Justice is our theme this month, a topic we weave throughout our worship and lives on a regular basis. In this reflection, I want to introduce a website that just launched: www.bethelove.net.
It was developed by Unitarian Universalist leaders who have been my teachers for the past four years. The site presents a paradigm for justice-making that is based on the Beloved Community paradigm. They give us some history:
The term “Beloved Community” was originally coined by Josiah Royce to describe a way of being in the world grounded not in disappointment but in possibility. For Royce, Beloved Community is a spiritual practice of loyalty — the radical idea that love is a more powerful force for change than fear. Our Universalist ancestors knew this to be true. They asserted that the purpose of the church is to heal one another into well-being; “to reverse the consequences of lovelessness and injustice in the souls and behaviors of its members” so that we can work together more effectively for a just social and economic order.
Beloved Community is the creative energy and prophetic imagination that sparked the Southern Freedom Struggle led by Martin Luther King, Jr.and others. Their vision was of the Beloved Community was a “radical redefinition of our relationships…a type of love that can transform opponents into friends.” It begins not by discriminating between worthy and unworthy or between friend and enemy. It is never limited to racial justice or building a social movement. First and foremost it is based on practicing together a fierce kind of love…”a willingness to go to any length to restore community.”
The site presents a comparison between the dominant approach to activism and the Beloved Community approach:
As I review this chart, I think here at our church, we are striving to live the Beloved Community Paradigm. I’d love to hear what you think. What are some examples of how we are doing so? And in what are ways are we still implementing a more “us” vs. “them” approach to justice?
As always, I look forward to reflecting with you and learning from you in the month ahead.
Our theological theme for February is Love. Every Sunday we say in our Covenant: “Love is the spirit of this church.” One of our mottos is that we love beyond belief. Our national campaign for justice is “Standing on the Side of Love.” I’ve read newspaper articles where Unitarian Universalists are referred to as “those love people in their yellow shirts.” Indeed, love is the cornerstone of our faith. Almost always, we aim to weave the theme of love into our lives, worship, studies, and work for justice. This month we will apply love to some specific topics, as you see in the worship schedule. But what kind of love are we talking about?
The Greek language distinguishes at least four different words for love: agápe, éros, philía, and storgē.
My proposal, in the context of love, was that we offer Agápe and Philia Love to the black community - to let them know that we hold them in high regard and offer them sibling love. I also hope that our sign reminds the rest of Greeley to offer that kind of love to their black neighbors. (Thanks to Jim Shearer and Dennis Francen for donating money for the banner)
I know some of us talked about rotating banners that say things like “Immigrant Lives Matter” or “Gay Lives Matter” or “All Lives Matter.” I reached out to other ministers and most importantly, our black partners, to hear what they thought of that idea. Rev. Kierstin Homblette pointed me to these two articles that speak to using the “_____Lives Matter” slogan on other issues.
An excerpt: “When you drop “Black” from the equation of whose lives matter, and then fail to acknowledge it came from somewhere, you further a legacy of erasing Black lives and Black contributions from our movement legacy. And consider whether or not when dropping the Black you are, intentionally or unintentionally, erasing Black folks from the conversation or homogenizing very different experiences…..When you adopt Black Lives Matter and transform it into something else (if you feel you really need to do that–see above for the arguments not to), it’s appropriate politically to credit the lineage from which your adapted work derived.”
To the same point, Rev. Mike Morran at First Unitarian in Denver wrote this in his newsletter:
"What we have heard consistently from the African American Community and the coalitions that are forming is that “All Lives Matter,” is perceived by the African American community as another example of white privilege, attempting to change the conversation, denying the reality of black lives, denying the history of black marginalization, and attempting to control (whitewash) the path forward rather than being supportive allies."
Kierstin suggested that we reach out to communities and ask what slogan they'd like us to use to show our love and solidarity. For example, we could ask our immigrant friends what phrase they use and get a poster made with that on it. Maybe it's "We Walk with Immigrants." Let’s ask our gay and lesbian friends and members how they'd like us to represent our solidarity in poster language. How about our Native American friends? What would they like us to proclaim in public about our love for them? Let’s keep listening to our partners. And let me know what you hear.
This month, consider this: Which kinds of love do you offer and receive? To whom and from whom? Tune into Facebook for quotes, suggested readings, spiritual practices, and more.
With Philia Love,