When a Divine Spark Goes Dark

We were talking about yesterday's shootings at Virginia Tech in the office today. Over 30 people killed. Worst mass shooting in recent U.S. history. Shades of Columbine. Someone mentioned Kent State.  For me, what came to mind was stories of a guy in a clock tower in Austin TX.

It is a credit to my UU colleagues that while we expressed great sorrow for those killed, and especially for those left behind to grieve the loss, none of us vilified the shooter. No talk of evil, etc.

Still... I wonder... what makes a person want to kill a bunch of people that he doesn't know?

I am grappling with our belief in inherent worth and that each of us carries a spark of the Divine.  How can divinity wreak such evil?

Asian American Reactions to the VA Tech Shootings

Here's an article on msnbc about the reaction of Asian Americans to this tragedy.


I called home last night (home being San Francisco where my parents and brother are). Their responses were interesting. My mother was incensed that the initial reports identified the shooter as Chinese. What she didn't say but what I inferred was her worry that there would be an anti-Chinese backlash. (Tho personally I'm not sure if people who are inclined towards backlash bother to make such a distinction between different Asians. Remember Vincent Chin.) My brother was more direct, voicing concern about an anti-Asian backlash in general.

When Men Decide What Women Can Do

On Wednesday, April 18, 2007, the U.S. Supreme Court ignored three decades worth of precedent, overturned the rulings of three appeals courts, and for the first time since Roe v. Wade, upheld an abortion restriction that makes no exception for a woman’s health.

The ruling once again underscores the need to have women present in positions of power, specifically in institutions that are making decisions that affect women.  During the Clarence Thomas confirmation hearings in 1991, as a panel of all-male Congressmen demonstrated an inability to take the issue of sexual harassment seriously, the lack of a female perspective was made obvious, and the next elections in 1992 brought an unprecedented 29 women to Congress.  The same glaring lack is now obvious on the Supreme Court.

Reflections on the 7th Principle

I was asked to give some spiritual/theological reflections to my congregation on Earth Day.  Here goes.


As Unitarian Universalists, we affirm and promote respect for the interdependent web of all existence, of which we are a part.

Personally I think its funny that we felt the need to add that last bit – "of which we are a part."  If there is an interdependent web of all existence then of course we are a part of it, right?  But the need to add that last bit underscores our feeling of separateness.  We humans as separate from the rest of creation, from Earth.  We as individuals separate from each other. 

As a culture, we celebrate our independence instead of our interdependence.

Good and Evil and the Individual

I needed a day to reflect on this...

Yesterday in the office we had theological reflection on the shootings at Virginia Tech, and I struggled once again to reconcile our belief in a divine spark within each of us - our innate capacity for Godliness - and what one person did to 32 others and himself.  And as I was speaking it occurred to me that I was framing the question incorrectly - that my conceiving of us as separate individuals was getting in the way of discernment.

Later on yesterday, as I prepared for a course I'm co-facilitating at All Souls, I read that in liberation theology sin is not conceived of at the level of individual failure, but rather societal systems of oppression.  Sin is the perpetuance of systems that prevent people from reaching their full potential.

I have said for a long time now that there are good and evil acts, but one cannot judge an individual as either good or evil.  But I think I better understand now why it really is true.

When the Spirit Moves Us

I've got the Holy Spirit and interconnectedness on the brain these days.  I see them everywhere.

This morning before service, our discussion group was reading an essay from Rebecca Parker's Blessing the World where she describes a soldier's story of how he was ordered to take on a mission that he knew was hopeless.  He knew that most of his men would die, and yet, after some resistance, he gave in and did it anyway.  

We discussed the psychology behind that, how hard it is to go against the crowd.  And talk of war naturally led to discussion of the current war in Iraq, and how so many groups - the Dems, the media, the former generals... - are blaming each other now for not questioning the administration at the time, when the arguments in favor of war were so obviously faulty.

Karmic Lessons in Peacemaking

You must be the change you wish to see in the world.

- Mahatma Gandhi

Like many realizations that I have, it takes me a long time to get to them and then once I do, it seems so obvious that I'm embarrassed that I hadn't realized it before.  That's how I feel about a recent epiphany with respect to karma.

I have argued for a while now that karma is not just the Western conception of punishment and reward - if you do good, good will come to you, if you do evil, evil will come to you.  More than that, karma says that if you do good, it will be easier for you to do good again in the future, and if you do evil it will be easier to do evil again in the future.  The law of karma says that <strong>what you do will actually change who you are</strong>.  You cannot be unaffected by your actions.  


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