“The church must be reminded that it is not the master or the servant of the state, but rather the conscience of the state. It must be the guide and the critic of the state, and never its tool. If the church does not recapture its prophetic zeal, it will become an irrelevant social club without moral or spiritual authority.” ~Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
On this MLK Day it is imperative that we not only remember his words but understand how his words, actions and leadership call us to live and act today.
Some imaginations give us scarcity and fear, winners and losers, worthy and unworthy. Universalism teaches us that no one is cast out of the circle of love, that salvation is not individual but collective.
For ours is a faith that is concerned not with the Hereafter, but the Here and Now. The way we live into Unitarian Universalism—in this life—is with courage, learning to take risks for the principles of justice, equity and compassion for all people. It is this imagination that we must breathe new life into how we gather, how we worship, and in how we live.
Right now, we are being called to live our faith out loud: to be our bravest, our boldest, our most loving selves in our community, in the streets, in the halls of government, and in the voting booth.
Let us remember on this day how crucial the struggle for voting rights was to the civil rights movement and to Dr. King’s vision of justice.
Let us remember the sacrifices that so many gave to win the right to vote. Remember people like Fannie Lou Hamer and John Lewis—who is still fighting for voting rights in this country. Remember those who died in Selma, Jimmy Lee Jackson, and Unitarian Universalists Viola Liuzzo and the Rev. James Reeb.
We are just ten months from what is the most critical election in our lifetimes. Each of us will choose our candidates as individuals, but as a movement we can UU the Vote.
In this moment, with all the xenophobia, anti-immigrant fervor, Islamaphobia, anti- Semitism, white nationalism, sexism, racism, transphobia, the climate crisis, military escalation, poverty, lack of access to healthcare, attacks on people with disabilities, voter suppression, gun violence—I wish the list were not so long—I imagine our congregations across the country serving as voter education and voter mobilization hubs, connecting with the wider community.
I know many of us are already engaged in this faithful work. Collectively we need to bring it up a notch.
Unitarian Universalists are known as the people who show up. And I challenge us over the next ten months to not only be the people who show up but the people who get others to show up and turn out the vote.
If we start now, then in the fall, we’ve already built the muscle of talking to neighbors, knocking on doors, making phone calls, etc. We can turn out for the issues we care about.
For we as Unitarian Universalists—this is not just political—this is faithful, moral action because we hold democracy and the right of all people to have a voice and a vote as part of our seven principles. This is about protecting democracy and the inherent worth and dignity of all people, it is about our care for the planet and our commitment to justice and equity.
From now until the 2020 election, we are rolling out a comprehensive, multi-tiered, association wide UU the Vote strategy designed to be accessible to UUs everywhere. We are collaborating with movement partners, as well as UU organizations, state action networks, congregations, and individuals to help Unitarian Universalists grow and sharpen our skills for faith-based electoral organizing.
Our voice, our values, our ability to show up, matters right now. We honor Dr. King’s legacy by living it, and giving it life, today.
May we keep answering this call,
Rev. Dr. Susan Frederick-Gray