In every moment, life is giving us an invitation. I really believe that; I really believe that in every moment, life is giving us an invitation to do the things that are the most loving and life-affirming; and that doing the loving and life affirming thing is always the answer when you don't know what to do, or if you're feeling unsure.
There's always a moment of invitation to rethink or reevaluate. We're being invited into this cosmic dance of renewal and joy and justice. But you have to make the justice; it doesn't just show up without our participation, or our effort. Things don't get better just by us waiting for them to happen. We all have to engage in the better-making from wherever we are, and each moment presents an invitation for us to do that.
I don't want us to forget that. Even if, like me, you are tired or feeling frustrated or feeling unsure, the invitation to participate in in a manner that is about living our values—living love and justice—is still there, no matter what else is going on.
Ask yourself: What's the most loving, life-affirming thing that I can do in this moment for myself, or for other people? Sometimes it's get some rest. Sometimes it's apologize for something you've done. Sometimes it’s reconsider how you're using your money, or other resources in the broader world.
To me, if we're talking about racial justice, love is about acknowledging that there has been wrong—that there has been harm perpetrated—and that whether you personally feel like you participated in it or not, you are likely benefiting from the inequitable results of that harm.
Even if you are a person who wants to say, “Well, I didn't participate in making things this way,” if you are benefiting from the ill-gotten gains, then you have some responsibility to make things right—especially if you then turn around and say that you believe in justice and equity. You are not let off the hook, no matter what.
When we have broader conversations about reparations or what it looks like to repair—particularly the harms that have been done to indigenous communities, black communities, other communities of color—I believe that love means thinking about the resources that enable life. So what does reparation look like at the intersection of communities of color and healthcare, or communities of color and education? What does it look like to have those kinds of conversations, beyond just conversations about money and land that is owed, but also about accessing resources that have been inequitably distributed for more than a century? All of us should have a hand in those conversations, and all of us have some responsibility to bring about justice in those contexts.
Plainly, if you're not going to do that work; if you're not going to be committed to thinking about that—how you can serve in that work—it obfuscates the mandate of what it means to be Unitarian Universalist… because ours is a faith that calls us to do things.
Being Unitarian Universalist, in part, means maybe you don't pray the way I pray; maybe you don't pray at all. But how do we live together in equitable community, despite what I might think about God, or what you might think about God? This is a faith that causes us to commit to the work of making justice. This is a faith that calls us to think about what it means, not to believe the same, but to live together in beloved community, despite our own discrete perspectives about spirituality or the afterlife.
That is a part of the call: the mandate of what it is to be Unitarian Universalist: to figure out how we live together in loving, equitable, just relationship with each other.
I believe that the proof of our faith is the extent to which we do that. The proof of our faith is not in some confession that we make; the proof of our faith is not in some words that we say; the essence of our endeavor—the proof of what we believe—is in how we do the work of bringing about love, justice, and community.
As Unitarian Universalists, I think we've given up perhaps too quickly on notions of salvation. If we think about the notion of being saved from harm, I don't know that it's actually possible to have personal salvation, beyond the community. There is no way for you to have salvation, and some kind of perfect, flourishing life outcome, while everything around you is suffering and burning…because we're all connected.
We are. If COVID hasn’t reaffirmed in your mind that we're all connected, I really don't know what to tell you. Here we are right now, suffering through a global pandemic together. People are passing a deadly virus to each other through our breath that we can’t see. That's a metaphor for us all being connected if I've ever heard one. I think it’s something that we would do well to think about and remember.
Our salvation is intimately tied up in each other's ability to see other people as worthwhile. All human beings as valuable, and possessing dignity. All life as having value and possessing dignity—and that's not the same as liking me.
This is not, “I need you to like me.” This is not, “I need us to be best friends so that we can go to the shopping mall together.” This is: “Understand that I have as much of a right to human thriving and flourishing as anybody else, and that I have as much to offer as anyone else. And so do you.”
How do we create a context where all of that is possible? Where all that human driving and life is possible? That's going to require sacrifice, and time, and deep listening and nuance—but that's what being a Unitarian Universalist requires. Other faith traditions ask for other things. This is what Unitarian Universalism asks of us. This is what we signed up for. And to me, this is serious. The call of our faith is critical right now.
Ours is not a faith of anything goes. When I hear people say, “I'm a UU because I can believe whatever I want,” that's actually the farthest thing from the truth. It’s time to lean into whether or not we really believe it, or are we just saying it to give ourselves the illusion of faith community so we can feel like we have some kind of faith tradition.
Do we really believe in the values of our faith enough to enact them in the larger world? In a manner that is bold and clear and unequivocal?
People need to know, especially in this moment, what our commitments are. And if we're going to say that we are a faith that is committed to justice, equity, and compassion in human relations, we have to actually do that. It's not just about saying the thing; we have to do the thing. Frankly, I'd feel better if we did less saying and more doing. I need us to have the collected maturity now to do what it is our faith asks us to do.
Amen. Amin. Aṣẹ.
Watch Dr. Amin deliver this reflection in the Side With Love Sunday worship service (33:18).