27 August 2005

"Sex education helps save the world" (UU World Magazine Article)

In the Fall 2005 Issue of UU World, there's an article titled "Sex education helps save the world" by Cynthia Kuhn (a professor of pharmacology and cancer biology at Duke University, and co-author of Buzzed: The Straight Facts about the Most Used and Abused Drugs from Alcohol to Ecstasy. Cynthia is also an Our Whole Lives Grades 7-9 facilitator in her congregation).

Here's a short passage from Cynthia's article:
This year one of my owl students brought to class a book the public school had passed out. One of its "top ten reasons" why teens have sex was participation in sex-education classes. Another section stated that condoms do not halt the spread of HIV/AIDS or even effectively prevent pregnancy! In fact, as I had just been teaching my medical students, condoms are 99 percent effective in preventing pregnancy and significantly decrease the transmission of HIV when they are used properly, according to well-designed, peer-reviewed research studies. A colleague and I tried to get the local newspaper to address these falsehoods being taught in our schools but failed to spark any interest. We live in frightening times when scientific truth is suppressed in our public schools and forums.

Abstinence-only programs do not accomplish their goal of delaying sexual intercourse until marriage, According to a review of such programs in eleven states conducted by Advocates for Youth. Eighty-eight percent of young people in such programs have sex by the time they leave high school. And when they do have sex, they are less likely to use contraception and more likely to engage in dangerous sexual practices than children in programs that teach about contraception. The majority of scientists who specialize in children's health, as well as the American Medical Association, Planned Parenthood, and the U.S. Surgeon General, have all endorsed comprehensive sexuality-education program -- programs that advocate abstinence for teens but also provide complete and accurate information about contraception and STDs. The OWL program epitomizes that approach.

UU parents should certainly feel proud that their kids, by participating in OWL, are the smartest kids on the block about these issues. But our responsibility doesn't stop at our church doors. Those of us with the expertise need to advocate for all kids, especially the ones who get only the little book about the ten reasons that teens have sex. We need to show up at school board meetings and talk to teachers, principals, and superintendents about curriculum, armed with facts. (Planned Parenthood, the National Institutes of Health, and Advocates for Youth all have excellent, up-to-date, and scientifically accurate information.) We need to bombard our state legislatures so that they can have the courage, as the state of California did, to turn down federal "abstinence-only" money and develop effective programs instead.

In our religious-education program we have a slogan: "Nothing less than saving the world." I believe that is exactly what we do with OWL. Our children can grow up to enjoy healthy relationships, have a sexual life without contracting disease, and bear their children when they are adults and not children themselves. Teaching our kids about safe, mutually respectful sexual behavior in the context of our value system, I believe, is indeed nothing less than saving the world.
And this is why Our Whole Lives and supporting other comprehensive sexuality education are so important in our congregations and our wider communities. We are offering salvation from those things that deny life or make life less whole. This is just one example of how Unitarian Universalism offers salvation to a world in need of salvation.

Closing Ceremony Incident Mentioned in Latest UU World Magazine

From the Fall 2005 issue of UU World magazine -- coverage of the closing ceremony incident at the 2005 Ft. Worth TX General Assembly:
While many of the injustices delegates considered this year could be thought to take place "out there," the Assembly ended in a way that reminded the UUA's Board of Trustees of unfinished business within the Association.

The morning after the Assembly adjourned, several youth leaders reported to the Board of Trustees that young people of color had experienced a series of demeaning and upsetting incidents throughout the week, including a heated confrontation with several white adults outside the arena during the closing ceremony. The Youth Caucus cancelled its intergenerational dance, which was scheduled to follow the closing ceremony, because many youth of color were meeting to discuss the incidents; Moderator Courter met with them.

In response to the youth report and other inquiries, the Board issued a letter on July 6 that said, "At General Assembly in Fort Worth, there were several incidents that reminded us that we have much work to do in our journey to becoming an antiracist, antioppressive, and multicultural association." The Board expressed "deep sadness and regret" for incidents involving "apparently disrespectful and racist treatment of our youth by Fort Worth officials," other incidents in which "white UUs assumed that UU youth of color were hotel service people and asked them to carry luggage or park cars," and an altercation during the Closing Ceremony in which "some UU youth of color were made to feel that they were not welcome."

The exact circumstances of some of the incidents are still unclear. The Board has formed a Special Review Commission, which expects to offer a more complete report on the incidents at its October meeting and a complete report in January. The Board vowed to provide "safe space to process issues and concerns around oppression and racism" at future General Assemblies.

24 August 2005

Blogger Spam, Part II

This morning Jesus Reyes suggested turning on the "word verification" feature provided by Blogger. This sounds like a good compromise between keeping spammers out and allowing folks to easily post to Blogger sites. Thanks for the suggestion.

This should allow folks to post without creating a Blogger account and still keep the "machine spammers" out (until the someone figures out how to create software with pattern recognition abilities).

21 August 2005

Blogger Spam

We are taking a brief break due to technical difficulties.

I just got my first Blogger Spam today ... and I've just changed my settings to require that folks replying to my posts must have a Blogger user identity (freely available).

I'm sorry for any inconvenience this may cause you. We now return to our regularly scheduled programming.

Thank you.

Anti-Racism Sermon by Dr. James T. Brown

While googling for Unitarian Universalist anti-racism resources, I found this sermon on anti-racism that was written by Dr. Brown back in July 1999. Dr. Brown was the Southwest District Executive for the UUA before his retirement.

A large part of his sermon revolves around difficulties that many have with the word "racism" and the multiple definitions being used. Here's a short section of his sermon commenting on denial surrounding the topic of racism:
The UUA's definition of racism: "racial prejudice plus power and privilege" unnecessarily complicates our understanding of U.S. racism.

Simply put, racism is the unquestioned, deeply held group belief that one "race" - in the U.S. it is the White race - is superior to all other races, and (this is vitally important) all the People of Color "races" are inferior. The second part is vital to our understanding, because the belief in white superiority is more than egocentric chauvinism (we are the best), it is inextricably coupled with the deeply held belief that people of color, as a group, (not necessarily as individuals) are inferior (they are not up to acceptable standards). This (superiority/inferiority beliefs) definition of racism is used by most social scientists currently involved in these discussions. These beliefs are inculcated in the psychics and souls of Americans from the day they are born, and for immigrant Americans, from their first exposure to American culture and media of all types.

I have only found two reactions to the above definition from American Whites. The first group fully agrees with the definition - the great majority. The second agrees that it is true "for some white people" but they, themselves, "don't see skin color" - everybody is equal. The evidence of denial on the part of those holding the second position is easily discernible. Their neighborhood, their friends, their doctor/lawyer, their spouse or partner, their church, their heroes or role models, their favorite performers, etc, etc, are all white. Since all white people more or less agree, in words or deeds, that they, as a group, share the superior/inferior belief, and that belief according to most social scientists, defines racism, then it is not untrue or unfair to say all whites are racist (I will accept 99.9% if you simply cannot accept absolutes).

I must add that being a racist, that is, a believer in the white/POC superiority/inferiority dichotomy, is not a "sin"; original or otherwise. I call it an American cultural phenomenon. The "sins" of racism are the negative and oppressive behaviors and disparate acts perpetrated against people of color, by Whites, sometimes unwittingly, based upon their racism belief. It is the behaviors and acts committed that violate moral law and the UU's first principle, not just the existence of the belief. The evil of racism (the superior/inferior belief) is that it shapes all of America's institutions and their policies, and either consciously or unconsciously determines the behaviors of whites and POC's (POC internalized racism). The disparate treatment of POC's in the workplace, in financial institutions, in churches, in schools and colleges, in social and service organizations, in health care, in the insurance industry, and in retail establishments provide all the evidence one needs of institutional racism.
And here's one final comment from me about this ... I remember hearing Dr. Brown comment at the 2000 Spring District Meeting before his retirement. He commented on how troubling it was for him that it required the lynching of James Byrd for our district's ministers to engage in anti-racism work with their district colleagues. The more subtle types of racism including institutional racism existing both before and after James Byrd's death were not a sufficient reason for engaging in anti-racism work.

Cindy Sheehan on DVD

I received information on this video from the "yruusj" email list (the Young Religious Unitarian Universalists Social Justice email list). This may be a useful resource for youth and adult religious education discussions.

Here is the email announcement that was sent out by Margot Smith (filmmaker from Off Center Video):
We have a 21 minute video of Cindy Sheehan giving a speech at the Berkeley Fellowship of Unitarians on DVD, if anyone wants one, we charge $10 to cover costs. She is really remarkable!! ... Margot Smith

Cindy Sheehan - Military Families Speak Out Against the War in Iraq! Speech at the Berkeley Fellowship of Unitarian/Universalists (November 2004)

"At this crucial moment in history we must support Americans like Cindy Sheehan who have stood up and are telling the truth. We support Gold Star Families for Peace and the movement which is turning the tide to end this illegal war based on lies and deception." -- Hal Carstad

Here is DVD of Cindy Sheehan made when she first was speaking out against the war. She reads her open letter to George Bush. This video has been shown in the Berkeley area and was enthusiastically received. It encourages discussion. In includes pictures of her family and protests.

The DVD is 21 minutes long and is available for $10.00 which includes shipping. All money above costs will go to support Gold Star Families for Peace campaign.

The video was made by Ralph Stein and Margot Smith.

Please send your name, address and check for $10 to:

Off Center Video
1300 A Shattuck Avenue
Berkeley, CA 94709
FAX 510-644-2139

Poem About Homophobia

I received a poem about homophobia a few days ago from Lara Campbell, the Director of Religious Education from the Community Unitarian Church of White Plains NY.

The author listed for this poem is "Unknown" (who is nearly as prolific as "Anonymous") ... and I googled looking for an author. The poem is popping up on tons of blogs and livejournals with the "Unknown" author attribution and the last line of the poem is a request to repost the poem.

I am the girl kicked out of her home because I confided in my mother that I am a lesbian.

I am the prostitute working the streets because nobody will hire a transsexual woman.

I am the sister who holds her gay brother tight through the painful, tear-filled nights.

We are the parents who buried our daughter long before her time.

I am the man who died alone in the hospital because they would not let my partner of twenty-seven years into the room.

I am the foster child who wakes up with nightmares of being taken away from the two fathers who are the only loving family I have ever had. I wish they could adopt me.

I am one of the lucky ones, I guess. I survived the attack that left me in a coma for three weeks, and in another year I will probably be able to walk again.

I am not one of the lucky ones. I killed myself just weeks before graduating high school. It was simply too much to bear.

We are the couple who had the realtor hang up on us when she found out we wanted to rent a one-bedroom for two men.

I am the person who never knows which bathroom I should use if I want to avoid getting the management called on me.

I am the mother who is not allowed to even visit the children I bore, nursed, and raised. The court says I am an unfit mother because I now live with another woman.

I am the domestic-violence survivor who found the support system grow suddenly cold and distant when they found out my abusive partner is also a woman.

I am the domestic-violence survivor who has no support system to turn to because I am male.

I am the father who has never hugged his son because I grew up afraid to show affection to other men.

I am the home-economics teacher who always wanted to teach gym until someone told me that only lesbians do that.

I am the man who died when the paramedics stopped treating me as soon as they realized I was transsexual.

I am the person who feels guilty because I think I could be a much better person if I didn't have to always deal with society hating me.

I am the man who stopped attending church, not because I don't believe, but because they closed their doors to my kind.

I am the person who has to hide what this world needs most, love.

Repost this, homophobia is wrong.

Author - Unknown
Does anyone know the name of the author for this poem?