Today was my first class. It went well. The students seemed engaged and enthusiastic. There are nine of us all together, which is a great size for a discussion-based class. I think it’s going to be great.
Though we didn’t take time to self-identify, the class does seem pretty homogenous. At first glance, we seem a predominantly white and female group. It will be a challenge (and my particular responsibility) to make sure our discussions and anything that may come of them does not replicate those limits and unconscious patterns of domination that come with what appears to be a group made up of people from the dominant or privileged culture. We will have to question and interrogate our ideas at every turn, and be very intentional about inviting the voices of those who live without privilege to speak. Sometimes that will be those of us who are present admitting to our own experiences of oppression, but it will also mean seeking out the stories that are not present and have not often been told.
The first reading assignments focus on the source documents of the Journey Toward Wholeness efforts in the UUA. Reading the reports to the General Assemblies of 1996 and 2001, I am reminded of Jesus’ parable of the sower. So many vital, juicy seeds were sown by the people who worked to create these documents and efforts. Seeds of vision, prophetic witness, creativity, passion, and practical ideas…but most, it seems, never took root. Was the ground just dust and sand? Did thorns and tares choke them back down? Why have we lost so much that had such promise?
I’m still convinced that the ground is dusty and barren because it is shallow. I imagine a scant inch of dust covering over a deep layer of old asphalt. We need to break up what is poisoning our efforts, dig it out, and get back to the deep, fertile soil of our theology. We are a movement rooted in working for justice, compassion, equity, the social gospel, equality, integrity, and fairness. The work of countering oppressions is work that we must do if we are to live up to the values, the covenant, and the principles we espouse. We have to make it clear that our thea/ologies demand we do this work. If we keep laying it aside, we will no longer be who we say we are, nor will we become the people we long to be.
At Tuesday’s opening chapel, Rev. Alma Crawford offered this Langston Hughes poem as a benediction. We need to listen:
Well, son, I’ll tell you:
Life for me ain’t been no crystal stair.
It’s had tacks in it,
And boards torn up,
And places with no carpet on the floor —
But all the time
I’se been a-climbin’ on,
And reachin’ landin’s,
And turnin’ corners,
And sometimes goin’ in the dark
Where there ain’t been no light.
So boy, don’t you turn back.
Don’t you set down on the steps
‘Cause you finds it’s kinder hard.
Don’t you fall now —
For I’se still goin’, honey,
I’se still climbin’,
And life for me ain’t been no crystal stair.