Archive

Posts Tagged ‘God’

a living faith

September 18, 2011 4 comments

I have felt a gulf widening between myself and the Unitarian Universalist faith over the last year. I had expected activism to change me in profound ways; I just didn’t expect part of what drew me to this faith to eventually push me away. More and more often I ask myself, “What am I doing here? What am I representing? What represents me?”

We are a faith that is very proud of our commitment to social justice. We collect donations for charitable organizations and donate the proceeds of our collection plate once a month. We participate in legislative campaigns. We buy free trade goods in our sanctuaries or from artisans we invite into our space. We attend social action luncheons and serve in soup kitchens. We show up to march in parades in decent numbers, slightly less for vigils and protests, unless there is an opportunity for us to sing or some form of “alter call” from congregational leadership. But I rarely see UU’s  when our partner groups request volunteers or hold fundraisers. We’ll invite people into our space, meet them in neutral spaces, but rarely will we meet them in theirs.

I recognize that there are exceptions… but the fact that these two communities have such a small percentage of overlap is one of my biggest frustrations. I wonder if listing an organization as a partner on our website and showing up at the occasional demonstration or community event in our matching t-shirts is all we’re capable of. Displays of solidarity, participating in visible resistance efforts is a big, and important, part of justice work. But investing enough of ourselves to build the personal relationships necessary for an allied partnership seems to be beyond us more often than not. There is a reluctance to put ourselves in spaces where we would be the minority in the room, and resistant to sacrificing any of our time or investing our emotional energy. We’re all so proud of the justice work being done, but so few of us want to do it.

I’ve spoken with other allied activists & organizers and many have experienced the same frustrations. I was talking with friend and UU seminarian and commented that I was committed to my congregation thru the end of this RE year. After that, I don’t know. Unless there is a substantial shift in culture, I just don’t know. Which was followed by a discussion of whether I thought this culture was unique to my congregation or the entire faith, and how change is slow but we’re making progress. She’s not the first person to give me some version of the “arc of the moral universe” talk. As much as I love the quote, as much comfort as I find in it when applied to the folks across the aisle, hearing it applied to my faith both frustrates and outrages me.

Rage and fury and impotence aren’t really the emotions I was searching and yearning for when I went looking for a religious home. And as much as I love many, many members of my church family, as inspiring as I find my minister in and out of the pulpit, there are just far too many times that I feel like I’m in an abusive relationship. “We’re making progress.” “Change is slow.” “They’re trying… they mean well.” It sounds just like that girl, we all know her (hell, I was her), “He really loves me. He didn’t mean it. He’ll change.”

And maybe if my family looked different, if my closest friends and the vast majority of my support system looked different… if my neighborhood looked different, I might be a little more inclined to be patient. But my daughter told me last night that a classmate said to her, “You’re a black girl. Why don’t you just smack so and so?”… and it’s not the first time that kind of comment has been made. Women I love have reached out after having being hurt by someone’s unintended slur or stereotype, their colorblind ignorance… hands and voices trembling with hurt and anger. They speak of fear that speaking out will be interpreted as or strengthen certain stereotypes… or that they are most angry with themselves for having let down the wall they usually maintain with white people and being hurt because they hadn’t been on guard, hadn’t seen it coming. I have friends who have been harassed by police because of their skin color and/or accents, who get the full force of the law for minor traffic violations while we get passes for more serious infractions.

If this wasn’t my world, maybe I’d be less cynical and more magnanimous. I don’t want to be the only radical in my congregation (and that I’m considered a radical by fellow UU’s still perplexes me). But maybe I’d be willing to stick it out and be part of the catalyst for change my friends talk about. Maybe the stagnant pace of progress wouldn’t feel corrosive to my soul.

But this is my world, so forgive me, but I don’t care about your (our) good intentions anymore. I care about the impact of our individual and collective inability to live our faith and principles in meaningful and intentional allied relationships and how that effects people struggling for human dignity. I care about the people we hurt, directly or indirectly, with our good intentions.

This wasn’t easy to write. and I know that it may hurt or offend fellow UU’s, particularly those I have a personal relationship with.  But someone I love and respect asked me specifically to blog about this, and maybe she was right in that this is something that needs to be said, and heard.

Where are you on the Oppression Action Continuum? It’s not enough to educate yourself about an issue. If you are aware of an oppression and haven’t gotten involved, you are enabling that oppression. We can’t all do everything… but if we all did whatever we could instead of nothing at all, how amazing could we be? There is no small part of a justice movement; we all have our unique gifts, skills, and talents to offer even when our time or financial resources are limited.

I have found more personal fulfillment, been more deeply inspired, experienced more joy, felt more love, and seen more of God in the year I’ve been working with the activist community than I have in any church I’ve attended in all my thirty seven years.

If you haven’t invested of your self, what are you waiting for?

Oppression Action Continuum from Heeding the Call Justice Makers Curriculum

Advertisements

Sunday Meditation: Go Barefoot

July 31, 2011 Leave a comment

Spirit of my exploring heart, help me walk where deep-rooted questions rise through the firm hard ground, the pathway that has led to war and injustice for centuries. Bare-footed and trembling, let me feel the pain that inhumanity has tramped into the earth. Let me face the unknown, assured that all my questions are natural and blameless. Help me learn how to live peacefully when war and anger rage, how to do justice while greed consumes resources that could sustain us. Bruised and battered, let my feet feel holiness rise through the ground of my being. Let that holiness fill me with confidence, that I might find alternatives to the well-trod roads to destruction. Grant me the wisdom to do as Moses did on that sacred mountain, when he was told “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.”

Shick, Stephen (2009). Be the Change: Poems, Prayers and Meditations
for Peacemakers and Justice Seekers
(Kindle Locations 388-394). Skinner House Books. Kindle Edition.

Sunday Meditation: Freedom Waits

July 24, 2011 Leave a comment

Spirit of Life, God of Love, the image of the freedom train speaks to me today. I have waited so long for a train to arrive and carry me to the promised land of peace and justice. Now, on the platform of indifference and self doubt, I see that the train is here and waiting for me to step on board. Yet someone, a shadow of who I can be, is holding me back saying, Who are you to ride with those who risked so much for freedom? Who are you to proclaim the sacred message of the inherent worth and dignity of every person? Now the conductor is calling me to get on board and I must decide what to do. Will I step up and over my own fears and prejudices? Will I dare to ride with the outcast immigrant, the unwashed homeless, the mentally and physically challenged, the hated Jew, Muslim, Christian, Hindu, and Buddhist? Will I speak with compassion and love to all those who disagree with me, who abuse me, who threaten me? Will I risk my comfort to comfort others? Spirit of my great longing, awaken in me the courage to get on board.

Shick, Stephen (2009). Be the Change: Poems, Prayers and Meditations for Peacemakers and Justice Seekers (Kindle Locations 406-413). Skinner House Books. Kindle Edition.

Gratitude Sunday

May 15, 2011 1 comment

My heart is so full today. I cannot begin to express what this day means for me. So much of Tyler’s life is a struggle… for him as well as for his mama. To see this young man I grew from my own body coming into his own… to have members of my beloved community come to me and tell me they were honored to have been on the review panel when he had his interview…

Those of you on my Facebook know I’m reading Gregory Boyle’s book, Tattoos on the Heart. With as many excerpts as I’ve copied from my kindle, I don’t know how you could miss that tidbit. So in keeping with that theme, here’s another gem.

“When you fill my heart, my eyes overflow.” ~ An Algerian Trappist

Boyle, Gregory (2010). Tattoos on the Heart (Kindle Locations 377-378). Free Press. Kindle Edition.

http://www.facebook.com/v/2079595270848

Unitarian Universalists believe that all religions should and can be accepted. A Unitarian Universalist believes in equality for all religions and every race. Unitarian Universalists often believe that religion is a search for meaning. It is more of an openness to new experiences rather than a set of beliefs. Religions help us to realize that every piece of our lives is related to the others.

Some Unitarian Universalists often think of religion as a time consumer for Sunday. Some Unitarian Universalists think of religion as a way of life, a sacred search for meaning and understanding. Some Unitarian Universalists believe in God, some don’t. Some believe that the theory of God is used to bully other religions and some think that God is a force, a feeling that flows through us and connects us to one another. To seek God would be to seek yourself and your surroundings.

Ho Mitakuye Oyasin. This means, I am related to all things and all things are related to me. I don’t believe in God I believe in love and faith. No matter what the situation is I will stand on the side of love, which means I care for the equality of all living things.

Gregory Boyle on the Expanse of God

May 15, 2011 Leave a comment
Cover of "Tattoos on the Heart: The Power...

Cover via Amazon

Many times I have expressed my belief that God is so much bigger than we think… that our ideas of god are like comfortable and familiar masks that we put on a concept that is so much bigger than our comprehension. This passage brought me to tears.

God, I guess, is more expansive than every image we think rhymes with God. How much greater is the God we have than the one we think we have. More than anything else, the truth of God seems to be about a joy that is a foreigner to disappointment and disapproval. This joy just doesn’t know what we’re talking about when we focus on the restriction of not measuring up. This joy, God’s joy, is like a bunch of women lined up in the parish hall on your birthday, wanting only to dance with you—cheek to cheek. “First things, recognizably first,” as Daniel Berrigan says. The God, who is greater than God, has only one thing on Her mind, and that is to drop, endlessly, rose petals on our heads. Behold the One who can’t take His eyes off of you.

Marinate in the vastness of that.

Boyle, Gregory (2010). Tattoos on the Heart (Kindle Locations 622-627). Free Press. Kindle Edition.

For Thought: Where do you stand?

May 14, 2011 Leave a comment

A powerful story that illustrates the difference of being for the right cause, and being in right relations.

Pema Chödrön, an ordained Buddhist nun, writes of compassion and suggests that its truest measure lies not in our service of those on the margins, but in our willingness to see ourselves in kinship with them. In 1987 Dolores Mission Church declared itself a sanctuary church for the undocumented, after passage of the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986. Soon, recently arrived undocumented men from Mexico and Central America would sleep each night in the church (Guadalupe Homeless Project), and women and children, in the convent (Casa Miguel Pro).

Attention followed and lots of it. The media swarmed the place in these earliest days. As almost always happens, attention begets opposition. I used to dread clearing the parish’s answering machine during this period. It always had a handful of hate messages and vague (and not so vague) death threats.

Once, while I turn the corner in front of the church, heading to a CEB meeting in the projects, I am startled by letters spray-painted crudely across the front steps:

WETBACK CHURCH

The chill of it momentarily stops me. In an instant, you begin to doubt and question the price of things. Read more…

Perspective

May 14, 2011 Leave a comment

Jesus, in Matthew’s gospel, says, “How narrow is the gate that leads to life.” Mistakenly, I think, we’ve come to believe that this is about restriction. The way is narrow. But it really wants us to see that narrowness is the way.

St. Hedwig writes, “All is narrow for me, I feel so vast.” It’s about funneling ourselves into a central place. Our choice is not to focus on the narrow, but to narrow our focus. The gate that leads to life is not about restriction at all. It is about an entry into the expansive. There is a vastness in knowing you’re a son/daughter worth having. We see our plentitude in God’s own expansive view of us, and we marinate in this.

Boyle, Gregory (2010). Tattoos on the Heart (Kindle Locations 519-524). Free Press. Kindle Edition.

%d bloggers like this: