Be Not Afraid

Unitarian Universalists are one of the most politically active faith communities in the United States. Four years ago, as I served a large congregation in a swing state, I noted how attendance at Sunday worship services dropped in the month preceding the election. I quickly realized that scores of our members were busy campaigning, even on Sunday mornings. We believe in democracy and participate in politics as a form of spiritual discipline.

Unitarian Universalism is not a faith that focuses on an afterlife. Ours is a faith about living on this earth with one another.

Today, as another election season winds down, our attention moves from an intense focus on candidates, ballot initiatives and political tactics to reflection on what it all means and anticipation of what is to come. Once again, it is time to take the long view.

What will our religious faith demand of us in the coming months and years? What are the implications of our affirming the inherent worth and dignity of every person? What does it mean today to affirm compassion and justice? What does our recognition of the interdependent web of all existence call us to do?

For all people of faith in our country, the challenges remain daunting. We continue to live in a nation that is deeply divided. These divisions threaten us and weaken us. Regardless of denominational affiliation, our religious task in the coming months is to address the sources of the divisions and to find ways of breaking down the walls that separate us.

What is most troubling about America's polarization is that it is an indicator that millions upon millions of Americans are deeply afraid. This fear expresses itself in many ways.

For example, I believe that the rejection of science and the willful denial of overwhelming evidence for global warming and biological evolution can only be understood as arising from fear. Similarly, the efforts to marginalize LGBT people and deny them basic rights is based ultimately in fear.

The same is true of the persistent racism in America -- whether it expresses itself as hatred of our president or anti-immigrant legislation. I even believe that much of the rampant greed, inequality and defense of privilege we see all around us is founded on fear. I see fear of the unknown. Fear of change. Fear of loss. Fear of the other.

I know that when I am afraid I get defensive. I am more likely to lash out. When I am afraid I cannot reach out, I cannot open my heart or my mind. When I am not afraid, I am open to life, open to relationship, open to love.

In the wake of this election, we must remind ourselves that our goal is not to get our candidate elected or our ballot initiative passed. Our goal is to change hearts and minds. Our goal is to create the Beloved Community. Minds won't change when individuals' hearts are closed and afraid.

Let us be people of faith who show another way. Let us show, by our lived example, that we have nothing to fear. Let us show that life lived in love, in community, committed to compassion, peace and sustainability, and that embraces learning and diversity, are rich and joyful.

Let us continue to reach out across the walls that divide us. Love will guide us. Be not afraid.