I am writing this column the day before Donald Trump’s inauguration. I can only speculate what the new administration might do. By the time you read this much will be known. What will not change are the deep and bitter differences that divide Americans. Like many, I fear for the people vilified during the campaign, especially undocumented Latino immigrants and Muslims. I know that when hatred is unleashed and sanctioned, all marginalized people are at risk: African Americans, LGBTQ people, women. Beyond this, I dread the long-term effects of climate change denial.
What are we, as a religious people, called to do in such a time? I am thinking about issues more fundamental than public policy. Ultimately public policy is an expression of something deeper—of our sense of identity, our convictions about right and wrong, our beliefs about what is true, our sense of duty to one another.
The Christian scriptures teach that we should love our enemies. We UUs assert the inherent worth and dignity of each person. These are noble sentiments and, like all noble aspirations, difficult to practice. While we should never dehumanize our enemies, we must also remember that our enemies are our enemies. We progressives have always had a difficult time confronting the human capacity for evil. Evil is real and must be resisted.
What are we to do as a religious people? I believe we have two essential tasks: we must offer sanctuary and preach our gospel.
Our congregations need to be places of safety. First, we must be a place of safety for one another. The deep divisions in our society, the hatred that is being unleashed, take an emotional and spiritual toll. We must be a place of peace and healing for all who come seeking spiritual refuge. We must be gentle with one another.
But the sanctuary we offer must go far beyond taking care of one another. Most of us are not among the most defenseless. I believe these times demand that we offer sanctuary to the most vulnerable. Dozens of our congregations have chosen to be “sanctuary congregations.” I applaud them, but this is only the beginning. We cannot offer sanctuary to hundreds of thousands by protecting a few families. We must join hands with other religious organizations to offer resistance.
We at the UUA are busy compiling resources and information and working closely with the UU Service Committee, the College of Social Justice, and interfaith partners to defend fundamental human rights. By the time you read this there will be many resources on UUA.org. Our field staff across the country will be important sources of information.
Preach our gospel
Yes. Preach our gospel. We have good news (“gospel” means “good news”) to share. Beneath all our theological diversity we actually do share common convictions. Our implicit gospel goes something like this:
It doesn’t have to be like this.
Love must guide us.
It is up to us.
It doesn’t have to be like this: our present divisions, inequality, and conflicts are not inevitable. We can move toward the beloved community. We can shape the future.
Love must guide us: everyone matters. We are in this together. We are all part of one another. Your suffering is ultimately my suffering. If we are truly compassionate, that compassion will guide all our decisions.
It is up to us: we cannot rely on supernatural intervention or on someone else. For good or ill, we will create our shared future together.
May we be a sanctuary for one another. Let us proclaim our good news.