Targets and Shields

In March we explore the theme of risk, a timely matter given recent discussions about targets and shields.

Let me explain. On the fifth Sunday in January a group gathered in the sanctuary for a special forum. Our purpose was to consider the relationship that ought to exist between the UUCRT and emerging movements for social change like Sanctuary and Black Lives Matter. I was pleased at the number of members and friends who participated in respectful dialogue and collaborative inquiry in keeping with the best of our covenantal commitments.

One exchange between two members around the question of whether or not the UUCRT should hang the Black Lives Matter banner from the roadside sign has stayed with me. It went something like this:

Member 1: “If we hang the banner then we better be ready to become a target.”

Member 2: “I wonder if we could reframe that and think of ourselves not as targets but as shields. After all, the people we are talking about, blacks, immigrants threatened with deportation, they are the targets.”

Wow. If dialogue is about discovery, which I believe it is, then this discovery was a treasure chest. Kudos for Jamie Capach, the source of this reframe. She challenged the UUCRT to be the shield. 

Both targets and shields are at risk. I remember my visit to Standing Rock in December, flanked by thousands of veterans who had converged on the camp, having committed themselves to be “human shields” between the indigenous water protectors and the militarized police.

What would it mean for the UUCRT to be the shield, standing between the most vulnerable among us and all who threaten them? There are many ways to answer this question: hang the Black Lives Matter banner and when it is torn down, hang it again, and again; declare the UUCRT property a sanctuary for immigrants facing deportation; protect small peasant farmers by purchasing organic fair trade products. All these choices involve risk. But when shields assume risk, they relieve the targets and become allies with the vulnerable.

—Rev. Chris J. Antal