Faith Reflection

FAITH REFLECTION
POWER LEADERSHIP ASSEMBLY
APRIL 19TH, 2016

BUENAS TARDES MIS HERMANAS Y MIS HERMANOS!

I CALL ON THE SPIRIT OF LIFE AND UNIVERSAL SALVATION TO GUIDE MY WORDS THIS EVENING. AMEN.

IN MY TRADITION OF UNITARIAN UNIVERSALISM WE RECOGNIZE THAT SACRED TEXTS COME FROM MANY PLACES. WE BELIEVE THAT NO ONE HAS A MONOPOLY ON TRUTH AND THAT EACH OF US HAS THE MORAL RESPONSIBILITY TO DO THE WORK OF DISCERNING TRUTH FOR OURSELVES.

AND THEN, MY BELOVED, WE HAVE THE MORAL RESPONSIBILITY TO BRING OURSELVES IN HUMILITY INTO FULL COMMUNITY.  I DON’T KNOW ABOUT YOU, BUT I KNOW THAT I CAN’T SPEAK TRUTH TO POWER UNLESS I AM VERY CLEAR ABOUT MY OWN WORK. MY OWN TRUTH, MY OWN VOICE.  I HAVE TO KNOW WHERE I AM CLOSE TO THE PAIN AND WHERE I AM NOT.

SO THIS EVENING I WOULD LIKE TO TAKE AS MY SACRED TEXT DR. KING’S “LETTER FROM THE BIRMINGHAM JAIL.”

IT IS HARD TO BELIEVE HE WROTE THIS LETTER 63 YEARS AGO, BECAUSE ITS WORDS SPEAK POWERFULLY TO US IN THIS ROOM TODAY.

“I MUST MAKE TWO HONEST CONFESSIONS TO YOU, MY CHRISTIAN AND JEWISH BROTHERS. FIRST, I MUST CONFESS THAT OVER THE LAST FEW YEARS I HAVE BEEN GRAVELY DISAPPOINTED WITH THE WHITE MODERATE. I HAVE ALMOST REACHED THE REGRETTABLE CONCLUSION THAT THE NEGRO’S GREAT STUMBLING BLOCK IN THE STRIDE TOWARD FREEDOM IS NOT THE WHITE CITIZENS COUNCILLOR OR THE KU KLUX KLANNER BUT THE WHITE MODERATE WHO IS MORE DEVOTED TO ORDER THAN TO JUSTICE; WHO PREFERS A NEGATIVE PEACE WHICH IS THE ABSENCE OF TENSION TO A POSITIVE PEACE WHICH IS THE PRESENCE OF JUSTICE; WHO CONSTANTLY SAYS, “I AGREE WITH YOU IN THE GOAL YOU SEEK, BUT I CAN’T AGREE WITH YOUR METHODS OF DIRECT ACTION”; WHO PATERNALISTICALLY FEELS THAT HE CAN SET THE TIMETABLE FOR ANOTHER MAN’S FREEDOM; WHO LIVES BY THE MYTH OF TIME; AND WHO CONSTANTLY ADVISES THE NEGRO TO WAIT UNTIL A “MORE CONVENIENT SEASON.” SHALLOW UNDERSTANDING FROM PEOPLE OF GOOD WILL IS MORE FRUSTRATING THAN ABSOLUTE MISUNDERSTANDING FROM PEOPLE OF ILL WILL. LUKEWARM ACCEPTANCE IS MUCH MORE BEWILDERING THAN OUTRIGHT REJECTION. “

LET ME REPEAT THESE WORDS:

“THE MODERATE WHO IS MORE DEVOTED TO ORDER THAN TO JUSTICE.”

“THE MODERATE…WHO PREFERS A NEGATIVE PEACE WHICH IS THE ABSENCE OF TENSION TO A POSITIVE PEACE WHICH IS THE PRESENCE OF JUSTICE.”

THESE ARE PAINFUL WORDS TO HEAR. THE TRUTH IS OFTEN PAINFUL. AND SOMETIMES I THINK IF IT ISN’T PAINFUL, IT MAY NOT BE TRUTH.

THESE WORDS SPEAK DEEP, PERSONAL TRUTH TO ME. BECAUSE YOU SEE I STAND HERE IN FRONT OF YOU TONIGHT IN THE BODY AND SPIRIT OF A RACIAL HYBRID, WHAT WE CALL IN MY LANGUAGE A “MESTIZA.” BIRACIAL LATINA AND WHITE, BICULTURAL, BILINGUAL, A CIUDADANA SIN FRONTERAS.

I AM OPPRESSOR AND OPPRESSED.

I WAS RAISED A GOOD LATINA DAUGHTER. I WAS RAISED TO BE SILENT AND TO BE INVISIBLE. I WAS RAISED TO SERVE AND TO HELP MY FAMILY. I WAS RAISED TO SURVIVE. AND TO SURVIVE WITHIN THE WHITE SUPREMACY THAT HAS RAPED AND PLUNDERED PUERTO RICO THE LAND OF MY MOTHERS, THE WHITE SUPREMACY THAT CONDEMS MY SISTERS TO THAT KILLER COMBINATION OF SERVITUDE AND SILENCE… MEANS NOT TO ROCK THE BOAT. TO USE MY WHITENESS FOR ALL IT CAN GET ME.

THERE ARE AND HAVE BEEN MANY SHADES OF BROWN IN MY FAMILY, BUT IT WAS ALWAYS UNDERSTOOD THAT THOSE WHO COULD PASS, WOULD DO SO. TO BECOME A WHITE MODERATE WHO IS MORE DEVOTED TO ORDER THAN TO JUSTICE.

“SHALLOW UNDERSTANDING FROM PEOPLE OF GOOD WILL IS MORE FRUSTRATING THAN ABSOLUTE MISUNDERSTANDING FROM PEOPLE OF ILL WILL.”

I’M NOT GOING TO VOTE FOR DONALD TRUMP. BUT I AM MORE AFRAID OF THOSE VOICES, INCLUDING THE VOICE WITHIN MYSELF THAT SAY THEY SYMPATHIZE THE PAIN BUT AREN’T READY TO BE TRULY BOLD.

“WAS NOT JESUS AN EXTREMIST IN LOVE?” SAYS KING.

“WAS NOT AMOS AN EXTREMIST IN JUSTICE?”

OR ABRAHAM LINCOLN WHO SAID THAT THIS NATION CANNOT SURVIVE HALF SLAVE AND HALF FREE.

THE LETTER CONTINUES:

“I HAD HOPED THAT THE WHITE MODERATE WOULD SEE THIS. MAYBE I WAS TOO OPTIMISTIC. MAYBE I EXPECTED TOO MUCH. I GUESS I SHOULD HAVE REALIZED THAT FEW MEMBERS OF A RACE THAT HAS OPPRESSED ANOTHER RACE CAN UNDERSTAND OR APPRECIATE THE DEEP GROANS AND PASSIONATE YEARNINGS OF THOSE THAT HAVE BEEN OPPRESSED, AND STILL FEWER HAVE THE VISION TO SEE THAT INJUSTICE MUST BE ROOTED OUT BY STRONG, PERSISTENT, AND DETERMINED ACTION.”

MIS HERMANAS Y MIS HERMANOS. WE STAND TONIGHT ON A CROSSROADS. WE CAN CHOOSE TO BE BOLD OR WE CAN CHOOSE TO FAVOR ORDER OVER JUSTICE, AND RESPECTABILITY OVER POWER.

POWER CALLS US TO BE BOLD. POWER CALLS US TO DO OUR WORK, AND TO DO IT NOW. NOT 63 YEARS FROM NOW. NOT 47-HUNDRED MEETINGS FROM NOW.

WILL YOU PRAY WITH ME?

IN THE NAME OF EVERYTHING THAT IS HOLY.

WE PRAY FOR GUIDANCE, WE PRAY FOR THE WISDOM AND THE COURAGE TO FACE THE EVIL THAT IS IN OUR WORLD.

NOW.

AMEN. ASE AND BLESSED BE.