White Supremacy is a Spiritual Wound

BLM & UU, part 2

Not Just Unitarian Universalists

Faith institutions are getting involved with the Black Lives Matter movment because white supremacy inflicts spiritual harm. It’s not just Unitarian Universalists.

The United Church of Christ supports the Black Lives Matter movement. Their website declares:
“When a church claims boldly 'Black Lives Matter' at this moment, it chooses to show up intentionally against all given societal values of supremacy and superiority or common-sense complacency. By insisting on the intrinsic worth of all human beings, Jesus models for us how God loves justly, and how his disciples can love publicly in a world of inequality. We live out the love of God justly by publicly saying #BlackLivesMatter.”
It’s not just Unitarian Universalists.

At the national website of the United Methodist Church, I read:
“Protests and riots have erupted in several large cities where unarmed black people were shot or died in the custody of police. United Methodists are joining the voices proclaiming 'Black Lives Matter.'”
In the Journal of Lutheran Ethics, I read:
“That black lives matter should be obvious but unfortunately it is not. Black Lives Matter is not simply a rhetorical expression coined by a few. It is in fact an existential cry with deeply spiritual roots. Born from the depths of centuries of collective oppression (remember slavery, indentured servitude, Jim Crow,) it is an expression of the groans of the Spirit of which Paul spoke, the collective prayer of a people demanding their right to exist, their inalienable right to be.”
It’s not just Unitarian Universalists.

Jews United for Justice flatly declares:
“JUFJ stands against police brutality, and for a world in which Black lives truly matter. We will not stand idly by when Black people are targeted in our cities and our communities. We continue to seek ways to be in solidarity with local Black-led efforts and will keep our community informed. Let's kindle a flame within our hearts that can keep burning as we rededicate ourselves to this struggle.”
The Catholics are a bit more muted, from what I could find, though the National Catholic Reporter ran a piece titled “Everyone wins when black lives matter.”

It’s not just Unitarian Universalists.

The Presbyterians, PC-USA, last July launched an antiracism campaign. Their announcement says:
“The campaign is a churchwide effort to recommit Presbyterians to racial justice and faithfully proclaim that the lives of people of color matter.”
The announcement goes on to quote their director of Racial, Ethnic & Women’s Ministries saying,
“This campaign affirms the Black Lives Matter movement, and will work to raise awareness of institutional racism in our society and the church.”
The Association of Welcoming and Affirming Baptists posted an official Statement in Solidarity with the African American Community.
“Today, the regular, tolerated and societally sanctioned killing of black and brown bodies by police has reignited a rebellion that we, the leadership of the Association of Welcoming & Affirming Baptists, support as a “voice” crying in the wilderness. We pray that the marches now happening all across the USA and the world on behalf of those who are subject to injustice at the hands of the ‘justice’ system will awaken the hearts and minds of those with power and privilege to make a way forward from this wilderness into a free and just society.”
The statement goes on to declare their commitment to:
“Stand with the brown and black bodies as they continue to seek equality, freedom and justice in the USA; [and] March in solidarity with the brown and black bodies recognizing that centuries of the obliteration of personhood leaves a unique mark on the soul.”
I have mentioned only predominantly white denominations -- I have not mentioned any of the historically African American denominations. I also haven’t mentioned any of the most conservative, evangelical churches, who don’t support the Black Lives Matter movement -- which is part of the reason that it matters that we do.

It’s not just Unitarian Universalists, but it is especially Unitarian Universalists. UUs make especially central the proposition that faith must be lived, that the values we teach and stand for must be manifested in our public lives, that standing up for what is right is not something we do only within the safety of our sanctuaries.

A Spiritual Issue

There’s a widely recognized spiritual issue here. The spiritual issue is one that Cornel West alluded to when he addressed the Unitarian Universalist General Assembly in Portland last summer. I was there to hear him say:
"I've got a lot of vanilla brothers and sisters that walk with me and say, Brother West, Brother West. you know, I'm not a racist any longer. Grandma's got work to do, but I've transcended that. And I say to them, 'I'm a Jesus-loving, free, black man, and I've tried to be so for 55 years, and I'm 62 now, and when I look in the depths of my soul I see white supremacy because I grew up in America. And if there's white supremacy in me, my hunch is you've got some work to do too.'"
The assumptions of white supremacy -- tacit, maybe, unconscious, perhaps -- are in every soul in this country. Black or white, we are all taught that white is better. That's a spiritual issue because it wounds our spirits.

Faith institutions are standing in support of Black Lives Matter because spiritual healing is their business. It’s our business. People show up at our door as they show up at the doors of thousands of congregations of many denominations across this country. They arrive heart sick for beloved community, torn inside by the stresses of negotiating a world that demonstratively holds that white lives matter more than black lives.

We come to places of worship seeking inner peace, for there is no peace for our spirits when millions of our neighbors are singled out for mistreatment, and have been for generations. A faith institution concerned with healing spirits that does not turn its energies to address the social causes that wound both white and black spirits is incompetent. It commits spiritual malpractice.

Our congregation, Community Unitarian Universalist Congregation at White Plains, two years ago, voted overwhelmingly for a mission that says that what we, as a congregation, are here for is, among other things, to "engage in service to transform ourselves and our world." Standing up for justice is part of what that looks like. It’s what we do. It’s our mission.

If the peace of worldwide beloved community is not available to us, then the peace of living lives committed to building that community for future generations is. The service that transforms the world transforms ourselves, as our mission recognizes.

Justice and inner peace go together. Each requires the other. Justice activism without inner peace might succeed in being disruptive but it will ultimately fail to actually build justice. On the other hand, inner peace without justice activism will prove fleeting. For peace to last, compassionate caring for others has got to be a part of the picture -- because we really are an interconnected web and we really are all in this together. And compassionate caring for others includes challenging the systems that are harming those others.

If, week after week, we came here and enjoyed philosophical, spiritual, and reflective worship, but always turned a blind eye to others' pain, it would be hollow. It would fail to truly nourish.

If, week after week, you came here for inspiration and that inspiration never shook you from any complacency, then it wasn’t inspiration. It was a sham. And something deep inside you would know that it was.

* * *
This is part 2 of 3 of "BLM & UU"
See also
Previous: Part 1: UUs and BlackLivesMatter
Next: Part 3: Afflicted or Comfortable? Yes.

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