Tuesday, December 23, 2008


This post needs a little background info: I have been a church-going atheist for several years. The church is the First Unitarian Universalist (UU) here in town. Let me say that I never thought I'd go back to church, and now (after recent events) I wonder if I ever will again. To clarify the church bit, here's a quote from the website:
Unitarian Universalists include people who identify as Christians, Jews, Buddhists, Hindus, Pagans, Atheists, Agnostics, Humanists, and others.
Not wanting to confuse anyone on the church-going atheist part of this, but one of my main reasons for going was to hear Dr. Davidson Loehr. He's been the Senior Minister there, and had become a personal hero.

Davidson has never been one to fluff up your pillows, and his sermons are sometimes political in nature. "Political," in this case, can mean having to do with civil rights, human rights, the things done by governments and corporations, privacy, torture, injustice... all the way down to how we choose to treat the person next door. You were made to think, not told what to think.

What I don't mean by political is "partisan," although he has railed against the Bush administration, the Bush Doctrine, and the Neocon agenda he hasn't given the Democrats a free pass either. Although the church is so liberal it would be hard to imagine a Republican as a member (a liberal Republican? ... do they exist?), human nature being what it is, there's a good faction of people who want niceness out of a church service, they want comfort and reinforcement, candles and flowers, and do not want to be left with open-ended, thought-provoking, as he puts it, questions more profound than answers. My assumption is that a lot of these folks are $$$ people, big contributors. Also, the people turning the wheels (the church Board) wanted someone more of an administrator, an "i" dotter and "t" crosser. I would like to say that very often gifted writers, speakers, artists, and other creative right-brained types are not always the best at the left-brained stuff such as business management.

To try and shorten what is becoming a long story, Davidson has been ousted. It was done during the holiday season, with very short notice, and postponement of action on this matter was denied even though Davidson was recovering from prostate cancer surgery which happened just a few days earlier. This feels very much like being in a family that is going through a divorce. There's no fixing this loss. When there's a big dustup like this, nothing lands in the same place as it was. It's changed, done, and broken.

Enough about the jackals. I want to write about Davidson.

His most famous sermon is "Living Under Fascism" [read it here]. It has been widely reposted around the world, including on DailyKos, and became the cornerstone of a book called "America, Fascism and God, Sermons of a Heretical Preacher." He also was strongly anti-Corporate, and preached a sermon inspired by the movie/book The Corporation: The Pathological Pursuit of Profit and Power. The sermon is called "Corporations will eat your soul" [read it here]. He also delivered several sermons on the topic of "Confessions of an Economic Hit Man" written by former NSA operative John Perkins. More book-inspired sermons dealt with Naomi Klein's "The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism". A series of sermons dealt with the societal (and you could say political) behaviors of human ancestors chimpanzees and bonobos, and how our own behavior is similar.

The sermon that really got him into the hottest water was the one where he suggested that 9/11 may have been an inside job. They made him promise never to bring that up in a sermon again, so he took it out of the posted sermon, but did talk about in on the controversial Alex Jones' show. This article (from our daily paper and reposted on InfoWars) paints a fairly good picture of the fallout: Pulpit politics divide Unitarian church.

I don't mean to create the impression that the sermons were primarily rants against the Neocons - far from it. Here is one that I really enjoyed from a year ago at this time. It was very healing for me (I have big problems dealing with Christmas emotionally or any other way - I am damaged in that area). Don't be fooled by the title. It's probably not what you think.

The real reason for the season

note: blogging has been rather light partly because I've had this on my chest and really needed to get it out there. There's a Yahoo group for people set adrift by this rift here: ReFUUgees.


Blueberry said...

Additional comments:

If you knew ev brown (a.k.a. JeenLilly), you might like to know that she attended the "9/11" service with us.

Also, I believe this is all comparable to when you are in a relationship with someone, and they do something that really offends or bothers you. Instead of dealing with it fully in the open, you let it simmer and fester. Then resentments begin to build, and pretty soon you find that you are overly annoyed by small things, such as toilet seat lids, toothpaste tubes, and clutter - but the annoyance with those is a symbol of something much larger that has not been dealt with and has grown as big as a house. When it finally explodes, you can't tell where the pieces may come down. That's the analogy I would make over the church Board and others becoming nit-picky over trivial matters after they have let their resentments get out of control.

Quasi said...

My humans were married in the UU church and my female human and her family belonged to the UU church in AZ. I hope you find some happiness this holiday and I hope you have a meowy new year!

Robin Edgar said...

Do you know what the official reasons given for Davidson's "ouster" are? I am interested in the unofficial reasons too. Was he outright fired or was he pressured to "retire"? I guess it was a U*U inside job eh?

Blueberry said...

Robin: It was a 21 page laundry list of complaints from the Board. A lot were trivial or (IMO) debatable. There were back and forth official response documents between the Board and Davidson, and they were previously posted on the church website but have now been removed.

I would call it a "firing," but it's a bit more complicated than that. They ended up calling a vote and they came out of the woodwork (lots of members who'd moved to other UUs included) and voted him down.

Ryan Shillington said...

Where is Davidson now?

Blueberry said...

Ryan, the last I heard he was still living here, and had had a couple of lecture or sermon "gigs" in other cities. I am not really sure. He wrote a few essays for Chelsea Green (scroll down on my sidebar under Skepticism, Belief, Myths for the link). I hope to hear him speak again someday.