Happy New Year! As we begin 2016, our monthly theme for January is Resistance.
One of the biggest triggers for resistance is change. We human beings are naturally inclined to resist change, to want things to remain familiar. Sure, there's a wide spectrum of how much resistance we individually experience; some of us crave new experiences and enjoy surprises, while others of us really prefer to keep things comfortably predictable. I suspect, though, that even the most adventuresome among us still have areas in which we resist change.
We can see this resistance in many areas of our lives, and all across our lifespan. We see it when small children want the same bedtime story every single night, no matter how weary we may get of reading the same one over and over, or when they can't go to sleep without that favorite blanket or stuffed animal. We see it when a parent struggles with "empty nest syndrome" as their children grow up and leave home. We see it when older generations talk wistfully about "the good old days"--whether they are speaking of how families spent more time together, how much more quiet or friendly their neighborhood used to be, or how American politicians from opposing parties were just more respectful back then. I've even caught myself making those kinds of comments, much younger than I ever expected to start down that kind of nostalgic path!
I believe that much of the political extremism we're seeing in some segments of American society right now is, at heart, about resistance to change. Our country's demographics are changing, and as that happens, those who are used to being in the majority and holding most of the power resist the change they see coming in their world. That resistance often looks like identifying and demonizing an "other" who is, as they see it, threatening their way of life. I don't believe that resistance will stop the change from coming, any more than my resistance to moving as a teenager in a military family stopped us from being reassigned to a new location every few years.
Change comes, whether we resist it or not. Our choice may not be whether or not to allow change, but how much to resist it--or put another way, with how much grace we adapt to it or even welcome it.
We see change resistance in church life, too, as each of us wants to hold on to those things about church that are most important to us, or most comfortable for us. Church is, often, a literal "comfort zone"--a place in which we feel both comfortable and comforted--in an otherwise challenging world. This is an important function of church. The trick is that there are external changes that happen (generational or otherwise) that mean, over time, church too must change if it is to continue to thrive. We've heard plenty in recent years about the increasing secularization of America, and how "the church" as an institution might respond.
I believe we, as Unitarian Universalists, are positioned to respond in ways that could allow us to not only survive but thrive--if we don't let too much resistance get in the way. Not everything needs to change, of course. If we look at the history of our denomination, though, or even of our own congregation, we will see that over time, change does happen. Sometimes we think it's for the better and sometimes we don't. Our work, together, is to think about which kinds of change are truly to be resisted, and which we might welcome with grace.
Of course, there are many other meanings of resistance. This month, we'll explore both the kind of resistance that helps us move towards a world that works for all, and the kind that holds us back. I look forward to rich engagement with this topic!
Blessings in this New Year,