Reflections on the Jewel Net

It's Spring Festival! Happy New Year!

Every late Jan/early Feb when the New Year of my ancestors comes along I face a mini-dilemma - what to call it?  I agree with folks who argue that calling it “Chinese New Year” is Sinocentric and ignores the millions of Vietnamese and Koreans who also celebrate this day. But calling it “Lunar New Year” presents its own problems as there are other lunar calendars - the Jewish one comes quickly to mind. Plus the Chinese calendar is luni-solar, not purely lunar. (Yes, I am a geek.) Then I think, well it IS Chinese New Year. The reason why it’s celebrated in Vietnam and Korea is because of Chinese imperialism. And then I think, well… maybe we don’t want to remind folks of that.

The other problem is that every time I call it “Chinese New Year,” or even “Lunar New Year,” it reminds me that I’m putting a qualifier on it, reinforcing that the day that comes about a dozen days after the winter solstice is thenormative New Year and any other is an add on that some people celebrate to be “ethnic.” Still, I just kept alternating between “Chinese New Year” and “Lunar New Year” because what else could I call it?

Was sharing some of these thoughts on facebook when someone made a very obvious (in retrospect, and yet I never thought of it despite all my ruminizing) suggestion - call it what it’s called in Chinese - Spring Festival. And, she added, “that would make it more ethnically neutral as well.” YES!! Makes sense to me! After all, Jews do not call their new year “Jewish New Year;” they call it Rosh Hashanah. No Chinese person living in China would say “Chinese New Year;” that would be absurd. So from now on, I am still going to wish folks 新年快乐! (Happy New Year!) when the time comes around, but I’m no longer going to refer to it as “Chinese” or “Lunar” New Year. It is 春节, Spring Festival.

"I go to church for pie."

That was the title of and the highlighted quote from a recent HuffPost piece talking about new approaches to church that included Unitarian Universalism.

To be fair, I did not watch the video so maybe there was more to it than that. But the reason why I didn’t bother past the teaser is because I had the same reaction that I did many years ago when UUism was first described to me as “you can believe anything you want.” I thought, “That’s nice, but why would I join a group for that? I can believe anything I want by myself.” And I can get pie pretty much anywhere; why would I go to church for it? If that’s the only thing at church that’s drawing people, that’s not enough of a draw. And if pie is not the thing that’s really drawing people, then why aren’t we talking about that instead of pie.

Bibliography: Kat Liu

UU Buddhism Is Foreign to Me (2013) - in Buddhist Voices in Unitarian Universalism, edited by Sam Trumbore and Wayne B. Arnason (Boston: Skinner House)

What Will We Be and For Whom? (2010) - in A People So Bold: Theology and Ministry for Unitarian Universalists, edited by John Gibb Millspaugh (Boston: Skinner House)

Immigration as a Moral Issue Resource Guide (2010) - UUA.org

Bio: Kat Liu

Namaste.  I am the U.S-born daughter of Chinese immigrants, growing up with Chinese Buddhism and folk traditions inside the home and Christianity and civic religion outside, including five years in a conservative Lutheran school.  I began adulthood as a neurobiologist, and worked as a postdoctoral fellow at SUNY Stony Brook. It was at Stony Brook where I first stepped foot in a UU congregation, and where I first encountered the field of Religious Studies (altho those two events are not related).  After realizing that I preferred chasing uncertain answers to big questions over certain answers to smaller questions, I moved to DC to pursue Religious Studies at Georgetown. There I discovered All Souls Church, Unitarian and that's when I truly "found religion," becoming a committed UU. Unitarian Universalism is a religious tradtion where my Buddhist and Christian influences and the rational inquiry of science can co-exist side by side with other traditions, and where we commit to work together towards a more just, more multicultural soceity, towards Beloved Community.

In the years since my "conversion" into UUism, it's become apparent to me that UUism doesn't always live up to our high aspirations.  The cultural diversity that we speak so fondly of is not necessarily lived in the reality of our congregations.  Moreover, in large part due to our being dominated by converts such as myself, we UUs have difficulty defining who we are and what we're aboout.  This website is an attempt to address those issues in a constructive way.

Influences and Interests
socially-engaged Buddhism, liberation theology, process theology, Taoism, interfaith dialogue, multiculturalism, environmental justice, art and activism, community gardening, resisting colonialism and capitalism

Roles
Curator, wizdUUm.net
Board Member, UU Ministry for Earth
2013 Fahs Collaborative Fellow for Cross-Cultural Spiritual Practices

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