This week, I'm looking at Chapter 8: Pamela Sparr’s essay, "Transforming Unitarian Universalist Culture: Stepping Out of Our Silos and Selves.” Sparr relates that when she taught about climate justice at a summer institute, she had been warned that participants didn’t want to be “bummed out.” Anyone who speaks about environmental issues faces that question: how to be inspiring rather than paralyzing or depressing. This is what I have said and firmly believe: reality is never depressing. Depression comes from attempts to block out reality. When those attempts fail and awareness seeps in, mixing and conflicting with our desire for denial, depression is the result. Embrace of reality – with no desire to deny any of it – is many things: fascinating, challenging, invigorating, even oddly peaceful. Reality may be beautiful, dangerous, or both. But reality can never be depressing.
Still, embracing reality is no easy thing. I’m not always great at that myself. But when I’m bummed out or just bored, I ask myself, “what is the reality here that I’m resisting rather than embracing?”
Sparr’s approach is to call for:
(1) a bolder prophetic imagination. We need to speak, among ourselves and to others, in visionary ways, showing humanity a better version of itself, offering moral clarity, and an unflinching insistence on justice.
(2) the courage and capacity to talk religiously. UUs are disproportionately involved in environmental organizations, yet when we show up for this work, our UUism is often invisible. “Our challenge is to move out of our secular skin and to wear our UU skin all the time” (83) – to claim our identity and authority as religious persons. Grounded in our faith, a moral language of hope and justice takes the center – and proposed technical solutions move to the periphery. This means UUs must get comfortable and articulate in about our profound sense of the sacredness of all life, the dignity and worth of every person and every threatened species, our wonder and awe and the interconnected mystery of existence. Faith-rooted solidarity is based on knowing that “my well-being is totally and irrevocably tied up with yours. My liberation is dependent on yours” (84). Acting religiously means that the opposition is never demonized, never “othered,” always loved.
(3) getting out of our silos. Racial injustice, climate change, sexual harassment and abuse, LGBTQ discrimination, environmental degradation and species extinction are all interconnected and all have the same solution: building a world of justice and equality. We can’t let ourselves get into a “single issue” silo.
(4) radical relationship building. “We are going to have to stretch ourselves to befriend and collaborate with many different types of people and movements, including those with whom some of us may feel theologically uncomfortable” (90).
(5) becoming more countercultural. Current culture is characterized by a disconnect from nature and a casual acceptance of power hierarchies (and thus of the injustice and inequality that necessarily inheres in institutionalized hierarchy). Our denomination must transform itself into one that is thoroughly counter to these characteristics.
Sounds to me like a five-fold approach for embracing reality.
Do you know how to go about doing any of these five? Which ones? How?
For my reflection/summary on previous chapters, click the title:
- Jennifer Nordstrom, "Intersectionality, Faith, and Environmental Justice"
- Paula Cole Jones, "The Formation of the Environmental Justice Movement"
- Sheri Prud'homme, "Ecotheology"
- Sofia Betancourt, "Ethical Implications of Environmental Justice"
- Adam Robersmith, "Cherishing Our World: Avoiding Despair in Environmental Justice Work"
- Peggy Clarke, Matthew McHale, "Becoming Resilient: Community Life for a New Age”
- Kathleen McTigue, "Drawing on the Deep Waters: Contemplative Practice in Justice-Making”
The Liberal Pulpit New:
- Creature Comforts (Sermon of Feb 3)
See the video HERE
Index of past sermons: HERE. Index of other reflections: HERE.
Videos of sermons are on the Liberal Pulpit Youtube Channel: HERE
Practice of the Week: Claim Desire This week -- for each of the seven days of the week -- take 10 minutes at the beginning of your day (or at bedtime the night before), to identify one thing you want out of the coming (or next) day. In the midst of all the obligations ahead of you, what one desire do you want to make room for in the day ahead? READ MORE.
Your Moment of Zen: Method In 1820, John Keats (1795-1821) wrote to fellow poet Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792-1822) admonishing Shelley to
"be more of an artist, and ‘load every rift’ of your subject with ore. The thought of such discipline must fall like cold chains upon you, who perhaps never sat with your wings furl’d for six Months together.""Load every rift of your subject with ore" alludes to a line in Faerie Queene by Edmund Spenser (1552-1599):
"And with riche metall loaded every rifte."Keats meant that a poem ought to pack every line dense with meaning and layers of nuance. Raven's variation -- "stick kernels in every cranny" -- suggests that a teacher and mentor find teachable moments everywhere and in everything.
Porcupine began special consultations with Raven.Hotetsu's Verse
One day he asked, "What is your method?"
Raven said, "Evident."
Porcupine said, "You purvey the obvious?"
Raven said, "Stick kernels in every cranny."
Nature's method is none
Profligacy is not methodical.
Survival of the fittest
Might be a method if nature
Had a measure of fitness
Other than surviving.
She doesn't. Hence:
Survival of those that survive.
Tautologies aren't methods.
Nature's method is none.
The stars of Orion know about method, and what is evident.
The broad, slow river knows.
Though there are no crannies, and no kernels with which to fill them,
They are always full.
Case by Robert Aitken; introduction and Verse by Meredith GarmonZen at CUUC, Sat Feb 9: SEE HERE