From the Minister
I’ve been using some of my June study time to reread Widening the Circle of Concern. It’s a 196-page report published in 2020 after three years of research by the Unitarian Universalist Association on ways for UU’s to transform our congregations into more racially, culturally, and socially diverse communities.
In a late insertion after the Table of Contents, the authors acknowledged the disruptive arrival of the pandemic. They wrote, “…This crisis has revealed the disparities that exist at all levels of well-being for Black people, Indigenous people, and other people of color, as well as for LGBTQ individuals, people living with limited economic means, and people living with disabilities. Addressing them within our faith becomes more important, not less.…”
I was struck by how clearly this reflects something a lot of us began saying to each around that time. “We don’t want to return to normal. We want to end up with something better.”
There are countless ways to pursue that dream. Some seem unrelated to the anti-racist and related anti-discrimination work spotlighted in the report. For example, some of us are pursuing lifestyle changes to which the pandemic introduced us because we feel healthier and more connected to the natural world.
Still, I think all good anti-oppression practices have something to say about other healthy forms of change. Here’s one I thought about after reading about how anti-oppression work often stirs up feelings of guilt and shame. The report noted that such feelings usually undermine the goal, which is to empower people to change for the better.
Why are shame and guilt so prevalent then? One possibility, the study points out, is that they are by-products of the deeply embedded mindset of white supremacy. A culture of mastery spills over into assumptions that we are supposed to be in the know. We are supposed to be “learned,” not “learning.”
When it comes to racism, many white people respond to being challenged on their mastery of our history by dismissing reality as irrational “wokeness.” How much healthier it would be for us to embrace the liberating adventure, painful though it may be, in building authentic connections based on a more inclusive history. No guilt or shame is required. Just faith that the pandemic hasn’t robbed us of opportunities to help each other take a better path. Lucky us….Blessed be, Rev. B