The Wheels On The Bus…..(Black Church Memories)

Three weeks ago, after I got off the Red Line at Porter Square, I saw something that I haven’t seen in this area but something which is a Black church staple.

A church bus.

The church I grew up in had 2. My cousins’ church had 1. Most of my friends’ churches had at least 1.

This got me to thinking…..does any UU congregation have a church bus?**   How many UUs have any idea what what a church bus is?

I’ve been wrestling with what I was going to say in this post since that Sunday. Am I going through a fit a nostalgia? Am I asking for too much from UU congregations to wonder why UU congregations don’t provide this really simple form of hospitality and welcoming?

What does it mean that no UU congregation I can think of offers a transportation ministry?

What avenues would be opened if UU congregations did have a church bus? Who would get to be included?

of course, these thoughts bring up other issues like where UU congregations are in relation to both population centers and where their members/friends live, etc.

I’m still wrestling with this Black church memory and what it could mean for Unitarian Universalism.  Maybe we can wrestle with it together.

 

**–my friend Patty tells me that First Church Roxbury has one. Fits the profile.

 

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Black Panther Theology Syllabus pt. 2

The syllabus is live!

The non-theological portions of it anyway. The theology sections will come up as I get them vetted.

And I am open to suggestions, so if there are books that you feel should be on the syllabus, drop me a line.

Unitarian Universalism Is A Bad Spiritual Emergency Room

Before I start, I want to remind everybody that I am an Universalist. I firmly believe that there is nothing anybody can do to separate themselves from the bosom of God. (yes, it’s more nuanced than that. buy me a drink when you see me and I’ll explain it fully)

anyway…..

Most Unitarian Universalists are converts; whether it’s from some other religious practice or from no practice. Because so many in our congregations are converts, a number of them come into our congregations in the midst/middle of some spiritual trauma. Hence, too many of our congregations are acting as  informal spiritual emergency rooms, and doing it badly.

For those of you familiar with emergency rooms, you know that there are three things that can happen: 1)the patient can die; 2)the patient can be stabilized and moved to another department for specialized care; or, 3) the patient can be prepped for emergency surgery.

Why am I saying that many UU congregations are doing spiritual emergency room work badly? Mainly because, too often, we let people stay in trauma mode without doing the necessary work of either prepping them for surgery or stabilizing them and moving them on to specialized care (to be clear, moving them on to specialized care does not mean that these people have to leave the congregation).

How many UU congregations help congregants come to peace/find peace/own their religious past in a systematic way? Because this cannot be done willy-nilly. This is hard work.

So many of the problems that are manifesting themselves in Unitarian Universalism right now are occurring because we are not acknowledging the trauma (in all its forms), helping those who are traumatized come to terms with the trauma, and move forward in a trauma-informed way. Nothing will change until this changes.

p.s.- this also applies to the traumas in Unitarian Universalism’s past. when I talk about our history mattering, this is why.

 

The Last Words…..Holy Weekend Thoughts

One day, hopefully not too far in the future, some nice church is going to let me do a “Last Words” Maundy Thursday/Good Friday service.

There were also women looking on from a distance; among them were Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joses, and Salome. These used to follow him and provided for him when he was in Galilee; and there were many other women who had come up with him to Jerusalem.  [Mark 15: 40-41]

It’s Holy Saturday. And I’m thinking about Stephon Clark’s grandmother, Sequita Thompson. I’m thinking about all the Black women who organized the protests in Sacramento. I’m thinking about those who are left behind when the state summarily executes a member of a minority group.

I’m thinking of the women.

Because, most often, it is the women who are left behind to pick up the pieces after the slaughter.

I’m thinking of the women.

Because, most often, it is the women who are providing for those who the state takes away and have to keep providing for the community once the state has taken someone away.

I’m thinking of the women.

It’s Holy Saturday.

Holy Saturday is all about waiting.

Waiting for new life out of death and destruction.

Waiting for light out of darkness.

Waiting for hope out of despair.

Waiting.

And so I think of Miz Sequita today. And all the other women who, like the women that followed and provided for Jesus, have to look on from a distance. Knowing that there really is no distance between the death of their loved one and them.

Please Stop Telling Me the Parkland Students “Get It” pt. 2

Some Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School students held a press conference today. I’m guessing you didn’t hear about it. That’s because it was Black MSD students holding the press conference.

The Black MSD students were holding the press conference because they have some concerns that the students who are getting all the media attention don’t seem to have.

Mainly, a number of these students are concerned about the talk of more school resource officers in their school.

And they are right to be concerned. Schools where school resource officers are present have a higher number of disciplinary actions against children of color. Schools where school resource officers are present refer more children of color to the criminal justice system.

So…I am glad that the white and white-presenting MSD students acknowledge that gun violence is about more than school- or mass-shootings. And I am glad that most of them seem to understand that the reason they are getting so much attention is because of white privilege.

What concerns me is that they seem to not be listening to their fellow MSD students who have real concerns about the proposals they are forwarding.

While the white and white-presenting MSD students “get it” on some things, they don’t on others. If they are truly listening to their fellow students, maybe that will change.

For the Love of God, Please Stop Telling Me the Parkland Students “Get It”

The officers who murdered Alton Sterling will never be charged with taking his life. The Louisiana Attorney General announced this just a little while ago.

Stephon Clark was killed by officers who did not identify themselves, IN HIS OWN BACKYARD.

Decynthia Clements was killed by police on the side of I-90 not far outside of Chicago on March 12th.

Danny Ray Thomas was killed by Houston police March 22nd.

Police violence is gun violence.

That was not talked about at any march on Saturday (that I know of).

Yes, those Parkland students who have been getting airtime seem to understand that gun violence is not just about school shootings. Yes, those Parkland students “shared the stage” with youth of color on Saturday. (as if this was some magnanimous gesture. if I had it in me I would write a post about how the presence of youth of color at the marches has been described)  Yes, you good white people are falling all over yourselves about Naomi Wadler and Yolanda Renee King saying how inspiring they were.

But will you be at the march to protest the next police killing of a person of color?

Whether the Parkland kids get it or not, the real question is why you good white people didn’t get it before now. And whether you will get it tomorrow when the people who are killed don’t look like you.

Y’all are exhausting.

Having to Leave Your Blackness at the Church House Door

I’m part of the planning for some upcoming worship services. And during our planning meeting today, one of the other people involved asked (rhetorically), “how Black am I allowed to be in UUism?”

I hadn’t put it in those exact words recently, but it’s a question worth considering.

UUism asks people of color to play respectability politics all the time. There’s only so much of one’s person of color-ness that one is allowed to bring in to the church house, no matter what other marginalized identity that the person of color might carry.

So the question is…how much can UU culture change so that people of color can bring their full selves through the church house door?

In Wakanda, Stephon Clark Would Still Be Alive

I’ve been trying to come up with the words to express how I feel about the most recent state-agent killing of a Black person; Stephon Clark was killed by Sacramento police this week in his own backyard.

What I keep coming back to is…Stephon would be alive if Wakanda were real.

I know many of you are probably tired of hearing/reading me talk about Wakanda. But it is so lovely there. And it highlights how far from it we are in the “real world.”

Stephon Clark is dead because police mistook him for a man who was vandalising cars. Let me repeat that…..

Stephon Clark is dead because police mistook him for a man who was vandalising cars.

Sit with that.

A black man is DEAD over an alleged minor property crime.  (one that he was not committing, by the way)

Let’s look at the other major issue…..

Stephon Clark was shot in HIS OWN BACKYARD.

And another issue…..

Police interviewed Stephon’s grandmother BEFORE they told her that her grandson was dead.

Next issue…..

Police lied about the entire situation and only told the truth after video was released.

This is the real world.

Wakanda would be different.

Stephon Clark would be alive if Wakanda were real.

In Wakanda were real…..

Mike Brown would be alive.

Tamir Rice would be alive.

Eric Garner would be alive.

Sandra Bland would be alive.

Rekia Boyd would be alive.

Aiyanna Stanley-Jones would be alive.

In Wakanda, all the people would be alive because in Wakanda…black lives matter.

#WakandaForever

Black Panther and the War on Black Children

Pay attention to the part where the mother (with her son) is talking about what Black Panther really means. Yes, it makes me cry.

It was reported yesterday in the New York Times and other places about a study done by the “Equality of Opportunity Project” that Black male children (and Indigenous male children too) of rich families have a greater chance of being in poverty as adults than white or Asian male children. The executive summary states it this way:

Growing up in a high-income family provides no insulation from these disparities. American Indian and black children have much higher rates of downward mobility than other groups. Black children born to parents in the top income quintile are almost as likely to fall to the bottom quintile as they are to remain in the top quintile. By contrast, white children born in the top quintile are nearly five times as likely to stay there as they are to fall to the bottom.
Two things…..first, this study is specifically about Black (and Indigenous) boys. Second, this is specific about income; there is a difference between income and wealth. And the difference between income and wealth can, in large measure, explain why there looks to be such inequality between Black/Indigenous boys and white boys while at the same time not showing this type of inequality between Black girls and white girls.
What this study shows is how important, culturally, Black Panther really is.
Wakanda is not real. Unfortunately.
If Wakanda were real, then Black children wouldn’t be under constant assault from the society around them.
If Wakanda were real, then Black children would be seen as children and valued as such.
If Wakanda were real, then Black parents wouldn’t have to worry about what’s going to happen to their child in the outside world when that child grows up.
If Wakanda were real…..
What really gets me about the video above is not just the mother and what she says. What brings the tears to my eyes is the son’s total awe at being in the presence of Chadwick Boseman. Representation matters my friends. That boy’s wonder and awe matters.
#WakandaForever

The Exodus Should Not Be Quiet…Whether It’s Out of White Evangelicalism or Unitarian Universalism

I will write more about this after next week, but wanted to give some initial thoughts here.

In today’s New York Times there is an in-depth article exploring the exodus of African Americans from heavily white, but integrated, evangelical churches.

Since in the subtitle of the article mentions the word exodus, it’s got me thinking about the Exodus story.

For those of you familiar with the story, you know  Moses gave Pharaoh a number of chances to change the situation. Moses warned Pharaoh about what would happen if things didn’t change. The situation did not change.

African Americans–like Moses, whether in predominately white evangelical churches or liberal/progressive churches, have been giving Pharaoh a number of chances to change how their religious institutions work. African Americans–like Moses–have been telling Pharaoh what would happen if things didn’t change in these religious institutions.

The question is will Pharaoh be any different this time than the last time?