The “Souls of Black Folk” Test

Unless something changes before I head off to AAR (American Academy of Religion) in San Diego next week, this will be the first year in more than a decade that I haven’t preached or been invited to preach in a UU pulpit anywhere.  And I’m asking myself, “Am I sad about this?”

Honestly?  Not really.

It is rather freeing to be able to preach and reference people/work and not have to wonder if the audience has any idea of who the person/work being referenced is. I call this the “Souls of Black Folk” test. And the vast majority of UU congregations fail it miserably.

As I’ve written about before, there is a limited number of non-white references that can be preached from a UU pulpit and not have the majority of the audience give back blank faces. What this year of being away from a UU pulpit has taught me is just how much the modern world (and modern thought) has passed UUism by. For example, this year marks the fiftieth anniversary of the publication of Dr. James Cone’s “Black Theology and Black Power” and next year marks the fiftieth anniversary of the English-language publication of Paulo Freire’s “Pedagogy of the Oppressed.” I can probably count on both my hands the number of congregations in which either one of those people were referenced, much less any Womanist/Mujerista-Latina/Asian-Asian American women/Indigenous thinkers. And don’t even get me started on the conversations/thoughts on the scriptures of the world’s religions done by people from the “global south.” Or theoethics from marginalized perspectives.

But I’ve been talking about this for a long time. Not much has changed, at least in most UU congregations. And I’m guessing that most UUs are just fine with that.

I think this year of not being in a UU pulpit is a sign. As far as UUism goes, BLUU gives me what I need. AAR feeds me in ways that excite me. And my other religious commitments feed me in other ways.

I don’t know what next year holds, but if it ends up the same as this year, I won’t be disappointed.

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