Love. Revere. Discover. Connect.

October 9, 2011: “Solidarity Sunday: Not Who You Love, But How You Love”

A journalist was planning a visit to Japan. It would be his first visit, and he was a little anxious because he couldn’t speak Japanese. How would he communicate with the people he came in contact with?

Since most taxi drivers do not speak English, someone suggested that it might be a good idea to carry with him something bearing the name of the hotel at which he would be staying written in Japanese. That was exactly what he did. As soon as he arrived in Japan he picked up a box of matches bearing the name and address of his hotel. Then he went sight-seeing.

Afterwards he got into a taxi and did as the friend suggested, he took the box of matches out of his pocket to show the driver where he wanted to go. There were a few awkward moments before the driver understood. Finally his face lit up. Quickly they sped away. Half an hour later, the taxi came to a screeching halt. The driver turned and beamed at his passenger, pointing out the window. There was only one problem. They had stopped, not in front of a hotel, but a match factory!

Let’s see, “Don’t judge a book by its cover” comes to mind, but basically, effective communication is often difficult when we don’t speak the same language. Sometimes our culture seems too divided into different languages of religion, politics, local customs, and so on. We talk about something being “in the Bible,” as if that’s proves it, when in reality, whatever that is, we must interpret for ourselves what something means!

Gandhi was one of the people in the 20th century who is often used as an example of a saint, one whose religious devotion carried over to their life in such a way they were able to influence others to love more ethically and religiously. His philosophy of nonviolence, and especially his push to eliminate the rigid caste system in India was crucial to new ways of thinking. The caste system obviously had at the lowest class, the untouchables who were considered unclean because of the family they were born into, not for anything they had actually done. That caste was usually the one that dealt with dead bodies, and removal of human waste because both were considered unclean and would contaminate one religiously. Since most of us Westerners are outside of that society and its customs, it looks especially terrible and unfair to us. Imagine being born into a caste which would then influence one’s whole life, who one could marry, and so forth. We are usually horrified by the ignorance and prejudice of a system like that.

It doesn’t take too much effort, of course, to realize that our society has its caste system as well though we pretend that everyone is equal and has the same chance for success!

Anthony de Mellow, a Jesuit writer who was born and raised as an Indian, tells the story of how as a young man, Gandhi became a lawyer and moved from India and went to another country in the British Empire, South Africa, It was while he was there, he became very interested in Christianity, Jesus, the Bible, and especially the Sermon on the Mount.

He came to the conclusion that Christianity was the answer to the caste system that had plagued India for centuries, and he serious considered becoming a Christian,

One day he went to a church to attend mass and get instructions. He was stopped at the entrance and gently told that if he desired to attend mass, he was welcome to do so in a church that was received for blacks. He left and never returned. De Mello says “Some people, alas, have just enough religion to hate, but not enough to love.”

Can anyone imagine the Jesus who was known for associating with the unclean people would have acted that way? Indeed, I’m not sure that Jesus would have been admitted to some churches; he might have had dark features as a Mediterranean peasant out in the sun all day. Yet today, Sunday morning at 11:00 is one of the most racially segregated times of the entire week.

There wasn’t as much publicity, but on the same day Apple cofounder, Steve Jobs died, there was another person who only got a small write up who also died. Reverend Fred Shuttlesworth, an associate of Dr.

Martin Luther King, a civil rights activist who was part of those who led the fight against segregation and other forms of racism as a minister in Birmingham, Alabama. He was a cofounder of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, was instrumental in the 1963 Birmingham Campaign, and continued to work against racism and for alleviation of the problems of the homeless in Cincinnati, OH, where he took up a pastorate in 1961. His home was bombed and he suffered beatings, etc.

If you’ve been watching Ken Burns new Documentary on Prohibition, you realized that it was also around the time that women finally were able to vote! Women’s rights had only just begun!

We in the UUA are justly proud of our work toward equal rights for ALL even though our past is also full of prejudice as well. Today is known as Solidarity Sunday, Coming Out Sunday, Standing on the Side of Love Sunday, when we hold up the rights of people who are still not free. Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals, and Transgender people, shortened to LGBT. Perhaps because many people don’t consider it a civil right to be LGBT, as if there was a choice. How do you choose who YOU love? Homosexual love was once called “the love that dare not speak its name.”

Some facts:

In 1969 the first UU minister came out as homosexual on the national scene: Rev. James L. Stoll. He never served a congregation again. Prior to that, ministers discovered to be gay were fired from their congregations (though once one was rehired as a custodian).

In 1979 the first out gay men in the UU ministry were called to serve congregations: Rev. Douglas Morgan Strong, called to All Souls Church, Augusta, ME, and Rev. Mark Belletini, called to First UU Society of San Francisco, CA.

In 1980, a General Assembly resolution urged the UUA to assist in the settlement of lesbian, gay, and bisexual religious leaders.

The UUA has been ordaining people regardless of sexual orientation since the 1970s, and the first openly transgender person was ordained in 1988.

UUA President Peter Morales recently commented on the recent repeal of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy for the US military. “The official end today of our armed services “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy is an important milestone in the long struggle for civil rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) Americans. Finally, our gay and lesbian friends, family, and loved ones are granted the basic right to serve in our country’s military with dignity and integrity.”

Findlay, OH

“A study by the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law found that roughly 14,000 service members have been discharged since the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy was implemented in 1993. The study estimated that 66,000 other gay Americans served silently during that time. Katie Miller’s resignation from West Point brought national attention to the plight of gays and lesbians in the U.S. military, and in December, by a vote of 65 to 31, the Senate voted to repeal the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy. The Unitarian Universalist Church of Blanchard Valley, in Findlay, Ohio, believes that Katie Miller’s actions helped to bring about the end of DADT. We applaud the courage of Katie and of others who have harnessed love in defense of fairness and equality for all people.

Therefore, as part of the Unitarian Universalist Church’s Standing on the Side of Love campaign, we are honored to present this year’s “Love Award” to Katie Miller, to highlight her efforts to confront identity-based discrimination in the U.S. Military, and to honor her courage in Standing on the Side of Love in the national spotlight. Thank you, Katie Miller”

The UUA started the “standing on the side of love,” campaign inspired by the 2008 shooting at Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church, which was targeted because they are welcoming to LGBT people and have a liberal stance on many issues. The Knoxville Community responded with an outpouring of love that inspired the leadership at the Unitarian Universalist Association to launch a campaign that would harness love’s power to challenging exclusion, oppression and violence based on sexual orientation, gender identity, immigration status, race, religion, or any other identity. It emerged as a rallying point for people of faith in Massachusetts during their early efforts for fully inclusive marriage, and later during the fight against Proposition 8 in California.

There have always been gays and lesbians in the military, of course; they just couldn’t be open or honest. Indeed there were officers too. I think we would be shocked if we administered truth serum to each roll call; one of the reasons we would be shocked is that many of us stereotype GLBT folk and therefore think we could pick them out right away, but we would be wrong.

Have you ever wondered why the scriptures talk about homosexuality from thousands of years ago? Yet Jesus never mentions it, probably because he was known for accepting the people that society condemned.

And did you know that the early Jewish scholars, rabbis, believed that one must always interpret scripture for every age so that it never becomes dated and irrelevant? That in the act of trying to search out its deeper meanings, its spiritual message, slightly different for everyone, after all, so that we still find spiritual direction in discussing and exploring the various meanings and messages that make life worthwhile, that help us to learn how to truly and deeply love!

We think there are only two genders and that they are even “opposite,” but many know that that is oversimplifying sexuality and even love. Check out the strange science of nature outside of humans, and how differently reproduction is carried out so that the species may continue. It is as if there were someone designing all this, but in the most complicated and often unbelievable way!

How are we attracted to one another? Is it biology, emotions, hormones, or what? It is often thought that there is some kind of instinct for breeding with only the most successful partner, the strongest, etc. So why are two people attracted to one another and then find out one of them is unable to reproduce? And that of course is when we speak of male and female, but why would nature design an attraction to the so-called “same” gender?

Of course homosexuality is often called “UN-Natural,” as if there could be anything outside of nature? Or is it nurture? Is homosexuality “caused” by certain kinds of parents? Is it an illness, specifically a “mental illness”? Well, I would argue that heterosexual love and its corresponding behavior often seems a bit crazy! Can it be “cured”? By prayer or counseling? Can loving be “cured,” because that seems to be what we are really talking about? Should it be? Who is to decide?

Since my belief is that love is the heart and soul of religion as well as a satisfying life, we strive toward the idea that loving one another and developing loving relationships with what has come to be known as our “significant other,” our “soul mate”, then we work for equal rights for all love that is healthy and enlivening and responsible.

The medical establishment has finally removed homosexuality from its definitions of mental illness, and I’m sure that ironically there were many LGBT doctors among those who decided that!

It is not WHO you love, but THAT you love, and HOW you love that is important, not what apparent gender each is. So called “same gender” relationships have lasted longer than many heterosexual ones! The idea is to make a loving commitment to another who brings you joy and meaning, who you want to be with for the rest of your life. Or perhaps you don’t want that kind of commitment and prefer to live alone and have relationships. That’s OK, too.

I also find that many times, it is fear and insecurity that fuels prejudice, that when people get to know LGBT people, they realize we are all people, all in the same human race. When two adult people love each other and want to make a lifelong commitment, why should there be a law against that? Two people who are identified as male or female or whatever find happiness and a family setting, where, if they want children have various options. Yet because of today’s overpopulation, we don’t have to worry about the species not surviving.

Homosexuality is not “catching” because it is not a disease, though it may cause people “dis-ease;” just as allowing equal rights for blacks caused “dis-ease” among some people, but I can’t imagine anyone arguing that blacks or women, or fill in the blanks, shouldn’t have equal rights because it makes someone else uncomfortable.

I believe that this church should be about the religious search for meaning, for how to live our lives, for how to help the world live in justice, peace, and love. Indeed, I believe all churches, synagogues, mosques, etc., should be about that as well, that the purpose of all religion is to serve the good, the “God with two “o’s” that we might all believe in, the compassion for one another as being interconnected, interdependent.

Walking together, loving one another, helping the community, the world, but also each other is part of building up the beloved community, making us different from a social club or even a social justice group in that we come together under a banner of worship on Sunday morning in relationship with one another and with our religious principles, our ethical dimension, our spiritual yearnings and attempt at expression.

Let us not permit diversity to defeat us but make us stronger as we continue to build, stone upon stone, person holding hand with person, conservative beside liberal, whatever those terms mean to us, so that we may make a positive, loving difference in people’s lives; let us truly be a beacon of light, love and hope, in the midst of the darkest night or fiercest storm, that we not crash upon the rocks of despair, but glide into the harbor of beloved community.

All of my closing words to you- Amen, Peace, Shalom, (Peace in Hebrew), Assalaamu Alaikum (may Peace be upon you in Arabic), Abrazos a todos (Hugs all around) Namaste, (A Hindu greeting the divinity within you) Blessed Be, Vaya Con Su Dios, Go with your idea or interpretation of God. Peace, Love, Shalom, Salaam, Blessed Be, Namaste, Abrazo a Todos,Vaya con su Dios