Wall of Unitarians
An open letter by Stu Ferguson
What does a wall of Unitarians look like? Putting a faith-based organization behind a protest effort gives mainstream support for Black Lives Matter and the current issue of police brutality. It may encourage other liberal religious groups to join the movement.
In last week’s FUSD coffee klatch zoom call, a group of us discussed what it might look like for our church to join the protests. I think the “Wall of Moms” and “Wall of Vets” have shown us a model we might follow. Although I am over 65 and at high risk of complications from CoVid 19, I am moved to find a way to safely join the protests. Not necessarily as an ally to Black Lives Matter but representing my own desire to tear down White Privilege and stop the senseless subjugation of our black brothers and sisters. White Privilege is a white problem and it is up to white people to change our culture. In addition to marching, I plan to return to my state legislators to lobby for raising the minimum wage and starting a discussion about reparations. I plan to continue my support of the FUSD reparations group. I am hoping the leadership of the church might find a way to help organize those interested. And organizing a “Wall of Unitarians”. We might want to broaden the appeal and march with other faith-based groups, maybe a “Wall of CHUMS?” (Capital Hill United Ministries)- maybe not.
As John Lewis’ life illustrated, the success of the 1960’s protest marches depended on the nonviolent teachings of Martin Luther King and other black leaders. Unitarians participated in those marches including James Reeb, a Unitarian minister, who died from head injuries at the hands of white segregationists while in Selma accompanying Martin Luther King Jr. In the past First Unitarian has had training in how to protest using the non-violent principles Martin Luther King, Jr. laid out:
SIX PRINCIPLES OF NONVIOLENCE
- Nonviolence is a way of life for courageous people. It is active nonviolent resistance to evil.
- Nonviolence seeks to win friendship and understanding. The end result of nonviolence is redemption and reconciliation.
- Nonviolence seeks to defeat injustice, not people. Nonviolence recognizes that evildoers are also victims.
- Nonviolence holds that suffering can educate and transform. Nonviolence willingly accepts the consequences to its acts.
- Nonviolence chooses love instead of hate. Nonviolence resists violence to the spirit as well as the body. Nonviolent love is active, not passive. Nonviolent love does not sink to the level of the hater. Love restores community and resists injustice. Nonviolence recognizes the fact that all life is interrelated.
- Nonviolence believes that the universe is on the side of justice. The nonviolent resister has deep faith that justice will eventually win.
Kate Raabe adds that trampling on the bill of rights by militias is another reason to push back and take to the streets.
John Vivian adds: Civil disobedience and violence are two different things. America has a long history of government agents infiltrating protests and advocating violence as a pretext for aggression and arrests. We need to be prepared for a violent response despite our nonviolent protest. Community organizing teaches that our approach must be uniform and united in our values and goals. Then we can deliver a message without saying a word. There is room to be involved in leadership roles both in direct action and in other support.
I am hopeful this starts a discussion in our congregation and that we can seize this moment to make lasting change in our American society.