Last week, sometime in the early morning hours on Friday, December 9th, the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of San Dieguito in Solana Beach was vandalized with spray paint and what was apparently intended to be hateful words. It is unclear whether the person or persons who did this meant these words to be specifically against Unitarian Universalism or perhaps just a rant against some sort of religious institution. No matter how they were intended, it is clear that when these acts occur the fabric of civil society tears a little more.
Unitarian Universalists celebrate diversity of theological beliefs and are guided by seven principles. Our congregations are places where we gather to nurture our spirits and live our faith through acts of peace, love and social justice in our communities and the wider world. Our seventh principles states, “we respect the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part”; therefore, we lift up the concept that what happens to one truly does happen to all. When this kind of vandalism happens it can challenge the trust and hope that we have for the world.
Whenever events like this occur in a community there is public speculation about what it meant. Questions naturally arise as to the motivation of the offender. The answer clearly has to be that we have no idea. We will all view these events (as we do all events) through our own lens, our own hopes, our own fears, and in general our view on life. We have no idea what was in the mind of those who did this unless they want to come tell us, which we would welcome. These acts remind us that we are always in control of our own thoughts and feelings, the way we respond, and the actions we take after the incident occurs.
The sign at the front of our congregation says we “stand on the side of love.” These are not hollow words. Standing on the side of love happens in both good and challenging times. We are sorry for the pain in the person or people who performed this act, and we have felt pain here in our community, but we are confident that we will continue to stand for love.
We are filled with deep gratitude for the beauty of our campus, and although we love the natural beauty of the surroundings, what truly matters are the people who have needed to be a part of this community now and in the past, and those who will come to be a part of this community in the future. People of all loving communities of faith should be free to speak their hearts without fear or intimidation.
Although deeply unfortunate, this is not the first example of intolerance of religious diversity in this community nor in this country and it may not be the last, but we will move through whatever comes, together, firmly standing arm and arm, hand and hand and always on the side of love.
Rev. David A. Miller and the Board of the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of San Dieguito
Cell – 619-876-7456
A Unitarian Universalist congregation in Solana Beach
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Looking for book suggestions? You’re in luck! Check out these Beacon Press titles that relate to the important work advocated for by Standing on the Side of Love:
The 2011-2012 UUA Common Read:
Acts of Faith is a remarkable account of growing up Muslim in America and coming to believe in religious pluralism, from one of the most prominent faith leaders in the United States. Eboo Patel’s story is a hopeful and moving testament to the power and passion of young people-and of the world-changing potential of an interfaith youth movement.
More Religious Activism:
Prophetic Encounters: Religion and the American Radical Tradition
In Prophetic Encounters, Dan McKanan challenges simple distinctions between “religious” and “secular” activism, showing that religious beliefs and practices have been integral to every movement promoting liberty, equality, and solidarity. From Frederick Douglass, John Brown, and Elizabeth Cady Stanton in the nineteenth century to Dorothy Day, Martin Luther King Jr., and Starhawk in the twentieth, American radicals have maintained a deep faith in the human capacity to transform the world. This radical faith has always been intertwined with the religious practices of Christians and Jews, pagans and Buddhists, orthodox believers and humanist heretics. Offering a history of the diverse religious dimensions of radical movements from the American Revolution to the present day, Prophetic Encounters invites contemporary activists to stand proudly in a tradition of prophetic power.
The 2010-2011 UUA Common Read
For the last decade, Margaret Regan has reported on the escalating chaos along the Arizona-Mexico border, ground zero for immigration since 2000. Undocumented migrants cross into Arizona in overwhelming numbers, a state whose anti-immigrant laws are the most stringent in the nation. Fourteen-year-old Josseline, a young girl from El Salvador who was left to die alone on the migrant trail, was just one of thousands to perish in its deserts and mountains. With a sweeping perspective and vivid on-the-ground reportage, Regan tells the stories of the people caught up in this international tragedy.
God vs. Gay?: The Religious Case for Equality
The myth that the Bible forbids homosexuality—the myth of “God versus Gay”—is behind some of the most divisive and painful conflicts of our day. In this provocative, passionately argued, and game-changing book, scholar and activist Jay Michaelson shows that not only does the Bible not prohibit same-sex intimacy, but the vast majority of its teachings support the full equality and dignity of gay and lesbian people. In short, Michaelson observes, religious people should support equality for gays and lesbians—not despite their religion, but because of it.
Martin Luther King, Jr. Inspires:
“All Labor Has Dignity”
Martin Luther King, Jr.
Edited by Michael Honey
People forget that Dr. King was every bit as committed to economic justice as he was to ending racial segregation. He fought throughout his life to connect the labor and civil rights movements, envisioning them as twin pillars for social reform. As we struggle with massive unemployment, a staggering racial wealth gap, and the near collapse of a financial system that puts profits before people, King’s prophetic writings and speeches underscore his relevance for today. They help us imagine King anew: as a human rights leader whose commitment to unions and an end to poverty was a crucial part of his civil rights agenda.
“Thou, Dear God”: Prayers that Open Hearts and Spirits
The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Edited by Lewis Baldwin
“Thou, Dear God” is the first and only collection of sixty-eight prayers by Martin Luther King, Jr. Arranged thematically in six parts—with prayers for spiritual guidance, special occasions, times of adversity, times of trial, uncertain times, and social justice—included are both personal and public prayers King recited as a seminarian, graduate student, preacher, pastor, and, finally, civil rights leader, along with a special section that reveals the biblical sources that most inspired King.More >
In Support of All American Muslims
Rev. Dr. Michael Kinnamon, General Secretary, National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA; Rabbi Marc Schneier, Founder and President, Foundation for Ethnic Understanding; Imam Mohamed Magid, President, Islamic Society of North America;
Submitted on behalf of Shoulder-to-Shoulder: Standing with American Muslims; Upholding American Values, a campaign of 27 national faith groups, denominations and interfaith organizations working to end anti-Muslim sentiment in the United States by strengthening the voice of freedom and peace. www.ShoulderToShoulderCampaign.org
“Freedom of religion is a hallmark of this country. It is time to decide whether or not we are going to live up to our values.” – Dr. Ingrid Mattson, immediate past President of the Islamic Society of North America
This quote reflects well the challenge we as a country face in light of the past week’s controversy surrounding advertisements for TLC’s reality TV show All American Muslim. The show highlights five American Muslim families experiencing life in ways which we as Americans hold dear: beginning a family, serving in law enforcement, and coaching high school football. At the same time, they are shown practicing diverse expressions of their Islamic faith.
As religious leaders, we are committed to standing shoulder-to-shoulder with American Muslims – and with any religious community – when their ability to practice their religion or to express themselves publicly without fear of reprisal is compromised. Public displays of religious diversity in America are a cause for celebration, not for controversy, because they testify to the strength of religious liberty in the United States.
Withdrawing advertising support from All American Muslim due to pressure from an organization espousing anti-Muslim motivation is far from neutral. These demands send a chilling message to American Muslims that both their religious and non-religious practices are un-American and should be shielded from public view. The success of these demands has revealed again the outsized power of a relatively small group whose fear-based messages are amplified socially, in media and, at times, by Members of Congress against American Muslims.
We stand by the principle that to attack any religion in the United States is to do violence to the religious freedom of all Americans. Efforts like that against All American Muslim perpetuate the serious anti- Muslim discrimination that has grown in recent years, and our religious communities cannot sit by idly while American Muslims’ freedoms are compromised, or their day-to-day activities played down or covered up.
We challenge those invested in this controversy in any outlet – politically, online, in media, or in business – to cease propounding an exclusionary narrative, presenting it as normative or expressive of American values. We challenge you never to pull your support from any religious community in the face of discriminatory ideologies.
We urge those companies which have withdrawn their advertising from the show to publicly apologize and reinstate their advertising.
As national faith leaders, we bear a sacred responsibility to honor America’s varied faith traditions and to promote a culture of mutual respect and the assurance of religious freedom for all. Our society will be strengthened by confronting this challenge to the continued inclusion of American Muslims in the United States. We celebrate the valuable contributions they have made to our society through their service, family, worship and vocation.More >
Janice Daniels, the new mayor of Troy, Michigan, has been under fire in recent weeks after a homophobic status update was discovered on her Facebook page.
“I think I am going to throw away my I Love New York carrying bag now that queers can get married there,” she was quoted as saying.
Though the comment was posted months before she was sworn in as mayor, many community members say that her statement was inappropriate for anyone seeking public office.
Last week, a group of protesters, organized by students from Troy High School, gathered at the Troy City Hall to call for Daniels’ resignation. That evening, dozens of community members lined up to speak at Daniels’ first City Council meeting.
Enter the very impressive Amy and Tina, a lesbian couple with two daughters, who spoke during the public comments portion of the meeting:
Amy and Tina offer a phenomenal example of confronting hateful rhetoric with love. Amy’s wise words about “choosing love” and admitting when you have made a mistake were met with a standing ovation. We commend Amy for her brave words and willingness to take the high road.
In the words of native Michigander Luanne Frey, “What a classy lady.”More >
The organized American Islamophobes have risen. This time, their demonization of American Muslims is focused on calling for an advertiser boycott of the reality show “All-American Muslim,” which chronicles the lives of a group of Muslims in Dearborn, Michigan.
The show is far from radical. Writes New York Times reviewer Mike Hale:
As it turns out, however, the only thing extreme about “All-American Muslim,” an eight-part series that begins on Sunday, is the lengths to which it goes to portray its subjects — members of the Arab-American community in Dearborn, Mich. — as everyday people. While head scarves and abstemiousness may set some of them apart, in general the medical assistants, secretaries, deputy sheriffs and football coaches the show follows come across as almost freakishly normal.
That’s probably something to be thankful for in our continuing post-9/11 climate of suspicion and fear.
But a reality TV show that lets Americans relate to the lives of Muslims in the United States is an offensive idea to those who want to demonize Islam.
The conservative Florida Family Association (FFA) has been pushing advertisers to drop “All-American Muslim,” and some advertisers have acquiesced. The business receiving the most flack is Lowe’s hardware chain who, this past weekend, said it pulled its advertising because the show “raised concerns.” FFA was thrilled, since the group called the TLC show “propaganda that riskily hides the Islamic agenda’s clear and present danger to American liberties and traditional values.”
We here at Standing on the Side of Love headquarters confess we haven’t seen more than a trailer for the show. But whether it’s the quality of Jersey Shore or Masterpiece Theater, it’s a disgrace that advertisers would specifically kowtow to anti-Muslim bigots, when they freely advertise on television fare ranging from the Bachelor to Flavor of Love without a second thought.
Plenty of Americans are up in arms about this travesty. One petition on Signon.org has already garnered 22,000 signatures. The petition urges Lowe’s to reconsider their decision to pull advertising dollars, and it also targets other advertisers, urging them to not cave to anti-Islamic pressure. You can add your name here.
In a move that we describe as fiscally intelligent courageous love, Russell Simmons has attempted to buy up all of the dropped advertiser time. On a positive note, it’s apparently all sold out! It’s wonderful that the bigots haven’t won here. It’s also great to see politicians like California State Sen. Ted Lieu stating they will boycott the stores in their district.
Let’s stay vigilant, sign the petition, and do what we can in our own communities to make sure that our American Muslim neighbors know that they are valued just as much as any other members of our communities.More >