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Recently, I was looking for something or other on Amazon (basically: I was awake and breathing and not out on a walk) and stumbled across Kyrja's _Rupert's Tales_. How cool are these! The bunny is adorable. The art is simple but appealing and not overly sentimental. The rhymes could become a bit much, but these aren't exactly the sort of book that one sits down looking for sophisticated verse.

I think what I like best about these books is how tactile the language is. Trees have "long, knobby knees". Rupert's bunny-eye view of ritual is really appealing, because the explanation always comes _after_ watching without knowledge. Never mind children: isn't this how it is with anyone, of any age, when first encountering an unfamiliar sacred act?

Rupert's heart speeds up and slows down, a realistic and tangible way of communicating his intense reactions to events like the arrival of an owl. "the twitching in his long legs began to relax". While the owl's explanation contrasts animal perceptions with human, it doesn't actually come down solidly on any particular conception of divinity, which I really appreciate. I was particularly pleased that Kyrja devoted some lines to acknowledging love of all kinds.

I read the Beltane section to T., and he liked the pictures and the story. We've been reading Wendy Pfeffer's books on the Solstices (most consistently in winter): _The Shortest Day_ and _A New Beginning_, and also her harvest book, _We Gather Together_. But I really like Rupert's Tales for being solidly grounded in a particular tradition that it isn't all that easy to find kids books about.

Happy Beltane! Give someone a hug and a kiss today, and remember that it doesn't just feel good. It is Good.
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Look, I get that the Lutherans down the street at Mt Calvalry, as Missouri Synod affiliates, are definitely NOT my people. I believe I have blogged about them before. However, I was digging around trying to figure out what is going on (or happened to terminate) the proposal to turn the derelict McDonald's next to Kmart into a Panera Bread and stumbled across the Highrock Church plant _that meets at my daughter's school_. Okay, so, creepy, and I don't like that, but whatever. What is Highrock Church?

Unclear. Sure, they do all kinds of nice things in Arlington, like fund a part time social worker for the town and run what sounds like a bang-up Xmas pageant. But they are _also_ affiliated with ECC; they are an Evangelical Covenant Church.

I'm a single-issue sort of person. So when when I want to know precisely what kind of church I'm dealing with, I look at two things, in order: what do they have to say about abortion, and just exactly which brand of awful are they about marriage equality (and believe me, I am overjoyed whenever I stumble across a congregation of truly loving people who truly understand that we are all responsible for our own selves, and should be supported in our own decision making. But boy, is that rare.).

Here is the 1994 ECC statement on abortion.


Here is the relevant sentence: "However, we recognize that in some tragic instances abortion may need to be considered to safeguard the life of the mother or in cases of rape or incest."

Here is the 2004 ECC statement on abortion.


Here is the _same sentence_, with a key change. "However, we recognize that in some tragic instances abortion may need to be considered to safeguard the life of the mother."

Apparently, Highrock is affiliated with an organization that thinks a child impregnated by her father should bring that kiddo to term, unless doing so will kill her.

It may be a wonderful Xmas pageant. But that position is Immorality. It is what happens when people who are lucky enough never have to make a hard decision expend several paragraphs distracting you from how they are going to judge you for doing something that they've never had to deal with.

I'm sure you've already figured out how they stand on marriage equality, but just in case you haven't:


"to care for persons involved in sexual sins such as adultery, homosexual behavior and promiscuity, compassionately recognizing the potential of these sins to take the form of addiction."

They haven't updated this position, altho they do file this statement under sexuality, without any explanation of why within the statement.


Truly, they have no idea how much of the problem they really are.

Anyway. If you happen to run across Highrock, know this. They're smart, well-educated, and they are diverse in a way that, sadly, a lot of congregations are not diverse, especially in the Boston area. Don't let that distract you from the _lack_ of diversity in certain other core areas -- or from the profound failure of empathy that underlies the larger organization with which they are affiliated.

Also, you know, Park Street Church connection. A word to the wise is sufficient, amirite?

ETA: On the off chance that some of my readers are going, yeah, but you know maybe the Acton plant is kind of a renegade, nicer group within ECC, not really connected to the highest, policy setting levels of the organization, contemplate the fact that Rebecca Barnett was a candidate for ECC's Executive Board this calendar year.


ETAYA: I love the internet. This kind of research used to take hours, and I often wound up having to go to the library, because while I owned several denominational references, they were rarely detailed to up to date enough to answer the questions I had.
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Today's news brings us a tragedy during the Hajj. But before you dismiss this as (a) a long way away involving (b) a bunch of people who are not co-religionists of yours, let's contextualize this a little. How does this event:


Compare to other crowd tragedies?

Wikipedia summary found here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_human_stampedes

Today's incident is included at the end. Working our way back, we can find a worse incident here.


"these groups themselves often encourage high turn-outs at religious events to prove the relative strength of their sect."

If you are wondering (as I did) why that 2005 incident didn't register in your brain, that would be because we were all hyper-focused on Katrina at the time (and probably rightly so).

Rather than dismiss this all as Not My Monkeys, Not My Circus, let's stop a moment and consider the current visit to the US of the head of another very large monotheist, patriarchal religious group. A lot of people admire many of the statements of the current leader of this group, _even while he is busy canonizing a man who [feel free to offer a qualifier here] committed genocide_ (how anyone can justify a favorable opinion of someone who is moving Junipero Serra along the path to sainthood is beyond me, but the human brain is a flexible instrument, suited to an incredible variety of tasks). But you know? That dude is head of a large religious group.

Let's tone that all down.
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Because the question is likely to arise, who runs Bible Gateway? Well, at the time of this writing, according to Wikipedia:


Zondervan, which is an evangelical press. Zondervan, in turn, is owned by HarperCollins, so BibleGateway is yet another attribute of the enormous, traditional publishing industry. It didn't start out that way, but nothing ever does.

Moving along. If you were raised in a certain kind of Bible studying, churchy environment, and you are a certain kind of nerd, you remember owning, or at least lusting after, a study bible that was split into quadrants with one translation in each quadrant of the page (sort of like the shrunk down versions of some editions of the OED). When the web came along, BibleGateway became a donation supported version of the same thing -- type a verse into one box and pick a translation out of the drop down and you could compare and contrast. I've used it on and off for years, but sometime in the last few years when I wasn't paying attention, the number of translations in that drop down box metastasized, and you can now use it for many languages (Het Boek is in it!). It doesn't have everything (James Moffatt's NT, for example, isn't there, a translation that I had a lot of affection for and, according to wikipedia, so did MLK Jr), and it is for the _Christian_ Bible, so the only Jewish bibles on the list are ones in the Messianic Bible genre. (<-- I'll just apologize up front, because I probably offended somebody here. I'm open to suggestions for improvement.)

I was over at BibleGateway because I had finished (don't know how that happened) all of the ebooks I was in the middle of and didn't feel like shopping for something new. So I paged through the virtual TBR stack on my Voyage and spotted a bunch of ebooks I had bought when I was going to church with T. last summer. I started reading John Buehrens' _Understanding the Bible_ and he retells the Isaac Asimov quit telling the Dorothy Parker pearls before swine joke because no one got it any more. And I was thinking, no, sweetie, they got it. They just didn't _like_ the joke, and furthermore, the way Parker used that saying in the anecdote, if considered in the sense of the biblical use of the phrase, doesn't reflect at all well on Parker. But then I thought, maybe I've misremembered how the phrase was used. I hadn't.

Which is all very ironic when the argument the whole tale is in support of is, you should understand the Bible so you will understand cultural uses of Biblical turns of phrase. Fortunately, Buehrens relies only weakly upon this justification for Bible study; he's more reliant on Bishop Spong's argument that liberals gotta know what's in the Bible or the fundies are gonna own it.

So far, Buehrens' book is not appreciably more useful than the always wonderful _Ken's Guide to the Bible_ (<-- I'm serious, you should get a copy and read it. It is awesome.). However, I'm only about a fifth of the way into it so I retain hope, in part because Buehrens' opinions on translations and mine are aligned to a really shocking degree.
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When I was graduating from high school and in college, this was in the news:


At the time, I was a Jehovah's Witness (I had been baptized as a full member when I was in 9th grade). I was an active member, and during this time frame, I spent some months as what was then known as an "auxiliary pioneer". I was not ashamed of my beliefs and while I tried to respect other people's desire not to be harassed by evangelism, when asked about them I shared them freely. A variety of things happened a few years later to convince me that the beliefs of Jehovah's Witnesses are entirely wrong and quite evil, and I disassociated myself when I was 25. But at the time of these events, I viewed blasphemy as a really serious issue. [ETA: Albeit one which God was responsible for dealing with, beyond organizational enforcement through shunning.]

Because Piss Christ involves a crucifix, and because I, as a JW at the time, firmly believed that Christ was murdered on a stake, not on a cross, the particulars of Piss Christ, while somewhat appalling, were not regarded by me as blasphemous in the same way they presumably were perceived by, say, Catholics. But it was interesting to me to see people who were otherwise Christmas-and-Easter Christians suddenly get Real Excited about something somebody did in the art world. As a member of a religious organization that worked hard to _set_ precedents about religious freedom (such as conscientious objection to military service including alternatives acceptable to SDAs, the right to refuse medical treatment such as blood transfusion, the right to go door to door), I found something about this very darkly humorous. Ha ha ha, you never had any issue treading on me, now look what somebody did to you. Tee hee hee.

Piss Christ has been a focus of religious anger, and accusations of blasphemy ever since. It has even come up in conjunction with the film, Innocence of Muslims.

But as far as I know, Piss Christ, while the target of vandalism in reproduction, has never been the focus of killings and hostage taking.

Tolerance in our society is meaningful and widespread. Let's continue to be uncompromising in our tolerance. Self-defense is an excuse for violence. The defense of others against violent assault is an excuse for violence.

Blasphemy is no excuse for violence. Suggesting that blasphemers who are targeted by the violent are in any way to blame for what the evildoers have evil done, is on a par with blaming a rape victim for wearing the wrong clothes, being in the wrong place, or just being a woman.
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But it's better than it sounds.

Everyone was once again very welcoming. Today was the first day of Sunday School and they had ice cream sundaes. Pretty awesome! T. was very happy to go downstairs and was okay when I checked at the end of the sermon. Alas, I should have pulled him out at that point. It turned out he wanted more singing and he didn't get more so he was mad. I think they may have wore him out a little talking about rules, too; hard to say for sure. He's so good about about being compliant that people who are not familiar with autism and/or with him in particular have no idea that they are running the tank dry over something that actually doesn't matter at all. I am not saying the rules didn't matter -- just that they were real focused on getting him to sign the piece of paper, and based on what I saw on that paper, it was not worth the effort they were putting into it (and getting him to sign the paper wasn't going to improve compliance with the rules or understanding of them, at least not for him).

I said we didn't ever have to go back, but that didn't help at all. He wanted to go back, he just wanted to be mad right then about missing the rest of the singing. Ah, well. Live and learn. He also wanted a do-over on the service, but that wasn't an option because I had no service after this one to go to next; this was the later service.

The reading was Matthew 18:15-20, nice and short. This is a verse used as a weapon by JWs. It is part of the hierarchy, part of the disciplinary approach and part of the justification for disfellowshipping. I hadn't given it a lot of thought lately, beyond thinking about it when some issues cropped up during Occupy Wall Street. There were efforts to handle criminal sexual assault within the group and discourage victims from going to the police. When I read about that, I started ranting about this text and Mennonites and JWs and the long, sordid list of other groups which have used this kind of idea as a way to not resort to the secular justice system. People think they are doing good things for the group, but the group's supposed interests are put in direct opposition to justice for those who have been damaged by members of the group. That shit ain't right.

But what the pastor did with it here was wonderful. It was used as a way to advocate for direct communication involving interpersonal issues, and (when the interpersonal issues stop well short of criminal acts) is really a very different text when thought of that way. She positioned it within the context of the body of believers being all about relationships and love, and of course I _really_ believe in direct communication in that context. Nice sermon; very enjoyable.

Rally Sunday included junior choir before the kiddies went downstairs, and regular choir throughout. There were almost twice as many people in the pews as on our previous visit.

Not sure what our next church visit will be. I don't think we'll be able to go next Sunday, because of other commitments. I'll have to see what our choices are for the following Sunday. Given the singing issue, I'm pretty sure I want to aim for a multi-generational service.

ETA: Looks like our parish UU church will be doing a dedication Children's Service on the new connector building in 2 weeks at 9 a.m. Music! Helping make squares for a quilt. What could be better! I think I have identified where were are going next.
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Not in my town, alas, so I won't be checking out the American Baptist church in West Acton, altho there are some very nice people who go there.

I think we are going to SACC tomorrow. Littleton isn't starting their RE program yet. SACC has Rally Sunday AND they are kicking off Sunday school with ice cream sundaes. Mmmmm. That seems like an easy choice.

I think RE is starting over in our UU Parish church, and we could conceivably do both, since they have 9 and 11 a.m. services, and SACC is doing 10:30 this Sunday. But I doubt I will because I'm still coughing a lot, so I think we'll stick to the walkable/bikeable one for right now.

R. asked what the church is over by the town green. Turns out it is the other Congregational church in town -- and it is not ONA. We won't be visiting them.

ETA: The SACC service we attended recently included a brief mention of someone over at St Matthews, because a person in the congregation had attended a wedding there of a family member or friend. I was surprised at the warmth and love in the rev's voice when she referred to St. Matthews (Methodist), but I finally overcame my knee-jerk yeah-that's-not-gonna-happen to take a look at their website.


Which includes this, linked prominently on the front page.


I have no good reason to attend a Methodist church, but I sure like that.

Oh, seriously, I may actually have to go at some point.


"when we have Communion, we offer it to everybody—no restrictions on age, church membership, or even belief. It’s Jesus’s presence, and he never held that back from anybody."

Nice people!

"You’ll get a piece of bread (gluten, dairy, & soy free); dip it in the cup of grape juice. Enjoy."

ETA: Aha! The Methodist welcoming association is the Reconciling Ministries Network, and St. Matthews is a member. Good to know!
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T. and I visited SACC on Sunday. We rode our bikes, stopping at Dunkin' Donuts on the way for his breakfast. At Dunkin', we saw a neighbor who we often meet while she is walking her dogs. It's always a little tricky to recognize each other out of context but we had a nice chat.

Then off to church. We parked my bike and his scooter off to the side where I believe the minister parked hers. The service was by Cindy Worthington Berry, of Boxborough Community Church, formerly of Westford (at the dual affiliated church, UU and Congregational United Church of Christ, thus with both Welcoming and ONA designations). Everyone was very nice. There were between 2 and 3 dozen people, a range of ages that included some children a little older than T. We were seated directly behind 4 older ladies who seemed to know each other and who seemed curious about us but not necessarily curious enough to pursue anything beyond a smile. I didn't push it, because I think it's important not to frighten people. ;-)

There were two hymnals, which was initially confusing, and the flyer was a generic for the whole summer, so it had two hymns printed and the other three were posted on the wall; that took a little deciphering. They follow a lectionary, and the minister picked the Exodus story about the oppression of God's people in Egypt and Moses' birth and adoption by Pharoah's daughter. Eeeek. And from there, we were off into an analogy of what was going on in Ferguson, the many deaths of young African American men, offered in an effort to do some consciousness raising and perhaps induce a little motivating shame ... but without a target for what to do next, which I always find a little frustrating. Liberal white guilt may actually be necessary, but we could maybe give it something worthwhile to do, perhaps? Suggest including the NAACP in your annual charitable giving? St. Louis food banks? Push to improve education of police officers to do better with situations involving the mentally ill and also to better manage racially charged issues? I am not complaining here specifically about the service. Consciousness raising is necessary. And perhaps the world will only get better if white people feel some extended, unrelieved discomfort for their unthinking maltreatment of people of color. I just get all annoyed when the uncomfortable feelings of distant bystanders become the focus ("I am on Pharaoh's staff.) rather than on the grieving families who have lost someone whose whole life was still ahead of them.

Also, between the lectionary and other god-i-ness aspects of the service, I found myself pining for the simple joy I had felt at the UU service in Acton. While T. and I have agreed to try Littleton UU (which historically apparently had an above average religious education program in terms of inclusiveness), it looks like they are in the process of hiring a new RE director. In the meantime, we're going to go back to Stow for their Labor Day weekend service.

Because SACC combined with Boxborough for the summer, we still haven't met (I exchanged email) SACC's minister; we'll definitely have to go back to listen to her and see what we think. I don't think it's entirely fair to make a decision on a church based solely on a single, summertime experience. Especially not one within walking/biking distance. I _so_ want this to work out.
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If you had asked me a few hours ago, I would have sworn the Lutheran church down the street must be from the more liberal denominations. And I would have been wrong. This really helps explain an interaction I had in front of the grocery store with a couple of them doing outreach a year or so ago: That Thing is actually Missouri Synod. You know, the people who made one of their pastors apologize for participating in an interfaith memorial service after Sandy Hook:


He had to do this because the _membership_ of the synod was so incensed with him. This isn't a hierarchy imposing something -- it's a groundswell of anti-ecumenism on a par with the behavior of JWs and other cults.

LCMS still thinks homosexuality is a sin (heck, they're still really opposed to divorce) and that their membership should be giving public witness against homosexuality and legal recognition of same-sex marriage (their words!).


I could go on, but I'm not sure I'm ever going to get the smell off of me as it is. No, T. is not allowed to go there.
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T. noticed on the drive home from CVS and the grocery store (with an extremely brief stop at the Radio Shack, where despite not buying anything, we had the Best Customer Service Experience Ever) that there is a church on our street. He asked about it, I said it was the Lutheran church. He expressed an interest and I said while I was happy to take him back to the church we went to before (UU in Stow, our Parish church), or the UU church in Concord, I wasn't going to take him to the Lutheran church. He wanted to know why, and this is what I told him, "They are very strict and are completely unreasonable." <-- Notice this is me being extremely prejudiced. In fact, the people running this church are quite reasonable; the pastor, after patiently answering many questions put to him by friends of mine (years before I knew them), suggested they attend a UU church instead. Everyone was much happier as a result of this, the very best story I have ever heard about a Lutheran, ever, including the one a Lutheran friend of mine in college told me about being chased by aggressive geese, which was very funny, altho not to her at the time (and, honestly, if I were a decent human being, would _not_ still make me chuckle over 20 years later). [ETA: Actually, my summary of the Lutheran church was really not prejudiced at all. They are very strict and they are completely unreasonable, because that particular Lutheran church is Missouri Synod. Yikes. http://walkitout.livejournal.com/1155971.html]

In order to distract my son from the very attractive and nearby church that I really don't want to take him to (I do, actually, have quite a lot of issues with that denomination, in all of its flavors), I said there was a church on River Street, would he like to go to that? Technically, it is on School St just before the branch off to River Street but I had forgotten that in the moment and he is currently somewhat obsessed with River Street, altho I have no idea why. This was exciting, and he had a bunch of questions so I looked up the church.

Just so you know I was not being arbitrary, the church in question has appropriate affiliations (It is Congregational United Church of Christ) and is an Open and Affirming congregation so I don't have to feel all dirty hanging out with oppressors of my people. Further, this Sunday the service is by a pastor formerly of Westford at a church which is affiliated both with UU AND Congregational (thus having simultaneously Open and Affirming AND Welcoming credentials, which I had not thought was possible before but proves, once again, that the world is a pretty amazing and wonderful place). I feel that a woman who made all that happen has to be worth listening to for an hour.

At the suggestion of my UU minister friend (it was general advice, not specific to this), I have emailed this church ahead of time to find out about the kids' program and start a dialog about how to make that work well for T., if there really is one, which I sort of doubt at 8:30 a.m. late in August but you never know. Expect an update.
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I have been thinking for several years that maybe-someday I'd get the kids signed up for Religious Education with the UUs, because I think that's a pretty good way of inoculating people against really dangerous forms of indoctrination. They wouldn't be going into a conversation with an evangelical or worse completely ignorant. But because they are young, and because of some other things, it has not yet been time to really start planning this process. However, with T. recently asking to go to church and both of us enjoying a Tai Chi/Taoism lay-led summer service over in Stow, I got to thinking about it again, and was trying to figure out how to get an answer to my concerns about UU pacifism and also to better understand how to make a hypothetical future interaction with Religious Education work better for my special needs kids. After my usual resort to the web, I said to myself, Self, you are friendly acquaintances/friends with a UU minister. Why are you trying to get an answer to these questions online?

So when I ran into my minister friend while on a walk with T. (it seemed potentially complex to attempt this conversation while walking with M.), I told her the story about T. asking to go to church and we had a very nice conversation about that that very naturally led to answers to my questions. I felt a little bad about bugging a friend with what is essentially a "work" question, but I apologized pre-emptively for that and she completely dismissed that as a concern. I suppose I should have expected that from a minister! She says that the UU community of course is varied, but has been really working on being more supportive of veterans, and they do have a chaplaincy program. She also talked about providing support to military families. Based on what she said, I had no trouble finding confirmation for her assertion that this was a quite new development for UU:


She was also able to make suggestions about which of the nearby UU congregations might have more experience providing special support in Religious Education, and how to go about accessing that support.

Not sure when I'll be able to do anything about this, given the kids' current Sunday schedule, but I'll keep plugging away at the scheduling constraints and presumably something will work out, if not this year, then in a future year. In the meantime, it is a relief to learn that what was obviously the Denomination For Me in every other way is probably even manageable on the pacifism issue.
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Subtitled: Viewing Faith Through an Atheist's Eyes
Published by WaterBrook Press (Random House)

I wasn't familiar with WaterBrook. This is from their website:

"WaterBrook Multnomah was launched in September 1996 as an autonomous evangelical Christian publishing division of Random House, Inc. as WaterBrook Press. Since the release of our first books in February 1998, our publishing program has grown dramatically. With the purchase of Harold Shaw Publishers in 2000 and acquisition of Multnomah Publishers in August 2006..."

The Multnomah part comes from an acquisition, it looks like, and presumably that acquisition was located in Oregon.

Anyway. Mehta was raised Jain and his parents continue in that faith. They were in the Chicago area, then Knoxville, then back to Chicago. Along the way, Hemant got to thinking (always a dangerous thing) and concluded that this whole religion thing didn't really meet his standards. The specific morals/ethics were a-o-good with him (still a non-violent vegetarian), it was more the reincarnation/timeline/etc. stuff. After participating in/leading secular group(s), he decided to learn a bit more about the Xtianity that had surrounded him growing up in the United States. To that end, he auctioned off his time on eBay, which Jim Henderson won. Henderson asked him to spend 50 hours in not more than 15 churches and write about what he experienced (<-- I think those were the details of the deal). Jim Henderson already had some experience paying people to go to church and then write about what they thought.


While part of the book is the reviews, a much, much larger chunk of the book is Mehta talking about himself, his background, other people like him and similar. Which is great. Altho it is a little weird that both Hemant and his mother are big Joel Osteen fans.

Mehta's critiques of churches are relatively well-aligned with common critiques of churches ("be more mission focused" is how it would be described in-group, for example, when Mehta talks about the need to reach out to the community at large vs. focusing on serving the existing believers). Mehta is himself a very appealing person.

It's an interesting read, wherever you might find yourself now or in the future, in terms of organized religion. I don't think Mehta's suggestions, if taken, would be as successful as he thinks they would be (but I don't think they would hurt for the stated goals, either). I think Mehta is not the target audience he would like to present himself as being. And I think he may drastically misunderstand the appeal of religion, given his unitary focus on reason and his general obliviousness to what at least some other people are clearly getting out of church-going.

It was super-funny reading Mehta get all offended about people arriving late, being bored and going-through-the-motions. It's a good thing he isn't religious, because he'd sure be a pain if he were saying this as a Believer.

A fast, enjoyable read.

ETA: Henderson has a book out. Review here:


Henderson chimes in to say the summary is accurate, which is always an interesting piece of information; the reviewer segregates their opinion of what the author is saying from the description of what the author is saying, which is helpful to someone looking for an executive summary.
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I checked the publisher on Niose's book. *sigh* Palgrave Macmillan. Why am I not surprised.

p 208-9

"Since the Civil War a century and a half ago, America has never been as divided as it is in these early years of the twenty-first century. There has always been some conflict in America -- racial, class, and otherwise -- but nothing as widespread and visible as today's persistent and passionate class of worldviews. With a nonstop news cycle and a blogosphere that produces boundless information, opinion, and ranting, the warring parties within American politics and society are in a seemingly permanent state of contention.

Even during the social upheaval of the 1960s and 1970s, that strife was at least focused on a few specific issues: Vietnam, civil rights, feminism, Watergate. Among the older generation and conservative elements there was stubborn resistance to change, but the sense of disunity was insignificant compared to the deep, fundamental differences that divide much of America today."

Ordinarily, I would expect someone who could write that and get it through an editorial process to be young and charismatic. But as near as I can tell, this guy's at least my age, and I Am Not Young. The median age in this country is about 37. I'm older than that. This guy's older than me. So this is not the foolishness of Youth. This is the foolishness of a Total Lack of Historical Perspective.

The cold hard truth is the Religious Right is just spouting all the crap that a much bigger fraction of the country took for granted within my lifetime, and basically, very, very few of the people spouting it are prepared to kill over it (thank whatever you may). By contrast, the issues of the 1960s and 1970s included a far larger number of people _who did_ kill over those issues, and committed all kinds of crimes short of murder in the service of their goals -- whether those goals were the preservation of a the status quo, an attempt to return to some idyllic, ahistoric past or an effort to implement a utopian ideal. We are for the most part just yapping at each other. Pretending this makes us "more divided" than in the past is ridiculous, and, like most of the rest of this book, makes one wonder about the political naivete of the man who produced this nonsense.
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I'm reading along, mostly happy with the book (which I was _very_ happy to see added to the library in Mayberry <-- not its real name), when I hit 2-3 pages (116-118) about "Overpopulation Denial" as something characteristic of Religious Folk and which the Secular Perspective could add value in opposition to.

This makes me cranky. I'm a Fred Pearce fan on the subject, many of the high points picked up in this Salon interview:


Rhetoric, especially environmentally oriented rhetoric, about overpopulation has a tendency to slide into Brown People Shouldn't Breed/Don't Let Brown People Move to Our Country, which All Decent People Should Recoil at in Horror when encountering, but frequently just nod their heads like this is some Wisdom From On High, to use a religious metaphor. But hey, maybe the New Atheists are smarter than that, right?

Well, maybe not.


"China got it right when they passed a decree,
Limiting only one child to each family."

That's apparently from April 2012.

Really? Because it's okay to limit reproductive freedom as long as it's in the direction you prefer? Come on.

http://www.secularhumanism.org/index.php?section=library&page=flynn_24_5 (top google result on secular american overpopulation)

Let's go back to 1950s level of population! Written by a guy who was probably a very young person at the time, thus putting this firmly in the Conservative category, however he may identify. Looks to be written maybe in 2004 or 2005.

The main reason I like Pearce's stance, frankly, is that it aligns with one of my primary beliefs and values: individual women, with access to resources and the right to make their own decisions, will make individual decisions that are best for themselves and their family. Summed over the population of all women, the result will be the BEST decision possible: most sensitive to local conditions, best as a transitional policy, etc. Policies which attempt to thwart this process (whether by denying access to a wide variety of inexpensive forms of reproduction control OR by denying women the right to reproduce when and how they see fit, and, honestly, even by trying to reward them for reproducing more than they are inclined to do) are doomed to failure.


But you look really stupid when you sign up for either side of this proposition. By including "Overpopulation Denial" in his book about Secular Americans, Niose did not do Enough to distance himself from the lunatics who think the One Child Policy is a good idea.

ETA: Wow, finding atheists who are opposed to reproductive freedom in its full form is really disturbingly easy.


"“Forced population control” likely refers to denying couples the freedom to breed as much as they like. Presently, China is the only place where restrictions on the right to breed exist, and there are so many exceptions to their one-child policy that their TFR, 1.5 in 2011, has never achieved 1.0.

On the other hand, “forced population control” exists everywhere that couples are denied their basic human right to not breed. Denying couples their right to not produce another dependent, especially when they can’t care for the ones they have, is far worse than denying them the freedom to create more offspring."

Oh, boy. The underlying reality is that these, um, people aren't actually taken seriously by even as many people as, say, Santorum, so there's almost no point in attacking their position. _But they make secular americans/atheists/agnostics look bad_. And that is a problem.
walkitout: (Default)
John Harold Isaac's great-grandfather (my great-great-grandfather) is the top level guy in my family register. I _think_ that makes us 2nd cousins once removed but I'm fully accepting of any correction anyone would like to supply.

http://www.threehillscapital.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=422 :isaac-john-harold&catid=99:obituaries&Itemid=319

I also surfed around my ancestry.com tree, because I _knew_ I'd found obits on some of the other people in recent generations. They are not consistently CGCM. I've started putting obits in as "stories" so they are publicly visible, but I used to put them in as "Notes", which are only visible to people who are editors of the tree.

I stumbled across an academic article (testing Max Weber's thesis about capitalism and protestantism against Holdeman Mennonites, believe it or not) that suggested CGCM's have about a 50% attrition rate or greater in children of members. This is both unsurprising and real familiar to someone who was raised a JW. I can't really remember a lot of detail from any of my visits with the Mennonites. I'm _sure_ some were Plain people (and not Hutterites); equally, I know some weren't, and it wasn't just the excommunicated ones who weren't Plain. I think there really is a mix of anabaptist denominations represented amongst my cousins.

Another Delbert Plett blue paperback has arrived (Leaders of the Kleine Gemeinde). It's really annoying how difficult it is to get any detailed information on the CGCM. Just like JW's, they don't write about themselves for outsiders, and they don't let outsiders in far enough to write about them.
walkitout: (Default)
From my brief paragraphs in the book about Oregon Mennonites, I figured I had at most two opportunities to detect the married Toews sisters in state-side records.

(1) The Oregon State Archives historical births database
(2) The 1900 census

Helena Toews and Abram Esau had children starting in 1890 and ending in 1907. The book convinced me they would be gone by the 1910 census, and while the parents might have been in Polk for the 1890 census, that census is Gone (a fact which regularly irritates me). In the event, I have found the Esau family back in Manitoba (interestingly, they do not seem to have gone straight to Alberta, if, indeed, they _ever_ went to Alberta) in time for the 1901 census (not unexpected) where an immigration year for the US born children is given as ... 1899. Altho it's hard to get too depressed about a census that includes _full birth dates_ for everyone in the family.

Thus leaving me with option (1) above. I found two of the many children in the historical births database, both listed as "delayed births". I finally looked up what that meant.


In marginally better (altho if you think about it at all, really depressing) news, I am finding the kids who died relatively young in the Manitoba Vital Records database. Death records from 70 and more years ago are available in that database, so that may continue to work for ones who died in middle age as well. If they died in Manitoba. This is a nice, high quality source, however, it does not help in answering the larger question: are these actually Holdemans or not?
walkitout: (Default)
Subtitled: Mennonites in Oregon and Neighboring States 1876-1976
Author: Hope Kauffman Lind
Published by Herald Press

from page 176

"Three Holdeman groups settled in Oregon, but only the last survived through 1976. The first arrived in 1890 from Kansas where, after emigrating from Russia, they had joined John Holdeman's church and lived about fifteen years. In Oregon, they settled in northern Polk County near Perrydale, about ten miles from Dallas. Some family names were Unruh, Ratzlaff, Giesbrecht, Esau, Boese, and Schimmelfeming. Elder John Holdeman visited them in 1893 and ordained Samuel Boese to the ministry on November 23. In 1902, due to the Panic of 1893 and economic hardships that followed, the group dissolved. Some moved to Linden, Alberta, Canada."

[Paragraph about the second group that I don't currently think is relevant to my research.]

"In 1957 families in the third group began moving to Scio, northeast of Albany, an area with relatively inexpensive farms and friendly people. There they organized the Evergreen congregation. They came from the Winto and Livingston congregations in Merced County, California, because of urban pressures there from Castle Air Force Base with its screaming jets. Family names were Becker, Loewen (several of them), and Toews, all from California except one from Langdon, North Dakota."

What follows is a brief summary of why these two paragraphs -- all by themselves -- were worth getting the book to me. I _thought_ Peter W Toews was missing from my Johan Toews family register. He is not -- his section heading (sort of a chapter title) is just missing from the list of his siblings (I think of it as a table of contents), but his data is in the register. While I thought he was missing, I created a theory to explain why he was missing: that he had followed his half-uncle Peter when the colony in Steinbach underwent a painful, three-way schism, including a Church of God in Christ, Mennonite group (which is what these paragraphs are about), a Kleine Gemeinde Group, and a Chortitzer group. I _do not know_ which denomination my family members in Canada are currently -- or were ever -- members of (other than that half-uncle Peter _definitely_ went off on the Holdeman side).

In an effort to prove/disprove my theory, I found and got a copy of Peter W. Toews approximately 40 page memoir, which I have now mostly read. In it, he describes his travels to various places. I have external evidence (through documents indexed and/or digitized in ancestry.com's databases) of Peter's travels to Polk County, Oregon, where he married a woman with the maiden name Kaegi (census records indicate her father came over from Switzerland himself and while the name is not a common one among Mennonites, there was a Mennonite group in Switzerland involving that surname into the 1950s) and the married name (twice) of Unruh (his second marriage; her third). Later, he traveled with this wife and their daughter Emma to Merced, California (again, external evidence _and_ mentioned in the memoir). While Peter speaks only very briefly of the original schism and doesn't touch on religious issues to any great degree thereafter (thus, no internal evidence as to his particular choices of congregation/denomination/etc.), he is very clear about why he was traveling (to visit friends and family, including two sisters of his who were apparently married and living in Oregon when he traveled there the first time) and the subtext of how he chose his wives is pretty apparent as well (he wasn't choosing based on geography, but he was choosing within the community of people he already knew, and that community was closed).

The first paragraph supplies evidence in support of my hypothesis that he was Holdeman. I no longer believe this led to an internal-to-the-family split. On the contrary, I suspect the whole family (for suitable definitions of whole family) was Holdeman/CGCM and may have continued to be so into the time frame that I met them (altho this is a tricky hypothesis for reasons I may get into later). I suspect this in part based on the memoir saying two of his sisters were in the group in Polk County that he went to visit, and in part based on a very imperfect understanding of which groups retained (near-)mandatory veiling practices into the 1980s.

The second paragraph supplies a possible explanation for the visit to Merced.

I'm continuing to try to get answers to my questions while avoiding the obvious step of contacting my closest relatives to just ask them. You might wonder why I would be so averse to just contacting them and asking them. Then you might read up a bit on CGCM, and conclude that being wary, in this instance, is, shall we say, the better of valor. My current strategy is to just enter great swatches of the register, attempt to find death dates for the older generations, and hope someone has an obituary available online that gives a church that maybe makes clear which group they were with at least at the end of their life.

If you're ever working on a family tree and entering names and dates and wondering why anyone could possibly care about places for births and deaths, I'm hoping the above makes it clear. The family register I have is JUST names and dates. Reconstructing all the migrations is something that I'll have to do laboriously -- and the compiler had in front of him while he was doing it because he was doing this over the phone (phone numbers! with area codes!) and by letter (addresses! addresses!). I don't think I have it in me to complain about great-uncle Aron, because just having this thing is amazingly cool. But if I did have it in me to complain, I would. No places means really, really, really tough to _find_ the stories, much less tell them.
walkitout: (Default)
Technically, let's go with:

The general church's website is here: http://www.newchurch.org/

The wikipedia page is here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/General_Church_of_the_New_Jerusalem

Inevitably, I mention this not because this is my first encounter with Swedenborg (and it's hard to forget a name like that, at least for me), but because once again, in the course of innocently engaging in genealogy, I've stumbled across (fourth? fifth? about) cousins who participate in an unusual religion. And this isn't one of those mentioned in an obit things, either. This is, went to a college of the church and was a secretary for a sub-organization and etc. Not _quite_ as cool as the woman who wound up in charge of the Theosophists for a while, but very cool, nonetheless. (Speaking of whom, the latest update to naturalization information in ancestry.com handed me a whole bunch of information about D.A., including her maiden name, kids names and birth dates, etc.)

Bonus, extra denomination of the day (totally and completely unrelated to the above!):

Evangelical Missionary Church of Canada

This is from an obituary notice for someone so distantly related I'm not sure even I'm prepared to count it. But I thought it was interesting, as an illustration of what happens when assimilated descendants of (P)Russian Mennonites are trying to pick a religion and it's not going to be one of the old-school denominations.


A member church in Red Deer (which is how I ran across it):


That's kind of nice: returning to their "cousins", in a round-a-bout and faith oriented way, given the denomination including the modern day descendants of Swiss Anabaptists who came to North America earlier.

It's easy to get confused about some of these Canadian Anabaptist denominations. Some of them get to the anabaptist position via Stone-Campbell. I find those the most tantalizing, as a possible explanation for how my grandmother met my grandfather. But I doubt anything will come of that theory. I kinda like the mail-order bride, theory.
walkitout: (Default)
I've been pursuing a may-yet-turn-out-to-be-true-theory that I spawned in an effort to explain what I _thought_ was a glaring absence from my Johann T Family Register: Peter was the only adult kid from the children of Johann to have surviving children who wasn't in the register.

I _thought_. Turns out it's probably a typesetting/layout/editing error. The information is there; the line in the list of sections is missing.

The theory is straightforward: the missing Peter followed his half-uncle Peter to become a Holdeman Mennonite/CGCM/Church of God in Christ, Mennonite. His first wife was the foster daughter of half-uncle Peter. The second wife was a US Mennonite from the Ohio area (and there's active Holdemans there) whose first husband was an Unruh. The third wife was a US Mennonite from Oklahoma, and I think also from an area with a lot of Holdemans. For suitable definitions of "a lot". The net effect was negative feeling with the rest of Johann's descendants (problem with this thesis: I'm not entirely certain _which_ branch of Mennonite they are, if they stayed KG or became something else and I am so far a little too chicken to contact someone and ask (my primary contact having been excommunicated for quite a while, and is over 80 and I'm not sure what his health status is currently).

That's the theory. It was a great theory. And I found what sounds like a memoir written by Peter, currently in the Glenbow Archive. I've sent them an email to ask them if they will make me a copy or otherwise help me get access to its contents without traveling. It'll be interesting to see if anything comes of that request.

ETA: Sweet! In exchange for a telephoned credit card number, I should be received emailed copies of the document (37 pages, and the pictures are on the website already) soon. Very exciting! In related (ahem) news, I found a T. Family Chronicle, 1900 in Preservings, No. 18, June 2001, page 97. I will probably be quoting from that in a later blog entry.
walkitout: (Default)

He's assembling a combination of faith, time, place and economic considerations, along with a remarkably balanced perspective on scholarly and semi-scholarly work in the areas he's touching on. I am _astounded_ and truly impressed.

We share a great-great-grandmother and great-great-grandfather, Martin Penner and Aganetha Toews, which I think makes us third cousins.

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