Fertilizing the Future
- Last Updated on 19 November 2014
If you spend time in the woods these days, as we get the pleasure of doing at our beautiful church, it’s hard to miss the fallen leaves that are piling up. The view, not that long ago full of vibrant reds and yellows and oranges, and within recent memory a vibrant green, is now dominated by grey tree trunks of all sizes and brown leaves everywhere. It calls to mind a favorite reading of mine, by Unitarian Universalist minister Rev. David Bumbaugh:
Life and Death in the Interdependent Web of All Existence
- Last Updated on 15 October 2014
The Honor Guard snapped to attention as their commander shouted an order, and the crack of three perfectly timed rifle shots splintered the stillness, followed by “Taps.” The Guard Chaplain and another officer folded the ceremonial flag and handed it to Mitch’s mother. I pronounced the benediction and the small group gathered under the cemetery’s bright blue tent in the warm Fall afternoon began to disperse.
I got a head start on thinking about this month’s theme of death near the end of last month. It was a typical Tuesday evening at our house—I’d already picked up (Great) Grandpa Don for dinner, we were waiting for Tom’s daughter Julie and her family to arrive, Tom and I were juggling dinner prep, and the dog was underfoot, wanting to be fed. Then the phone rang.
The Power of Community
- Last Updated on 30 October 2014
If you attended the service this past Sunday morning, you witnessed some of the greatest testimony you’ll ever hear about why it’s important for Unitarian Universalism and Unitarian Universalist congregations to exist. Two of our high school youth, fresh off returning from a Youth Conference in Indianapolis – they had literally arrived back in Muncie half an hour before the start of the service – shared during Joys & Sorrows about what a powerful, meaningful and transformative experience the Con was for them. They used words like “accepted,” “loved,” and “held.” And I can attest to this since I was there – they were accepted, loved and held not primarily by adult UUs, but by the youth in our region who led and participated in the conference. They experienced a transformative community of their peers.
Going Deeper: Microaggressions & White Privilege
- Last Updated on 25 September 2014
In this past Sunday’s sermon I shared the experience of the adopted son of a friend of mine:
He came home in tears after the following interaction: A white woman asked him, “where are you from?” My friend’s son answered, “the west side of Chicago.” The white woman didn't stop there, she asked again, “no, where are you from?” Second response,
“well, I used to live in Seattle.” This white woman kept at it, asking, “no, where are you REALLY from?” My friend’s son finally said, “uhh… I was born in South Korea.” The white woman’s response? “Wow, your English is excellent.” Later, at home, son reported to mom, through tears, “It's like she was saying I don't belong here. And she's right, I don't. I don't really belong anywhere. I know she didn't mean to be mean, but she’s right.” The part that was most challenging for my friend’s son was he had just walked out of a class he was taking with this woman, where they had watched a video about racism, and she had really seemed to get it. It was clear at the very least, that she thought she was pretty racially savvy, and that she was trying to be friendly to this young man with her questions. She didn’t get how harmful her questions actually were – the injustice she had created was hidden from her own self, despite her professions to the contrary.
After the service, I had conversations with several of you about whether the white woman in this example had actually done anything wrong or not – the point was made that she was trying to be respectful in her approach. It’s a good point, and it’s a terrific example of the need to pay attention to the “Intent vs. Impact” principle in situations that involve privilege. Often when discussing situations such as these, folks who are sitting in the more privileged positions – whether that privilege be race, gender, economic, sexual orientation or otherwise – will say, “well I didn’t mean to be offensive, I was really just curious. Isn’t trying to learn more about someone who is different than me a good thing?” There is no doubting these folks’ good intent, and I include myself in these folks, because I’ve made my fair share of mistakes on this front. The challenge though is that we’re also responsible for the impact of what we say when it’s part of a broader pattern of systemic harm. Generally, I do believe that we’re responsible for our own reactions and feelings in response to individual situations – if you gently tease me, it’s my responsibility not to take it personally. When certain situations are repeated over and over, though, and people with privilege end up systematically undermining those with less privilege, those of us with privilege need to be mindful of the impact of our words.