After my Christmas Eve sermon, I was approached by a white U.S. citizen who was quite “disturbed” both by my message (about sanctuary for refugees and immigrants) and by the collection we took (to assist refugees resettling in the area). The conversation went something like this:
Citizen: I’m afraid of these people.
Minister: What is your biggest fear?
Citizen: Well, that they will do damage to us.
Minister: And what kind of damage do you fear most?
Citizen: They might kill us. Look at what they did on September 11. How do you feel about that?
Minister: That was a tragedy. I feel sad about that. But I’m not afraid. If I were then I would be perpetuating the damage. I choose love. Better to die in love than live in fear.
Citizen: You are going to love the enemy?
Minister: Somewhere I read we should do that. Where was it… oh yes–the gospel! Jesus said that.
Citizen: We see things very differently.
Minister: Perhaps. Still, we welcome a diversity of perspectives here. I hope you will come again.
And so we parted.
Unitarian Universalists claim to be grateful for “the pluralism that enriches and ennobles our faith.” Harvard educator Diana Eck provides four points to clarify what I believe we should mean by “pluralism:”
1. Pluralism is not diversity alone, but the energetic engagement with diversity;
2. pluralism is not just tolerance, but the active seeking of understanding across lines of difference;
3. pluralism is not relativism, but the encounter of commitments;
4. pluralism is based on dialogue.
Creating space for dialogues like the one above is not only at the heart of “sanctuary” it is core to who we are as Unitarian Universalists and vital to address the fears and divisions in our nation.
We can encourage growth in our congregation by recommitting ourselves to the spiritual discipline of pluralism and engaging in respectful dialogue.
This new year promises to bring many opportunities for challenge and growth–opportunities to reclaim our prophetic witness. I say, “bring it on!”
See you on Sunday.