As our Election Day draws to a close, many of us are anxious about the future of our country and our democracy. We have reason to be worried. The level of rancor and violence surrounding our political process is extremely high. We are worried that the fabrication of truth is becoming an acceptable part of our collective consciousness. And we are worried for our children, wondering just what kind of world we are leaving them.
At times such as this, I take strength from our Unitarian Universalist faith. Since the founding of the republic, we have been at the forefront of nurturing a civil religion that urges dialogue over characterization, and voting over violence. It is upon that foundation that I urge all of us to “seek first to understand, then to be understood,” to quote the 20th century writer Steven Covey. Trust is built within a relationship and almost all disagreements are made less toxic by actually talking to the other side. Let’s not let the media’s characterization of our country as being on the brink of civil war deter us from the reality that the vast majority of Americans are good neighbors and reasonable people.
My sermon last Sunday explored the difference between being a liberal religion and a religion of liberals. We are far more the former than the latter. As I will expand on this coming Sunday, being a liberal religion should have an impact on politics because our moral values have a political dimension, but that is not the same as endorsing a political party.
Our faith as Unitarian Universalists, like our congregation, is about finding a way to make the world better than it is now. We are called to act civilly in the world, towards those we don’t agree with including those within our own congregation. Respect is more than just keeping your mouth shut. In fact, it is just the opposite. It involves opening your mouth to ask and your ears to hear and truly understand what the other is trying to say.
We are not like the Y, we are not a member’s services organization. We are a community, striving to be beloved, even if being beloved is still an aspiration. My vision for us is as a thriving mid-sized congregation of all ages with a strong music program, robust faith formation ministry, compassionate care for the wounded, and a calling to change the world.
So on this Election Day, no matter the outcome, take courage in the fact that you are part of a community, and a congregation, that values both a diversity of opinion and our shared humanity. We are, as a liberal religion covenantal, relational, and able to change even if we don’t agree with that change. We are a congregation – and, so we hope, a country – based on the fact that understanding is not necessarily agreement, but without understanding nothing is possible.
Onward friends! Rev. John