It’s August and it is rainy. The good news is that the hurricane went offshore, though it brought with it lots of hot, yecchy weather. August is a good month to enjoy Air Conditioning — invented in 1902 by Willis Carrier… and not common when our UCN building was constructed. The invention was, according to TIME, first encountered by most of the public not in churches but in movie theaters of the 1930s. But that’s enough history for today.
I did a lot of driving in my air conditioned car this summer and have enjoyed a couple of unusual audio books. “Not My Father’s Son” by Alan Cumming (he’s a British actor) was a fascinating trip into genealogy, PTSD and a Scottish childhood. It’s not light family reading, but it did teach me a bit about child abuse and was very listenable.
The second was “Mary Poppins, She Wrote: The Life of P. L. Travers” by Valerie Lawson. This book was the inspiration for “Saving Mr Banks” a 2013 film about Travers and her negotiation with Walt Disney over movie rights, mixed with her story of her relationship with her own father who was both addicted to alcohol and loving. I had seen the movie, produced by Disney, and found it moving. The book, on the other hand, is a complete biography and slow going in parts. The section on Pamela Travers’ early life in Australia was quite interesting. I had not intended to read any books about fathers this summer, but that’s what happened.
And then there is a hardcover book I ordered, “A Biography of Mrs Marty Mann: The First Lady of Alcoholics Anonymous” written by my mentor, Sally Brown, and her husband David Brown. I had read this when I worked for Sally but wanted to be able to refer to it so I ordered a copy. Marty Mann was an early member of AA and founder of the National Council on Alcoholism (now NCADD) which publicly advocated for laws that treat alcoholism as a disease rather than a moral failing (note that AA does not advocate publicly). I will be glad to loan it out to anyone interested – come see me.
It is interesting to note that Marty Mann was the first open Lesbian in AA. This was in the 1930s. AA has no position on LGBT matters and never has.
The work of the NCADD fascinated me because, in our current culture, drug dependence is sometimes treated as if it were a disease and sometimes a moral failing. The difference between treatment and punishment is often the skin color of the person suffering from the addiction. “Why is this so?” is a question for 2017.
This week I met with Walter Clark, the ministerial candidate who presented a service here at UCN in July. Last Saturday, Walter joined with a number of UU religious leaders attending the counter-demonstration in Charlottesville, VA. He described the violent actions of the Alt-Right groups and his work assisting injured counter-protesters. The violence, racism and antisemitism advocated by these groups is quite simply evil. All people may have inherent worth and dignity, but these beliefs and acts of aggression do not deserve dignity. I can’t say it nearly as well as our new UUA president, Susan Frederick Gray, Love Showed Up: https://www.facebook.com/notes/rev-susan-frederick-gray/love-showed-up-today-in-charlottesville/1513594372033234/
[Full Text Follows below for those not on Facebook]
I will be in at UCN this Sunday, and am available to talk anytime.
I love you,
PS: Bring some water from your life on September 10th for our Water Ceremony… just a teaspoonful is enough.
Today was a tragic day. We came to Charlottesville to bear peaceful witness but were met with hate and racist violence. My heart has been broken and I am deeply troubled by what is happening in this community and across this country.
Torches held above banners of hate are a familiar image from American history, but I had never witnessed it in person until last night on the University of Virginia campus. The racist parade marched right by St. Paul’s Memorial Church, Charlottesville where an incredibly powerful standing-room-only worship service with people of all faiths and all colors came together in song, spirit, and blessing. Rev. Traci Blackmon told the story of David and Goliath, which is what it felt like on the streets of Charlottesville.
This morning, the faith leaders that were called here by Congregate C’ville went to Emancipation Park to block the entrance and prevent the Unite the Right rally from taking place. The message was clear – to stand with the community to say that hate has no place here. The white nationalist protesters we faced chanted Nazi slogans like “you will not replace us” and “blood and soil” in between anti-Semitic, sexist, and homophobic slurs. They wore Nazi emblems and carried pictures of Hitler. They wore Make America Great Again hats and held pictures of the President of the United States. And they had automatic weapons, paramilitary uniforms, shields, and clubs.
We expected to be arrested for blocking the park because the protesters had an event permit that had been affirmed by a judge’s order. But as the day began, it was clear the police were not going to intervene – that they were not prepared to keep the peace as clergy and the community bore witness to the power of love that leaves no one out. The message seemed clear – as it has been for some time. White supremacist groups are being given permission to act violently without repercussions, and this was on display in Charlottesville. They had their guns and shields. We had our songs, our faith, our love. And we had each other.
White supremacy is not new in this country, but its renewed boldness is. Today, Charlottesville was the front line of a battle against oppression that includes American militarization at home and abroad, the criminalization of entire communities, and the belief that violent power makes righteousness. It is time for people of faith and conscience, for anyone who is committed to a vision of the Beloved Community, and especially those of us who are white, to show up — and to continue to show up — forcefully and nonviolently for love and justice. We must unite against white supremacy, neo-Nazism, and fascism.
I am so proud of Unitarian Universalist clergy and lay people for witnessing courageously on the side of love. Our faith calls us to resist violent extremism. We must liberate ourselves from the paradigms of dominance and hierarchy that are destroying lives, communities, and the planet. Fear and hatred corrupt our humanity and cut us off from the spirit, from the holy, from goodness and beauty, and possibilities of creation. Only love can truly confront this corruption that puts our democracy, our liberty, and personal safety at risk. Love is more powerful than any weapon, even when it doesn’t feel that way. The faith and the courage of our ancestors in movements of resistance and liberation show us this truth.
Today was a tragic day, a day that ended in the loss of life and in a city left reeling. We lift in our prayers the family of the person who lost their life, their community, all the people injured and traumatized by the events – especially my siblings of color, people of Jewish faith and ancestry, and those who identify as transgender, queer, lesbian, gay and bisexual – and the city and community of Charlottesville. And too – we lift in our hearts a prayer that for all those whose spirits have been distorted by fear and violence – that they may come to know the capacity for love in their own hearts and spirits. As a people of faith, it is this overflowing, deep abiding love that must guide us to show up again and again for justice, for inclusion, for dignity and humanity.