Thursday, August 28, 2014

The Labyrinth: A Place for Reflection, a Space for the Spirit

If you have been to our church, you have probably noticed a circular path on the northeast corner of the property; it has a painted sign and is surrounded by large and colorful flora. This is our labyrinth, and we welcome anyone who needs a quiet moment to walk through it. 

The labyrinth is a work in progress that began in the Fall of 2011, but really, it began in 2001. Carolyn Nieland, a long-time UU, was going through turbulent emotional times, when a friend suggest she retreat to a camp dedicated to earth-centered spirituality. Carolyn calls this retreat her odyssey. She says it changed her life; it put her on a new path and dedicated her to using her skills for the benefit of her community. Around the time of her return, the same friend was building a labyrinth, and Carolyn offered her time as an assistant on the project. It was her first experience with a labyrinth, and she fell in love. 

Carolyn used this 9 circuit design as inspiration.
The snake's body represents the path.
Carolyn obtained her degree in art education, and has worked with all kinds of media: fiber arts, pottery, and photography mainly, but also gardening and the 2001 labyrinth. Since then, she’s quit using cameras and sewing machines, and prefers not to use a computer, but her interest in nature has remained unchanged. To user her own words, she’s “like those old UUs, who was it? Thoreau? I am worshipping when I am in nature. Now, when you sit on that bench, in the shade behind the labyrinth, it’s sort of a temple.” For Carolyn, the labyrinth was a spiritual artwork; each circuit has a meaning, motivated by her interest in the feminine divine and earth-based spirituality. The outer three circuits represent outward reality—the world as it is—the inner three represent our inner emotional world, and the middle path represents the spiritual space between them—our jumbled interactions. The number three has powerful meaning for many religions, and the circuits may mean different things to different people who walk the path. Some might see the outer path as the human world, the inner as the spirit realm, and the middle as the veil between them. Or, perhaps each track means nothing, but the act of meandering through them allows the traveler space to meditate or process complex emotions. For many in our fellowship and the surrounding community, the labyrinth is a place of healing and spiritual renewal. 

At the dedication ceremony in 2012, most of the plants are still in pots!
Photo courtesy of Ray Perez
Tom laying bricks in 2014; look how the plants have grown!
Surrounding the labyrinth is a colorful array of Valley wildlife: esperanza, Turk’s cap, purple porter weed, dwarf Poinciana, and many different herbs including lemon grass, Cuban oregano, and rosemary. There is even a pomegranate tree! Carolyn said that, as an artist, she tried to put colors and heights together in an aesthetically pleasing manner, and as an earth-centered person she was influenced by Native Americans and the cardinal directions, the wheel of the Earth, and her roots in rural Nebraska, but, “It’s really for the birds and butterflies. I don’t speak Spanish, so it’s hard for me to advocate well for those in need in this area. But, I’m determined to help our feathered migrants.” She would like to expand the gardens and add a water feature, so the space can be a sanctuary for people, birds, and butterflies alike.

When asked about why she built it, Carolyn explained that participation in a community involves your time, talent, or treasure. In her words, “I wanted to do what I could with what I had—with who I am.” The labyrinth was intended as an educational and outreach tool. Unitarian Universalists affirm many different ideas of spirituality, and a labyrinth is welcoming to all of them. Her greatest pride in her work, what she calls the “nicest success,” is the ever-increasing community involvement. While working on the labyrinth, Carolyn formed lasting friendships with two women who live nearby, and they often tell her when they see people walking the labyrinth during the week. When she talks about how many people are involved, Carolyn’s usual smile gets even wider and pride beams from her face. There is a woman from the neighborhood who pulls weeds and waters the plants during the week, neighbors have contributed bricks to outline the path (the latest are from a toppled mailbox), one neighbor donated a hibiscus, and quite a few fellowship members have donated plants, time, and labor to keep the garden growing. And we cannot forget Carolyn’s husband Tom, who has supported her vision from the beginning and, in Carolyn’s words, “has been stalwart in this whole thing.” He can usually be seen doing upkeep or digging holes for new plants. 

Native American style labyrinth
in Arizona
Chartres labyrinth in France
Labyrinths are an ancient and can be found all over the world. Their exact origins are unknown. What is clear is that we humans have been fascinated with these intricate walkways for longer than we can imagine. Over the centuries, labyrinths have evolved in style and use. We often think of the Greek labyrinth which imprisoned the Minotaur as a frightening maze, but during the middle ages, labyrinths were featured in tile inside many Catholic churches, the most famous of these is the labyrinth at Chartres Cathedral in France, which was walked as a pilgrimage, or traveled on the knees as penance and is still used by visitors to this day. Landed aristocracy in Europe would often build elaborate hedge-mazes, but some labyrinths are modeled after Native-American symbols and designs. They are used all over the world by all kinds of people for all different reasons. Children might run through a labyrinth, while adults tend to take a meditative or prayerful pace. Some people keep their eyes on the path, while others prefer to take in the sky. Whatever your reason, we invite you to stop by and walk our labyrinth. Whether you are young, old, a friend, or a stranger, feel free to step into this peaceful space at any time.

Carolyn and Tom Nieland at the dedication in 2012. Our labyrinth is part of the Gover Memorial Garden,
dedicated to a member of our fellowship who passed away, and to all the loved ones we've lost.
Photo courtesy of Ray Perez

 If you are interested in learning more about our labyrinth, or scheduling a group walk-and-talk, contact us at or

Friday, August 15, 2014

Introduction to the Eightfold Path

This sermon was given by Rachel Trenfield on 10 August, 2014: the first in a series on the Eightfold Path. 

I’m sure most of you have no idea that I suffer from anxiety disorder. Anxiety used to paralyze me with fear. My mind would go 100 miles an hour with “what if” thoughts. What if I die? What will happen to the kids? What if I lose my job? What if I can’t pay bills? What if I crash? What if the kids hurt themselves? What if they hurt others? What if. What if. What if.
The fear and anxiety was so great that I could barely leave my home sometimes. I lost jobs because of it. I missed a lot of work because I couldn’t overcome the fear, and when I did go to work, it was a task just hiding my anxiety from others, so in the end, I got more anxious. What if I faint? Then they’ll find out. Then they’ll make fun of me. Then. Then. Then. Then, the anxious tremors would begin, and I’d have to go hide out in the bathroom until the Xanax kicked in.
Like me, most people squander their attention on the anxiety, on the worry, and on the fear in their lives. It’s a rollercoaster. In the words of the poet John Prine “You’re up one day, the next you’re down. It’s a half an inch of water and you think you’re going to drown.”
Buddhism teaches that life is suffering, and that there is a way to end the suffering. In your life, you will have pain, but you don’t have to cause yourself extra pain. The eightfold path, with its eight elements, is the way to train yourself morally, mentally and emotionally, to be free from suffering from the thoughts you have about the what ifs.
Not long before the Buddha  achieved his insights and attained enlightenment, he realized that the true way to happiness was to avoid the extremes of life, to follow a moderate a way of life. Those who follow this way, avoid the extremes of indulgence and denial. They do not seek endless pleasures, and they do not torment themselves with pain, lacking and self-torment.  He called this way of living the Middle Path. The Middle Path leads to the end of suffering.
The central teachings of Buddhism can be found in the Four Noble Truths. The first teaching the Buddha ever did was to five student monks in a deer park. The Buddha spoke of the Four Noble Truths he had discovered while struggling for enlightenment. It was the Buddha's first awareness that life brings with it illness, age, miser, and death that led him to search for a deeper understanding of how we live, and ways to end suffering. These noble truths are: 
  1. The truth of suffering (dukkha)
  2. The truth of the cause of suffering (samudaya)
  3. The truth of the end of suffering (nirhodha)
  4. The truth of the path that frees us from suffering (magga)
Within the fourth noble truth, you will find the Eightfold path. The Eightfold Path is not like eight steps, or little boxes you check off one by one as you accomplish each. It is a path of eight elements interwoven, braided together, having to do with understanding, practice and behavior that Buddhism says will take you on a journey away from suffering and toward freedom.
A couple of weeks ago, during joys and concerns, I mentioned that I was agitated, and I asked for help with this. I had been so worried about so many things, mostly my business. I was dwelling on the worries, and then, I found myself becoming anxious again: the mild heart palpitations, the pressure on my upper chest, mind dizziness, and of course, agitation. So, even though I function well, my anxiety now manifests itself with mostly agitation. So, when I was asking for help with my agitation, I was really saying, help me. pray for me, send positive vibes because I am a wreck, and I’m losing control.
I took the following week off. After resting for a week, when I went back to work, I was still agitated. Then, the morning I went back, my niece, who works for me, was fretting over some student loan issues, and when she got off the phone, I told her, “go light a candle. Let it go.” (I have a chalice in my office). Then, it hit me. Let it go. So I lit a candle and said, help me let it go. That’s what I wasn’t doing. I wasn’t letting go. I was holding on to suffering. By suffering, I mean not only material things like mortgages and leases and payroll, but mental things. Embarrassment of not paying a bill if that insurance back pay doesn’t come in on time. What ifs….
I should have lit that candle and let it go. Those of us that were once catholic might understand this. You light a candle for a saint, and ask that he or she pray for you. You leave it to faith that it will work itself out. As a UU, I should know this, tell everyone your concern, light a candle, and let it go.
These are the elements of the eightfold path:
right understanding,
right intention,
right speech,
right action,
right livelihood,
right effort,
right mindfulness,
and right concentration.
Today, we will focus on the first element, right understanding.
I should tell you this in the interest of intellectual honesty, the rest of my talk will be heavily based on a sermon given by Meg Barnhouse of Austin's First UU on January 27th of last year. So heavily based on her sermon my talk will be, that you professors here would mark me with a red P for plagiarizer. Most of what I'll say is mine, but citing her would become so cumbersome that the message could be lost. 
I don’t know how many of you have seen the classic, turn of the century, Buddhist movie “The Matrix.” In it, Keanu Reeves plays a young computer hacker named Neo who wakes up to the reality of the Matrix, a vast virtual reality grid that feeds off of human energy. Humans are kept asleep in embryonic eggs while a virtual life is played in their brain. The first message Neo gets from the deeper reality is: “Wake up, Neo!” In the movie, once Neo woke up to the fact that the reality of the Matrix was an illusion, he grew capable of grasping that the bullets coming at him weren’t real, and he was able to move around among them. He was able to move around in the pseudo reality of the Matrix, aware of it as an illusion, more and more aware of the deeper reality.
The first component of the path is “Right Understanding.” “Getting it” is the first and continuing job of the person on this path. You get, “wake up, Neo,” messages. You catch a glimpse of the truth of how things work. You have a glimmer of a sense that many people create their own suffering, that disquietude lurks at the corners of most lives, that grief, hope, fear, hunger for security or pleasure or acceptance drive people to do what they do and that satisfaction is elusive. A deeper reality crooks its finger at you and whispers in Laurence Fishburn’s voice: “Wake up. There must be satisfaction somewhere, let’s go look for it. ”
Right understanding involves seeing how things are. Getting it. You understand that you suffer because you have attachments to how things should go. You crave, you cling, you hope, you fear. You have hopes that an interview will go well. You are anxious about it. You worry afterward about whether they liked you. If you get the job you worry about doing it well. If you don’t get the job you wonder why they didn’t like you. You have ideas about how it should go. You have interpretations of how it went, ideas from your interpretations, and you suffer over those.
In your thoughts is a way you wish things would go. You have fears about how things could be. All of these things, hopes and fears, cause you suffering. When you are anxious about these things you miss a lot of your life: seeing your other friends, you can barely hear what people are saying to you, you don’t enjoy your food, sleep, sex, beauty, things seem garbled and dim. You are suffering. How could that stop?
Wake up. Get that if you calm and focus your mind you can see reality more clearly. Get that what happens happens. There are certain things you can do to make the interview go well, and you do them. Or not. Then it happens. You get the job. Or not. You can interpret it any way you want to. They didn’t like you? Maybe. Maybe they had someone else who was a better fit. Maybe this is not your job; maybe yours is coming. If the job wouldn’t have been a good fit for you, you would have been miserable in it. Is that what you wanted? We need to be unattached to outcomes. We need to do what we do and leave what happens then to the Spirit or the Universe.
So, am I asking you not to care? If caring means you suffer and your suffering adds no good to the situation, do you want to keep doing that? Can you care in a way that holds the outcome lightly? Can you care in a way that understands that your loved ones have to find their own way, make their mistakes, feel your support but not your direction.
Buddhist practice is the foundation of this possibility. Meditation, spending time in quiet with your breathing allows you to see more clearly, gives you spaces between your moments in which to understand what part of this is pain that exists and what part is suffering you are bringing on yourself and can stop if you practice. Some spiritual paths attempt to give meaning to suffering – this one says it can be avoided, eventually, with practice and understanding. Wisdom will be cultivated and ignorance will be shed like an outgrown snake skin.
In meditation we have the chance of seeing the story we are telling ourselves about our life. You can notice the thoughts you are having about what is happening in your life. There are a hundred different stories, and seeing your story is part of getting it. Another part of Right Understanding, of waking up, is understanding the law of Karma. Its literal name is “right view of the ownership of action” The Buddhist teachers say: “Beings are the owners of their actions, the heirs of their actions; they spring from their actions, are bound to their actions, and are supported by their actions. Whatever deeds they do, good or bad, of those they shall be heirs.” The Buddhist scriptures, like the Christian scriptures, talk about results of actions as “fruits,” All actions bear a kind of fruit (Ud 9:8).is stated in the  Udanavarga.  “Ye shall know them by their Fruits,” the New Testament states. If our lives are like a river, it’s as if we are all living downstream from our actions, and the dirty or clean water that runs because of those actions catches us later. Good actions are morally commendable, helpful to the growth of the spirit, and productive of benefits for yourself and others. Unwholesome actions, to use a more Buddhist word than “bad,” ripen into suffering.
Getting it means that you see that suffering occurs from craving, desire and attachment, that the way to end suffering is to end craving and attachment, that the way to end craving is to attend to the eightfold path of right wisdom and right behavior. To own your actions, your part in any situation, to let go of blaming and clean up what you are putting into the water upstream from where you live.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Musings on the Current Central American Refugee Crisis

This sermon was given on 3 August, 2014, by Emily P.

First Reading:

When you understand, you cannot help but love. You cannot get angry. To develop understanding, you have to practice looking at all living beings with the eyes of compassion. When you understand, you cannot help but love. And when you love, you naturally act in a way that can relieve the suffering of people.
-Thich Nhat Hanh: Peace is Every Step

Second Reading:

by 9 year old Alejandra Gomez Montejo 

My wish People are lost. People should not hit or hurt anyone. Those with power hurt those without power. It happens. I hit you, you hit me we hit others. That is the circle of violence. Humans need food, shelter, water, air, space, safety, love, courage, hope, beliefs and to belong. Without rights we become lost. People are lost. But if we can help then maybe no one will be lost. People are mean, they treat others bad. People kill also. But if everyone got together and fought for what they need our world would be peaceful. But things also happen for a reason. Maybe some people don’t understand each other, so maybe this is pushing us to find ourselves together. My wish is for all people to be found.

Sermon: Musings on the Current Central American Refugee Crisis:

Initially, I thought ok, this sermon needs to cover all of the roots of migration from Central America to the United States. Then I’ll have to discuss neoliberalism, military intervention, free trade agreements, the notion of the right to migrate, or what is a refugee versus an immigrant. Oh, and then I will need to break down all of the types of legal relief that people can qualify for. Obviously, I can't talk about all of that in 20 minutes. I talked with my dad and he helped me focus. He asked, “Emily, why do you care about the refugee crisis and why do you think other people react differently? Why is it divisive?” He then suggested this book The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion by Jonathan Haidt. Haidt writes about Moral Psychology, which honestly, I didn't think would have much to do with a refugee crisis. But then again, I have had this naive frustration that this issue should be simple--here we have kids who are vulnerable and need protection. How could the US refuse to care for them? How can vigilantes talk about coming down to secure the border? What are you going to do? Point a gun at a child? Granted, there are adults who are "entering illegally" and that people seem to have less sympathy for adults, even if they have been traumatized. After seeing a sign from a protest "Not our kids, not our problem," I began to realize that compassion only goes so far--- for some people these kids aren't included in "our" group--that it isn't the US' job to care for kids.
Haidt's book actually does a good job of explaining why I, as a liberal, would think it is logical to have empathy for these kids. Haidt, along with other social and cultural psychologists, has developed a Moral Foundations Theory which breaks down the different aspects of moralities across cultures. The six main foundations are: care/harm, fairness/cheating, loyalty/betrayal, authority/subversion, sanctity/degradation, and liberty/oppression. Haidt argues that these 6 foundations (and there could be more) are innate and are part of human nature. When he says "innate" he doesn't mean unchanging, but rather an initial draft that is organized in advance of experience.
Conservatives tend to draw from all six in forming their moralities, whereas liberals tend to depend heavily on Care/harm and liberty/oppression foundations and to a lesser extent fairness/cheating. Haidt writes that (care/harm & liberty/oppression) "these two foundations support ideals of social justice, which emphasize compassion for the poor and a struggle for political equality among the subgroups that comprise society. Social justice movements emphasize solidarity--they call for people to come together to fight the oppression of bullying, domineering elites (Haidt, 181). In regards to the liberty/oppression foundation, both conservatives and liberals alike hate oppression. Liberals tend to support so-called powerless groups, victims, etc. while conservatives are usually more concerned about the groups they belong to instead of all of humanity (175). Envision for a moment, how a conservative American would apply these two foundations to the refugee crisis differently than a liberal. I'm in no way saying that conservatives are heartless, but that people take different approaches. For a conservative, does taking care of the refugee kids impinge on personal liberties? Have you heard in the news about people worrying that the shelters for kids, operated by the Federal government, via the Office of Refugee Resettlement, will increase crime in their neighborhoods, use their tax dollars, overwhelm schools, and decrease property values?
Moving on to cheating/fairness, fairness refers more to proportionality than to equality. It relates to conceptions of justice, autonomy, and rights. Conservatives, according to Haidt's research, "think it is self-evident that responses to a crime should be based on proportionality" but liberals don't like the retribution aspect because it results in harm (183). An example of this would be an expectation that an adult who enters the US without proper documentation should be detained like a criminal, regardless of their reasons. A liberal, would probably be critical of borders and perhaps nationstates, but mainly critical of the idea that someone who is likely fleeing persecution should be detained and deported. Hypothetically, Border Patrol is supposed to ask Mexicans they apprehend whether they are afraid to return and why. If there are flags, BP should call USCIS so that the detainee can have an interview with an asylum office. Unfortunately, that rarely happens and there have been multiple instances of people being killed right after they are dropped off in Mexico. (in 2013, 18,754 mexican kids were apprehended, according to the UNHCR Children on The Run Report, but very few of them made it to ORR shelters).
In terms of loyalty/betrayal, authority/subversion, and sanctity/degradation, liberals are pretty ambivalent but social conservatives adhere to them. Haidt says that "the left tends towards universalism and away from nationalism," which can make it hard to connect with patriotic Americans. I think it is very wise for progressive protesters in the US to use US flags, because it probably increases the validity of the protest for some, or it offends…What in terms of loyalty/betrayal could be applied to the refugee crisis? I've seen a few political cartoons with Lady Liberty "give me your poor, tired, huddled masses, *some restrictions may apply" and another with a wave representing "illegals" or a surge and her swearing. Are we loyal to that symbol or what it depicts America to be? Is it too simplistic for me to ask that we expand our loyalty to a bigger group?
The authority/subversion foundation "was shaped by our long primate history of hierarchical social interactions. It underlies virtues of leadership and followership, including deference to legitimate authority and respect for traditions" ( Part of the reason the so-called surge might bother conservatives is that authority goes hand-in-hand with order and preventing chaos and right now, the surge is 'overwhelming' resources and political leaders (if we imagine them as authority figures) aren't doing too good of a job at maintaining their control of a situation. Gov. Rick Perry and Sean Hannity posed on a boat mounted with machine guns, on July 10th. Latest news is that Gov. Perry is deploying up to 1000 National Guard troops along the Texas border with Mexico. That will cost $12 million a month. Courtesy of foxnews ""Gov. Perry has referred repeatedly to his desire to make a symbolic statement to the people of Central America that the border is closed," said White House spokesman Josh Earnest. "And he thinks that the best way to do that is to send 1,000 National Guard troops to the border. It seems to me that a much more powerful symbol would be the bipartisan passage of legislation that would actually make a historic investment in border security and send an additional 20,000 personnel to the border." A statement like this is probably comforting to conservatives because it establishes who is in control and who is subordinate; the migrants need to respect the laws and the law enforcement.
Sanctity/degradation arises from fears of contamination and is seen in religion as the body is a temple or that certain habits are unclean or sinful. Haidt mentioned that "cultures differ in their attitudes towards immigrants, and there is some evidence that liberal and welcoming attitudes are more common in times and places where disease risks are lower" (149). Central American kids have a better immunization record than Texan kids, but I still see the rhetoric, especially on foxnews, that refugee kids will bring diseases. Rachel Pearson explained in the Texas Observer that such threats are overstated. She wrote: "Dr. Elizabeth Lee Vliet, a Fox News commentator and former director of the ultra-conservative political group Association of American Physicians and Surgeons, writes in the McAllen Monitor that measles is among the “diseases the United States had controlled or virtually eradicated” that are “carried across the border by this tsunami of illegals.” Fact check: UNICEF reports that 93 percent of kids in Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador are vaccinated against measles. That’s better than American kids (92 percent)." And that Texas kids are uninsured, so their parents be more likely to have to pay out of pocket for vaccines, whereas vaccines in Guatemala are 100% government funded.
My mom told my grandma, "oh, Emily, she's just filled with righteous indignation." I figure, that's pretty accurate, but I had never thought that morals had that much personal influence; perhaps I felt the word had been corrupted by religious conservatives or the so-called moral majority. How does one convince another person of the hatefulness or utter stupidity of their ideas? The other weekend, if I had gone up to one of the "Secure our borders" protesters alongside the interfaith vigil and told her that she was heartless and made me ashamed of America, I wouldn't have changed her mind. We likely operate with very different approaches to moral foundations. Haidt states that "if you really want to change someone's mind on a moral or political matter, you'll need to see things from that person's angle as well as your own. And if you do truly see it the other person's way--deeply and intuitively--you might even find your own mind opening in response. Empathy is an antidote to righteousness, although it's very difficult to empathize across a moral divide" (49).
Haidt said that liberals have difficulty understanding why conservatives think the way they do. "We supported liberal policies because we saw the world clearly and wanted to help people, but they supported conservative policies out of pure self-interest (lower my taxes!) or thinly veiled racism (stop funding welfare programs for minorities!). We never considered the possibility that there were alternative moral worlds in which reducing harm (by helping victims) and increasing fairness (by pursuing group-based equality) were not the main goals. And if we could not imagine other moralities, then we could not believe that conservatives were as sincere in their moral beliefs as we were in ours" (Haidt, 108). If I try to imagine what anti-immigrant protesters are feeling, I'd guess that there is fear involved. That these refugees will strain US resources and that even if there is an initial activation of the care/harm foundation (oh, look at those poor kids, they must have been leaving from something awful), it is outweighed by the long term costs. I don't blame anyone for saying it, but I've heard the refrain a few times "my heart just goes out to those kids, but there are too many, the US can't be expected to care for them."
Differing moralities aside, why is it that the "facts" aren't persuasive? If laws and structure is so important to some conservatives (or respecting authority, as long as it isn't the federal government), why don't statistics regarding a child's qualification for legal relief sway people? A couple weeks ago, RAICES (Refugee and ImmigrantCenter for Education and Legal Services) wrote to President Obama and House and Senate Leaders stating that "We have carefully peer-reviewed the intakes of 925 children so far, and our assessment is that 63 percent of these 925 children are likely to be found eligible for relief by a U.S. Immigration Judge. In RAICES’ twenty years of experiences, the cases that our staff screens and determines to be eligible for relief ultimately have a success rate of 98 percent in proceedings before immigration judges."  Haidt argues that humans are intuitive, and not rational. We come up with explanations justifying our intuitions afterwards--reasoning is self-serving.
That letter by RAICES was sent in the moment Congress was trying to figure out whether to modify a section of TVPRA (William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act). Currently, "Under the TVPRA, DHS screens Mexican children within 48 hours of apprehension to determine if the child is a victim of trafficking or has a claim to asylum based on fear of persecution. If the child does not meet that criteria, they are eligible to agree to a voluntary return and speedy repatriation to Mexico. On the other hand, UAC from non-contiguous countries must be transferred to ORR within 72 hours of apprehension and are guaranteed an immigration court hearing." (bipartison policy center). Recently, some members of congress have wanted all UACs to be treated as if they were from contiguous countries, including Texas' own Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) and Representative Henry Cuellar (D-TX) –they've been promoting it as the Humane Act, most ironically in my view. According to the NYtimes, the House was able to  "One measure, which passed the House on Friday night in a 223-to-189 vote, would provide $694 million in emergency funds to address the border crisis, expedite the deportation of Central American children and bolster the National Guard’s presence at the Mexican border." (The Republican bill also engendered harsh criticism from Hispanic members of Congress who called it cruel to migrant children. That is a sentiment Democrats will try to stoke in the midterm elections, though few Republicans considered vulnerable come from districts with sizable Hispanic populations. The issue could be more potent in the 2016 presidential campaign.“Unfortunately, the way they speak about our community, it’s almost as though the children — we are a vile, repugnant community to them that they vilify and demonize in every one of their statements,” said Representative Luis V. GutiĆ©rrez, Democrat of Illinois.")
Why does it matter to us/why relevant? Bishop Eusebio Elizondo wrote in the Washington Post Friday that "we cannot allow vulnerable children and families, many of whom are facing horrors that most Americans cannot imagine, to be the victims of forces far beyond their control. When Congress returns in September, let us hope that it agrees and adopts a humane approach to addressing this crisis. The world is watching and will take note of what we do. Our moral authority is at stake. If we sacrifice these children for political expediency, we may end up sacrificing our soul." *Smart, because Bishop Elizondo appealed to how Americans are perceived; Haidt thinks that people are incredibly concerned about our reputations-how people perceive us, even more so than actual reality and that a lot of this concern is unconscious (74, 91). The US has had a bad rep for, oh, its entire history as a nation, for how it treats outsiders, so I'm not entirely convinced that this statement will convince everyone. I do appreciate his appeal to the care/harm foundation and liberty/oppression--"victims of forces far beyond their control." I bet liberals would be persuaded or shamed by this statement, but I'm not convinced all conservatives would be, though the connection with religion, or at least souls might have an impact.
Relevant to us because we have our reputations to protect; we want to be standing on the side of love and justice in history. I have the impression that it is easier for religious orgs, perhaps than individuals, to be persuaded that deportations are not the answer. Humans, as I understand it from Haight, are incredibly groupish. With exceptions, if our group believes something, then we will too. It also helps for conservatives if their religious authority figure believes a certain way. And if UUs use the 7 principles as a guide for how to behave, or appear to behave, then the refugee crisis, or really, any humanitarian crisis would pull at our heartstrings and influence us to act.
1.      1st Principle: The inherent worth and dignity of every person; (care/harm)
2.      2nd Principle: Justice, equity and compassion in human relations; (care/harm, cheating/fairness, liberty/oppression)
3.      3rd Principle: Acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations;
4.      4th Principle: A free and responsible search for truth and meaning; (liberty/oppression)
5.      5th Principle: The right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large; (liberty/oppression)
6.      6th Principle: The goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all; (liberty/oppression, care/harm)
7.      7th Principle: Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part. (care/harm, possibly sanctity/degradation)

"We humans have an extraordinary ability to care about things beyond ourselves, to circle around those things with other people, and in the process to bind ourselves into teams that can pursue larger projects" (273). After listening to this, I hope to hear your ideas on how you could utilize the 6 foundations to appeal to the moralities of conservatives in terms of the refugees so that this isn't such a divisive issue.

Emily provided this list of references: