Harnessing Love’s Power
to Stop Oppression


Day 6: Examine Your Words

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The message below went out on Saturday, January 21, 2012 to those Standing on the Side of Love supporters who signed up for daily Thirty Days of Love emails. You can sign-up for the 30 Days of Love emails here.

Love is not concerned
with whom you pray
or where you slept
the night you ran away
from home.
Love is concerned
that the beating of your heart
should kill no one.

-Alice Walker

On occasion, I’m taken aback by the incendiary rhetoric I see posted to the Standing on the Side of Love blog or to our Facebook page comments section. The name-calling can be rabid, caustic. It’s not difficult to understand where it’s coming from. When Rick Santorum spews more homophobic rhetoric and Sherriff Joe Arpaio is accused of yet another flagrant human rights violation, we are appalled, angry, and often personally aggrieved. It’s really tough for some of us – myself included – not to lash out in kind, using our words as weapons to express our frustration.

One of the reasons I love this campaign is that it’s about more than just our public witness, and the way we show up. I believe this campaign affects us individually. It has the power to change us. And I know this, because this campaign has changed me.  Over the past 20 months, as my professional activism has moved through – and continues to move through — a new prism, a prism of love, I have developed a new mindfulness that what I say, how I feel, and what I do affects everything.  Sometimes it’s still more difficult for me to open my heart to love than to choose the angry, defensive path. But as a result of Standing on the Side of Love, I am far more mindful of my words and actions than ever before in my life. For that, I give great thanks.

Today’s active reflection is about the power of our words:

When was the last time you spoke (emailed, etc.) unlovingly to someone?

To yourself?

What about the last time you spoke or wrote cruelly about someone?

What about people in your lives vs. strangers?

In each case, what was the root of your anger?

How can you remind yourself to promote more respectful rhetoric online, in your personal and professional interactions, and with yourself?

Share your answers with our community on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/SideofLove.

The two answers that inspire the most likes will win a free t-shirt, hat, or tote bag – your choice.

Today, I carry with me the 2nd Unitarian Universalist principle: “We affirm and promote justice, equity and compassion in human relations.”

Being the Change,

Dan Furmansky
Campaign Manager
Standing on the Side Love

P.S. Thinking about the importance of words in our lives also got me thinking about broader issues about language in society, for example, how the press often uses “illegal” instead of “undocumented.”  Check out this article from a few weeks back in the New York Times, “What if We Occupied Language.”  I’m curious if it speaks to you as well (pun intended). An excerpt:

What if we transformed the meaning of occupy yet again? Specifically, what if we thought of Occupy Language as more than the language of the Occupy movement, and began to think about it as a movement in and of itself? What kinds of issues would Occupy Language address? What would taking language back from its self-appointed “masters” look like?  We might start by looking at these questions from the perspective of race and discrimination, and answer with how to foster fairness and equality in that realm.

Read the full article: http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/12/21/what-if-we-occupied-language/

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Day 5: Inspiring Others Through Our Own Stories

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Click here to read some of the beautiful coming out stories we received in response to this post.

With my dog, Joni, in 1997.

I came out of the closet in 1994, almost 18 years ago. The year I told family and friends I was gay, I also gained about 75 pounds to give myself some extra protection from the cruelty of the world, and to cradle the shame of being gay. My battle with food began when I was younger; but it wasn’t until I was also struggling with depression, drug abuse, and compulsive spending that my eating became truly out of control. After college, and a lot of personal work, I dropped the weight and adopted a much healthier lifestyle. For the most part, I have maintained a stable weight ever since. But I am, and will always be, a compulsive eater.

This term has little resonance with people. Folks understand bulimia and anorexia, but compulsive eating is a foreign concept, or something they equate with going overboard during the holidays. Trust me – it’s not. Honestly, I prefer not to talk about it, or to try to explain to people what it means to be “abstinent” from compulsive eating, or what a “trigger food” is. But there are times when I discover a shared bond with someone – a friend, an acquaintance – who also lives with food addiction and struggles, as I do, to overcome compulsive eating and remain present in their own life. So, I come out of the closet to them as a compulsive eater, and I share my experiences with them to let them know they are not alone.

Today’s action is about “Coming Out” and sharing our personal struggles:

“Coming Out” about our own struggles and challenges is an act of Courageous Love. Consider the broader definition of “coming out.” By sharing our vulnerabilities and our authentic selves—whether or not what we are disclosing is identity-based—we can help others on their own path.

Sharing something personal to help others is so brave, and receiving that story is a special gift. Today, share something that might help or inspire others.

Share your inspiration with our community on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/SideofLove.

For each of the questions we pose this week, the two responses that inspire the most FB ‘likes’ will receive a free t-shirt, hat, or canvas bag.

Some of the bravest examples of “coming out” I can think of involve DREAMers – undocumented youth hoping for a brighter future and advocating for passage of the DREAM Act; or the well-publicized story of Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Jose Antonio Vargas; or those young LGBT people who sue their school for the right to take a same-gender romantic partner to the prom.

Today, will you consider sharing a part of yourself?

Being the Change,

Dan Furmansky
Campaign Manager
Standing on the Side Love

P.S. Check out some highlights of how congregations kicked off their Thirty Days of Love by commemorating Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day: http://www.standingonthesideoflove.org/blog/kicking_off_30_days_of_love_in_mlk_spirit/

The message below went out on Friday, January 20, 2012 to those Standing on the Side of Love supporters who signed up for daily Thirty Days of Love emails. You can sign-up for the 30 Days of Love emails here.

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UU’s Protest New, Anti-Gay Michigan Law

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Rally3Dear Standing on the Side of Love,

Michigan UUs were part of a “Gay Families Matter” rally January 18th on the steps of Michigan’s Capital in Lansing. The Standing on the Side of Love Banner, brought by UUs from the First UU Congregation in Ann Arbor, was up front and center as part of this rally.

The rally, attended by at least 200 people, was designed to protest a new law passed by the Michigan legislature and signed by Governor Rick Snyder that took away health care and other domestic partner benefits for state employees. As important as that issue is, the rally was also a demand for respect for Michigan’s gay community and their allies. One of the leaders of the rally also emphasized how important it is that straight allies go public on behalf of LGBT rights.

This week the Michigan UU Social Justice Network published its new Interfaith LGBTQ Toolkit. To start using it, go to: www.uujustice.org. This Toolkit went to the printer today and will be mailed to 400 faith groups this month.

Best wishes,

Randy Block, Director
Michigan UU Social Justice Network

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Day 4: Ask Yourself: What Do You Struggle With?

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The message below went out on Thursday, January 19, 2012 to those Standing on the Side of Love supporters who signed up for daily Thirty Days of Love emails. You can sign-up for the 30 Days of Love emails here.

For a number of reasons, lately, I spend a lot of time worrying about money. While I have everything I need right now, I struggle with my fears about the utter lack of a financial safety net in my life. I fear how I will ever pay down the debt, get ahead, own a home, financially support children, and see more of the world that calls to me. Throughout my adult life, depending on my bank balance, money has always made me feel either trapped or free.

I know I am not alone. Many of us hold these fears, but we are also afraid to share these fears with others. We are ashamed. We don’t want to burden others, even when our struggles may be quite serious. We certainly don’t want to seem ungrateful for the ample luxuries in our lives, which might be as simple as being well fed, day in and day out.

Today’s action involves the examination of our struggles, and casting off the shame we feel by naming them:

We are living in turbulent times; each of us is struggling in our own ways; many of us are worried about our own livelihood, our black holes of debt, our ability to care for our families, or the prospects for our children’s future.

What are your heartfelt concerns … what keeps you awake at night? What societal systems in place have helped or hindered you in your journey?

Share your thoughts with our community on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/SideofLove.

For each of the questions we pose this week, the two responses that inspire the most FB ‘likes’ will receive a free Standing on the Side of Love bumper sticker or rally sign.

I hope you are enjoying National Standing on the Side of Love Month so far.  It’s amazing to see this conversation take hold at the UUA, in our online community, and in communities and congregations across the country!

Being the Change,

Dan Furmansky
Campaign Manager
Standing on the Side Love

P.S. If you would like, please invite your friends and family to join us on our journey over the next month as we investigate our Story of Self, Story of Us and Story of Now.  They can sign-up to receive the daily emails here:


P.P.S. The prayer/meditation below seemed like a natural fit for today’s reflections:

Loving in Fear

Spirit of Life, God of Love, grant me the courage to love boldly in the face of my greatest fears. Grow me in your wisdom and let my actions speak when silence threatens justice and indifference disturbs peace. When gossip, hate, and cruelty arise among friends or in public places, help me bravely walk forward with love. When I defensively assert certainty in the presence of the unknown, grant me the courage to live comfortably in the unanswerable questions of life. Bless me with the eternal gift of not knowing and let it take root in me until it pushes forth shoots of understanding and branches of humility.

-From “Be the Change: Poems Prayers and Meditations for Peacemakers and Justice Seekers,” by Stephen Shick, Skinner House books.

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Kicking Off 30 Days of Love in the Spirit of Dr. King

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Folks from across the nation brought messages of love to Martin Luther King Jr. Day in a variety of ways this week. Congregations ranging from the UU Fellowship of Beaufort, South Carolina, to the UU Congregation of Woodstock, Illinois, to the Anchorage UU Fellowship incorporated Standing on the Side of Love themes into their Sunday worship services commemorating the holiday.


TVUUC members Ken Stephenson, David Habercom, & John Bohstedt carry banners at the Knoxville MLK Jr. Day parade. (Credit: Karen Krogh)

Others across the country participated in service projects or marched in parades to honor the famed civil rights leader. More than 50 congregations received free Standing on the Side of Love rally signs as a “thank you” for their involvement. Check out some of the highlights from this year’s MLK Jr. Day events below.

Tennessee Valley UU Church, Knoxville, Tennessee

Members of TVUUC marched in the local MLK Jr. Day parade representing a number of different groups including Standing on the Side of Love, KIN, Tai Chi, Jobs with Justice, Veterans for Peace, the Green Party, and more. Check out the online photo album to see more photos from the march (Credit: Karen Krogh). In the words of participant John Bohstedt, “The expressions of love & joy [in the photos] will give you a new idea about why we have parades!!”

First UU Church of Rochester, Minnesota

On Monday, members and friends of the First UU Church of Rochester carried a Standing on the Side of Love banner in the local MKL Day March. Members also distributed yellow scarves and buttons to help create a visible yellow sea of love. They spread their Standing on the Side of Love message in support of community, practiced public advocacy, and witnessed for an event that has long had representation and engagement from their church.

First Unitarian Society of Denver, Colorado

First Unitarian Denver invited youth from across the Front Range to the third annual anti-oppression overnight focusing on social justice in honor of MLK Jr. Day. This year’s program, entitled “Occupy What?!?”, focused on economic justice and brought together almost 60 youth and adults from seven congregations. Events included games about class and classism, guest speakers that talked about homelessness and poverty, and a “field trip” to the Occupy Denver site, where participants brought hot beverages to the Occupiers, talked face-to-face with members of the movement, and met with leaders for a presentation and Q & A session. The program culminated with “take home” discussions about ways to make a difference in the youths’ congregation and community and a joyful march in the MLK Jr. Day Parade. In the words of youth advisor Eric Bliss, “UU youth can make a difference.  To quote MLK, ‘It’s not a question of burn baby burn.  For us…it’s build baby build.’  Building connections. Building confidence.  Building bridges.  That’s what the MLK Overnight is all about.”


Love flag from First UU Richmond's 30 Days of Love kickoff. (Credit: Wendy DeGroat)

First UU Church of Richmond, Virgina

First UU Richmond kicked off Standing on the Side of Love Month with a service centered on Dr. King’s fight for economic justice and our responsibility to continue working to end poverty. In honor of Dr. King’s legacy, members, friends, and visitors filled out vibrant blue, green, red, yellow, and orange love flags joyfully declaring how they stand on the side of love. Sometimes smiling, sometimes reflecting, they clipped their flags to lengths of bright gold clothesline stretched across corners of the main lobby. To ensure that ideas kept percolating throughout the coffee hour, volunteers in SSL shirts spread the word about upcoming opportunities to stand on the side of love, including a Jubilee anti-racism workshop, a monthly community gardening day with a local elementary school, and a public witness event on Valentine’s Day for marriage equality. The congregation’s newly formed Alliance to End Oppression coordinated the kickoff.

First Parish Cambridge UU, Massachusetts

First Parish Cambridge kicked off 30 Days of Love with a call for the congregation to attend the City of Cambridge Day of Commemoration and Remembrance on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. Over two dozen people came wearing ‘Love’ shirts and pins. Two of Coming of Age youth, Jordan Browne and Eleanor McCartney, participated in the program by giving a powerful rendition of Dr. King’s words on militarism, materialism, and racism. Several other members volunteered and First Parish Cambridge UU was publicly recognized for its role in the program. The crowd that filled the sanctuary of St. Peter’s Episcopal Church represented Cambridge’s diversity–it was truly multiracial and intergenerational. After the event First Parish members shared a community meal, networked, and distributed Love pins!  Susan Leslie said of the event, “We were glad that we showed up in our community to honor and embrace the vision and values of Dr. King and to commit with others to continue his ministry of creating the Beloved Community.”

Peter Davis cropped

Cambridge keynote speaker Peter Davis. (Credit: Susan Leslie)

The keynote speaker, Harvard student Peter Davis, was enthusiastic about the Standing on the Side of Love Campaign and the 30 Days of Love. In his remarks he said:

“I’m happy that MLK day is the first holiday of the year (after New Year’s), because you start the New Year with all these personal New Year’s resolutions, and you say, ‘I’m going to cut back on the sweets,’ ‘I’m going to make time to go running everyday,’ and then right about around this weekend, two weeks into the year, you’ve given up on all them… and you’re feeling down and don’t know what to do. And then Martin Luther King, Jr. Day comes along and reminds you that you can start your New Year off with not just personal resolutions but community and citizen resolutions–like ‘I’m going to cut back on my pre-judgment of others,’ and ‘I’m going to make time to go help out and speak out and act out more around school or church or my local community every day’–and those are resolutions that are harder in practice, but easier to fight for, because you’re not just fighting for yourself.”

UUA Witness Ministries Staff, Washington, DC

On Monday, Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) Witness Ministries staff members participated in an interfaith service at the historic Shiloh Baptist Church. The service honored Dr. King’s work on behalf of worker justice, which he championed up to his death, and raised awareness for Faith Advocates for Jobs, a campaign initiated by Interfaith Worker Justice (IWJ) to address the suffering of unemployed, underemployed, and exploited workers. During his sermon, Dr. James Forbes reminded those in attendance that the march during which Rev. King delivered his iconic “I Have a Dream” speech was a march on Washington to demand jobs. IWJ, with which the UUA works in close partnership, believes that every person has the right to fair wages and meaningful work.

UU Fellowship of Statesboro, Georgia

As they have since the early years of the congregation’s formation in the 1980′s, the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Statesboro marched (or rode on scooters, skateboards, or in our decorated truck) in the Martin Luther King, Jr. Parade through downtown Statesboro. This year the march also served as the kick-off for the “30 Days of Love” campaign.

parade participants

Members of UU Fellowship of Statesboro at the MLK Jr. Parade. (Credit: Jane Page)

Olean UU Community, New York

The emerging congregation in Olean, NY, participated in an MLK Jr. interfaith service. Member Jess Gray read a prayer reflecting on our sixth principle. Many Olean UU attendees wore their orange Standing on the Side of Love badges to the service and celebration. In addition to the interfaith prayers, there was a speaker, drumming, a choir, and dessert.

LPP letters Jan 2012

Notes and drawings from UUCSV children to local prisoners. (Credit: Sara Kelley)

UU Congregation of the Susquehanna Valley, Northumberland, Pennsylvania

The kids in UUCSV’s Religious Growth and Learning program did a service project in partnership with the Lewisburg Prison Project to help teach them about the worth and dignity of all human beings, and connect them to social justice work in their congregation and community. The younger children talked about what it means to go to prison and for us to still forgive and love, and drew pictures. The older age group talked about prisoner rehabilitation and education and what the Lewisburg Prison Project does, and they wrote notes, poems, and pictures. All of the artwork and messages that the kids created will be sent to local prisoners. The congregation’s adults followed up with a workshop conducted by Lewisburg Prison Project volunteers.

Marquette UU Congregation, Michigan

Members of MUUC commemorated MLK Jr. Day with a presentation at the local library with a panel of eight on “Housing in Marquette” and “Walking with the Wounded – Stepping Toward Forgiveness and Joy, “a walk in silence then song. Their Social Action Committee also decided on Jan. 15, Martin Luther King’s birthdate, that it’s time for their congregation to purchase a Standing on the Side of Love banner!


Members of the UU Church of Cheyenne listening to community speakers on the lawn of the state capitol. (Credit: Sandi Gaulke)

UU Church of Cheyenne, Wyoming

Members of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Cheyenne carried Standing on the Side of Love posters and handed out buttons to eager recipients during the MLK Jr. Day march in Cheyenne.

First Parish in Concord UU, Massachusetts

Rev. Elaine Beth Peresluha gave an MLK Jr. Day sermon entitled “How Are We Called” to introduce her congregation to National Standing on the Side of Love Month.  Here’s a particularly moving excerpt: “There is a power at work in this universe that pushes trees out of rocky crevices and flowers out of the cracks in city sidewalks. There is a power that affirms love and beauty in the face of insurmountable odds that takes children from abuse and abandonment into creative, productive, and compassionate adulthood. There is a power that heals hearts after the most devastating tragedies–and brings dreams to the grieving that they may again dance with joy…I will not lessen my life by feeding the power of hate or evil—that power at work in this world that tears down hope, shrinks hearts and discourages minds. Do not live your life in fear of scarcity, in resistance, judgment, or hate. Choose love.” Read the text of the whole sermon here.


Sue Null at the Brevard, NC MLK Jr. Day Walk. (Credit: Sue Null)

Unitarian Universalists of Transylvania County, Brevard, North Carolina

Members of the  Unitarian Universalists of Transylvania County marched in their local MLK Jr. Day Walk while decked out in Standing on the Side of Love gear. Their participation garnered them a front page mention in the local small town newspaper, The Transylvania Times. One member, Sue Null, carried a sign that read: “My gay children deserve equal rights.”  She says of her actions, “I wanted to carry it last year and was cautioned not to, because I might arouse dissension. This year I said I didn’t care, I was carrying it anyway, and so far, no nasty letters to the newspaper.”


Editor’s Note: Special thanks to John Bohstedt, Karen Krogh, Sara Kelley, Wendy DeGroat, Susan Leslie, Kat Liu, Jane Page, Jeff & Julie Larson Keller, Barbara Michael, Anna Eskenazi Bush, Sandi Gaulke, Eric Bliss, and Sue Null  for contributions to this post.

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