Skip to comments.Sermon in the Unitarian Church of Portland on Sunday after the 2004 election: READ AND LAUGH
Posted on 02/12/2006 3:07:14 PM PST by nwrep
The following "sermon" was delivered on the Sunday after the 2004 Presidential election at the First Unitarian "Church" of Portland, Ore., by "Pastor" Marilyn Sewell.
This country has just been engaged in a huge exercise of power. Power has been used, and it has been misused. The upside to this election is that never have I seen so many people so passionately engaged in our political life. Never has our vote seemed so precious. Never have so many of us sent money to candidates and organizations supporting our views. I count all this as a great positive influence.
And yet so many of us in this congregation were devastatedyes, that is the word I heard most oftendevastatedby the results of the election. So many of us worked so hard in this election, to support those values that we deeply believe in, and we lost. We lost the Presidential election. And we lost on Ballot Measure 36, as well, which now defines marriage in this state as between a man and a woman. We registered voters, we held educational events and lectures, we went to peace rallies and marches, we put our banner across the front of our church proclaiming our support of the right of everyone to marry. We never carried on partisan activities, because that would have been illegal, but we did work for our valuesIm thinking of the values articulated in our Purposes and Principlesthe first one being We believe in the inherent worth and dignity of every person. Every person. Not just people of wealth. Not just Americans. Not just people with white skin. Every person. The second principle is Justice, equity and compassion in human relations. In a society in which economic inequity is so great that some people have so much money they dont know what to do with it, while others are sending their children hungry to school, we were crying out in this election for compassion, for every person to have the basic necessities of life. And then I think of our seventh principle, Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part, and I know how many of you are working to save this green earthwe are surrounded with such beauty here in the Northwestwe are reminded each day of the preciousness of this earth, and we know how environmental laws have been rolled back and scientific fact ignored and long-term destruction courted for short-term gain.
Yes, we fought hard for these values, and we lost this election. But as I reflect upon this event and your efforts, I say that we did not lose. I say this because, in a spiritual context, winning is never judged, as I said last Sunday, by the fruits of your efforts, but only by the integrity with which you pursued those efforts, and the values that drove your work. As I observed your work, I see only winners here. Let me give you an analogy. There is a film I saw some weeks ago that is still playing here in town I believeit is called Friday Night Lights, and its about small-town football. Its set in Texas. I know about small-town football in the South. Im from a small town in Louisiana, and I was in the marching band in high school, as was everyone else who wasnt in the pep squad or on the football team. The stadium was by far the largest gathering place in our town. And the pressure was on the football coach to winyou better believe it.
Anyway, in this film, the boys on this team are trying to win state. Their coach wants their best effort, and insists upon it. He tells them, Be perfect. I want you to be perfect. They try, oh do they try. And they lose their first game. And then they win and they win and they win. Finally they are in the finals for the state championship, and they are playing these huge, hulking players who have little regard for the rules. They play dirty, trying to hurt our heroes. In the end our boys, so much smaller but fighting so hard, are way behind, but then they catch up, they get the ball just before the game is over, and they head for the goal line, and they almost beat the clock. They almost beat it, but they dont. They lose by inches. They are, well, devastated. This is a true story. I find it fascinating that somebody in this country made a movie about a team that loses. But you see, these boys werent losers. They had lost their star player with an injury, and they just didnt have the power to go those final few inches. But as human beings, they won. Before they went in for that last play, their coach, played by the inimitable Billy Bob Thorton, tells them, You know Ive been telling you guys to be perfectdo you know what that means? It doesnt mean winning this ball game. It means doing the very best you can, not holding back anything. When you look people in the eye tomorrow, you want to be proud that you gave it everything you had. Thats what it means to be perfect.
And so my friends, I look at you this morning, and I say to you, You are perfect. You are just beautiful. And I dont know when Ive loved you more than at this very moment.
This election was frustrating and disheartening, yes, and we need to be able to say that, we need to be able to vent our anger and to cry our tears. We need to grieve, and we need to mourn. But in no way should we be without hope. Not at all. Remember that we almost won this election, and this is not the last election that will take placeit is one along the way. We must take the long view. Remember that social change takes a long time. It starts small. It typically starts with a few people around a kitchen table, maybe with a bottle of not-so-great red wine, saying to one another, You know, thats just wrong. That needs to be changed. Were just not going to put up with it. And they begin to worry at the problem, to think, to plan, to enlist others. When these folks tell others, they are often ridiculedwhether the issue is abolition, or the right of women to vote, or gays and lesbians to marrypeople will say, Oh, thats just crazyits always been this way. But these change agents continue to talk, and educational forums are held, and books are written, and sermons are preached, and so on and so forth, and new elections are held. People change so slowly, and so there is much failure along the way, but one day, because a thing is right, change comes, freedom comes to a people who have been oppressed. It always takes longer than we think it should. Always. And sometimes those changes do not come in the lifetime of the people who fought hardest for them. Susan B. Anthony never was able to cast a single ballot in any election. Did she think of herself as a failure? She attended her last womens suffrage convention in Baltimore in February of 1906. She died a month later at the age of 86. Her words to that final convention? She told them, Failure is impossible.
I want to share with you now some words that have been important to me in this long fight for our values. They are from one of my heroes, Howard Zinn, from his essay entitled The Optimism of Uncertainty: (Incidentally, if you have never read his book A Peoples History of the United States, I highly recommend itit is one of those books that changed my life, for sure.) He writes: Note that throughout history people have felt powerless before authority, but that at certain times these powerless people, by organizing, acting, risking, persisting, have created enough power to change the world around them, even if a little. That is the history of the labor movement, the womens movement, the anti-Vietnam War movement, the disabled persons movement, the gay and lesbian movement, the movement of black people in the South. Remember that those who have power and seem invulnerable are in fact quite vulnerable. Their power depends on the obedience of others, and when those others begin withholding that obedience, begin defying authority, that power at the top turns out to be very fragile. . . That apparent power has, again and again, proved vulnerable to human qualities less measurable than bombs and dollars: moral fervor, determination, unity, organization, sacrifice, wit, ingenuity, courage, patience.
My friends, we simply dont have the luxury to despairthere is just too much work to do. This election that weve just been through is a blip on the screen of human progress, and we are the force thats moving inexorably, in hope, in faith, toward a world of peace and justice. We might not get to the mountain top, to the promised land, but well take steps along the way, well do our part, and then well pass the torch on to the next generation, to those hundreds of thousands of young progressive voters who turned out to vote this time.
Now if youre sitting there thinking, that yes, I want to do my part, but what do I do? What comes next? Then I have an invitation for you. This afternoon at 1:15 in our parish hall, Fuller Hall, just downstairs, we are having a potluck gathering with just that title, Whats Next? You are welcome to attend, and if you didnt bring any food this morning, you have plenty of time to go pick up some chicken or potato salad or whatever, or if you dont have time to do that, come ahead anyway, because well have plenty of food. Also, a more immediate opportunity: during the coffee hour right after the service, downstairs in the same place, in Fuller Hall, you can visit the tables with information about our social justice task forcesthere are several groups, including EJAG, our Economic Justice Action Group, and the Seventh Principle, our environmental group, just to give you an idea. You can find out about their activities and sign up for whatever looks interesting or compelling to you.
I know you people pretty well. I know how sad and disappointed you were on Tuesday nightbut I also know that you are people of great courage and patience and endurance. I know that you do what you do because you believe it to be right, and for no other reason. We are Unitarian Universalists, after all. We have a long history of persecutionand you know what? We never, never give up. And I believe with all my heart that justice and truth will prevail. Let us do our part to make our country what it should be: yes, a powerful country, but a country that uses power well, a country that is a moral force, a justice seeker, a peace maker. Let us keep the vision before us, and one day, it will be so. So be it. Amen.
Mother God, we need your comfort just now. We need to be held, that we might rise to go on yet another day. Give us faith, give us hope. And Father God, we need your strength and resolute purpose as we regroup and turn our energies to new days and new times. Help us through it all to be faithful to what we know is right, in thought, word, and deed, that we might live lives of integrity and courage. Amen.
U-Us do not refer to themselves as Christian, (or maybe some do) at least according to their somewhat vague FAQ.
Sounds confusing. LOL!
Question: What do you get when you cross a Unitarian and a Jehovah's Witness?
Answer: Someone who goes door to door, for no particular reason.
"somebody loves you"
"We're not sure who it is, but we're pretty sure he/she/it loves you."
you got it
I always thought it was "let us gather together...and not pray." LOL!
My mom is a Unitarian - many years a leftie - and she's starting to get mighty sick of them, especially since September 11. She knows we're at war, and not one we went looking for but in her church there's a disdain for the military and she's an Army brat - lost a brother and nephew in the line of duty. She's pro-abortion with limits and is unnerved by the rabid whole nine months choice-is-a-sacrament line. The homosexual men she's known have been wildly promiscuous and have died of AIDS - gay marriage doesn't make much sense to her. She put up some brochures for a social program she was interested in - literacy - and was told they conflicted with the church's aesthetics.
I'm not sure why she stays...I guess finding a new church is hard at her age...I just pray she finds Jesus.
Don't forget "Abortion and salvation for everybody".
You mean they have a bar and smoking lounge?
The irony is that they idolize choice, but do not allow their members to choose.
Except the Unitarian Church has been like this for at least forty years - it's my mom who's changed.
In Romania there are still serious Unitarians in the original sense - believing in God and in Jesus as God's son but not God. My mother's church used to support them when Eastern Europe opened up but they seem to have lost interest.
Everyone seems to think that I am nuts when I say that the Unitarians are not a church but are instead a political organization. This sermon proves my point!
They can not tell you what God is or who He is or where He is, but they all know everything about global warming and abortion.
Yeah, I was one of those people that believed that inherent worth was solely a quality that rich white Americans possessed and no one else. What a cartoon leftist this chick is.
Because we all know that Hollywood is chock full of flag-waving jingoists.
I says "We are Christians but we aren't Christians but we kinda are but not really"