After a harsh winter I am thankful for hardy rootstock …

After a harsh winter I am thankful for hardy rootstock that allows the trees in our orchard to survive. As spring slowly shows its face I look for signs of growth on bushes and perennials that do not fare well when the temperatures drop below zero. For the last couple of years, I watched a rosemary plant become a small bush, thriving with mild winters. It’s a goner. I’ll try another of this variety, but I’ll be more careful in choosing bushes that are tolerant of minus zero weather as I begin to replace those that have died.

Roots are important. Our Unitarian Universalist faith founded in the Free Church branch of the Protestant Reformation in 16th Century Europe grew differently in American soil. Both religions resisted Calvinist doctrines: total depravity (Original Sin) and Predestination. Both religions could not fathom a God that before birth would chose some to be Heaven bound and others destined to Hell. American Unitarians believed that Jesus was an ethical teacher and it diminished his teachings if you believed that he had supernatural powers. American Universalists believed that all souls would be reconciled to a loving God that ultimately treated all people as equals.

These roots help us today to use our intelligence and heart to be of service in the world. Our Fellowship class that is studying The New Jim Crow, Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness has begun to explore how America incarcerates more of its racial and ethnic minorities than any other country in the world. In Baltimore, 50% of black men in their twenties are either in jail or have served time in jail. Once you have been convicted of a felony you can lose the right to vote and become ineligible for public housing and a host of programs that help people who are in need. We call our country The Land of the Free, but I am afraid it is a statement without sufficient roots to nourish the claim.

A month before Martin Luther King, Jr. was slain, he said, I want to discuss the race problem tonight and I want to discuss it honestly. I still believe that freedom is the bonus you receive for telling the truth. ‘Ye shall know the truth and it shall set you free.’ And I do not see how we will ever solve the turbulent problem of race confronting our nation until there is an honest confrontation with it and a willing search for the truth and a willingness to admit the truth when we discover it.

Reading Jane Alexander’s alarming book informs us of how America deliberately recreated systems to replace slavery. If you do not want to read the book, please watch Bill Moyer’s interview with her last year. It stuns.

On another front of human rights issues, our Fellowship’s statement of principle on Marriage Equality has inspired the Salina, Hutchinson and Topeka Fellowships to make similar declarations. The roots of our free faith called us to publically declare our support for the rights of same sex couples to be married in Kansas. In the sanctuary of our Fellowship, on May 3rd, at 3 pm, Charles and I invite you to join us, as we have the ceremony the State insists on deprecating.

Michael

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