What a month we have just come through!
The day after the Jan. 6 insurrection, many of us gathered virtually at the fellowship. We lit candles for the values we were struggling to center in our lives. We shared painful emotions and asked searching questions about national and individual identity. And the day after, a group of young adults gathered with Thea, their Youth and Young Adult Advisor, to do something of the same.
This has been a time for great national soul searching, for grappling with the implications of the evidence that beliefs are never merely private. In fact – as January 6 made abundantly clear – beliefs have consequences. They have impact. And so, it would seem, even as Unitarian Universalism asks us to affirm the inherent worth and dignity of every person, our tradition also insists we hold one another accountable to the ways in which our beliefs impact the many threads of relationship that connect us, one to the other.
Am I “free” to hold a belief that invites me to visit violence upon another member of my community?
If I don’t challenge your beliefs, out of respect for your inherent worth and dignity, how can I also live into my commitment to justice, equity and compassion in human relations or to the democratic process, at home and beyond?
Conversations, also, can have impacts. In fact, as your minister, being in conversation with you these last few weeks has brought me to a place of new understanding about my own free and responsible search for truth and meaning.
For those of you who weren’t at our service on Jan. 17, here’s a short extract from what I shared that morning.
Many of you know that because of my visa status I’ve been cautious about taking a position on political issues. I’ve feared the consequences, both for myself and for you, the congregation. Primarily, I’ve feared that as a result of any public positions or social media posts I could be flagged as insufficiently patriotic, and so, ineligible to work among you. I anticipated that if this were to happen my visa would either be not renewed or terminated, because these things happen to visitors in this country. I also have wanted to support the fellowship’s commitment – made in 2016 – to keep politics out of your worship space.
Except that today I am being called to face the fact that fear about the consequences of speaking out has always enabled autocrats and dictatorships to gather power and to escape the consequences of their own misuse of power. Fear – for oneself, for those one loves – and its handmaiden, silence, are always powerful tools of oppression.
I’m also being called to recognize that silence, unfortunately, can all too easily look like support for those in power, And so I’ve made a new choice. Because my UU values call me to uphold the central worth of the democratic process, I condemn the actions of all those in power, who by neglect, inattention, collaboration or by provocation, allowed a heavily armed mob to gather in Washington with the pre-announced aim of overthrowing or disrupting the legitimate process that was underway in the capitol building on Jan. 6th.
Further, because my UU values call me to see justice, equity, and compassion for all – and not just for certain privileged groups – as being foundational to the world I seek, I support Sonya Renee Taylor’s assertion that “we should not long to return to normal.” Because though the insurrection was absolutely not normal, the way in which law enforcement responded was absolutely the normal that should not be allowed to continue.
Here, also, is the Letter to the Editor from area clergy I signed onto, for those of you who didn’t see the Jan. 19th Plattsburgh Press-Republican. How would I have navigated these times without participating in UU community? Would I have been challenged to move forward into deeper commitment to the beliefs I say I hold? What I can say with certainty is that being here, together with all of you continues to be life-changing, and for that I am so deeply grateful.
In love and service,