Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Accessible and Holistic....

I have said that Unitarian Universalism must become the most accessible and holistic manifestation of the movement for social transformation.

Somebody has asked "what on earth does that means?"

Let me break it down:

"Accessible"

How can people access the social movements that are bubbling up all over the country? If you live in an all-white suburb, how do you access the Black Lives Matter movement? If you live in Kansas, how do you respond to the inspiration of the young adults who suspended themselves off that bridge in Portland, Oregon to stop a Shell icebreaker needed for Arctic drilling? Indeed, if you live in Portland, and are of an age that hanging off of a bridge is not something you are up to doing, how do you participate in that movement?

If you are not a young adult, if you are not living in a major urban area, if you have limited free time and unlimited family responsibilities, how do you connect to the transformative social movements? You can read about them; you can watch TV about them; you can sign up on an email list and get an email a day from them, an email sent by a robot that asks for money.

The local Unitarian Universalist church should be a point of access to the movements, a place where you can make the connection. At least, it should be a community of people who share your interest, where you can hear about things going on. It should give you a chance to sing a song and clap along if nothing else. At most, it should be able to connect you to people across the country who are doing great things and who will support you in testing the limits of your commitment.

If you are already in the Unitarian Universalist orbit, especially in a professional role, you can become overwhelmed by all the connections offered through the movement. Ministers wonder how they can do the work of Black Lives Matter and Commit2Respond and Reproductive Justice and Immigrant Rights and lift up the T in the LGBTQ struggle and support the fast food workers and more. But most people are not blessed with these invitations in their lives. We should fix that.
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"Holistic"

A Unitarian Universalist congregation is holistic: a transformational community that deals with all aspects of your life. Its not a movement organization, but a transformational community. Move On does not teach progressive values and ignite wonder in the children of the people on its email list. The ACLU does not provide all ages sexuality education for its members. The Green Party will not visit you in the hospital when you are sick. No one from the Bernie Sanders campaign will conduct your mother's memorial service. None of those organizations intend to help you make meaning from your life. They do not have a spiritual dimension, but Unitarian Universalism does. None of those organizations will offer you an weekly opportunity to join with others to learn more, go deeper, and be inspired.

It is a sad truth that for most people, the one opportunity to feel a part of a larger body that aims to transform this society has been to watch John Stewart on TV and share the snark with an imagined community. Or maybe watch Rachel Maddow take down the myths and lies that buttress the status quo. Audiences are not communities. Unitarian Universalism creates holistic communities.

"Manifestation of the Movement for Social Transformation."

Unitarian Universalist congregations already do many of these functions. Where they fall short is that they fail to clearly identify themselves in the public square as manifestations of the movement of the spirit of liberation. They say that they are inclusive and that they are holistic, but what gets communicated is only that. They appear to the outsider as small, tight, caring communities whose highest purpose is taking care of themselves. It can seem like "there is no there there."

The social movements that are emerging are not one movement, but they share a common spirit, a spirit of liberation and justice and solidarity. The good news that we ought proclaim says that spirit is just about the most precious and holiest thing that ever can be. It is a great transforming, sustaining and creating power and it holds us together. It leads us, and we follow.

The goal of our work is to make sure that every person knows that their local UU congregation is a place where they can bring their whole self to touch and be touched by the rising spirit of resistance and liberation.

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