Today, I’m sharing with you about the endorsement and encouragement
from Black Lives UU (aka BLUU) and DRUUM which is an anacronym for
Diverse & Revolutionary UU Multicultural Ministries –
their endorsement and encouragement for UU congregations
to adopt the 8th Principle. And I’m hoping both the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Statesboro and the Unitarian Universalists of Coastal Georgia
will vote on this at our Annual Meetings and move forward positively
along with the growing list of well over 100 congregations, including
our neighbor congregation in Savannah
who have answered this call.
Unless you are new to us, you all know
of my personal commitment and passion regarding antiracism.
And sometimes, I feel that some of you feel that I may be placing
too much emphasis on this topic.
So, at times, I’ve felt the need to back away a little or not be quite so passionate. But I’m not going to promise to be that person today.
Yes, I’m using “the Freedom of the Pulpit” that Unitarian Universalists value to share with you today.
I suppose my own background – growing up in an overtly racist culture
in southeast Ga in the 50’s and 60’s and trying to dismantle all of the “stuff” that I’ve inherited through the years makes me a little more attuned to the need.
Some of you have pointed out that our congregations
have always been a part of this struggle.
Both the Statesboro and Brunswick congregations were marching
in the MLK parades long before other majority white congregations joined in – well, in reality – I’m not sure they have joined in yet.
And we have members in our congregations who are active in the NAACP
and in groups like Beloved Community in Statesboro
and the Abbott Institute in Brunswick.
And many of you have personally been doing this work – I know – for a long time. But most of us white folks have addressed this in almost a paternalistic manner
of wanting to HELP Black, Indigenous, and People of Color Communities
(which some now refer to as BIPOC)
to have the same voting rights, educational opportunities and more
that we have had. And that’s not a bad thing.
That’s really a lot about what the Civil Rights Movement was all about.
But you see, we removed what we thought were some of the obvious barriers –
and we still have not made the progress that we would have hoped to make.
That’s because we worked more on those barriers –
than we did on ourselves, and our institutions and the powerful systems
embedded with white supremacy that we weren’t even aware existed.
Because we see overt racist behaviors all around us,
for years we felt that we as Unitarian Universalists were the good guys –
we didn’t have those kinds of people waving Confederate flags among us!
Now we had warnings that we weren’t so perfect all along the way.
In her talk in Statesboro on MLK Sunday, Stephanie Spencer shared her remembrances of attending General Assembly in Charlotte many years ago
when folks were asked to come in period antebellum costume.
She and others wondered if they were supposed to come in rags and chains.
And we’ve had other wake up calls.
But the biggest in recent years was when we were called on to really examine
our own hiring practices within the Association.
And some of the letters and emails sent back and forth
from some of our highest officials in the association
and even in the UU Ministerial Association –
made us realize that we needed to really work on ourselves
if we expect to be able to do the work in our communities.
For the last 7 years, a small and dedicated group of Unitarian Universalists,
led by Paula Cole Jones and Bruce Pollack-Johnson, has promoted the 8th principle, the text of which I read to you earlier. I offer you the text again:
We covenant to affirm and promote journeying toward spiritual wholeness
by working to build a diverse, multicultural Beloved Community
by our actions, that accountably dismantle racism and other oppressions
in ourselves and in our institutions.
Now some have shared that they agree with the basic principles behind this but have other problems with it. And as UUs, it’s hard for us to come to full agreement on almost anything – even the color of the carpet on our floors.
But that’s why we lift up our 5th Principle and vote.
Now, it doesn’t have to be a love it or leave vote.
I’ve been doing some homework about how folks come to consensus on matters –
And even the Quakers don’t think everyone is going to be enthusiastic about the carpet color or other more pressing matters.
Most folks who use a consensus model have various possibilities for acceptance.
Here is one that I found on the internet –
and I’ve asked Beth Sutton to paste it in the chat box.
1st option – I can say an unqualified "yes" to the decision. I am satisfied that the decision is an expression of the wisdom of the group.
2nd. I find the decision perfectly acceptable.
3rd Though I’m not especially enthusiastic about it. I can live with the decision.
4rth. I do not fully agree with the decision and need to register my view about it. However, I am willing to support the decision because I trust the wisdom of the group.
Now as UU’s we lift up democracy and vote – but I hope when we do vote, that all of us can vote for the adoption with at least one of these levels of consensus.
One thing some folks have voiced concern about is the wording.
Rev. Sarah Lentz makes these comments regarding the wording:
As always, we are UUs after all, the text will likely be word smithed as this proposed principle makes its way through our UUA process.
BUT the sentiments are really what matter. What this principle says is:
1st - Spiritual wholeness is predicated on living in a world of Beloved Community,
2nd - Beloved Community will only be created through actively working to dismantle racism and oppression, and
3rd - We must be accountable in that work for it to succeed.
Those sentiments are what we are asking you to endorse
whether or not you think it needs wordsmithing.
That desire, in itself, is part of our problem as Unitarian Universalists –
which evolved itself in a strong culture of white supremacy.
Now please know that I’m not saying that you or me or any other person here
is a white supremacist. I’m saying that we live in America. –
A country whose original sin of racism and white supremacy
was built into our culture, into the implicit biases we’ve inherited,
and into our faith communities – of all persuasions and ethnicities.
Of course, all of this has become increasingly evident in much of the backlash
that occurred after we elected our first black president –
an event that many of us celebrated as having finally removed those barriers.
What has arisen since then is the growth of domestic terrorism, racialized hate groups, increased anti-Semitism, anti-Muslim, anti-Asian, anti-almost everybody because politicians and even preachers have stoked up the fears
of those who feel that their power is being displaced
by folks who don’t look like them.
And the blatant acts of the police and others who have been videotaped
have called many of us to “hit the streets in protest” even in a deadly pandemic.
If you are not a little more woke now than you were a few years ago,
you’ve been doing what MLK referred to as “sleeping through the revolution.”
Recently, I’ve written three Letters to the Editor.
The first was to try to provide some explanation of Critical Race Theory,
so that politicians couldn’t use that academic framework
as a Boogie Man to rile up the far right against efforts by educators
to share more of the truths of our history
and have students think critically about these events.
After the first letter was shared in Statesboro and Savannah
(and yes, I sent this piece to Brunswick,
but it was too long for their letters and they wouldn’t consider doing it
as an opinion piece as I requested), - anyway – after that letter was published,
the Statesboro Herald published another letter
signed by five or six citizens criticizing mine and indicating
that there was another side to be considered.
I attempted to graciously respond to that letter,
got another critique, and responded one last time. Hopefully.
Now of course, the Herald feels the need to be fair and hear all sides.
As Trump said,” there are good people on both sides.”
Well, they may be good – but they are wrong.
To quote Rev. Sarah Lentz again:
It also bears saying that conviction and might do not make right.
One can believe they are right all they want,
but some things are just actually, factually wrong;
and some things are just morally wrong.
She says - I am, in truth, a believer in a certain degree of moral relativism,
but that doesn’t mean everything, and anything is equal and okay.
Some things just are wrong.
Opinion isn’t all that matters; reality and truth still matter.
And they matter more than ever when forces of division, chaos, and hatred
work tirelessly to manipulate our information and our opinions…
(and here Rev. Sarah speaks very directly)
If any of us ever doubted the racism of our shared system,
I hope that those doubts have now faded and we can all acknowledge that
America is a racist country, with systems and institutions
that prop up white supremacist culture.
And all of us participate in that culture.
If we are not actively opposing the forces of oppression and injustice, however we are able, then we are complicit. (End quote)
Will passing the adoption of another principle make our congregations better?
Not necessarily – But this will call on us to acknowledge that these sentiments
are important enough for us to lift up with our most important shared values.
Those sentiments are spiritual wholeness, the Beloved Community,
the need to dismantle racism and other oppressions, and the need for accountability for our actions – so it’s not something we just “say” – it’s something that we “do.”
I believe that BLUU and DRUUMM and Stephanie Spencer are right –
“It is TIME.”
And when we
come to that understanding of the beloved community as so eloquently shared by
Maya Angelou - When we
come to it
We, this people, on this wayward, floating body
Created on this earth, of this earth
Have the power to fashion for this earth
A climate where every person
Can live freely without sanctimonious piety
Without crippling fear….
When we come to it…. But only …. if we come to it.
May it be so!