1 00:00:00,000 --> 00:00:06,580 2 00:00:06,580 --> 00:00:09,150 Jim Key: I want to welcome Meg Riley back to the stage 3 00:00:09,150 --> 00:00:11,860 to moderate our next talk, Humanist 4 00:00:11,860 --> 00:00:14,494 and Theist in Conversation. 5 00:00:14,494 --> 00:00:16,160 Meg, as you know, is the senior minister 6 00:00:16,160 --> 00:00:17,785 of the Church of the Larger Fellowship. 7 00:00:17,785 --> 00:00:21,230 She's joined by Doctor Sharon Welch, provost at Meadville 8 00:00:21,230 --> 00:00:23,920 Lombard Theological School and the Reverend Joanna 9 00:00:23,920 --> 00:00:27,150 Crawford the new incoming minister of the Live Oak UU 10 00:00:27,150 --> 00:01:49,060 in Austin, Texas. 11 00:01:49,060 --> 00:01:54,530 Meg Riley: OK, gen-x'ers what movie was that? 12 00:01:54,530 --> 00:02:00,680 We don't always ignore gen-x'ers be it here recorded. 13 00:02:00,680 --> 00:02:03,580 It sounds like the beginning of a joke. 14 00:02:03,580 --> 00:02:07,120 An atheist, a theist, and an agnostic 15 00:02:07,120 --> 00:02:13,500 walk into a session formerly known as plenary. 16 00:02:13,500 --> 00:02:15,870 But here we are. 17 00:02:15,870 --> 00:02:18,590 I don't know about you, but sometimes, 18 00:02:18,590 --> 00:02:23,020 as a person who is truly open about what language 19 00:02:23,020 --> 00:02:26,590 is used to convey the life and vitality 20 00:02:26,590 --> 00:02:30,400 and love of the universe around me, 21 00:02:30,400 --> 00:02:33,050 I feel as if I am constantly approached 22 00:02:33,050 --> 00:02:40,880 by people who feel unheard, unseen, and misrepresented. 23 00:02:40,880 --> 00:02:46,500 Theists tell me that they feel marginalized, ignored, 24 00:02:46,500 --> 00:02:48,570 discounted. 25 00:02:48,570 --> 00:02:55,680 Humanists tell me that they feel marginalized, ignored, 26 00:02:55,680 --> 00:02:57,500 discounted. 27 00:02:57,500 --> 00:03:03,630 Sometimes I feel like saying, how about a game of chess? 28 00:03:03,630 --> 00:03:07,800 Sometimes I do say, why don't you talk to each other, 29 00:03:07,800 --> 00:03:13,560 and leave me out of the middle? 30 00:03:13,560 --> 00:03:16,090 So today we want to have a conversation where 31 00:03:16,090 --> 00:03:19,300 Doctor Sharon Welch, who describes herself 32 00:03:19,300 --> 00:03:23,120 as an atheist, and Reverend Joanna Crawford, 33 00:03:23,120 --> 00:03:26,410 who describes herself as a theist, 34 00:03:26,410 --> 00:03:30,080 actually talk and listen with one another 35 00:03:30,080 --> 00:03:33,030 with joy and attention. 36 00:03:33,030 --> 00:03:36,480 We do this in the hopes that back home you 37 00:03:36,480 --> 00:03:40,370 might have similar conversations. 38 00:03:40,370 --> 00:03:45,040 Too often we back away from the uncomfortable conversations, 39 00:03:45,040 --> 00:03:48,930 from the places where we might have different opinions. 40 00:03:48,930 --> 00:03:51,060 And I don't think it's only Minnesota, 41 00:03:51,060 --> 00:03:55,150 where we are pathologically afraid of conflict, 42 00:03:55,150 --> 00:03:57,190 I think it's true in our congregations 43 00:03:57,190 --> 00:03:59,480 all over the place. 44 00:03:59,480 --> 00:04:03,500 So perhaps a different game to play 45 00:04:03,500 --> 00:04:07,980 is to listen to one anothers stories and search 46 00:04:07,980 --> 00:04:12,359 for common ground. 47 00:04:12,359 --> 00:04:16,600 Sharon Welch: I am a mystic, a political activist, 48 00:04:16,600 --> 00:04:18,610 and an atheist. 49 00:04:18,610 --> 00:04:20,930 Oh, it's an odd combination, I know, 50 00:04:20,930 --> 00:04:24,460 but one that I come to naturally. 51 00:04:24,460 --> 00:04:28,960 I was raised in a religious tradition in which spirituality 52 00:04:28,960 --> 00:04:32,060 was inextricably bound with politics. 53 00:04:32,060 --> 00:04:35,660 In which the motive for prayer and service 54 00:04:35,660 --> 00:04:42,400 was not guilt or duty but living fully, deeply, and well. 55 00:04:42,400 --> 00:04:45,170 For my parents and grandparents and many members 56 00:04:45,170 --> 00:04:51,290 of their churches, life was spirituality and spirituality 57 00:04:51,290 --> 00:04:53,370 was life. 58 00:04:53,370 --> 00:04:55,290 Service and belief in God did not 59 00:04:55,290 --> 00:04:59,010 require sacrifice of individual will, of aspirations, 60 00:04:59,010 --> 00:05:00,040 or intellect. 61 00:05:00,040 --> 00:05:02,650 Such religious practice was rather 62 00:05:02,650 --> 00:05:07,100 the chance to live out the best of one's talents in response 63 00:05:07,100 --> 00:05:11,740 to nature, to people, to the particular opportunities 64 00:05:11,740 --> 00:05:16,520 for justice and beauty in one's immediate world. 65 00:05:16,520 --> 00:05:22,270 Spirituality was that which brought us into full engagement 66 00:05:22,270 --> 00:05:25,432 with the world around us. 67 00:05:25,432 --> 00:05:28,830 For my parents, this work took many forms. 68 00:05:28,830 --> 00:05:31,630 Serving as pastors, church administrators, 69 00:05:31,630 --> 00:05:34,970 farmers, activists in the little liberal wing 70 00:05:34,970 --> 00:05:38,320 of the Democratic Party, members of the hospital ward, 71 00:05:38,320 --> 00:05:41,750 leaders of programs to empower teenagers. 72 00:05:41,750 --> 00:05:46,030 It was always fascinating to see what new avenues for activism 73 00:05:46,030 --> 00:05:48,740 and service they discovered. 74 00:05:48,740 --> 00:05:53,390 Their work was filled with laughter, exuberance, 75 00:05:53,390 --> 00:05:57,670 and a delightful absence of fanaticism and self 76 00:05:57,670 --> 00:05:59,700 righteousness. 77 00:05:59,700 --> 00:06:02,910 While their political activism and work in the church 78 00:06:02,910 --> 00:06:06,535 was grounded in a clear sense of the divine, 79 00:06:06,535 --> 00:06:10,980 they were aware that they could be wrong. 80 00:06:10,980 --> 00:06:14,020 That it was possible to feel led by the Spirit 81 00:06:14,020 --> 00:06:17,530 and to misinterpret that leading. 82 00:06:17,530 --> 00:06:21,180 They brought two basic criteria, both collective, 83 00:06:21,180 --> 00:06:24,820 to their private and communal spirituality. 84 00:06:24,820 --> 00:06:30,440 First, do these spiritual practices and experiences 85 00:06:30,440 --> 00:06:32,110 make us more loving? 86 00:06:32,110 --> 00:06:34,260 Do they help us see the worth of everyone? 87 00:06:34,260 --> 00:06:42,250 And secondly, do these experiences change how we live? 88 00:06:42,250 --> 00:06:46,000 I remember as a teenager, my fascination 89 00:06:46,000 --> 00:06:49,280 with tales of angels. 90 00:06:49,280 --> 00:06:51,820 When I left for college in 1971, one 91 00:06:51,820 --> 00:06:54,060 of the stories being commonly told 92 00:06:54,060 --> 00:06:56,120 was of people picking up a hitchhiker, 93 00:06:56,120 --> 00:06:59,590 the hitchhiker telling them that Jesus would soon 94 00:06:59,590 --> 00:07:04,570 return to Earth, and then the hitchhiker disappearing. 95 00:07:04,570 --> 00:07:07,820 I told my father these stories certain that he 96 00:07:07,820 --> 00:07:09,870 would be thrilled to hear the announcement 97 00:07:09,870 --> 00:07:14,180 of the imminent return of the Messiah. 98 00:07:14,180 --> 00:07:20,340 His response, however, was measured and clear. 99 00:07:20,340 --> 00:07:25,700 Well, Sharon, I don't know if they really saw an angel 100 00:07:25,700 --> 00:07:27,840 or not. 101 00:07:27,840 --> 00:07:32,000 What I would want to know is This: did that encounter 102 00:07:32,000 --> 00:07:34,040 change their life? 103 00:07:34,040 --> 00:07:39,430 Did it make them a better person? 104 00:07:39,430 --> 00:07:44,200 Joanna Crawford: I am a mystic, a political activist, 105 00:07:44,200 --> 00:07:45,810 and a theist. 106 00:07:45,810 --> 00:07:52,390 I was raised in an atheist Unitarian family where 107 00:07:52,390 --> 00:07:58,490 the focus was on what we did and on our relationships 108 00:07:58,490 --> 00:08:02,050 with each other and with everything around us. 109 00:08:02,050 --> 00:08:05,810 Spirituality, well that was a word 110 00:08:05,810 --> 00:08:10,750 that was never used in my home, but my parents 111 00:08:10,750 --> 00:08:12,910 played gospel music. 112 00:08:12,910 --> 00:08:15,940 And they talked about their awe and their wonder 113 00:08:15,940 --> 00:08:19,090 with science and the natural world. 114 00:08:19,090 --> 00:08:23,330 I was raised to believe that doing right, you know, 115 00:08:23,330 --> 00:08:27,190 living morally, extending kindness, and working 116 00:08:27,190 --> 00:08:35,150 for justice was simply what you did not because of any god 117 00:08:35,150 --> 00:08:36,980 but just because of logic. 118 00:08:36,980 --> 00:08:41,169 That if we all did that, that the world would be a better 119 00:08:41,169 --> 00:08:45,320 place for all of us, and we would all benefit. 120 00:08:45,320 --> 00:08:47,450 I don't know, Sharon, if you've ever read the book, 121 00:08:47,450 --> 00:08:52,000 Are You There God, It's Me Margaret by Judy Bloom. 122 00:08:52,000 --> 00:08:55,810 I was just like that title character. 123 00:08:55,810 --> 00:09:00,040 Quietly talking to God every night 124 00:09:00,040 --> 00:09:04,480 without my parents knowing about it. 125 00:09:04,480 --> 00:09:09,400 Growing up UU I was introduced to a range of religious belief, 126 00:09:09,400 --> 00:09:13,820 and I cobbled together my own understanding 127 00:09:13,820 --> 00:09:16,970 of God and mystery. 128 00:09:16,970 --> 00:09:24,770 It all served me well enough until it didn't. 129 00:09:24,770 --> 00:09:29,580 I was an adult, a mom of four, an aspiring minister 130 00:09:29,580 --> 00:09:32,930 in seminary, and then my six-month-old daughter 131 00:09:32,930 --> 00:09:36,490 was diagnosed with cancer. 132 00:09:36,490 --> 00:09:40,290 And it all came crashing down. 133 00:09:40,290 --> 00:09:43,010 And I was left with nothing. 134 00:09:43,010 --> 00:09:46,480 All of my beliefs were stripped away. 135 00:09:46,480 --> 00:09:49,550 It's like there should be another word for something 136 00:09:49,550 --> 00:09:52,810 even beyond atheist. 137 00:09:52,810 --> 00:09:54,340 There was no God. 138 00:09:54,340 --> 00:09:55,140 No call. 139 00:09:55,140 --> 00:09:56,870 No arc of the universe. 140 00:09:56,870 --> 00:09:59,070 No meaning at all. 141 00:09:59,070 --> 00:10:07,100 My soul was just dry sand because what kind of a god 142 00:10:07,100 --> 00:10:09,650 could there, what kind of meaning 143 00:10:09,650 --> 00:10:16,500 could there be in a world where a baby could get cancer? 144 00:10:16,500 --> 00:10:18,610 She got better. 145 00:10:18,610 --> 00:10:21,630 Slowly I did too. 146 00:10:21,630 --> 00:10:27,310 I didn't believe in God, and yet I 147 00:10:27,310 --> 00:10:33,710 would find myself missing God. 148 00:10:33,710 --> 00:10:37,050 Not that facile understanding of God 149 00:10:37,050 --> 00:10:39,630 that had come before or of a world 150 00:10:39,630 --> 00:10:43,360 where everything happens for a reason. 151 00:10:43,360 --> 00:10:48,830 That was gone and good riddance. 152 00:10:48,830 --> 00:10:52,090 But that connection to something larger 153 00:10:52,090 --> 00:10:58,230 than myself, that experience of communion, 154 00:10:58,230 --> 00:11:02,930 of relationship, of being called out of my own self 155 00:11:02,930 --> 00:11:07,995 to something greater, I missed that. 156 00:11:07,995 --> 00:11:11,620 Now this is where some might patronizingly say, 157 00:11:11,620 --> 00:11:16,750 well I guess some people need that kind of thing. 158 00:11:16,750 --> 00:11:24,440 Or less kindly talk of imaginary friends or "woo, woo." 159 00:11:24,440 --> 00:11:30,300 A more generous UU sent me a quote by John Shelby Spong. 160 00:11:30,300 --> 00:11:33,420 He writes, I do not experience God 161 00:11:33,420 --> 00:11:37,490 as a supernatural power external to life invading 162 00:11:37,490 --> 00:11:40,000 my world in supernatural power. 163 00:11:40,000 --> 00:11:43,930 I see no evidence to think this definition is real. 164 00:11:43,930 --> 00:11:48,250 The problem is that most people have most deeply identified 165 00:11:48,250 --> 00:11:52,190 this definition of God with God. 166 00:11:52,190 --> 00:11:55,870 That when this definition dies the victim of expanded 167 00:11:55,870 --> 00:12:01,140 knowledge, we think that God has died. 168 00:12:01,140 --> 00:12:09,456 And that gave me permission to explore other definitions. 169 00:12:09,456 --> 00:12:11,330 Sharon Welch: You know, Joanne, at this point 170 00:12:11,330 --> 00:12:14,820 in my life I don't believe in God. 171 00:12:14,820 --> 00:12:20,570 I know of no concepts, symbols, or images of God, goddesses, 172 00:12:20,570 --> 00:12:25,360 or gods that I find intellectually credible, 173 00:12:25,360 --> 00:12:29,270 emotionally satisfying, or ethically challenging 174 00:12:29,270 --> 00:12:32,260 in the face of evil and the complexity of life. 175 00:12:32,260 --> 00:12:36,010 But I do know, however, of spiritual practices that 176 00:12:36,010 --> 00:12:39,920 change our lives that help us see where we are wrong, 177 00:12:39,920 --> 00:12:41,990 that propel us to work for justice, 178 00:12:41,990 --> 00:12:45,920 and that provide a sense of meaning and enjoy. 179 00:12:45,920 --> 00:12:48,560 There are spiritual practices that 180 00:12:48,560 --> 00:12:52,150 are intellectually credible, emotionally comforting, 181 00:12:52,150 --> 00:12:53,570 and ethically challenging. 182 00:12:53,570 --> 00:12:57,050 Habits of individual and collective attention, 183 00:12:57,050 --> 00:13:00,940 meditation, reflection, and physical ecstasy 184 00:13:00,940 --> 00:13:05,770 that can sustain us as we work for justice. 185 00:13:05,770 --> 00:13:09,410 I don't think that life makes sense. 186 00:13:09,410 --> 00:13:13,870 But I do know there can be joy and wonder and the service 187 00:13:13,870 --> 00:13:16,710 of beauty and justice. 188 00:13:16,710 --> 00:13:18,790 You know, Joanne, as I told my father shortly 189 00:13:18,790 --> 00:13:27,050 before his death, you don't have to believe in God to serve God. 190 00:13:27,050 --> 00:13:31,070 Joanna Crawford: So a couple of years later, 191 00:13:31,070 --> 00:13:33,640 the cancer came back. 192 00:13:33,640 --> 00:13:38,680 I didn't have the protection of shock and ignorance this time. 193 00:13:38,680 --> 00:13:44,320 It was like being the living embodiment of a scream. 194 00:13:44,320 --> 00:13:46,790 I was in Hell. 195 00:13:46,790 --> 00:13:48,040 Worse. 196 00:13:48,040 --> 00:13:51,290 Hell was in me. 197 00:13:51,290 --> 00:13:56,260 I've talked and written before about how my goal in life 198 00:13:56,260 --> 00:14:01,890 is to try to love the Hell out of this world. 199 00:14:01,890 --> 00:14:05,340 This is simply a response to the fact 200 00:14:05,340 --> 00:14:09,730 that I feel like this world tried to love the Hell out 201 00:14:09,730 --> 00:14:11,360 of me. 202 00:14:11,360 --> 00:14:13,790 The world came to my doorstep. 203 00:14:13,790 --> 00:14:18,180 Friends, acquaintances, total strangers. 204 00:14:18,180 --> 00:14:19,300 They sent cards. 205 00:14:19,300 --> 00:14:21,300 They did good deeds in her name. 206 00:14:21,300 --> 00:14:25,140 They mailed us hats, handmade clothes. 207 00:14:25,140 --> 00:14:27,790 They said prayers. 208 00:14:27,790 --> 00:14:32,520 The world loved the Hell out of us. 209 00:14:32,520 --> 00:14:36,040 People of all different income and educational levels, 210 00:14:36,040 --> 00:14:39,090 different religions, different politics, 211 00:14:39,090 --> 00:14:42,650 they all had love to give. 212 00:14:42,650 --> 00:14:46,250 They gave it abundantly. 213 00:14:46,250 --> 00:14:52,570 My daughter was healed by medicine, and all of us 214 00:14:52,570 --> 00:14:55,510 were healed by love. 215 00:14:55,510 --> 00:15:02,420 For me, God is a process, a persuasive verb, 216 00:15:02,420 --> 00:15:07,320 and arc that bends towards justice, if you will, 217 00:15:07,320 --> 00:15:10,720 and this force of love, running through all 218 00:15:10,720 --> 00:15:13,050 who will open themselves up to it. 219 00:15:13,050 --> 00:15:17,790 Calls us, each of us, each of us little events 220 00:15:17,790 --> 00:15:23,960 ourselves, to be the hands and feet of God, 221 00:15:23,960 --> 00:15:32,350 of love, of whatever you want to call it. 222 00:15:32,350 --> 00:15:34,140 Meg Riley: Listening to Sharon and Joanna 223 00:15:34,140 --> 00:15:39,180 tell their stories, what I hear is that both of you 224 00:15:39,180 --> 00:15:41,960 are interested in how people live 225 00:15:41,960 --> 00:15:45,760 and how we live ethical, responsible, generous, 226 00:15:45,760 --> 00:15:48,460 and joyful lives. 227 00:15:48,460 --> 00:15:51,280 You want your faiths and your beliefs 228 00:15:51,280 --> 00:15:55,870 to lead you to be generous and justice-centered, honest, 229 00:15:55,870 --> 00:15:59,000 ever-evolving, loving people. 230 00:15:59,000 --> 00:16:00,810 And you want the people in your community 231 00:16:00,810 --> 00:16:03,979 to share those values as well, did I get that right? 232 00:16:03,979 --> 00:16:04,770 Sharon Welch: Yeah. 233 00:16:04,770 --> 00:16:07,050 Meg Riley: OK, that's what you want. 234 00:16:07,050 --> 00:16:12,060 And what do you want from each other in this process? 235 00:16:12,060 --> 00:16:16,520 Sharon Welch: Well, Joanna, to be the hands and feet of God. 236 00:16:16,520 --> 00:16:20,020 To be the hands and feet of justice and love. 237 00:16:20,020 --> 00:16:22,710 The world needs us all. 238 00:16:22,710 --> 00:16:27,050 The world invites us all into greater fellowship, 239 00:16:27,050 --> 00:16:30,320 into more creative service. 240 00:16:30,320 --> 00:16:36,400 I am so deeply concerned about the polarizing politics 241 00:16:36,400 --> 00:16:39,130 that are paralyzing our democracy. 242 00:16:39,130 --> 00:16:41,690 Every time I hear of another school shooting, 243 00:16:41,690 --> 00:16:44,970 another victory of politicians committing to do all 244 00:16:44,970 --> 00:16:48,180 can to stop gun control and prevent 245 00:16:48,180 --> 00:16:51,410 immigration reform, another threat of war. 246 00:16:51,410 --> 00:16:57,840 I remember and I realize how much we need each other. 247 00:16:57,840 --> 00:17:03,339 I learned the values of justice and compassion from theists. 248 00:17:03,339 --> 00:17:07,319 And I am now a humanist. 249 00:17:07,319 --> 00:17:09,530 You learned them from humanist. 250 00:17:09,530 --> 00:17:12,099 And you are now a theist. 251 00:17:12,099 --> 00:17:19,010 Can we live our values together as Unitarian Universalists? 252 00:17:19,010 --> 00:17:22,640 Joanna Crawford: I am honored to walk beside side you 253 00:17:22,640 --> 00:17:25,510 as we struggle for justice. 254 00:17:25,510 --> 00:17:28,040 Sharon, for most of us, there will 255 00:17:28,040 --> 00:17:31,100 come that dark night of the soul. 256 00:17:31,100 --> 00:17:32,870 We will lose hope. 257 00:17:32,870 --> 00:17:37,740 We will find ourselves without answers, our hearts broken. 258 00:17:37,740 --> 00:17:43,770 We will need someone to love the Hell out of us. 259 00:17:43,770 --> 00:17:48,910 When I am shattered, when I am in despair, 260 00:17:48,910 --> 00:17:51,340 will you sit with me? 261 00:17:51,340 --> 00:17:56,220 I learned the values of justice and compassion from humanist, 262 00:17:56,220 --> 00:17:58,660 and I am now a theist. 263 00:17:58,660 --> 00:18:02,830 You learned them from theist, and you are now a humanist. 264 00:18:02,830 --> 00:18:05,270 Can we now live our values together 265 00:18:05,270 --> 00:18:09,740 as Unitarian Universalists? 266 00:18:09,740 --> 00:18:12,180 Sharon Welch: Joanna, I am honored 267 00:18:12,180 --> 00:18:20,670 to sit beside you when your heart is broken. 268 00:18:20,670 --> 00:18:24,780 Meg Riley: So I would like to know from you, from all of you. 269 00:18:24,780 --> 00:18:28,250 Will you work with Sharon and Joanna 270 00:18:28,250 --> 00:18:31,200 to address the polarizing politics that 271 00:18:31,200 --> 00:18:33,370 are paralyzing our democracy? 272 00:18:33,370 --> 00:18:36,200 Will you stand shoulder to shoulder 273 00:18:36,200 --> 00:18:40,630 with atheists and humanists to work for justice? 274 00:18:40,630 --> 00:18:43,400 If so, shout out, we will. 275 00:18:43,400 --> 00:18:45,220 Crowd: We will. 276 00:18:45,220 --> 00:18:47,144 Meg Riley: Oh, shout it out, come on. 277 00:18:47,144 --> 00:18:47,769 Crowd: We will! 278 00:18:47,769 --> 00:18:49,102 Meg Riley: All right, thank you. 279 00:18:49,102 --> 00:18:49,920 That's better. 280 00:18:49,920 --> 00:18:52,310 And will you be with Joanna and Sharon 281 00:18:52,310 --> 00:18:55,030 when they face their hardest times, when 282 00:18:55,030 --> 00:18:56,690 their hearts are broken. 283 00:18:56,690 --> 00:19:00,660 Will you sit by the side of atheists and theists 284 00:19:00,660 --> 00:19:03,180 to love the Hell out of them? 285 00:19:03,180 --> 00:19:06,457 If so, please shout it out, we will. 286 00:19:06,457 --> 00:19:08,410 Crowd: We will! 287 00:19:08,410 --> 00:19:12,380 Meg Riley: Then I think it's Official: new game on. 288 00:19:12,380 --> 00:19:27,103