Sunday, May 10, 2009

From Self-Reliant to Anti-Racial

Yesterday, I attended an anti-racism workshop led by Rev. Hope Johnson, Rev. Keith Kron and Ken Wagner at First Parish. It got me thinking: if a congregation truly aspires to become multiracial, multicultural and justice-making, its members must first spend significant time identifying obstacles to diversity - typically, such reflective work focuses on the church's immediate socio-political environment and own church culture.

Yet, I suspect that our religion itself harbors potentially off-putting elements that turn off many communities of color. Since the early twentieth century, Unitarian Universalism has been heavily influenced by the Transcendentalist strands of Thoreau's Walden Pond solitude-in-nature, Ripley's self-segregated Brook Farm experiment and Emerson's 'egotheistic' introspection. This hyper-individualism flies in the face of cultural systems that privilege relationality over self-reliance, wide kinship networks over the on-my-own orientation. Doing theology alone (our vocal 'build your own theology' refrain) undoubtedly liberates the self from the oppression of socially prescribed and mandated dogma. Yet, it similarly can work to isolate the self from wider communities - be they familial, religious, social or otherwise.

Might this overconfidence in self-sufficiency not disincline diverse peoples from looking into our faith not on account of church committee inhospitality or member prejudices, but on the grounds of our Good News itself?

Fortunately, the reverence we cultivate towards our seventh principle may help to mitigate such unapologetic autonomy.

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1 comment:

Chuck B. said...

Very interesting. That's a refreshing position that I hope you bring into other blogs and discussions on race. I think it also explaines some funcing issues.