There is an old joke about what you get when you cross a Jehovah Witness and a UU: someone who knocks on your door and asks you what you believe. Well, that is not so far from the truth. We need to create opportunities to create new meaning. To value what the other has to say, to speak the truth in love.
But that won’t be enough to change our world; the world our young people stand to inherit. It won’t be enough to have communities of people ready to ask new and probing questions and suggest exciting new ideas about why we are here. We will actually need to change the world. Or at least create opportunities to change the world. As the President of Starr King School for the Ministry in Berkeley, Dr. Rebecca Parker puts it “It is not enough to celebrate inherent worth and dignity and assert confidence in the gradual evolution of progress….UUs tend to focus on values and ideals as the foundation of social justice work…motivated by something that does not exist: an imaginary better world…” (From her essay “Resisting Evil, Reverencing Life” in A People So Bold). We tend to place more faith in humanity than is warranted. Our young people know this, while perhaps we like to forget.
Evil is a real force in ourselves and our lives and it must be resisted. So any growing on from who we are now for the next three generations will have to deal more effectively with this reality. How? Young people consistently tell us that they want to DO something. It doesn’t have to be much, and it doesn’t have to be new; we can hang onto someone else's project. But Dr. Parker suggests something else to engage us and the next three generations even more powerfully: Don’t forget to Bless the World. Don’t forget to celebrate life. Don’t lose sight of the fact that we make a difference simply by being here.
Some have complained that I don’t spend enough time in my preaching railing against the injustices of the world. I don’t but for good reason. If I did so what? What if I rail on about poverty or the oil spill? Will that change our world anymore than making our anger at it all more justified? We are already angry, if we are paying attention. What we need to be are a angry and gentle people. To provide opportunities to change the world outside Sunday morning and then use our time together to bless what is good about life. As Rebecca Parker puts it “The foundations for social justice work need not be a dream of what could be. It can, instead, be doxology – praise for the gift of life, delight in what we have tasted and seen of beauty, love, tenderness, courage and steadfastness.” (Ibid, Parker)
We begin by blessing the world and then acting out of that blessing.
With grace and grit, John