest.  Remember, self-interest trumps all other actions.

Just as Scrooge did early in his life, you have to hide your love away. No personal relationship is more important than what is your self-interest. Any personal relationship is only a stepping stone for your advancement to a more privileged place in the scheme of things.  So do not get swayed by the interests of another, unless their interests are aligned with yours.  And then only for as long as their interests are so aligned, at the first sign of deviance from your self-interests, cut them off and coldly move on to the next stepping stone.

Only surround yourself with people who agree with you. Nothing is stronger than support from likeminded individuals who do not challenge your thinking on matters of moral or ethical behavior. If someone in your circle of associates does challenge your thinking, warn them to toe the line or be cut off from your good graces. One must not tolerate oppositional viewpoints.  When you cut them off tell yourself that they were holding you back from your best interests and you are better off without them. Then move on towards fulfilling your interests.

So this is the blue print for developing a spirit akin to Ebenezer Scrooge’s.  If you are successful at mastering this spirituality the fruits of such a path will be to inhabit a body that is old, crotchety, and down right mean.  You will be like the person who yells at children for playing too close to their yard or as unfortunately has happened not just once but twice in the last 18 months, shoots the neighbor for playing music too loud[i], then claim a stand your ground defense[ii].

You will take small comfort in interjecting your meanness into every conversation where joy and happiness are expressed.  A strong emphasis of Bah Humbug with a few other strongly worded epithets thrown in for good measure should suffice to bring others back to your level of misery. Make sure to inflict your dour self on others because they have not suffered like you have suffered. Their happiness is after all a personal assault on your self-interests.

If this is not the form of spiritual life that you desire, there is hope for a different path.

Again words by Abraham Heschel:  “Just to be is a blessing. Just to live is holy. And yet being alive is no answer to the problems of living. To be or not to be is not the question. The vital question is: how to be and how not to be? The tendency to forget this vital question is the tragic disease of contemporary man, a disease that may prove fatal, that may end in disaster. To pray is to recollect passionately the perpetual urgency of this vital question.[iii]

The spiritual life that moves us towards maturity in our relationship with others and the world begins with the question, “how to be and how not to be?”  It is an awareness that we are ultimately in relation with one another.  The realization that what begins as a shout becomes a deed, is it a shout of love that becomes a deed of justice or a shout of fear that becomes a deed of dominance?  How are we to be in the world?  Blessed be.

This sermon was presented to the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Tuscaloosa on 6 October 2013(c) by Rev. Fred L Hammond.



Published in: on November 5, 2013 at 5:38 pm  Comments Off on The Spirituality of Ebenezer Scrooge  
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