Rev. Ernie Mills’ Monthly Messages (June, 2018 to present)

From Rev. Ernie Mills – December 2018

UU’s and Eudemonia

 A silent revolution took place in ancient Greece during the time of Plato (500 C.E.) It was a revolution concerning human-kind and it goes by the name of “eudemonia”.  Eudemonia is based on the idea that the human being is capable of molding the Self from clear insight, knowledge and will.  According to eudemonia we humans are no longer the victims of predetermined fate nor are we under the control of external and natural powers.  We are free from the fear of the unknown, from the fear of demons and other dark mythical powers.

“Virtue is free”, Plato says in his dialogue the Republic, “and as a man honors or dishonors her he will have more or less of her; the responsibility is with the chooser–God is justified.” In other words we have ourselves to praise or blame for whatever happens in this life, not God.  We make the choices and the choices have consequences.  From the perspective of eudemonia we are no longer victims of circumstances over which we have no control.  We are free to choose.  Our destiny is in our hands.

Choice is a core principle in Unitarian Universalism. Yes, we do believe in sin but we don’t adhere to the belief that we are born sinners or that our natures are “corrupt from birth” (Calvin).  There is no place in Unitarian Universalism for words like “the devil made me do it.”  We traded Plato for Calvin. We believe in the inherent worth and dignity of every human.

We assume ethical responsibility for the choices we make and we make choice a fundamental value.  Our history is filled with heretics.   Why not, the word, heretic means “to choose.”

 

From Rev. Ernie Mills – November 2018

Free Thinkers

 “There are three kinds of people: those who think, those who think they think and those who would rather die than think.”  I have no idea who said this, but it speaks volumes.  However, I would add a fourth category: those who freely think or the “free thinkers.”  The free thinkers not only think but they think outside the box and they typically question everything, even the question.  It’s important to remind ourselves that the word ‘question’ begins with “quest”.  Free thinkers are always on the quest to know or to deepen their knowledge – be it of the head or the heart.

Unitarian Universalists have been, and typically are free thinkers.  At least two of the readings in our Singing the Living Tradition hymnal give expression to the idea of free thinking. Reading number 592 by William Ellery Channing, The Free Mind, is perhaps the most explicit rendition.  Reading 591, “I Call that Church Free,” by Luther Adams, runs a close second.  There are others.  Freedom is important to us, it’s one of our prime values and principles.  We believe that freedom is the basis of any and all spiritual life.

One of the sources “we draw from” warns us against “idolatries of the mind.”  I understand this to mean the mind’s tendency to lock itself in some dogmatic absolute.  I call that the “static mind.” The French call it “idée fixe,” the fixed idea that will not or cannot be moved.

We are encouraged to free think and not just recycle old ideas through our heads and out of our mouths.  I suppose that why we UU’s enjoy a good debate and why we don’t just let old ideas and concepts such as worship, ritual, prayer, sermon, church, etc., etc. just lie there.  We stir them up, we think about them, question them. This is what free thinkers do. This is who we are.

 

From Rev. Ernie Mills – October 2018

Travelling in the World’s Religion

Travel, according to Mark Twain, “… is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.” We can learn a great deal about ourselves when we travel. The lessons learned may not always be in the negative. We can also learn what is unique about our own culture based on first-hand experience of other cultures.

There are more ways than one to travel. For instance, there is “mental” travel, as we learn about other cultures through reading about them. We can also explore other cultures through films, documentaries, and other forms of media.

When it comes to religion, we can learn a lot about our particular faith tradition by exploring the world’s religions. Unitarian Universalists are not afraid to travel in this fascinating world. In fact, we encourage it.

In our hymnal we find, “The Living Tradition We Share From Draws From Many Sources.” At the close of the list of sources, we find this statement: “Grateful for the religious pluralism which enriches and ennobles our faith, we are inspired to deepen our understanding and expand our vision.”

This is one of the most radical and revolutionary statements found in our hymnal. Not only do we respects other faith traditions, but we take it a step further and we are grateful for such pluralism and understand how it enriches and ennobles our own faith. This is something to celebrate — something, I believe Mark Twain would have fully embraced.

 

From Rev. Ernie Mills – September 2018

Unitarian Universalism has evolved into a big umbrella that is inclusive of all faiths and yes, even non-faith. Somewhere along the way, and not that long ago, Unitarian Universalism opened its doors to those from all religious faiths and even those who professed to be agnostic or even atheist.

How can this be? How can Unitarian Universalism be so inclusive and open? What is the common ground that all UUs stand upon under that huge umbrella? It can be summed up in one word, “freedom”. We believe that freedom is the foundation of the spiritual life; whether by “spirit” we mean the “holy” or the human. Our fourth principle says that we “…covenant to affirm and promote a free and responsible search for truth and meaning.”

What is more important than where the search for truth and meaning may eventually lead us is the question of how we got there. The “how” must be grounded in the freedom to choose. If we are not free to say “no” to something then our “yes” is not free either.

Unitarian Universalists come from a long line of heretics. The word, “heretic” comes from a word meaning “to choose”. This is who we are. This is the “faith” we stand by — a faith in ourselves and in one another.

 

From Rev. Ernie Mills – August 2018

UU’s and Controversy

When I was becoming a fully-fellowshipped UU minster I was assigned to read at least three books on UU history.  The first book I read was a history of controversies, some of which shook the movement to its core.  Each chapter’s title began with the words, “The Controversy of….”.  By the time I finished reading that book I had had it up to here with controversy.

Controversy is like conflict, no one welcomes it.  It took me a while to realize that controversy, like conflict, is not a bad thing.  In fact it is healthy to our spiritual growth. It’s a way of “turning over” things again and again, sorting them out, redefining and learning new ways of thinking of old habits and ideas.  It forces us to examine our beliefs.  Controversy can open the door to wonder. We are not doing ourselves a favor if we avoid controversy or lock ourselves in silos with like-minded people.

The word, controversy comes from Latin word meaning “to turn”.  A controversy is defined as a “pubic dispute between sides holding opposing views”.  Through controversy we “turn” ideas and beliefs over and over again.

As UUs we realize that we don’t all think alike, but we can love alike.  We not only encourage, but invite, controversy.

 

From Rev. Ernie Mills – July 2018

The Gospel of Margaret Mead

The word, gospel means “good news”.  And there is a lot of good news in the readings found in our Singing the Living Tradition” hymnal.  One of my favorites is from the Gospel according to Margaret Mead.  (561)

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world, indeed it’s the only thing that ever has”.

TBUUF may be a small group of people but I would certainly never doubt that it has brought positive change to the world of Polk County.  I would find it hard to believe that the production of “Best of Enemies” did not influence in some small or great way those who attended.  You all raised over $850 for the Feed-a-Kid program.  I’m sure this donation made an impact on the community.  These are just two recent examples of what TBUUF has done in the community.

We may see these a small things yet that is how great change most often happens.  We should never think that just because we are a small group of people that we cannot have an impact on the world around us.  Carl Jung once said “a thousand zeros equals zero”.  In this culture of bigness we sometimes get snared by the illusion of numbers. We prize the mega-church, the mega-this and the mega-that, forgetting that numbers alone mean very little when it comes to major changes in our world. It’s about quality not quantity.

Let’s “never forget” to “never doubt” Margaret Mead’s good news.

 

From Minister Ernie Mills, June 2018

 The Creative Human Spirit

Where did pianos come from? Where did words come from? Where did science come from?  These things did not just fall out of heaven – and it’s a good thing considering the weight of a piano.   While the “many folk” believe that pianos, words and science are gifts of god or the gods I believe they were and are creations of the human spirit.  Such gifts were not received but are the products of spontaneous creations of human beings like you and me.

Of course not all human creations are as wonderful as the piano.  Humans have also created weapons of mass destruction. Joseph Campbell once said that every advance in culture has its dark side.  We see this with plastics. Once hailed as a great human invention plastics are now inundating our planet. But nevertheless human creativity is the foundation of culture and our future depends on it.  My hope is that the creative spirit will discover ways that will help us preserve our planet and prevent a nuclear holocaust.  Dark times, like these, often become the seedbeds for radical creativity.

I believe in the human, creative spirit. And I believe that it can come from anywhere, including Polk county and TBUUF.