Recently I have had some very thoughtful conversations about social justice with various Fellowship leaders, conversations thoroughly grounded in sensitivity to the variety of ways our members interpret the intersection of current events with their UU values and personal convictions. For years folks here thought of “social justice” activity as mostly about supporting “direct services” to people in need. This work was carried out by individuals and small groups as charitable actions: stocking food pantries, providing school supplies, collecting aluminum can tabs, making sandwiches for the homeless on NYC streets. These actions felt voluntary, non-urgent, and non-political because they addressed intractable and perennial issues.
Of course, there were points when UUFSBers protested at the nuclear plant, wrote letters after services, decided to intentionally welcome LGBTQ people, made environmental integrity a Fellowship priority. More recently, we celebrated the passage of marriage equality with a newsworthy Sunday service/wedding; a hundred of you took part in the 2014 Climate March; you decided as a congregation in 2016 to publicly display a Black Lives Matter banner; eighty or so of us participated in the 2017 Women’s Marches. In the seven years since I have been watching, you have continued your charitable work, but you have also begun to work en masse, in various ways, with the intention of transforming mindsets and structures in our society that have actually created the problems that charitable work addresses. The fact is, we need both: direct services to people in need and strategic action to change the laws, policies, practices and prejudices that cause suffering among vulnerable populations.
Right now, under largely unprecedented political circumstances, the well-being and rights of many groups in our county and country are being threatened. These are not normal times. Under these circumstances, it is particularly impossible to separate political action (working with politicians, legislation and governance structures) and moral action (in our case, upholding priorities, values and moral principles that have been historic concerns for generations of UUs). There is no way we can act to protect vulnerable populations right now without strategies that include heavy active lobbying—not just in offices, but on the street in demonstrations, civil disobedience, in letters and emails, using our voice as The People to stop abuses and hold governance actors accountable to democratic and humane standards.
I consider it part of my duty and call as a Unitarian Universalist minister to encourage our Fellowship community to act in a variety of ways to counter the unraveling of our country’s moral integrity, whenever and however it happens. I consider such work to be an extension of actions we UUs have taken, as a faith movement and as a congregation, for centuries. And I believe that to sit back right now, in fear of honest dialogue and purposeful action, at that “line” between politics and social justice (which has been and always will be very, very blurry) is to choose dispassionate “comfort” over LOVE. This is your congregation and your choice. You should know though, how your minister understands her call in these turbulent times, and how much she loves and honors you as you face your options as a force for good.