Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Book Review “Home” by Marilynne Robinson

This is a follow up book to the Pulitzer Prize winning Gilead about a rural Iowa Congregationalist Minister. My review of Gilead can be found here.
http://jwoworld.blogspot.com/2014/12/book-review-gilead.html

I liked the concept of this book. It’s story takes place at  the same time and with the same characters that are in Gilead, except it focuses on two different characters that were more minor characters in the Gilead Story. I felt like I already knew something about the characters and now this book goes into more depth.  It is the story of a sister and brother, one very dutiful, the other a reprobate (authors word). It discusses the return of both to their ancestral house. They are taking care of their ailing father who is a retired Presbyterian Minister. Both have their secrets, ulterior motives for being there, both have their personal failures, and both learn to live with them in different ways. The book is really the inner life of these two characters. It is a well written and like Gilead, at times a bit slow but easy read. From a theological perspectives It touches on salvation, forgiveness, predestination, redemption and how that plays out in our day to day lives. Do we find ourselves to have a role to play in the larger scheme of things and even if that does not bring us happiness does it bring us purpose? And is that good or bad.

In the end, it also speaks about the concept of what home is. Is it a physical place,  a touchstone for the history of who we are and how we became who we were. Or is it a state of mind, a place where we find our way. What are the touchstones of your lives? Why do we always look to escape the place from which we were raised?

“All of them call it home, but they never stay….Home, what kinder place could there be on earth and why did it seem to them all like exile….The soul finds its own home, if it ever has a home at all””

Overall I found it a very sad book. That is not good or bad, it is just how it left me. At the end, I was sad for the characters. It made me realize how often we are trapped in our own stories, and how we judge ourselves more harshly then others might. It also focuses on the beauty of the banality of simple kindnesses, but how often that can lead us to avoid our truth.
If you like to read about the inner lives of what drives people, and how they live within the dynamics of family and fitting in or not, it is a good But somber read.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Call to Action - Dreamers

Just as life throws us changes that we are not prepared for, and we have to adapt, so was the case with this service. Originally I had planned a long discussion about the story of the Secret Six. But due the immediacy of the issues that are facing these and many other DACA recipients, as well as many other undocumented residents in our community, I felt it imperative for us to hear their stories and to raise this issue as critical and immediate. 
Now I know some of you do not think we should be involved in politics. I respect that opinion, and although I say this is a moral issue, not a political issue. I don’t want to be cagey about it, I know it is also a political issue. To be human is to be political, and we come together to make meaning out of what it means to be human. Unitarian Universalism has always been at the forefront of progressive ideas and in order to implement them requires us to have what Buddhist Teacher Cheri Maples called a Fierce Compassion. Sometimes we stumble and fall and pick ourselves back up, sometimes we realize we start in the wrong direction and adapt, but I feel it is our responsibility and calling to be a prophetic religious voice for our community as we have so many times before. If not us, who, if not now, when!! If we wait and do nothing, many many people will suffer

Martin Luther King, Jr. said in his book The Strength to Love that: 
“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”

At some future date, I will get back to the Secret Six in more detail. But in short they were six leaders in the Boston Community, 5 of whom were Unitarians, 2 of whom were Unitarian Ministers who plotted with and raised money for John Brown in his violent work to end slavery in this country in the 19th Century. They were initially spurred on by the Fugitive Slave Act. It was a law passed by Congress in 1850 that required Northern Free States to return Escaped slaves to the Southern Slave states.  The fugitive slave law incensed many abolitionists, and led to riots in Boston. Unitarian Minister Theodore Parker called it “The formal federal Endorsement of kidnapping” Parker was known to carry a gun in the pulpit to protect fugitive slaves that were in his congregation and is quoted as saying “liberty is an end, and sometimes peace is not the means toward it” Now that is a much longer discussion then I have time for now, and I am not advocating violence, but suffice it to say that Unitarians have a long history of resistance against unjust laws and answering the call for justice. I want you to think about that this Congregation was founded only three years after the civil war ended.
And now we flash forward some 150 years later and our federal government is planning on kidnapping people who have lived here for most of their lives and send them out of country. If we will not support freedom, we do not support the very values this religion and this country were founded on. So I call on you just as Rev. Theodore Parker called on his Congregation in 1850, we must do everything in our power to resist the deportation of these human beings who just want to fulfill their potential, who yearn to be free, who came here just as my grandfather did as a child, escaping poverty and violence in his country of birth, and found a home here. We cannot shut the door on others just because we got here first. (and of course as I say that, let me recognize that of course the indigenous population in America were here first, until Europeans came and conquered the land)

We above all else value freedom, freedom to choose, freedom of religion, freedom of speech, but we are not free unless all of us are free, So I call on you to act. We have a group of people who are investigating becoming a Sanctuary Congregation to do what we can to help the Dreamers or others who are in peril of deportation. I implore you to let your values shape your actions and join them Wednesday Nov. 1st 6:30pm to discern our next steps as a Congregation. If you cant make it that night but are interested, please give your contact information to the Congregants who will be at a table during coffee hour. As well at the tables downstairs you can get cards to write your legislators to pass the Dream Act. If we choose to sit by and be comfortable, people will be kidnapped by our government and thrown out of our country, families will be separated, and the light will darken for all the dreamers. Let us shine our light so it is enough for all to see the beacon of freedom from our hill.