We are less than twelve months away from the most critical elections in our lifetimes. We must not be on the sidelines.
Students fill out voter registration forms at a college in Phoenix, Arizona, on National Voter Registration Day Tuesday, September 24, 2019. (© 2019 Ross D. Franklin/AP Photo)
A parent recently shared that her son had gone by himself to a justice march in their city. When he got home, the first thing he said was, “Mom, I found our people! I found the UUs at the march.” He saw people in their yellow Side with Love shirts and quickly joined them.
Beyond Unitarian Universalist circles, one thing I hear consistently about us is that we show up. And right now, we need people who show up.
These are difficult and dangerous times. One of the challenges is that in times of change and uncertainty, there is a tendency for people to withdraw and grow fearful. This is why the rhetoric of hate, scarcity, and isolation grows in this country. However, it is exactly in such times that we need bold spiritual imagination and audacious leaders and communities that are showing a new way forward.
We are less than twelve months away from the most critical elections in our lifetimes. We must not be on the sidelines. Core Unitarian Universalist values—values of interdependence, democracy, human worth and dignity, the richness of pluralism and diversity, and the inborn right of all peoples to self-determination and agency—are on the line. When we show up as people of faith, with these values front and center, we are offering a viable alternative to narratives and policies of domination, supremacy, scarcity, and exploitation that threaten and diminish our lives and future.
Each of us will choose our candidates as individuals, but as a religious movement, we can organize for collective impact. In that spirit, I ask you to join me in our Association’s new electoral organizing campaign: “UU the Vote” (uua.org/UUtheVote).
The strength and success of the UU the Vote campaign will require both financial support and dedicated leaders to bring the work to their congregations and communities. From now until the 2020 election, we will be rolling out a comprehensive, multi-tiered, Association-wide strategy that is designed to be accessible to UUs everywhere. The UUA’s Organizing Strategy Team will be collaborating with movement partners as well as UU organizations, state advocacy networks, congregations, and individuals to help Unitarian Universalists grow and sharpen our skills for faith-based electoral organizing. No matter who you are, and what your skills and passions are, everyone has a role to play.
Every aspect of the UU the Vote campaign is part of a cycle of action, reflection, and learning. Whether you’re engaging in direct action at a candidates’ forum, canvassing a neighborhood, or phone banking for a ballot initiative, we will be offering opportunities to deepen spiritual grounding, build relationships within and beyond Unitarian Universalism, and grow your organizing skills. Whatever the outcomes of the 2020 elections, the spiritual, relational, and skill-building work we do together will make us better equipped to bend the moral arc of the universe toward justice.
I challenge us over the next year not only to be the people who show up, but also to be the people who get others to show up and protect our democracy through electoral engagement. This will require that we go beyond the usual voter registration campaigns to build relationships with and follow the leadership of directly impacted communities. We must also do careful discernment about places where we are uniquely equipped to fill in gaps and lead, rooted in the values of our faith. To do this, we’ll need to translate our values and principles into strategic, courageous action that aligns our skills and resources with the needs of this moment.
Voter mobilization is not just political. For Unitarian Universalists, this is faithful, moral action because democracy and the right of all people to have a voice and a vote are at the very heart of our Seven Principles. This work is about the inherent worth and dignity of every person; it is about restoring right relationship with the planet; it is about our commitment to justice and equity for all people. We are called to courageously embody the deepest values of our faith with our hearts, bodies, and spirits while building toward an abundant future in which all are free and flourishing.
What happens in November 2020 matters. And what we do today will shape what happens on Election Day. Our voice, our values, our willingness to show up matter right now. We are small, but we are mighty—and that mighty love and spirit-centered courage is exactly what is needed today.
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The Rev. Susan Frederick-Gray is the ninth president of the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA). She was elected in June 2017 to a six-year term after serving congregations in Phoenix, Arizona; Youngstown, Ohio; and Nashville, Tennessee. She lives with her husband, the Rev. Brian Frederick-Gray, and their son.