This year’s UU General Assembly proclaimed and explored “the Power of We.” Each year we gather as representatives of congregations to shape the work of our Unitarian Universalist Association. This year, we took a step back to consider a larger perspective. Who are we together? What do we want our faith to be? One of UU’s great difficulties theologically has been our radical individualism. Because we have no creed and embrace a wide variety of viewpoints, Unitarian Universalism has too often been defined in personal individual terms rather than seeking out what we hold in common, and how we can live that out together. What’s more, as we face increasing diversity, how can we live into being more anti-racist and multi-cultural, more fully inclusive–together?
While I was away at GA, UUFM held an important workshop here, led by Debra Bolton, about that very topic. I’m glad we had good participation.
Back at GA, CB Beal, this year’s recipient of the Angus H MacLean Award for Excellence in Religious Education, suggests that “… we intentionally position ourselves, before we know anything at all about anyone in the room, to presuppose that everyone is already, and always, in the room.” That means that we assume that there are people with disabilities, immigrants, people of color, people with various sexual orientations and gender identities, people of different generations. Then, we will be careful to be inclusive in our language and ways of being. We will use a microphone because someone may have difficulty hearing. We will consider the needs of people of different ages. We will use language that affirms all people. We will only use “we” when we can be sure that “we” includes everyone.
It’s a thought-provoking challenge, and perhaps more true than we realize. How often does a room include people who are or have been poor, when we talk about “poor people?” How often might someone in the room carry an identity we cannot easily recognize–or have someone in their family or among their close friends with that identity? Taking CB Beal’s approach could keep us from talking about others in a way that might be interpreted as disapproving or dishonoring. We become more inclusive by being more inclusive.
“We,” after all, can only have the full power of we, if we can be radically inclusive. It’s worth a try.