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Countering Hate – 12/06/16

This week on National Public Radio, I heard a commentary about how the media can deal with a national leader who is fomenting hate. Journalists are debating whether episodic Tweets about hate are news—or just distractions. The commentators was making the case that we cannot afford to just focus on his appointments and just policies, as important as that focus is. And for us as a religious people whose first principle affirms the worth and dignity of all people, I agree—and with vehemence! What the Tweets have helped create is an environment in which people have been given a license to hate. We as Unitarian Universalist and as people of faith cannot stand by while other people are treated with such disservice and such disrespect by the elected highest leader of our nation.

I would argue that this is a time in which all people of faith must speak out not only against the systemic changes that will prolong discrimination and oppression of the most marginalized in our society and increase the power of a rampant and out-of-control corporate oligarchy. We must also speak out against hatred and those actions which allow it to become the accepted standard practice in our nation.

If there is one experience that I suspect that a majority of citizens in this country share, it is some sort of disillusionment, dissatisfaction and even fear that the lack of our government to respond to the new world in which we find ourselves living. And yet our common response cannot be to allow a license to hate to be the response of our nation to that which we do not know. Somehow we must reach through our uncertainty to the certainty that dividing us against one another, and particularly scapegoating and targeting those most vulnerable in our midst is not an answer to what besets us as a nation.

As we consider day to day our religious response to a new world in which bullying runs rampant and other-ing is the new normal, countering hate must be our daily choice.

In the spirit of love and unity, Leslie

This About Advent

The Unitarian Universalist Association says this about Advent.  “Advent is a season of expectant waiting and preparation for the celebration of the nativity of Jesus. The name derives from the Latin adventus, meaning “coming.” Marked over the course of the four Sundays before Christmas, Advent is traditionally celebrated with an advent wreath: a ring of evergreen with 3 purple candles and one pink one (or 4 purple candles) that represent: Hope, Love, Joy and Peace.”

This first Sunday is about awaiting the Coming of Hope.  In the darkest of days, those who were awaiting liberation needed hope. Jesus’ message was one of promise, promise that people who others scorned could be treated with respect and find their own path to meaning and redemption. Jesus preached a message of love and said that people coming together in community was a great act of hope and faith. The community formed by Jesus of Nazareth was so strong that after his death, it carried on his teachings about hope.  We will gather in this spirit as we light the first candle on the Advent Wreath this Sunday.

We hope that we will find the courage to keep speaking our own truths.  And that we will also, at the same time, and perhaps paradoxically, find the ability to hear the truths of others.  We hope that we will take the time to connect with the most precious people and life-giving activities in our lives, while, at the same time, not turning away from a time which needs our attention.  We hope that we will be willing to keep holding onto a vision of life where all have safety and health and respect, while also finding the fortitude to do the hard work to make that possible in a nation divided by fear and anger.

If ever there was a year when we need to be reminded of our commitment to hope, love, joy and peace, this would be this year.  Wherever you are this Sunday, take a moment to kindle the flame of hope. In the spirit of love and unity, Leslie 

In the Spirit of Love and Unity

Each year I have chosen an intentional signature to my email.  In a medium in which one can move too fast, it is a way for me to remind myself to think before I send.  In past years, I have signed emails “In faith” or “With gratitude.” This year I chose something more cumbersome”  “In the spirit of love and unity.”  I type this into message, it is not part of my memorized signature and here is why.

We are going to need this sort of awareness, not only because of threats external to our community, also because of the inevitability of internal divisions.  We are experiencing this moment in our country’s history in very different ways. For some it is proof that some are just not educated.  For others, the economic roots are most important. And for those who have already experience marginalization on a regular basis, this is a devastating event and this is not a matter of something happening in the future.  Beloved members among us already feel less safe in a grocery store, riding BART, going to work, going home for the holidays. For those older among us who know this could be their last election, the discouragement and despair is also high.  My friends, we need to be tender with one another.

For those among us who want to minimize the outcome of this election, please hear me say, in the spirit of love and unity, that the impacts are already real for many in our community.  For those who want to give up, please resist despair and connect to the comfort and outlet of community.  For those of you who just want to do something, email ranwa@mduuc.org and sign up for the Living on the Side of Love email list which will be our alert network for responses. (By the way, Ranwa’s ordination is going to be an amazing testimony to the worth and dignity of one among us we revere.)  Much to do—and  let’s do the intentional work.

Yes, it is clunky to type “In the spirit of love and unity” on an email.  And it is also a good constant meditation on the work we must do to support one another in these heart-rending times.  And so I am –in the spirit of love and unity, Leslie

Recommit for love. Resist despair.

I say gently to all who are in shock this morning that I am not. I am in mourning. That ignorance and fear could have such power is something that many of us already know. That the world will touch you and hurt you at the place where you are most vulnerable is something many of us have already experienced. And that within each of us is a strength that we have not known before that we have is also true. Love is not a panacea, it is a powerful counterforce to fear and ignorance. Be gentle with your mind and body and spirit today. others who are also now mourners for life. Watch for those who are most affected by oppression to lead. Commit to a deeper engagement which is the work of Beloved Community and not turning away in disgust which is only an option for the privileged. Know your strengths. Recommit for love. Resist despair.

Rev. Leslie Takahashi

Lead Minister

Leslie’s Logos 11/1/2016

A visitor to our congregation asked me recently if we were talking about the election because we were trying to have a veiled endorsement of a candidate. My answer was that we are concerned with something larger. We are, as people of faith, calling in those who would invite the systematic destruction and targeting of people of the system of government. This government, now a dirtier word than many of the unpleasant ones we hear in the debates, has, over centuries provided so many of the things that we know to be critical to a healthy democracy.

Libraries that help people get information and learn and schools and colleges funded not just to serve those with family wealth, rather to give all access to the best quality education.
Healthcare for the poor, for elders and now, under the newest provisions for young adults. And public meeting spaces, forums that are civil in which we debate where we want to go as a society, perhaps agreeing to disagree and yet not reducing it to name-calling.The idea of “calling in” is that we are inviting people back into the conversation, rather than calling them out, or blaming or shaming.

We call in those who are benefitting the most from our unevenly regulated economic system who are inciting and duping those most affected by the lack of true economic opportunity.

We called in those who would use hatred-inducing tactics which breed contempt for our fellow citizens, and others who occupy these lands. We deplore the attacks on immigrants, Muslims and bisexual, Gay, lesbian and transgender folk. We counter those who would rain approbation on the brave prophetic voices that have called for a reexamination of the systemic bias built in to our law and prison systems. And we call all of us in for allowing these to gain more and more resources as we have systematically de-funded systems of hope such as schools, mental health care and rehabilitative services.

This election is much bigger than any candidate. This is an election which calls on us to wake up, no matter what happens on November 7th and look deeply at what is going on in our always imperfect and yet so precious democratic process. We call in all who would abstain because the process is too distasteful and ask them to understand that a boycott of voting on the main issues before us is simply to hasten the demise of our enfeebled systems for engagement. We renew our commitment to listen to those whose anger is so wide and deep it endangers the very nature of our democracy.

We will be continuing our explorations of the underlying causes of these divisions and fissures through the Ministers’Sunday Salon this month, through our Witness and our participation in the rebuilding of the CCISCO network in our county, Cisco program comma through the registration for and commitment to participating in the next round of our beloved conversations classes beginning in January. Most of all we do this through our engagement with one another, where we fight off malaise and the numbing consumption of things and experiences in the place of true engagement. Let’s be all in, let’s invite others back in and call them in. Vote. And then commit to engaging.

Leslie

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