Can we discuss cultural appropriation and the UU church? - Page 2 - Mothering Forums

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Old 04-28-2004, 04:32 PM
 
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Originally Posted by pamamidwife
...After all, we're "not racist, right" (this gets my goat, because we're ALL racist and by saying you're not is ignoring what is really going on in our world!)...
Personally, I had heard that before but I really came to terms with the reality of it through my UU fellowship's Journey Towards Wholeness program. In my experience, it's been the UU I know who have been the least resistant to the idea tht "we are all racist". Which isn't to say all UUs are open to it, just to say that there is a lot of anti-racism work going on. And in spite of that, UUism remains predominately white, which is a problem.


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Originally Posted by pamamidwife
...I also don't like the fact that during the month of December my daughter, in RE, lights Hannukah candles. Either you teach people everything about the religion you are studying, or don't do the rituals! I'm offended that there's this simple act of "just lighting candles" that is taken from another religion without those from that religion leading the ritual!...
In one of my previous UU fellowships, we had a Jewish UU woman who lead my congregation's Seder's and a Jewish UU man who taught the lesson on Hannukah each year. I would imagine those traditions will continue on after they are gone. And I'm not sure that's wrong.

I guess my question is...who says you have "teach everything about a religion or don't do the rituals"? I'm no longer a practicing Catholic but I still stop by my local Catholic church occasionally to light candles in front of Mary and pray. Is that wrong? What if my son, who has never been a Catholic, did it? His son? What if a friend of his who has no Catholic ancestery at all goes with him one time to do, likes it and keeps doing it?

Then there is the issue of learning style. A lot of children can read and listen to lessons on other religions all the live-long-day and never absorb one word of it. But a hands-on ritual of some kind can be easily learned by that very same child. I think we do have an obligation to teach our children about the world's religions and can that be done simply by book/word? I don't know.

I'm not saying that all rituals are okay to "adopt" or perform. Not at all. But I wonder where the line is as it is often not a very clear line, in my opinion.
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Old 04-28-2004, 05:30 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Yes, there are ways of learning about other religions without performing their sacred rituals. I honestly believe this.

In my congregation, it's not that these rituals are led by those who practice them. No, they are led by people who ARE NOT Jewish, Buddhist, etc.

Either way, these are holy rituals and we should find our own within the church as a whole rather than use bits here and there of others. I find it amazing that this is so hard to grasp when there are women who can understand how calling a modern day mother blessing a "Blessingway" is offensive. C'mon, arent' we dealing with the same thing, only deeper because of the guise of "progressive" or "liberal" religion?
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Old 04-28-2004, 07:35 PM
 
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Originally Posted by pamamidwife
...Either way, these are holy rituals and we should find our own within the church as a whole rather than use bits here and there of others. I find it amazing that this is so hard to grasp when there are women who can understand how calling a modern day mother blessing a "Blessingway" is offensive. C'mon, arent' we dealing with the same thing, only deeper because of the guise of "progressive" or "liberal" religion?
I'm not sure we are. I stopped using the term "Blessingway" when I found out it was offensive to Native Americans. Is it offensive to Jewish people when non-Jews light Hannukah candles? Does context make a difference?

People from many different religious backgrounds are now Unitarian Universalists. Sometimes, they bring their rituals with them and pass them on to others (either directly or by teaching one person who goes onto teach another and so on.) I see that as the difference between what happens at UU fellowships and cultural appropriation. And maybe there is no difference, but I'm not convinced of that yet.
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Old 04-28-2004, 07:59 PM - Thread Starter
 
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So, I guess we have to find out from the Jewish Culture as a whole if the UUs lighting Hannukah candles are offensive? Or, we can just light Kwanzaa candles because we're "teaching the kids" about these religious practices?

I'm not sure that I'm getting what you're saying. You're saying that we, as UUs, simply because there are variances in congregational makeup, can pick and choose which religious rituals we want to use? Even if nobody from said religion is teaching them to us? Isn't that the same thing about the Blessingway issue?

Hot damn, mama, sounds like cultural appropriation to me.
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Old 04-28-2004, 10:16 PM
 
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Old 04-28-2004, 11:08 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Originally Posted by DaryLLL
"Everything?" Do you think a Jewish child is taught everything about Judaism before she lights Shabbos candles with her mom?

Does a Catholic child know everything about Catholicism beofre she receives communion?

Do you think the average Xtian or Hindu knows everything about theri family religion even tho she goes to worship every week?

When can one know everything?

Candles and fire, flowers, holy water of some kind, etc, are used in every religion. It gets across part of the mystery inherent in all.
I'm not talking about teaching your child your own cultural or religious traditions and rituals.

I must be way off here. OBviously, I have no idea what cultural appropriation means. Having a bunch of white kids light Hannukah candles around Christmas time (note: none of these kids are Jewish, nor are the people "teaching") I guess, according to those here, just is good old learning about other religions.

Ugh.
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Old 04-28-2004, 11:23 PM - Thread Starter
 
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From the 2001 General Assembly in Ohio, from this page:


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"When UUs pick and choose from these things, it trivializes their spiritual practices." She stressed that the context in which cultural symbols and practices are expressed is extremely meaningful. "The specificity [of their use] is so complete, that visiting Native Americans do not participate in another tribe's rituals, and to do so would be perceived as foolish. "I would not even practice the rituals of my own tribe, because I am not an elder or spiritual leader."

If this is true of her own people, then the use of these things by others who share no cultural context is seen not only as particularly foolish and inappropriate.
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He pointed to a common approach to Buddhism that many UUs have. Echoing one of the points made by Rev. Di Bona, he said, "They sort of pick and choose from among wildly unrelated pieces of Buddhism: a little from Tibetan, a little from Chinese, a little from here, a little from there." This was offensive and presumptuous, he said.

I'm not saying that you have to loathe the UU church for it's cultural appropriation. It's just that it's so dominant in this congregation simply, I feel, because we like to think of ourselves as "progressive" or "non-racist".

I know it's something that the UU GA has approached a few times. Yet, how do WE as progressives learn about other cultures and religion without taking from them? Isn't anything sacred anymore?

Perhaps because the majority of UUs ARE white and we ARE escaping - most of us - from a firm hand of traditional Christianity, that we feel we do not have any cultural traditions of our own. Is this it?

From another site:

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Though our sermon series found its footing in the words from our Principles and Purposes, engaging in religious traditions not our own can be awkward. In fact, in Unitarian Universalist circles, there has long been a debate about the “appreciation versus appropriation” issue. When does our nodding to another faith, embracing its traditions, and maybe even adapting some of its rituals into our own forms of worship move from honest “appreciation” to inappropriate cultural “appropriation” of another faith?

How do we liberal religionists both claim our own theological grounding, no matter our self-described labels of belief, while also remaining open to being changed by the beliefs and rituals of others?

And if we as individuals, or we as a congregation are changed, how do we integrate these new insights into our habits and customs without insulting or diminishing those cultures and customs from whence the inspiration came?

From this site:

Quote:
Since we as Unitarian Universalists seek to promote justice, equity, peace, and the inherent worth and dignity of every person, we must look at how the integration of rituals, symbols, and ideas of other traditions may be affecting those whose traditions are being "borrowed." It is important that we learn to differentiate between drawing from the wisdom and appropriating rituals, artifacts, and other elements of the spiritual traditions of other religions. In the words of an unknown author:
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Many Native American people, including highly respected religious elders, have condemned this practice as a theft of rituals and symbols from indigenous religions. They identify it as cultural exploitation that threatens the survival and well being of indigenous people. There are a number of questions that "borrowers" need to ask themselves:
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* How much do I know about this particular tradition; how do I respect it and not misrepresent it?

* What do I know of the history and experience of the people from whom I am borrowing?

* Is this borrowing distorting, watering down, or misinterpreting the tradition?

* Is the meaning changed?

* Is this overgeneralizing this culture (remind yourself that any culture can be quite diverse). When pieces of a culture are taken out of context, robbing them of power and meaning, problems arise.

* What is the motivation for cultural borrowing? What is being sought and why?

* How do the "owners" of the tradition feel about pieces of the tradition being borrowed?

* If artifacts and/or rituals are being sold, where does the money go?

* Is this really spiritually healthy for Unitarian Universalists? When we, as a religious tradition borrow rituals from other cultures, we lose the significant meaning they take on from the community in which they are based. We risk becoming impersonators.

* How can we acknowledge rather than exploit the contributions of all people?
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Old 04-28-2004, 11:29 PM
 
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Pam, your not off. A Jew teaching their child the Jewish faith isn't cultural appropriation. I have no idea why that example was posted??

As far as "others" teaching a group about a holiday as you posted, I don't think it's cultural appropriation if it's done in the spirit of sharing and not claiming as ours. It's one thing to say XYZ faith believes this and these are their holidays ect. It's another to say, hey We aren't Jewish but let's light Chanukah candles for 8 nights because it's cool and we like it.
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Old 04-28-2004, 11:44 PM
 
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I must be way off here.
Pam, I don't think so. I think you've hit the nail on the head.
I think that it is a certainty that cultural appropriation exists in the UU church. I guess what really matters is how the cultures from which the UUs have borrowed things feel about it. Do they feel ripped off? angry that their ideas have been misrepresented and misunderstood? or do they feel flattered that someone cares enough about it to borrow from them?
Maybe the answers to those questions don't really matter as much as whether the UU, in borrowing and appropriating from other faiths, are keeping these questions in mind when they do so.
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Old 04-29-2004, 12:05 AM
 
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Originally Posted by pamamidwife
So, I guess we have to find out from the Jewish Culture as a whole if the UUs lighting Hannukah candles are offensive? ...
I find it, I guess 'interesting' is the word, that you would mock my idea and then quote the very same idea back to me as a way of treating tradition with respect:

"How do the "owners" of the tradition feel about pieces of the tradition being borrowed? "

By the way, I agree with those question you listed. But I don't think the issue is as clear as saying "This is cultural appropriation" when the organization you're speaking of consists, in part, of members of that culture.
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Old 04-29-2004, 12:10 AM
 
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Originally Posted by Arduinna
...As far as "others" teaching a group about a holiday as you posted, I don't think it's cultural appropriation if it's done in the spirit of sharing and not claiming as ours. ...
and

Quote:
Originally Posted by stafl
...I guess what really matters is how the cultures from which the UUs have borrowed things feel about it. Do they feel ripped off? angry that their ideas have been misrepresented and misunderstood? or do they feel flattered that someone cares enough about it to borrow from them?
...
I think that's the answer. It's important that exploration of other cultures is done in a spirit of sharing and respect, but at the same time, that may not be enough. I think most women who threw "Blessingways" did so with the very best of intentions, but in that case, the intention was not enough. I think for it to work, you have to have both the good intentions plus the "permission" of the community you are borrowing from. I realize that's not always possible. But what's to stop someone from calling a local Rabbi or Monk to ask permission first? You may find out that it's not appropriate or you may find out that they are happy to share.
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Old 04-29-2004, 12:14 AM
 
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And then the question comes who has the authority to give permission?
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Old 04-29-2004, 12:19 AM
 
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Okay. I am getting frustrated here (not by any PERSON here, btw), because this is YET ANOTHER EXAMPLE of how the use of language royally screws things up for people.

Words are words. End of story. Nothing more, nothing less.

When I have a drum circle that seems identical to a Native American drum circle, does that make it wrong? What if I have a NA drum circle and I am part Cherokee (which I am, btw)? Is that embracing my roots? Appropriating a culture that's not totally my own? IMO, I don't give a hoot what something is called. I can call it whatever I want, because it is just a word. And a word that in NO WAY translates properly through our English language, anyhow.

And what about ppl that truly believe in a bit of everything? Where do you draw the line? "Well, candiland, since your grandmother was part Cherokee and part Jew, you can officially borrow traditions from those two cultures. However, it was your great-great-great grandmother who was a Muslim woman, and you are too far removed to practice that....... that would be cultural appropriation. And I'm not sure if you have enough Celtic blood in you to practice that particular form of Druidism........... so let's call that ritual you do 'habalabadingdong' instead of its proper name, so you are not stealing from their culture. Okay?" :
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Old 04-29-2004, 12:23 AM
 
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And then the question comes who has the authority to give permission?
Great question. And my great answer is, I don't know!

I think a good place to start would be with friends you have who are of that faith. Absent that, look up the group in your yellow pages or on the internet and put out queries. I think most people would not be offended by a polite question.
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