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Assistant Minister's Column

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    It happened again! During a welcome speech at a fundraiser for Planned Parenthood the speaker tapped her glass to get our attention. She began by saying “To quote the great Dr. Martin Luther King, ‘The arc of the universe was long but it bends towards justice’.”

      As soon as she started the sentence, three Unitarian Universalists in the room turned to me and started snickering. Because I’ve mentioned it in a bunch of sermons, at multiple protests, and at every Roots class, they probably knew that I get frustrated when people misattribute that quote to Rev. Dr. King.

      It’s true that he said it. It’s so true that its even engraved on his memorial in Washington DC. But he was quoting Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln was paraphrasing a much less succinct Unitarian minister, Theodore Parker. His whole quote is at the end of this column. 

       It’s not that I am frustrated by a lack of proper attribution – most ideas we have are borrowed and re-borrowed throughout the ages to such an extent that few ideas ever really have proper attribution. I am frustrated by the public vanishing act Unitarian Universalism does too often. For a religion that has given me so much hope and salvation it feels too absent from our public discourse.

         It reminds me of how unsafe I felt as a kid loving a religion that no one had heard of. In school people told me all sorts of nasty things ranging from threats of eternal damnation to accusations of being in a cult. This is all because they had no experience with my faith. It reminds me of how many new members and visitors, sometimes in tears, ask, “Where has this religion been all my life?”

        After the speech, they presented an award to Holley Haymaker, a member of our church, for her work helping bring affordable health care to women in Baton Rouge. The year before the two women who won the award, Joan Penniman and Dee Dee Reilly, are also supporters of our church.

       To put that in simpler terms, on any given Sunday, sitting in our sanctuary, you might see the three women responsible for bringing reproductive choice and health to the city of Baton Rouge. That is humbling and amazing. And more people deserve to know about this life changing faith which dares to say that you are worthy of love and justice, that you are born in the image of the most high and this world deserves to be saved.

       I hope in your day-to-day life, if this faith has been meaningful, you will mention how it has. If this faith has given your life meaning, or offered you sanctuary when you needed it, I hope you will explain why.

 “Look at the facts of the world. You see a continual and progressive triumph of the right. I do not pretend to understand the moral universe, the arc is a long one, my eye reaches but little ways. I cannot calculate the curve and complete the figure by the experience of sight. I can divine it by conscience. But from what I see I am sure it bends towards justice. Things refuse to be mismanaged long.” – Rev. Theodore Parker