Late in September, I was the guest speaker at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship in Tamworth. I called on my fellow UU’s to fight back against the inflammatory racist and xenophobic rhetoric that are a part of our current national dialogue. Since the shootings in San Bernardino, the hate speech is ratcheting up – and that comes with consequences. This week a sixth grade girl in NY City was beaten up by a bunch of boys who hit her and tried to pull off her hijab while calling her, “Isis.”
A friend in the congregation suggested I publish my sermon as a column. With some adaptation, this is what I said on September 27. At a time when we hear so much angry religious rhetoric perhaps we can all try to be more UU.
After the accident last year, I spent two months in the hospital. I met women who worked there, women from all over the world. Many came here as refugees. There were women from Haiti, who told stories of political unrest and having to move their families to safety. There were women who were bringing up their grandchildren because their children had become addicts. They bathed me and cared for my broken body. They were so kind to me. We humans are capable of such kindness and compassion.
For months I was in an isolated bubble where I didn’t pay that much attention to what was going on in the world. It was my job to heal. It was my job to learn how to stand, and how to walk. As the months went by, little by little I moved back into the world. Then I went back to work, and I was immersed in reality again.
And then along came Donald Trump. He was something of a breaking point.
Racism, bigotry, homophobia, misogyny; all of these things are increasingly tolerated by our society. Throw in some science denial and rewriting of history, and this is a scary time. In an effort to show leadership skills, presidential candidates are trying to outdo one another with racist rhetoric or loathing for the poor.
It’s time to stop tacitly accepting this. UU’s have a long history of action when it comes to all social justice issues. We also have a reputation for being quiet and relatively unobtrusive in our approach.
We don’t cause scenes or make a mess. We aren’t a big visible presence on the word stage. We don’t have mega churches or a values voter summit, like the Christian right does.
We ought to. Our values include justice, compassion, and love. Inclusion and not exclusion. At a time where there is so much hate, violence, and ugly rhetoric, it’s time for us to vocalize and apply our UU principles loudly, proudly, and zealously.
As UU’s we are not bound by scripture or dogma. We have our seven principles, the first being our belief in the inherent worth and dignity of every person. We need to try hard to love our neighbors, even the most difficult and bigoted. Love them loudly and proudly. When hate comes to town, we must counter it in the way that Dr. King suggested: “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
Our planet is suffering. There is no part of it that isn’t being affected by climate change. Here in the US a particularly virulent form of denial exists, the kind where non-scientists deny science. We need to get out there and preach about that interdependent web. We can’t live without our planet.
Our principles call for justice, equity, and compassion in human relations. That, too, is hard to argue with, but it is not the way that human interaction works these days. The right of conscience. The goal of world community, with peace, liberty, and justice for all. These aren’t feel good phrases. These are values, and they are values that need to be spread around with evangelical zeal.
There are so many angry people in our country, our state, and in our municipalities. You probably have one shouty uncle who rants on your Facebook page or at holiday dinners. You know, the one who thinks the president is a homosexual Muslim communist from Kenya.
It’s easy to ignore the angry. You can unfriend Uncle Al on Facebook. You can’t do is argue with them and have any kind of a reasonable discussion. What we can do is be kind to them. Talk to them – and really listen. Try to understand their fears. It’s harder to hate people when you’re talking to them face to face.
I realize this all sounds kind of humorous, especially coming from me. I am deadly serious. We’re in a mess, people, and love is the only way out.
We UU’s are uniquely qualified to take a greater role. Some of the greatest names in our nation’s history were UUs – names like Emerson, Thoreau, Vonnegut, Seeger, Anthony, Stone, Adams, Cummings, Bradbury, Darwin, and Nightingale. UU’s have been visionaries and activists. We still are. We’re just modest about it. I am suggesting that we need to speak up when there is injustice and hateful rhetoric on the national, state, and local level.
We need to get zealous. We need to become fundamentalist Unitarian Universalists, ready to preach the inherent worth and dignity of every person. Ready to preach about loving our planet. Wendell Berry said, “Whether we and our politicians know it or not, Nature is party to all our deals and decisions, and she has more votes, a longer memory, and a sterner sense of justice than we do.”
People, the planet, equality and justice. These are the biggest things we face. They are all things we UUs have been talking about for years. Who better to lead the way in our communities than us?
We’ve been working quietly in the background for a long time. What’s next will make us uncomfortable – and that is true whether we do anything or not. We’re going to be just as uncomfortable if we stay in the background, so we might as well make some noise.
Unitarian Universalist 7 Principles:
1. The inherent worth and dignity of every person;
2. Justice, equity and compassion in human relations;
3. Acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations;
4. A free and responsible search for truth and meaning;
5. The right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large;
6. The goal of world community with peace, liberty and justice for all;
7. Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.
This was published as an op-ed in the December 11 edition of the Conway Daily Sun newspaper