Yesterday I went to the Statehouse in Montgomery to testify against HB 56, Alabama’s version of Arizona’s SB 1070. As I listened to the testimony of those who were for this bill, I was struck by the anger they felt towards the values I hold dear.
Values like compassion for others. Values like acceptance of diversity. Values like equal opportunities for all. Values like honoring the integrity and dignity of others. Values like having life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness accessible for everyone.
My faith denomination, Unitarian Universalist, has been the sponsors of the Standing of the Side of Love Campaign. It has been used in several ways. It is prominent in the ongoing immigrant rights struggle in Arizona and elsewhere. It is prominent in supporting Muslim’s right to freedom of religion in Tennessee and in New York City and other places in America. It is prominent in the right to marriage campaign across this country. And most recently, it has been supporting workers rights for collective bargaining in Wisconsin, Indiana, and Ohio.
One of the criticisms lobbied at Unitarian Universalists is that we are not spiritual, that we are too much of the head and not enough, if at all, of the heart. It has been a fair criticism. We Unitarian Universalists value reason and critical thinking skills as a way to cut through the unprovable and the improbable in order to see the core of the matter in the hopes that we can make a difference for the better of all of our lives. Sometimes we have succeeded and sometimes it has been our thorn in our side.
The Standing on the Side of Love campaign is in its very essence a remedy to that criticism. Many years ago now, I decided to join Rev. Mel White, founder of Soulforce, in a seventeen step journey towards preparation in confronting the homophobia and violent rhetoric within the Christian Church. This was a series of essays and reflections which I was invited to journal about and discuss with a friend before joining Mel White in Lynchburg, VA to speak with the late Rev. Jerry Falwell about his vitriol against gays.
One of the things Mel White wrote was this:
“When we seek freedom for someone else, we find freedom for ourselves. When we finally make the decision to take a stand against oppression (or the rhetoric that leads to oppression) that stand itself leads us to spiritual renewal whether we win or we lose the battle.”
Those who begin to engage in Standing on the Side of Love have an opportunity, to not only achieve the desired goal of undoing a grave injustice but also to experience a spiritual renewal within themselves. Okay so that sounds self-centered and not altruistic in the least.
Yet, it is only ourselves that we can change. I cannot make someone else love their neighbor as they themselves would like to be loved. But I can do that. I can choose to love my neighbor. I can reflect on what that action means to me and reinforce it into my behavior. I can join with others who also choose to love their neighbor and together we can reflect on our common experiences of doing that act and build that into our way of being together. This is what our Unitarian Universalist congregations aim to do every Sunday.
We can role model that behavior for others to witness. Standing on the Side of Love is spiritual work. It is not simply wearing a yellow t-shirt or placing a heart logo on our facebook page. It is and can be a spiritual practice that helps us be fully in touch with our humanity’s soul.
I do not know how I will be able to face the anger that I faced yesterday if I do not choose to stand on the side of love daily. I do not know how I will address that anger and possibly soften their anger to seeing another way if I do not choose to stand on the side of love daily.
I invite you to join me to stand on the side of love as if your life and faith depends on it. I know mine does. Blessings.