The Lengthened Shadow: Emerson’s Legacy For UU’s

by Robin McNallie
April 12, 2015

Ralph Waldo Emerson ca1857 retouched

The title of my presentation this morning, The Lengthened Shadow, is taken from Emerson’s most-quoted essay, “Self-Reliance,” in which he states that “an institution is the lengthened shadow of one man.” Not given to understatement, Emerson here was simply stressing that every institution owes a boundless debt to the individuals both male and female who have contributed significantly to that institution over time. Ralph Waldo Emerson certainly has not been under-sung as one of our prophets, remembered particularly for two rebellions against the Unitarian orthodoxy of his day.

The first occurred on Sept. 9, 1832, when he delivered from his pulpit at Boston’s Second Church a sermon, “The Lord’s Supper,” expressing his opposition to administering communion to his congregants. Two days later, on Sept. 11, he offered his resignation. It was accepted, although on a divided vote. The second, more ripple-creating challenge to his Unitarian elders was his Harvard Divinity School address delivered on July 15, 1838 (99 years to the day before my birthday), to its graduating class at their personal invitation. In it he inveighed against the continuing adoration of Jesus as a man/god/wonder-worker. This time, no divided vote from the establishment figures at Harvard. He was disinvited from Harvard Yard in any official capacity for the next 30 years.

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By Rev. Kirk Ballin
April 5, 2015

Responsive Reading #628 “Rolling Away the Stone” – Campbell

Reading # 593 “Liberation Is Costly” – Tutu


“Our current crisis requires transformation. It’s less about changing a few individual behaviors and more about imagining radical new ways of living.

Our current paradigm assumes the expendability of some people and species in service to the dominant culture. In it, we willingly forgo human health and even human and non-human life on this planet as long as we can live in comfort and convenience today. In this paradigm, we willingly sacrifice the people on the margins of society—generally people of color, immigrants, and people who live with great financial instability—to maintain the industrial growth economy. This economic system assumes ecosystems, communities, cultures, and non-human beings are all externalities that are expendable in the pursuit of maximizing profit.

Today, Unitarian Universalists and other people of faith and conscience begin to think deeply together about altering social norms and creating climate justice. Climate justice is a global fight to dismantle the paradigm that disadvantages marginalized people and approaches Earth as supply source and sewer rather than a system of interdependent life, a single, beloved community. Climate justice pays deep attention to those most affected by climate change to find transformative solutions grounded in profound connections with Earth and each other.” —

Unless our brains are undeveloped or damaged in some way, every human being requires culture in order to live…. As long as we have the self-aware, conscious brains that are unique to our being human, culture is as necessary to our survival as food, water, and shelter. Culture is the framework of meaning and purpose that our human minds must create in order to foster our survival. If you take culture with its myriad of expressions out of the human picture – we are not human. And even though this unique capacity for creating culture is inherent to every conscious human being, it is in the context of human communities, human societies that culture is most expressed and developed; culture is a collective necessity for the survival of the group, the survival of the species.

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Your Brain And Transcendental Experience

by Tom Endress
March 15, 2015


Transcendentalism- Webster’s New World College Dictionary- 1) any of various philosophies that propose to discover the nature of reality by investigating the process of thought rather than the objects of sense experience. 2) by extension, the philosophical ideas of Emerson and some other 19th century New Englanders, based on a search for reality though spiritual intuition.

Listen and see if you can guess who wrote the following:

“One conclusion was forced upon my mind at that time, and my impression of its truth has ever since remained unshaken. It is that our normal waking consciousness, rational consciousness as we call it, is but one special type of consciousness, whilst all about it, parted from it by the filmiest of screens, there lie potential forms of consciousness entirely different. We may go through life without suspecting their existence; but apply the requisite stimulus, and at a touch they are there in all their completeness, definite types of mentality which probably somewhere have their field of application and adaptation. No account of the universe in its totality can be final which leaves these other forms of consciousness quite disregarded. How to regard them is the question—for they are so discontinuous with ordinary consciousness. Yet they may determine attitudes, though they cannot furnish formulas, and open a region though they fail to give a map. At any rate, they forbid a premature closing of our accounts with reality.” From….William James and his 1898 experiment with nitrous oxide recorded in his The Varieties of Religious Experience



Good morning! I am so excited to be here. I have been piecing together this particular talk on neuroscience for the better part of a year. It hasn’t been easy because there is so much material that has been coming out within the last decade on the relationship between brain activity and mystical, spiritual, and religious experiences.

But first a disclaimer. I am neither a neurologist nor a neuroscientist by any means. Just interested in neuroscience, especially as it applies to mysticism and spiritual experience. Although retired for over a decade now I was trained as a clinical psychologist.

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Unitarian-Universalism: A Faith that Shines

by Linda A. Dove
January 18, 2015


I grew up in the Anglican Church. For me, its doctrines were a source of puzzlement, skepticism, and anguish—about my sin—my inability to have faith. Finally, I rejected Christianity. And, with the baby, I threw out the bath-water; I turned away from all religion. How many of you had similar experience?

In my 30’s I began to search again. I felt that “holy longing” to understand life’s mysteries. I wanted meaning and purpose; a faith in something larger than myself. By that time I was agnostic, unwilling to throw God right out of the water, but unwilling also to embrace a divinity I was unable to touch, see, hear or talk with. How many of you resonate with this?

My Purpose Today

Now, I’ve been a Unitarian-Universalist for only five years. Quite a few of you are also new UUs. How many of us are fully aware of where our UU faith comes from? I’ll try fill us in with a little bit of our complex origins—the Christian ones—today. And then I hope to encourage us all, both old and new members, to deepen our own understanding and then not to hold back about what our liberal faith stands for. Speaking out takes courage in a conservative, church-going area like the Valley.

Why do we sometimes hold back? An obvious reason is we don’t want to be lumped together with religious theologies like Christianity, Islam or Judaism that we rejected. Many of you tell me UUism attracted you because of fellowship in a like-minded community that is NOT one of these religions.

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Parenting Authentically in an Interfaith Marriage

by Kevin J. Zimmerman
December 28, 2014

I learned at last, as I came to be about seventeen, that my father was an entire freethinker, as much as I am now. It shocked me much, because he never taught me anything, allowed me to pick up religion from any one around me, and then scolded me because I embraced beliefs which he knew must condemn him. I think this neglect to be honest with children is a terrible evil. I have lost years of thought, and wandered wide and done such unwise conceited things, and encountered risks for soul and body, all of which might have been obviated by his frank teaching. — Moncure Conway -

I grew up in a largely secular household, where books by Carl Sagan and Joseph Campbell punctuated our bookshelves. But like Moncure Conway, I “picked up religion”from those around me, eventually joining the Mormon Church, to my father’s great disappointment. Unsatisfied with the local public schools, my parents opted to send me to a private, Christian school from kindergarten through third grade—a time when children are most vulnerable to indoctrination. I loved the school, but there my child’s brain was infected with the tedious supernatural beliefs of religion, beliefs such as mind reading (prayer), vicarious sacrifice (the atonement), and survival of one’s own death (the afterlife). Once people’s brains have been infected by religious dogma, they are often crippled in their ability to think critically. I had caught a bad case of religion that I didn’t shake until my 30s.

You can read Kevin Zimmerman’s entire sermon in pdf format Parenting Authentically in an Interfaith Marriage

The Flip Side to Serving and Giving: Receiving

By Linda Dove
Sunday, October 5, 2014

It’s pot-luck Sunday today when we give and receive food and share fellowship among our guests and ourselves. In my recent talk on Giving I said I would follow up sometime with the flip side of the coin, Receiving. Today’s the day. First, I’ll remark on the topic and then I’ll focus on how Receiving fits into our UU journeys together, as I see it.

Of course, we all sometimes receive from one another, whether gifts, services, caring—or even things we don’t want to receive.


The wider culture uses Either/Or thinking—Givers/Takers, Selfless/Selfish, Responsibility/Rights, Generosity/Miserliness. In general, we focus on Givers more than Recipients. We see Givers as acting from a sense of abundance; Receivers from scarcity or greed.

Stereotypes in the media contribute to this. Givers are heroes—deservedly—Iraq veterans, nurses, fire-fighters. Recipients are villains—Labor Unions, Big Banks.

• John Stewart recently did a satire on this. He showed the TV talking-heads on six different prime-time news programs all expressing outrage that people on food stamps were buying— seafood.

• And Annette Bosworth, a political candidate in S. Dakota, wrote on FB that food stamp Recipients are wild animals. She made her point by quoting the National Parks Service asking visitors not to feed the wild animals because that makes them dependent on humans.

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J. Barkley Rosser, Jr.
Delivered at Harrisonburg Unitarian Universalists, August 17, 2014

In each of the major northeastern Asian nations one finds three religions practices among others. One of these is the international religion of Buddhism, which originated in South Asia and entered China from Central Asia to the northwest, then to move on into Korea and then to Japan. Another is Confucianism, which originated in China and then also moved through Korea to Japan. Finally, each of them has a much older traditional religion that is shamanistic in practice, animist and polytheist, emphasizing divinities in mountains, rocks, trees, rivers, and other local sites, and rituals to stimulate fertility in people as well as agriculture, and also protection from evils and bad health, and so on, with critics sometimes arguing that these older shamanistic religions are “superstitious.” In China there were many local ones, with most of them becoming subsumed into Taoism, which also has a more esoteric aspect as shown in the book, Tao-De-Ching, by Lao-Tse. In Japan this ancient local religion is Shinto, and in Korea it is Sinkyo (pronounced “Shinkyo”), with it likely these last two names come from a common root in Central Asian or Siberian shamanism, Japanese and Korean being related languages.

In these nations and with respect to these three religions there tends to be a very different attitude than one finds in western monotheistic societies, and even among monotheists in those societies, such as the substantial Christian population in Korea, now 29% of the population, with Pope Francis visiting South Korea during this talk, and the current president, Park Geun-ye, nominally a Roman Catholic, as was her late father, Park Chung-hee, who was president and military dictator from 1960-1979. In the West, one can only belong to one religion at a time, and even only to one sub-sect of that religion, such as Wenger Old Order Mennonite Anabaptist Protestant Christian. Someone raised in that tradition may find family members upset if they even go to another branch of Old Order Mennonites (not to pick on the Old Order Mennonites particularly). However, it is fine to belong to all three religions in these northeastern nations. It is said that a Chinese person, “wears Taoist sandals, a Buddhist robe, and wears a Confucian crown.” In Japan, the typical person will get married in a Shinto temple and take newborn children there to be blessed while having a Buddhist funeral. Not a problem.

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