Despair, Anger, Hope, and Faith

I thought about despair, anger, hope, and faith while reading The Book of Joy.  Actually, I had thought of them earlier, after a friend counseled me to get in touch with my anger. But while reading the book of discussions on joy between the Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu, I begin to see this (angry) blog post take shape.

I’ve been mired in despair. It’s despair about the state of my species, homo sapiens. We seem to have outgrown our genes. Our brains are wired to identify others of our species as allies or enemies, us or them, so we conspire with our perceived allies to defeat our perceived enemies when what our world needs is collaboration to get us out of the mess we have created.

While my spiritual practice is Dzogchen Buddhism, my church is Unitarian Universalism. I despair that UUism seems to have plunged into the same us-and-them-ness as our culture at large, and that’s the arena — in my church — where I need to tap my anger and express it. I’m angry at the hatred being tossed at perceived enemies outside and inside our denomination.

If we can’t do better in church, where then can we?

Let’s examine my church and me as a microcosmic example. I have been the recipient of some of the hate, but first let’s share a few laughs over this video courtesy of the Daily Show and Slate. You really need to watch it, and doubly so if you consider yourself a Unitarian Universalist.

Book of JoyAs we see in the video, Leslie Mac and her business partner, Marissa Jenae Johnson, two women who identify as black, have monetized white guilt. They’ve made a money machine out of it and, if you follow the math, are doing quite well. Nothing wrong with that, except that Leslie Mac is also an icon of Unitarian Universalism, which she uses to promote white guilt. And UUism happily goes along with a theology that increasingly makes whiteness the original sin and makes money for Leslie, Marissa, and other black women.

I have a personal stake in all of this because back in April I was a sacrificial lamb on Leslie Mac’s alter. She spent all of this 18-minute video painting me as a bigot who is “cool with” vile racist crimes and wants black folks to stay out of his church. I thought people watching her video would see clearly that it was a mean-spirited personal attack against a blogger who was objecting only to the way some big decisions are made in the denomination. But I was wrong. I failed to understand the dominance white progressives, like many UUs,  have given to black women.

After my hate-mail bag brimmed over and my efforts to open a dialogue with some of my critics went unanswered, I felt the need to defend myself.

Then the people who make decisions in the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) decided that I was such a flawed soul (one of them) that the Litany of Gratitude I had written 17 years earlier and offered free to the UUA had to be removed from the Worship Web, a resource it makes available to ministers and other worship planners. Mind you, ministers who have engaged in sexual misconduct and other betrayals of their congregations are represented in Worship Web, but one lay blogger was ejected because he objected to a process and Leslie Mac thought he sounded like a racist.

And the staff member who oversaw the exclusion of my litany from Worship Web was so well regarded that he soon was promoted to chief operating officer.

That’s where my anger comes in — not at Leslie Mac but at a religious organization insensitive to its own principles about the inherent worth and dignity of all and about a free and responsible search for truth and meaning.

If we can’t do better in church, where then can we?

Is our little UUA microcosm so different from what’s going on in the rest of our world? Sadly, no. I was misunderstood, mis-characterized, hated, and then rejected by an institution I love. Remind you of a certain National Football League quarterback?

In our secular world, we refuse to listen to each other, falsely label those with whom we disagree, and ban or shout down speakers who may once have angered us. And our United States government fans the flames.

So my despair and anger arise from the direction of my church, my country, and the world. My rational mind tells me that there’s little or no room for hope, and that’s where faith comes in. I can’t live without hope, so I need faith to get me through.

Faith in my Dzogchen Buddhism, which encourages me to see the perfection at my core and at the core of every sentient being,

And, yes, faith in the people and the principles of Unitarian Universalism, affirming and promoting the inherent worth and dignity of every individual.

May you, also, turn your despair into anger and your hope into faith. And may we all live in a state of joy,. Now, back to the Book of Joy.

— Mel Pine (Urgyen Jigme)

Copyright 2017 © Mel Harkrader Pine

5 Comments Add yours

  1. Paul A Thompson says:

    I support these comments 100%. I oppose the “blame whitey” stuff that is being substituted for actual spiritual development in UUism. I opposed the guilt payments to BLUU which was done without a vote, although an actual vote was used later to cover up the abuse of process. And I am getting very tired of the endless parade of pap and stupidity being issued from Boston. I will be standing on the side of love, even though “standing” is now considered a slur. It is a slur, of course, against idiots.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Paul Roche says:

    Kudos Mel for fighting the good fight.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Well, lovingly and bravely said, Mel.


  4. Karen Kingsley says:

    I agree. Somehow the “free and responsible search for truth and meaning” seems to be getting lost in favor of some official social/cultural dogma. I feel my connection to the church changing, and it makes me very sad.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. David Wadleigh says:

    I am losing faith in groups of people, including UU groups. My church hung a banner claiming “All Are Welcome” but I know that all are not welcomed by all. There are power struggles and personal conflicts spilled over inside those doors, there is shunning of some by many, there are misunderstandings and egos and pecking orders. There are groups within groups, tribes and alliances, many levels of them and us. There are winners and losers, there are lovers of leaving and there are also lovers of seeing some leave. UUs see hypocrisy in other faiths and churches, but they do not so easily see it in their own. Contrary to all our principles and covenants, many times we move from majorities to near consensus by chasing off or silencing the minority. Our History is then written by those who got their way, victors on the battleground of internal politics and power struggles..


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