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October is our Stewardship Month.  Our goal is to hear from every household to build the operating budget for 2018. This year is our catch up year for meeting the guidelines of UUA Fair Compensation guidelines for staff.  Bring your pledge card to church, mail it in, or go online. Give generously. (To view compensation guidelines for a congregation like ours, Region II, Midsize III congregation, go to:  http://www.uua.org/sites/live-new.uua.org/files/salary_recs_17-18_geo_2_...)  

After viewing The Vietnam War by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick, many of my impressions are not yet formed in sentences, but I found the documentary an exquisite piece of history and storytelling. All the background music from this project I played as a DJ down at the radio station throughout the war years.  (Back then in Illinois, I remember how my friends and I awaited our numbers to be drawn in the first selective service lottery on 12/1/69.) I was stunned to watch documentary footage of decorated officers say that our nation was fighting on the wrong side.  I was surprised how unequivocally the filmmakers provided evidence that every U.S. President involved in some way with our nation's involvement in Vietnam, lied to the American people about significant aspects of the war, prompting poet Robert Bly, some years ago to say that this war was the first time America's sons were lied to, a betrayal that has taken several generations to heal or scar over.  If you're a veteran of any war, let's form a conversation group to meet in the church. Something good may come forth from our efforts here in remembering. Drop me a line.

No one frequently sings all the stanzas of the National Anthemand I can see why. Apart from the fact that the anthem is difficult to sing, the third stanza celebrates the deaths of the "hireling and slave," those who were promised freedom if they fought for the British in the Battle of 1812:  

". . . No refuge could save the hireling and slave, 

From the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave, 

And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave, O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave."  

Contrast Francis Scott Key's lyrics (bombs and war triumphalism) with that of Katharine Lee Bates: 

"Confirm thy soul in self-control, 

Thy liberty in law . . . O beautiful for heroes proved, 

In liberating strife, Who more than self their country loved, And mercy more than life."  

I would argue that America, The Beautiful has been part of the civil religion of our nation for a hundred years and already serves as a companion to The Star Spangled Banner. Symbols, unlike signs, point to meanings beyond the thing itself.  But a symbol is never the Sacred-Itself. The flag, the bible, the national anthem, while these may be held in high esteem and held with deep respect and feeling, are still symbols.  Thus, what constitutes idolatry in a nation is always a relevant question.  "Confirm thy soul in self-control, Thy liberty in law," offers a corrective to idolatry, exceptionalism, and hubris.