I have prayed this week. I have meditated. Now, I write, because it is a practice I have been avoiding. I am writing here, because I feel that I have something to say, and I am going to use my loudest voice to say it. Bare with me while I figure out what, exactly, that is.
This post will not be polished. It will not be edited the way that I strive for normally. This is more personal, because it needs to be.
I am not a minister. I am not a religious professional. I am not a counselor or any other thing that prepares one for a week like this. I am a smart guy who didn’t finish college and who felt compelled to share my love of liberal religion and my hope that the Principles of the UUA would spread and make the world easier to share. That idea caught on, and became a ministry to a few thousand people. I keep saying how humbling that is, and there is no more honest way to express how I feel about the I Am UU project. I hope that you all understand how honored I am to have this platform, and I hope you will not see this as an abuse of your trust.
I don’t talk about politics on the I Am UU page. If you are one of the many who surprisingly follow me on my personal Facebook account, you will see that this is a choice I make to keep I Am UU centered on liberal religion and the Principles of the UUA. Some issues, while often framed in political terms, ought to be apolitical. Human rights, sustainability and ecology, and lives are not political topics, even though they, like all things, are shaped and sorted by politics and law. Government is the tool humans use to sort out differences and protect ourselves from each other. It is necessary that politics be involved, but also that we not relegate the very existence of other people to a political issue.
I am not trained for this. I am not authorized by any body to speak. I think that makes this part of the message more important:
I am reminding you, as a fellow UU, that our Principles are promises. They are a commitment to a standard of action and a hope for a future where people live in justice, equity, and compassion. They are not a religious promise for divine intervention; quite the opposite. They are a charge to us to take responsibility and to affirm and promote them in the world, because the world needs them.
Yes, in fact, all lives matter. All of them, human and otherwise. And there is a need to proclaim that, as well, at times and in places. Today, this month, can we please remind one another that there is a special need; there is a particular failure right now in the United States to recognize the inherent worth and dignity of people with dark skin. It is not unique. There are many groups in need of special attention and understanding. Black people have been waiting longer than we’ve been a nation, and their oppression is an inextricable part of US history that is once again coming to a head. Ignoring it will not make it go away, or even make it better.
While some of our Principles are clearly commitments to a process or goal, using words like “search” and “growth” and even “goal”, the first and last are different. They are foundational. They are beliefs in which we foster faith. There is no requirement that you believe them (some prominent UUs have doubted them), and you are allowed to go back and forth, but our congregations pledge to affirm them and to promote them in our work and in our teachings, because they give the other Principles meaning. All the other promises fall apart when we ignore the inherency of one person’s worth or dignity.
It is on a day like today that I receive a sharp reminder of the fact that our Principles are aspirational. I sit here typing, my eyes tearing up, because I want so badly to keep believing in their eventuality. There are days when I feel the absolute hope that those values are so obvious that they are inevitable. Today is not that kind of day. Today, I am reminded that my liberal religion warns me that goodness is not guaranteed nor something we can wish into being. If we want a better world, we have to make it happen. We have to make changes in order to insure that the worth and dignity of every person is honored, and some groups need it more desperately than others.
Today others rightly offer their prayers and their heart-felt sorrow at another tragedy; another racially motivated act of violence; another mass shooting. Minsters and politicians are talking their talk about faith, love, hope, and civics. Today, none of that moves me as much as it did when they were said two weeks ago, or two weeks before that. Today, I am asking you, my fellow Unitarian Universalists, to recommit to the work. Words just won’t help me heal this week. I need to know that we are going to do something, and that we aren’t going to give up.