What a difference a week makes! Last week at this time we were anxiously awaiting the election results. Today we know that Joe Biden and Kamala Harris have won. It took a pandemic and the tremendous energy of millions of volunteers to get millions more to the polls and to mail in ballots. As the President of the Unitarian Universalist Association, Rev. Susan Frederick-Gray, put it:
“More than 4,500 Unitarian Universalists from over 800 congregations participated in the UU the Vote campaign. Through postcards, letters, phone calls and texts, we contacted over 2.79 million voters! Across this country, we continue to witness systematic misinformation and voter intimidation tactics to suppress the vote. It shouldn’t be this way. However, despite the suppression there was an unprecedented turn out. This is a win for democracy and we as UUs were a part of making it happen!”
I want to thank all of you who were part of our own UU The Vote team for the hundreds of cards, texts and phone calls you made; for our October speaker series; for the women’s march – virtual and live – to get out the vote; for the activist-in-training with our children’s “Honk” campaign Saturday mornings; and for our UU the Vote service on October 4. Thanks especially to our co-chairs, Janet Luongo and Beth Cliff, for their organizational prowess and enthusiasm. I found myself crying at the sight of women placing their “I Voted” stickers on the tombstone of Susan B. Anthony, who, along with countless other suffragists – UUs and others – made the vote for women possible 100 years ago. We also recognize that African American women were not included in that original struggle. Women, African Americans, Latinx and young people just saved our democracy.
We are also so aware of the sobering fact that 71 million Americans voted for Donald Trump, more than those who voted for Barrack Obama in 2008. In my sermon last Sunday, I outlined how I thought that much (but not all) of this sobering fact is connected to our continued struggle with racism. In contrast to those observations, David Brooks offers a more balanced view of why so many voted for Donald Trump. In it he recognizes that many people are still very worried about their personal futures and are less interested in more progressive values. This isn’t necessarily the fault of the electorate. The news media makes its living off of peddling fear and hyperbole. Many are suspect of such phrases as “Defund the Police” or “Black Lives Matter.” Those progressive standards need context and explanation, which is not something most people have time for.
I think we have been given a tremendous opportunity here. While we will roll back some of the damage to what we value most as UUs after the last four years, we have a moment to build bridges to those who look at the world differently. I am planning on trying, once again, to bring conservative and liberal voices together. Others are doing likewise. If there is to be real change it must come at the local level: thousands of citizens who truly want to hear what the other side is saying and thinking. Joe Biden is absolutely right: this demonization simply must stop. While I have no illusions that the politics of the next four years will be anything but hard knuckled, we, as ordinary citizens, need to offer an open hand and willing ear. This is the true work of Unitarian Universalism; to reach beyond the partisan and find common Unifying Ground.
Our worship over the next several weeks will be changing. Because the Covid numbers keep going up we have made the decision to suspend the 9:00 AM in person service. There will be only one 11:00 AM service, mostly pre-recorded for the next several weeks. Within a few weeks we will be starting to stream a single live worship service at 10:00 AM. Stayed tuned for that time change announcement. For the time being, only worship participants will be allowed in the building.
I would love to hear from you. How are you doing in this post-election pandemic world?
Yours Always, Rev. John