September 26–Love Makes a Bridge: Love, Hope, Peace and Joy

Feeling hopeless can be devastating.  Whatever the source, when we find ourselves hopeless or even approaching hopelessness, it’s as if a great chasm has opened up between where we are in life and where we need or want to go.  Feeling hopeless stops us in our tracks.  The things that can evoke hopelessness in us may seem endless: personal illness, the loss of a job, the abuse of a superior on us, the current state of American politics, the killing of black Americans in our streets in what seems like one unbelievable police shooting after another, personal debt, the maligning of those who are “different” among us.  The list could go on, and yours and mine would become very personal.  They all amount to some huge gap in the road we would like to see ourselves traveling with no apparent way across that gap.

Two weeks ago at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Gwinnett we sang an African American Spiritual, “There Is More Love Somewhere.”  If you like, you can listen to it here sung by the Jason Shelton Choir for the Unitarian Universalist Church of the Larger Fellowship.  As we stood at UUCG and sang that song, something welled up in me that I would call Hope.  With each simple line of that song, I was reminded that there is more love somewhere.  There is more hope, somewhere.  There is more peace, somewhere. There is more joy, somewhere.

I may not be experiencing love, hope, peace or joy right now for very good reasons, but there are those experiences, somewhere.  As the remainder of each line asserts, I felt myself so deeply encouraged:

I’m gonna keep on,
’till I find it,
There is more hope, somewhere.

Sometimes, I need the community of souls to which I belong to remind me that there is a bridge across the gaps I feel in life, and the making of that bridge begins with the reminder that there is more of what I need–love, hope, peace or joy–or compassion, courage, or curiosity–somewhere.  I need my fellows to encourage me to go find it.  And my fellows do encourage me that way.

Today, you may find yourself facing the gap of hopelessness.  Click on the link above and listen to this inspiring, simple song.  Listen to the community of souls to which you belong, and find that encouragement you need.  You may also be one in the community souls who today becomes the voice of love, hope, peace and joy to someone else.

Keep on.  Till you find it.  There is more hope, somewhere.

Bob Patrick

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September 25-Love Makes A Bridge: Many Bridges are Needed

In today’s worship service I shared a quote from the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.: What is needed is the realization that power without love is reckless and abusive and love without power is sentimental and anemic. Power at its best is love implementing the demands of justice. Justice at its best is power correcting everything that stands again love.

Unitarian Universalists have boldly declared that we stand (and roll, dance, sing, and pray) on the side of love. We also build relationships and partnerships so that we don’t stand alone. Justice is not ours to do alone … we would be but clanging symbols if we did not expand our circles of influence to work in harmony with people in other faith traditions, local organizations, and world wide partners. We cannot be powerful in effecting change if we don’t also build bridges of relationship with the love we have to offer.

Unitarian Universalists have been showing up for justice in many ways throughout our history. This past week’s PBS special “Defying the Nazis: The Sharp’s War” was a timely and poignant example. The Sharps boldly answered the call to serve where others feared to go. Had it not been for their sense of love and justice, and the networks of support they discovered and developed, many more lives would have been lost during the Holocaust. What might we be called to do in the name of love and justice as righteous rebellion against racism, tyranny, and oppression rises here and abroad?

This afternoon houses of worship across all faith traditions, including many Unitarian Universalists, civic organizations and music venues around the country hosted performances for the Concert Across America to End Gun Violence. Many host organizations received threats this week for stepping up to host this event.* Standing up for what we value and what we believe to be a path to justice can be risky; thankfully we have built bridges with others who share our commitment to withstand the winds that threaten to discourage us.

Every Monday I participate in a national interfaith, interracial video conference called “On Call For the Movement.” Most of the participants are clergy or people working for community organizing groups. This is an offshoot of the Moral Monday Movement. (See www.wesayenough.org.) Every call is inspirational, educational, and motivational. I hear about events happening around the country to bring people together for the cause of racial justice and I feel the call to action. I show up where and when I can, I share information with others who are able to show up when I can’t. I have faith that momentum will build and more and more people in Gwinnett County, where I live, will rise up for justice. I expect I am not alone in wondering: If and when the call comes to take a greater risks for the love of justice, will I have the power, and courage, to implement the demands of justice? I expect so … because I know I won’t be alone.

Rev. Jan Taddeo

*http://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/crime/threatening-flyer-has-caf-racers-owner-reliving-nightmare/

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September 21–Love Makes a Bridge: Holy Moments

In our Sunday Service this past week, Rev. Jan made this observation: “Holy moments often become the words and deeds of prophetic women and men.”

Unitarian Universalists will recognize the “words and deeds of prophetic women and men” as one of the six Sources of our faith tradition which reads in whole as the Words and deeds of prophetic women and men which challenge us to confront powers and structures of evil with justice, compassion and the transforming power of love.  When she said this, I immediately leaped inside myself at the idea, at the reality of this truth.  I am not ready to say that I am a prophetic human being, but this is what I know.  There have been and continue to be places in my life where I stand on the precipice of what I know to be prophetic moments. For example, I can tell you where I was and what I was doing the moment that I declared within myself that most of what I had been “taught” about Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Civil Rights movement was wrong.  That moment continues to propel me into places and relationships that are outside the boundaries of the status quo leaning and leading toward a better future that we do not yet enjoy.  Those moments allow me to be a part of that forward movement in social just for all peoples. They are holy moments.  They have moved me and changed me.  They continue to do so.

We can try two simple considerations.  First, think of someone that you know of in history or the present whom you consider to be a prophetic human being.  Let your imagination move backwards to a moment when you think (or maybe know from reading about them) when their own course in life changed.  Imagine, or read about, their holy moments.

This second one is even better, I think.  Consider your own life.  Which things–deeds, messages, relationships have taken you to places that you would not have imagined–places of inclusion, compassion, social justice, honor, truth, curiosity, responsibility, courage?  Now, work backwards.  What were the moments that changed your life and sent you off in these directions?

These are our holy moments.  They translate into our words and deeds that make life on this planet and in this community better.  Why is the earth, the community better because of you?  What holy moment did that betterment grow out of?  Trace that arc–from holy moment to betterment and you will see the bridge.

The bridge that Love made.

Bob Patrick

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September 20 – Love Makes a Bridge: Connection Through Writing

I find that every day I make a connection with myself.  I write something I didn’t know I had the ability to, or I speak of things beyond my own imagination.  I see a new side of myself every single day.  I can inspire myself to keep going by seeing my own potential.  I can get lost in my own imagination.  I never actually realize the beauty of the mind.  I can make the deepest connection with a group of people much wiser than I, through my simple pure honesty, expressed through small symbols.  For we are far from perfect, yet we can create the most intricate meanings and connections from sounds we have created ourselves.   Language.

I can show people a side of things from my own imagination, and let them build their own version of it in their mind.  I can make people see a new perspective.  I can change someone’s mindset or opinion.  By writing, I can create my own safe, private place and put anything, no matter how meaningful or personal it is to me, out into the open for the whole world to see.  What is more perfect than pure honest emotion poured out onto a page by someone whom you previously just didn’t get?  It can change our whole understanding of any situation.

I can verbally guide someone through a metaphorical tunnel.  I can use my understanding of language to explain to someone my deepest thoughts.  What is more divine than watching someone read your feelings and relate and enjoy your work?  I can connect with someone by reading their hard work.  I can see into a person’s past by reading about their imaginary world.  I can read poetry and have a better understanding of the entire world, as well as of them, personally.

That is why being an author is difficult; you have to convey your feelings in a believable yet interesting way.  One that I can interpret by any means through my own understanding, and teach myself with your guidance.  This is why I want to be an author, so I can connect and teach people at the very ends of the world, even if I don’t know of it.  I don’t need to know that my reader agreed with me, I want to know my reader understood me, my feelings, who I am.

I want to know that you do, too.  I want to make that connection.

~ Devon, age 12

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September 19 – Love Makes a Bridge: Live and Learn

When I was a child living in Tacoma, Washington, I remember watching film footage of the collapse of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge in 1940.  The bridge had only been opened a few months when wind gusts hit it the wrong way, and it violently twisted and turned and then fell into the Tacoma Narrows strait of Puget Sound.

The original Tacoma Narrows suspension bridge was built along a similar structural plan as the Golden Gate Bridge.  But, because the builders observed that it vibrated in an unsound way during its construction, it acquired the nickname “Galloping Gertie” before it even opened to the public.  Everyone knew it had problems, and tried to fix them while it was being built, but nobody was really sure how to get it right.

There is a long engineering history of bridges collapsing, falling down, burning down, and being blown up.  It might be that there is a flaw somewhere in the construction, which has made it unsafe, or there’s unusually bad weather. But often, it’s because the bridge no longer meets the needs of those using it, and the choice is made for it to be deliberately demolished.

I’ve demolished a few bridges in my life.  Sometimes it’s been because the bridge I built no longer fit my needs.  Other times, it’s been because the support structure was never good to begin with, and I needed to build a new and better one, or find another path.

It’s always been a painful choice, leaving one bridge and moving to another, because of the love that others and I put into building this bridge for me, for us.  Sometimes, I’ve tried to prop up or fix the supports, to make them last longer, but, in the end, a strong wind is all it takes to blow it down.

Throughout our lives, we search for bridges that will enable us to get where we want to go.  But we frequently have to stop on one side of the bridge and make sure that what’s on the other is the destination we want.  Test the bridge.  Maybe we won’t cross.  Maybe we’ll get out in the middle of the bridge only to realize, after we’ve learned to trust the supports, we’re on the wrong one.  We’re surrounded by other travelers in circumstances we’ve grown to love, but, to be true to ourselves, to love ourselves in order to love our best, we have to figure out how to get off that bridge and onto the right one.  That can be a painful and frightening journey.  Turning around and going back isn’t usually an option. And then, rebuilding can be strange and new and different and frightening.  But this time, we are building with newer insights, with newer engineering, and that can make a difference.

The Tacoma Narrows Bridge was replaced in 1950.  They built a better bridge with lessons learned from the old.  They built it with strength and care and love, making sure the plans designed worked for the environment the bridge exists within.  I’m sure it was painful and scary for the people in 1940 to watch the old bridge fall into the straits, and to be aware of all the work the builders put into it.  But today, more than 65 years later, the new one stands tall and straight and strong, just the way we want a bridge to be.

Denise Benshoof

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September 16–Love Makes a Bridge: Into the Future

This whole week we have been pondering and reflecting on these well articulated reasons why Black Lives Matter.  They can help us understand that the push-back claim “all lives matter” does not work to help us all become a better people.  In recent years I have become convinced that we who are white are the ones who really have work to do.  That will seem a gross understatement to those who are not white.  It is a “realization” because those of us living under the cover of white privilege and especially those of us living with a progressive or liberal world view may still hold a sense that there’s nothing left to do.  The civil rights movement happened.  Civil rights are a matter of law now, so what could be wrong?  When we find ourselves thinking or feeling this way, we owe it to ourselves to shake it off and remind ourselves that there is plenty still wrong.  The last two items on the list of considerations bring it home for us.

Why at this time must it be “Black lives matter” and not the refrain “All lives matter?”

  • Because it’s high time for whites to acknowledge and show solidarity with the indignities, fear, and pain that our African American sisters and brothers experience on a daily basis.
  • Because we will never fulfill this country’s founding principles and become whole as a society until we face up to and address our racism and the toll that it continues to take on African Americans, and on all of us.

These last items are a call to a future together as one people in this country.  They hold the potential for making a bridge into a future in which American people really do see the dignity and worth in each human being.  The first steps on that bridge are acknowledging the indignities, fear and pain that our African American sisters and brothers experience on a daily basis.  In our misguided rush to “not see color” and “treat everyone the same” we who are white remain blind to how our fellow citizens who are darker in color are routinely not treated the same.  The simple call is to acknowledge that–to find ways, every day ways, to include in conversations and relationship that we see, we hear, we know that there is suffering for them because of the color of their skin.  And that we stand with them.

Do we hear the call?  Can we begin to imagine conversations in which we find ways to say: I see you.  I hear you.  I can see that you are suffering and that this is being done to you because you are black.  I stand with you.

Taking this move toward acknowledgment of suffering and demonstrating solidarity might feel frightening at times.  It’s a step into a new place for those of us who are white. It’s a step into what our black brothers and sisters deal with on a daily basis.  It also holds the potential for making us into one people.  Ultimately, our racism will destroy us all. Ultimately, our solidarity–if we are willing to create it–can save us all.  Here’s the future I see this bridge of love leading to.  It is the future of One People–the one people whose chose to stand together.

Bob Patrick

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September 15–Love Makes a Bridge: Through the System

Monday’s post of reasons why Black Lives Matter received very high readership.  I want to continue for the next few days reflecting on some of those points and how love can make bridges for us.  Let’s consider the itms on that list again that ask us to consider systemic and institutional racism:

Why at this time must it be “Black lives matter” and not the refrain “All lives matter?”

  • Because African Americans are uniquely discriminated against and their lives are uniquely endangered.
  • Because young African American men are uniquely at risk of death every time they encounter the police.
  • Because the cards are still uniquely stacked against African Americans in this society, and they continue to be uniquely disadvantaged by past and present social, economic, and legal discrimination.
  • Because institutional racism and entrenched white privilege are in a far greater position to do harm to African Americans than African Americans are to do harm to white Americans.

I cannot offer a better reflection on these forms of systemic and institutional racism than this very well done educational video.  It deserves 6 minutes of our time and much more for our reflection.  Bob Patrick

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September 14–Love Makes a Bridge: Into our Memory

Monday’s post of reasons why Black Lives Matter received very high readership.  I want to continue for the next few days reflecting on some of those points and how love can make bridges for us.  Let’s consider the fourth and fifth items on that list again, both of which deal with our collective memory:

Why at this time must it be “Black lives matter” and not the refrain “All lives matter:”

  • As an example, almost 600 lynchings of African Americans occurred in Georgia, but only one lynching site is commemorated by a historical marker, and no one has been convicted or accepted responsibility for these lynchings to these days, despite many lynchings having been committed before large crowds.
  • As another example, it took South Carolina and Alabama until 1998 and 2000, respectively, to amend their constitutions to remove provisions making interracial marriages illegal. In both cases, about 40% of voters in these referendums voted to retain the prohibition on interracial marriage.

When a lynching, one single lynching is portrayed on television, I have a visceral reaction. I who find it possible to watch almost anything find it difficult to keep my eyes open, my ears open to the sights and horrible sounds of a mob driven by racial fear and hatred destroying the life of a single human being and the lives of those who loved that human being.

So, I cannot fathom 600 lynchings in the single State of Georgia alone.  I cannot fathom the wreckage of fear, hatred and division among peoples that they created and now silently and secretly continue to create.  As I, being a white person, walk past any particular black person–do I know if their ancestor was lynched by the white community?  Is there some change that a relative of mine was involved? I have no way of knowing because we have collectively kept this a secret. There are virtually no memorials to the pain and suffering in large part because they were perpetuated or allowed by the white majority in our communities.  Deeper into the collective secrecy were those laws that made love between black and white people illegal and therefore publicly a shame and a crime.  It forced children of such unions to hide who they were, who their parents were and deeply distorted what ought to have been celebrated:  Love.

But, Love Builds a Bridge.  If we embrace the Black Lives Matter movement and mantra, we begin through the power of love to open up the sealed doors of memory.  That bridge extends into the hearts of human beings and allows us a way to own the ancient wounds, begin to heal them, and to forge a new kind of community.

Families are notorious for keeping secrets about those things that they have been taught to fear and to shame.  Unconditional love keeps the way open for letting go of those shames, those secrets and to build new futures together.

I think a word of warning is appropriate in this reflection on building bridges into memory.  If we are willing to re-member the past, we may find at first angry reactions from almost everyone involved.  White people don’t want to be “blamed for something I didn’t do” and black people don’t want to be reminded of the humiliation and horror of that period of time.  These kinds of reactions, however, only serve to keep memory locked away under the chains of fear, hatred and shame.  We must continue to build the bridges into memory.

Love makes a bridge.

Bob Patrick

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September 13–Love Makes a Bridge: Into Our Shadowy Places

Yesterday’s post of reasons why Black Lives Matter received very high readership among those who read this blog.  I want to continue for the next few days reflecting on some of those points and how love can make bridges for us.  Let’s consider the first three items on that list again:

Black lives matter (and not “All lives matter”):

  • Because no one in a position of power in this country’s history has ever systematically questioned whether white lives matter.
  • Because the statement “All lives matter” is so innocuous as to be meaningless and distracts us from the urgent need to confront the specific and especially lethal brand of injustice that is being visited upon our African American brothers and sisters.
  • Because white racism towards African Americans is the seminal fatal flaw of our country, continues to the current day, and has never been fully acknowledged and addressed.

For me as a white person, each of these represent an opportunity to journey into what I am calling some shadowy places.  They are shadowy places because we, as white people don’t talk about racism toward black people openly.  We hold these issues as if in the shadows. Having grown up in the Deep South, I was aware of our own historic role in slavery and the ensuing suffering that the aftermath of slavery forced on African Americans.  I also believed that in places north of the Deep South, there was no racial tension or racism. What I’ve discovered over the years of travelling, of course, is that racism may be worse in other places outside the Deep South in large part because we don’t talk about it, and the South is scapegoated for the whole problem.  Martin Luther King, Jr. himself noted that racism was more deeply ingrained in places in the north than in the south.  The point is not who is more to blame.  The point is:  we don’t talk about it, so how in the world can we ever learn and grow together beyond this thing that shall not be named?

The first two bulleted items move me to consider analogous situations.  Why don’t we have a movement concerned about men’s right to vote or their prospects for success in the market place? Without question it is because men are well represented in the market place and arguably have an advantage over women to this day.  We don’t need to advocate for men’s equity in the marketplace.  There is still much work to be done in our country around women’s rights especially their participation and equitable treatment in the economy, and we seem more capable of recognizing that than we do the equitable treatment of African Americans in all levels of the country.  Black lives matter.

We live in the best nation in the world.  Anyone who works hard can be successful.  All lives matter.  These are generic platitudes that at first glance, sound good–but they set up roadblocks to the shadowy places of the heart that remain unvisited, uninvestigated.

Here’s a way that white folks might begin building the bridges that we need into our own shadowy places.  Take the words “black lives matter” as a mantra for today.  Say it to yourself often today.  Let it guide your eyes, ears and heart as you go through your day in your world.  Keep saying it to yourself.  Be open to where it might lead you, to how it might make you shrink back, to what it might help you hear, to how you might object on the inside at first, to what it stands to show you that you might not have received otherwise.

The fact is, when we travel into our shadowy places, our very presence there sheds a new light on them, and the shadows that seemed so scary dissipate.  We then begin to see what’s really there.

Fair warning, though:  once we see what is in our shadowy places, we become responsible. I am suspicious that this has been the problem all along.  On some level, we already know that, and we are afraid.  On some level, we are morally still children, afraid of the shadows in the closet.  Time to turn the lights on and to grow up, because black lives matter.

Bob Patrick

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September 12–Love Makes a Bridge: Why Black Lives Matter (And not “All Lives Matter”)

Thanks to Steve Babb for sending in this collection of considerations.  As I reflect on them, I consider them as a way of building bridges–into my own consciousness and conscience and into the reality of fellow Americans about whom I remain ignorant.  I invite you to use them for such personal reflection and bridge building.

Bob Patrick

  • Because no one in a position of power in this country’s history has ever systematically questioned whether white lives matter.
  • Because the statement “All lives matter” is so innocuous as to be meaningless and distracts us from the urgent need to confront the specific and especially lethal brand of injustice that is being visited upon our African American brothers and sisters.
  • Because white racism towards African Americans is the seminal fatal flaw of our country, continues to the current day, and has never been fully acknowledged and addressed.
  • As an example, almost 600 lynchings of African Americans occurred in Georgia, but only one lynching site is commemorated by a historical marker, and no one has been convicted or accepted responsibility for these lynchings to these days, despite many lynchings having been committed before large crowds.
  • As another example, it took South Carolina and Alabama until 1998 and 2000, respectively, to amend their constitutions to remove provisions making interracial marriages illegal. In both cases, about 40% of voters in these referendums voted to retain the prohibition on interracial marriage.
  • Because African Americans are uniquely discriminated against and their lives are uniquely endangered.
  • Because young African American men are uniquely at risk of death every time they encounter the police.
  • Because the cards are still uniquely stacked against African Americans in this society, and they continue to be uniquely disadvantaged by past and present social, economic, and legal discrimination.
  • Because institutional racism and entrenched white privilege are in a far greater position to do harm to African Americans than African Americans are to do harm to white Americans.
  • Because it’s high time for whites to acknowledge and show solidarity with the indignities, fear, and pain that our African American sisters and brothers experience on a daily basis.
  • Because we will never fulfill this country’s founding principles and become whole as a society until we face up to and address our racism and the toll that it continues to take on African Americans, and on all of us.
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