We Have Values, Too

Sermon by Mike Stark
Paint Branch UU Church - August 14, 2005

Call to Worship

In the beginning, there was an idea. Kim and I bought the DVD version of The Grinch who Stole Christmas last December, and as a bonus they gave us Horton Hears a Who as well. Upon watching it, I realized what a subversive Dr. Seuss was, and also realized he was talking about a "free and responsible search for truth and meaning" - and thus a sermon was conceived.

My original intent was a sermon that asserts what we already know - that liberal religions espouse moral values - and to have fun illustrating this point with American cultural icons. Well Bono's Irish, but close enough.

However, original intentions have a way of changing, and for me the tone of this sermon changed at this year's General Assembly; the annual national convention of the Unitarian Universalist association. One of the things a GA does is pass a single Study/Action Issue, usually a social concern such as criminal justice or the environment.

This year was different, though. This year's issue was framed as the question at the top of your order of service, ""How might the moral and ethical grounding of Unitarian Universalism be given greater voice in the public square?" I don't know why the delegates selected this over the more conventional choices; the leading proponents were the Youth Caucus, and they were certainly joined by adults as well.

My speculation is that the delegates were tired of passing resolutions, studying them for two years, passing a statement of conscience, and then moving on to the next thing, and that it might be a better idea to provoke discussion on this broader issue.

This may not be the best sermon preached on this issue, but as most UU ministers, including our own, take the summer off it may very well be the first one. I will talk about three of our seven UU principles; you can find them at the back of your order of service,

I will address the need to meet the challenge of voicing these three principles in the public square, maybe even suggesting useful ways of doing so, certainly highlighting the attitude I think we should bring.

Chalice Dedication
Leo Jones, Worship Associate

As a Unitarian Universalist, I have been alarmed by the tendency of the press to refer to the religious right as "people of faith" and "regular church goers." I consider myself a person of faith and I attend church regularly (well, not as regularly as I'd like), yet religious conservatives clearly do not speak for me. The religious right is extremely well organized, well financed, and vocal. They convey one consistent message with one voice. Religious liberals are a varied group of many different denominations. We espouse many beliefs, and we have a much lower profile. If we remain silent, if we fail to make our message known, we will find that our world is far less tolerant and inclusive than we envision it.

As angry as I am with the media for accepting these characterizations without questioning them, I wonder if we religious liberals aren't complicit in our own marginalization. Have we pooled our resources? Have we lobbied effectively for our beliefs? Have we articulated a clear and consistent message? Have we mobilized ourselves to prevail at the ballot box? Have we brought to bear all of the tools at our disposal? Have we used imaginative ways to convey our message of acceptance of all people-of the inherent worth and dignity of all?

One powerful way to foster the understanding of our point of view would be to engage the religious right directly-to emphasize the "family values" that we share. After all, we are troubled by the violence that has become a prominent feature of our culture; we want our children grow up in a safe and nurturing world; we believe in the Golden Rule as it has been stated and re-stated by many cultures and in many eras, and we are distressed by the alienation that has become a feature of modern life.

So, I dedicate our flaming chalice this morning to the spirit of a vocal, committed, and mobilized liberal religious community that is prepared to recognize those things that we share in common with all people of faith, yet is willing to fight when necessary for what it believes.


We Have Values, Too: Part 1
Lilo, Stitch, and the Church of Ohana

I am here today to talk about UU principles and to show that they are already out there in American culture. I have chosen the Disney movie Lilo & Stitch as the exemplar of "the inherent worth and dignity of all people," the first of the seven UU principles, and arguably the one that the others are rooted in. Now it may seem strange to choose Disney to illustrate our first principle, when it is better known for separating parents from money at their stores and theme parks.

Bear with me, though. Hollywood often illustrates our liberal values while making a buck. It seems there is a market for these values - who'd of thought? It may be incidental; it may be coincidental, but it happens, even in Disney movies.

So why do I like Lilo & Stitch so much? Partly it's the science fiction angle, partly it's the beautiful watercolor artwork, and party it's because, like me, Stitch is cute and fluffy. The main reason, though, is because it is about a very human family with very human problems.

For those who haven't seen the movie, there are two story lines that intersect midway through the film. Lilo is a little Hawaiian girl who has lost her parents, and is being raised by her older sister, Nani. Nani is barely an adult herself, and is struggling. Lilo, in the jargon used by psychologists, spends a lot of her time "acting out." At the beginning of the movie fights with her fellow hula students, and she causes all sorts of trouble for Nani during a social worker's visit - all in a single day.

As Lilo is going to bed at the end of this trying day, she sees a falling star and prays for an angel that won't abandon her. What she doesn't know is that the "falling star" is really a crashing spaceship, piloted by one Experiment 626, a genetically engineered alien life form. 626 is designed to be an indestructible weapon that is programmed to destroy everything in its path. The Galactic Council has captured him and sentenced him to exile, however being resourceful 626 escapes and steals a spaceship.

After 626 crash lands on Earth, he is almost immediately run over by a truck, and taken to the animal shelter by the truckers. At this point the story lines merge. Nani had listened in on Lilo's prayer, and decided that absent an angel they should adopt a presumably faithful puppy.

When Lilo goes to make her selection, 626 disguises himself as a dog, is selected by Lilo, who names him Stitch. When they take him home, Stitch continues the destructive ways of 626, and Nani is ready to get rid of him until Lilo points out that "ohana means family, and family means no one gets left behind, or forgotten." And that ohana includes Stitch. This is the turning point of the movie, I won't give the whole story away, but it is a Disney movie and there is a happy ending.

"No one gets left behind, or forgotten" - this single phrase summarizes why the movie Lilo & Stitch touches my heart. It also summarizes the Universalist side of our heritage; the faith that no one will be left behind in an overheated, subterranean neighborhood. At our best, we UUs uphold a radical inclusiveness that admits no division between black, white and Asian, no division between theists, humanists and pagans, no division between gay, straight, bisexual and transgender.

None of us are second-class human beings, and none of us should be left behind or forgotten. This is important; Bob Marley approached this same issue from a different angle when he put Haile Salassie's words to music:

Until the philosophy that holds one race superior, and another inferior
is permanently and totally discredited and abandoned
everywhere is war

At our best, we UUs understand this in our bones, and you can extend this understanding beyond race to all the other ways society divides itself against itself.

But we UUs are human. Like both Lilo and Stitch, despite our best intentions we fall short of our ideals all too often. We at Paint Branch are very welcoming of the queer community; can we say we welcome Republicans as warmly?

When I was at GA, I met a young woman named Shelby Knox. She is from Lubbock, Texas and grew up as a Southern Baptist. There are two things about Lubbock that you should know. The first thing you need to know is that Lubbock is dominated by fundamentalist Christians, complete with there abstinence only sexuality education and "true love waits" virginity pledges. The second thing you should know about Lubbock is that it leads the nation in teen pregnancy and teen sexually transmitted infection rates.

Starting around the age of 15 or 16, Shelby became an activist for comprehensive sex education. Her journey from that point was captured in a documentary shown on the PBS program POV; I bought the DVD and hope to show it here at some point. She is now around twenty and going to University of Texas in Austin, so it's been quite a journey.

When our UU youth asked her what her current religious beliefs are now, Shelby allowed as how they had evolved to a more questioning attitude than her original fundamentalism. This elicited a chuckle from UU youth and adults alike. Many of us have made a similar journey, or have friends who have. But if the answers Shelby finds to her questions still include Jesus as Savior, would we still be as welcoming?

I am not telling this story to assign guilt; I leave that to the hard-core politically correct, some of whom are alas, Unitarian Universalists. What I am attempting to say is that ohana isn't always easy, as those who have watched Lilo & Stitch see. In the UU context, you need to love and respect people whose beliefs you find to be utterly nuts. I won't elaborate.

But what a powerful concept, this radical inclusiveness - "no one gets left behind, or forgotten." This is the one idea that I think distinguishes Unitarian Universalists and other liberal denominations such as the United Church of Christ from the fundamentalists. Fundamentalists keep very busy looking for reasons to separate the sheep from the goats, the saved from the damned, where we want everyone at the welcome table.

So if your kids, your nieces and nephews, or your little brothers and sisters ask you to explain what our church is all about, tell them you belong to the church of ohana, where no one gets left behind or forgotten. Tell them Lilo and Stitch would make good UUs.


Reading: The Dixie Chicks are Getting a Raw Deal -- Bruce Springsteen

"The Dixie Chicks have taken a big hit lately for exercising their basic right to express themselves. To me, they're terrific American artists expressing American values by using their American right to free speech. For them to be banished wholesale from radio stations, and even entire radio networks, for speaking out is un-American. The pressure coming from the government and big business to enforce conformity of thought concerning the war and politics goes against everything that this country is about - namely freedom.

Right now, we are supposedly fighting to create free speech in Iraq, at the same time that some are trying to intimidate and punish people for using that same freedom here at home. I don't know what happens next, but I do want to add my voice to those who think that the Dixie Chicks are getting a raw deal, and an un-American one to boot. I send them my support."

We Have Values, Too: Part 2:
Horton, Whos & the Search for Truth & Meaning

I told you at the beginning that the Horton Hears a Who video inspired a contemplation of the "free and responsible search for truth and meaning", the fourth of our seven UU principles. I suppose I should elaborate on this; I will start by at least sketching out the story. I will not provide enough detail to ruin the video - besides, I can't hope to describe the Seuss animation from the pulpit, so watch anyway for that, even if I give too many spoilers.

In Horton, the story begins with Horton contentedly lazing around, at which point a spec of dust emitting the word "help" floats by. Horton, having exceptionally large ears, hears this faint sound and rescues the dust speck. He makes contact with one Dr. Whovey, who is the sole Who looking outward from Whoville; an entire town contained in the speck, and yes, the same town that appears in the Grinch.

Everything was fine, until the busybody Jane Kangaroo came by and saw Horton talking to a dust speck, apparently without an answer. Horton assured her he was hearing what she couldn't due to his large ears, however she decided Horton was crazy. she enlisted Mrs. Toucanella to spread the word, and the thuggish Wickerson brothers to enforce conformity. The brothers wrest the dust speck and the clover it is sitting on from Horton, and give it to a bird that takes the clover and hides it in a large field of clover.

Horton reasoning that a person is a person, no matter how small, persists in picking clovers - billions of them - until he relocates the clover on which Whoville is resting.

Well. The forces of conformity are not happy with Horton's persistence - not happy at all. Jane Kangaroo brings the entire Wickerson clan. They proceed to cage Horton and drag him towards a pot of boiling water; chanting "boil that dust-speck!" They fully intend to force Horton to drop the clover from his trunk into the pot; however he and Dr. Whovey get the Whos to make enough noise for all to hear. Happy ending ensues, although with a twist I won't divulge.

So what does Horton tell us about the free and responsible search for truth and meaning? First, what Horton said and believed had to be consistent with what he saw and heard. I think this is true of UU seekers, as well. We want our beliefs to be consistent with our experiences, with our observations, and with the thought and reasoning that flows from these experiences and observations.

John Adams put it best for me. When he defended British troops who had been at the Boston Massacre, he summed for the jury, "Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passion, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence." Given Adam's inclination to independence, that is a remarkable concession - but maybe not so remarkable for the Unitarian that he was.

Second, the world at large is not always interested in hearing inconvenient facts and evidence, and will often go to great lengths to avoid dealing with them. Certainly Horton was not able to convince people of what he knew was true. Often this goes beyond disinterest to outright intimidation and bullying. Certainly the Dixie Chicks faced this; for one short sentence criticizing Bush their livelihood was threatened. Not to seriously, as it got people like me who are indifferent to country to listen to and like their music - but that certainly wasn't the intent of those who attacked them.

It has gotten uglier at times; during the McCarthy era filmmakers and musicians really did have their careers ruined. Uglier still, the civil rights era saw all too many examples of state-sponsored brutality, of mob rule, and of terrorist attacks. While we Americans have not been ruled by the likes of Stalin or Saddamn, we have seen our share of Wickerson brothers, haven't we?

And when we do, we need to take a righteous stand in support of the search for truth and meaning - whether it be as simple as Bruce issuing a statement supporting the Dixie Chicks or as dramatic as dropping everything you are doing to go to Selma.

Beyond violence and intimidation, the free and responsible search for truth and meaning faces another challenge: the challenge of conventional wisdom, of inertia, of intellectual laziness, and at worst of disinformation. Dr. Whovey found this in Horton, his fellow Whos did not believe he was seeing a much larger world than they thought possible in his periscope. He was dismissed as a harmless old crank, rather than persecuted, but this can be a frustrating experience, too.

While this threat is not as visible as such terrorism as the Birmingham church bombings of 1963, its consequences may be as serious. Consider that we Americans spend 50 per cent more a head on health care than any other nation, and yet 45 million of us are still uninsured, one medical crisis away from bankruptcy and disaster.

Yet the free market conventional wisdom is so strong that none of the three dozen or so industrialized countries with universal health care has anything to teach us. Our auto companies are spending more money on health care than on steel, yet no other options can be put on the table. What fools we can be! I don't maintain that Canada or Britain or Finland or Korea has the One True Answer - but surely a little search for truth and meaning might be applicable here?

A particularly frustrating version of conventional wisdom for me is the fundamentalist notion that teaching teenagers about sexuality will make them go out and have sex sooner. Every study on this issue shows otherwise; that comprehensive curricula such as OWL both psuh back the age of first intercourse and reduce teen pregnancies and STIs. Fundamentalist-dominated Lubbock comes by their pathetic pregnancy and infection rates, to put it bluntly, because they can't handle this truth.

So we UUs have a great challenge. All too often, our society can't handle free expression, and will intimidate, lie about, or ridicule those who don't toe the line. I don't have all the answers to this problem, but I have a starting point: be not afraid. John Paul II made this phrase famous during hi first papal visit to Poland, but the idea precedes him. Almost every civil rights march in the 1960s included the singing of "we shall overcome", with its verse "We are not afraid".

I am not making this suggestion randomly. In this country, those who try to suppress free expression are bullies, and bullies are ultimately cowards when confronted. This goes both for those on the left who would ban Huck Finn for Twain's use of the N-word and those on the right who attempt to discredit the science of evolution or of climate change.

All bullies need to be confronted, and we UUs are just the folk to do it. Just look at our hymnal: in addition to "We Shall Overcome" we have the Mine Workers' "Step by Step", the garment workers' "As we go marching, marching", and the gay movement anthem, "We are a Gentle, Angry People". I defy you to find another denomination's hymnal containing all four of these songs!

These songs also indicate another element of the answer: they all come from movements. It is much harder to silence a movement than an individual. Movements have overthrown oppressors around the world: India in the 1940s, Spain and Portugal in the 1970s, Eastern Europe, the Philippines, and South Korea in the 1980s, South Africa in the 1990s, and in this century Serbia, Ukraine, and Georgia. For all his fervent support of freedom, John Paul could not free Poland on his own - it took Solidarity.

In the USA, nothing so dramatic is needed. Battered as they may be, the rights enumerated in the First Amendment live. We can still write, assemble, and speak without fear of the gulag. And we UUs can and do speak as a movement.

The UUA supports the freedom of gays to marry with equal standing to straights. Anybody who is interested in having Paint Branch get on this train should contact myself or Tish Hall.

I have also for various reasons come to be very upset by the torture that has been performed in our name. From my reading, my observations and discernment, I have concluded that the torture of Abu Ghraib and Gitmo is by policy, not by a few undereducated soldiers going off the reservation. I also have read allegations that are still being investigated that are more horrifying than what we've already seen - allegations like children being raped in front of their parents.

I am sorry - during my Cold War elementary schooling I learned that these atrocities were the sort of thing Nazis and Communists did, and that we are better than that. I am haunted by the idea we may become Good Germans and let these atrocities slide. This is the truth as I see it, and I am now struggling to figure out what to do, beyond writing letters to Steny Hoyer and our Senators. But this sort of thing should be dealt with by groups, perhaps congregations, acting in solidarity. So if you have ideas and want to do something, let me know.

So. Be not afraid, and act together. This is my advice on how to uphold our free and responsible search for truth and meaning. But beyond that, be not afraid to articulate your faith. Tell your friends that you are proud that your church supports all committed couples who want to marry. Tell your friends you are proud to belong to a church where we provide our kids both information and moral grounding about sexuality, and then trust them to make moral decisions. And tell your friends you are proud to be part of a church that values the free and responsible search for truth and meaning, and that your church stands against bullies who silence people through dogma, intimidation or ridicule.

I think Horton and Dr. Whovey would both be proud to be UUs.

Reading: The Revolution -- Bono

Our reading was recorded by U2 in Denver on November 8, 1987 for the group's Rattle And Hum movie. That same day in Northern Ireland, a bomb detonated by the Irish Republican Army killed 13 people. The event was known as the Enniskillen massacre. Angered by these events, U2 gave a very emotional performance of Sunday, Bloody Sunday, and Bono said the following.

Now let me tell you something. I've had enough of Irish-Americans who haven't been back to their country in 20 or 30 years come up to me and talk about the resistance, the revolution back home. And the glory of the revolution. And the glory of dying for the revolution. F*** THE REVOLUTION! They don't talk about the glory of killing for the revolution. What's the glory in taking a man from his bed and gunning him down in front of his wife and his children? Where's the glory in that? Where's the glory in bombing a Remembrance Day parade of old age pensioners, their medals taken out and polished up for the day. Where's the glory in that? To leave them dying, or crippled for life, or dead, under the rubble of the revolution that the majority of the people in my country don't want?

We Have Values, Too: Part 3:
Bono and Bruce: Voices for World Community

The sixth of the seven principles that we UUs affirm is "the goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all," an ambitious goal, that. To me, this goal is tied closely to our first principle, the inherent worth and dignity of all, the idea that no one is left behind, or forgotten. I see the first principle as including and respecting individuals, I see the sixth principle as including and respecting communities. Same verbs, different objects.

Both of these principles imply to me that building bridges to unite us is better than building walls to divide us. An oversimplification, of course; walls have their place too. But it's a useful oversimplification for purposes of this discussion.

The challenge I would pose today is how to find the faith that world community is possible, without being naïve, and without being spiritually imploded by all the ills that tell us such a community can never happen. To build bridges in the face of these challenges takes inspiration, and this is where I will bring Bono and Bruce Springsteen into the picture.

I think there are three elements to building this faith. First, when terrible events such as 9/11 or the Enniskillen incident happen, we need to deal with our hurt, shock, and anger. And we also have to cope with chronic issues that anger us as well, be they racism, wars of aggression, or extreme poverty the world over. All these can be overwhelming, yet we must not be overwhelmed.

Second, to build a world community we must hear each other's stories; recognizing, as in the movie Rashoman, the same events can generate very different stories. This understanding recognition of each other is the first step in making peace; it is a necessary but not sufficient condition.

The third element is where we act together as a community to make peace, to create liberty and justice for all, as our sixth principle demands. This is more in line with what we typically consider when talking about social action, and this element is important. But I would maintain without addressing the other two issues social action may founder, or at least be less effective than it could be.

So where do Bono and Bruce come in? Let's work backward from the last element I mentioned, taking action to realize our sixth principle. This is where Bono is truly inspirational. Bruce has his moments, standing up for the Dixie Chicks, collecting contributions to food banks at his concerts, and the like.

Bono has gone well beyond this, particularly in how he has grappled with the hard problem of extreme poverty around the globe. And it is worth our attention - 20,000 people a day - 7 times the toll on 9/11 - die because they are too poor to live. Beyond this, the developed world often addresses symptoms with the best intentions, but is blind to the effect of policies such as agriculture subsidies in their own countries.

Bono has latched on to the ideas of Jeffrey Sachs, who in his book An End to Poverty proposes an approach for just this, and promotes them as only a rock star and an Irishman can. The Live8 concerts last month showed the rock promoters sense of the grand event, but beyond this Bono has educated himself to the point he can sit down with the experts and influence policy.

 

This first became apparent when he made contact with Bush's first Treasury Secretary, Paul O'Neill. Now O'Neill is an interesting character himself - like General Shinseki and others in this administration, he got in trouble for bringing inconvenient facts into the discussion. But that's not today's topic.

Bono and O'Neill ended up going on a joint tour of Africa. Watching the news during this tour was quite a spectacle - this button-downed banker type and a rock star in wraparound shades moving from dusty town to dusty town conducting a learned debate on how best to address extreme poverty. Both men had the same goal of helping poor Africans. They had different approaches, yet kept the debate respectful. This is the point at which I thought this Catholic boy from Dublin would make a fine UU.

Well, celebrity causes come and go, what is also notable about Bono is that he persists. The focus on poverty at the recent G8 summit owes a lot to the fact Tony Blair and Gordon Brown care about the issue, but it also owes a lot to persistent celebrities like Bono keeping the issue in front of us. I don't expect Bono to stop his efforts anytime soon.

This brings me to the challenge of hearing and understanding other people, especially when they have different perspective on the same history, or on the same issues. If Bono and Paul O'Neill can do this, there is certainly some hope.

As an example, the Japanese commemorated Hiroshima last week, while the Koreans and Chinese will be celebrating Liberation Day tomorrow. Meanwhile, many elderly men on both sides are thanking God that the invasion of Japan didn't happen, that the war was not prolonged. We are talking about the same events, but from very different perspectives. The story told by a bomb survivor would be different from my nephew's grandfather on the in-law side, who would almost certainly have been part of the invasion force.

Telling stories through characters in his song is where Bruce Springsteen fits into the picture. Not surprisingly, Bruce got his start talking about the people of decaying Rust Belt towns like his native Freehold, New Jersey. Songs like Johnny 99, Youngstown, and My Hometown tell the stories of people who had made a life based on good factory jobs at good wages, and portray the sense of desperation and betrayal as these jobs went away.

He also addressed the impact of the Vietnam War on the people he grew up with, in famous songs like Born in the USA, and obscure songs like Galveston Bay, in which he tells the story of the boat people immigrating to Texas from both the Texan and Vietnamese perspective.

His most recent song, Devils and Dust, is about Iraq, but it can be talking about any soldiers from any nation in any war where "homes a long, long way from us." Despite failing his draft physical, Springsteen gives his characters such authentic voices that Vietnam veterans used to ask him where he had served in-country.

Some of Bruce's most interesting songs, in my opinion, are where he tells stories where two protagonists are at odds. Galveston Bay is such a song. One protagonist is a South Vietnamese soldier who moved to Galveston because the delta country reminded him of home, and a Texan veteran who saw the newcomers as threatening their way of life. At the end of the day, the Texan does not join the Klan violence against the Vietnamese.

The empathy generated by understanding each other's stories is important, and a large part of Springsteen's work reminds us we are talking about people, not about statistics, not about abstract ideas.

I believe understanding each other's stories is particularly important when making peace. Making peace isn't easy, Nelson Mandela invited his prison guards to his inauguration, but few are so forgiving. My use of Hiroshima as an example was motivated by a story in the post last week about an A-bomb reunion on Tinian, the island from which the attacks were launched. The people in the story included a bomb victim, and a sailor on the ship that brought the bomb to Tinian.

As you might expect, they didn't agree on everything, and this is my key point. Hearing and understanding people's stories doesn't mean forgiving all. Empathy with bomb victims doesn't mean approving the Rape of Nanking or Pearl Harbor. It just gives a starting point for reconciliation and peacemaking, and that's enough.

To put all this in terms of UU principles, if we respect the dignity of the individual by hearing and understanding their stories, we will also be working towards the goal of world community. And beyond putting on the best live show in rock and roll, Bruce Springsteen's music is about people's stories. Like Bono, Bruce is a Catholic boy who'd make a fine UU.

This brings me all the way back to my first element, how to address the hurt and anger the world can dish out. If you are wondering why I chose a reading with a profanity, even a bleeped profanity, this is why. I wanted to make a point that in telling our stories we can't and shouldn't always hide our anger. Bono was reacting to a real IRA atrocity, and the Irish Americans who supported the IRA should not have been comfortable hearing what the Irish really thought and felt about Enniskillen.

Bono and Bruce also played a role in my reaction to 9/11. Bruce's role is somewhat obvious, as the Rising album was in response to these events. Bono's role was a little more coincidental. The October 2001 U2 show in Baltimore was the first time Kim and I were downtown anywhere after 9/11. It was a somewhat surreal experience of subdued crowds and heightened security at Harborplace.

For those who have not seen a U2 concert, they can be over the top. The Zooropa tour featured Trabants, East German cars, hanging from the rafters. The theatrics were more subdued this time; the most memorable was the projection of all the casualties' names on a screen, including the Falkenberg family known to many here..

Now I think of both band's concerts as religious experiences, due to the connection between the front men and the audience. But in the wake of 9/11, both Bruce and Bono were pastors in a true sense. No, you couldn't drive up the Turnpike to talk to the Boss about your personal woes; what I mean is that they gave us a message of hope, when hope was hard to find.

The message I got from both of them was that it was OK to feel what we were feeling, and that whatever pain we were feeling now better days were possible and that we should not give into despair. And if Unitarian Universalism is anything, it is a religion of hope that celebrates life. Yes, I think Bruce and Bono would fit in with us UUs.

So we UUs have values, too. We believe in a radical inclusiveness where no one is left behind and forgotten, and that always is trying to build bridges between diverse communities. We believe in a free and responsible search for truth and meaning that is not afraid of where our thoughts might lead us. More than that, we unite as a free thinking movement. Finally, we believe that no matter how dark things may seem, hope or prayer joined with action and hard work can bring peace, liberty and justice for all.

My choice of American icons, along with one Irishman, illustrates that our values are not marginal; that our values represent the best of the American mainstream. The challenge is to spread our values by living and speaking them. I hope that in some small ways my message will help meet this challenge.




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