You may recall the recent Fairfax County School Board meetings attended by many from UUCF. The school board had removed two LGBTQIA+-themed books from Fairfax County Public Schools libraries on the basis of a false characterization of their contents. Fearmongering against “critical race theory” and inclusive policies have overwhelmed school boards across the country. By early fall, this started to happen in Virginia, too. My daughter Olivia enthusiastically attended the school board meeting with me in support of students’ rights to think and speak freely. We witnessed that night the perspectives of those who spoke from places of anger, frustration, caring and love.
As Unitarian Universalists, we are a people who dream big. Imagine – we seek to transform not only ourselves and our community, but the world as well. And we hope to do this through acts of love and justice. I find UUCF’s mission, which calls us to take action for what we believe in, is a challenge that inspires me. The more I live, the less patience I have with the sort of incremental and palliative change that defers justice until some “better” time. All that I have lived through – especially in these last 2 years – tells me that a Beloved Community of love and justice won’t create itself. It needs to be nurtured into being by our individual and collective actions.
While these are principled ideals, it takes more than good intentions to walk the talk. In reality, this challenge of moving from beliefs to action can be daunting when faced in relation to life’s many other obligations. The demands of work and family life all seem to conspire, crowding out my noble intentions. They include the many activities that keep our families whole, healthy, housed and fed. While important, these obligations are the path of least resistance for me, in contrast to the disruptive effort required to get out the vote, participate in a food drive or attend a vigil or protest. I can also call on many cognitive distortions to avoid working for a better world: “I don’t have time.” “My family needs me here.” “Others can carry this forward.” and “What difference can my limited efforts make?”
These times call for a different level of commitment. We are at an inflection point in a world that is on fire, where lives continue to be unfairly taken from us and where injustice thrives. I appreciate this community that reminds me we are called to create Beloved Community by supporting the inherent worth and dignity of every person. I have increasingly moved into social justice spaces during the pandemic to write, speak, support and be present. I am grateful UUCF offers us accessible ways to engage in social justice work. That recent school board meeting was one experience of holding values while being held in our community. It led Olivia and me to later talk about some big questions – what motivates people, what kind of world we want and how we can make it so. These conversations reveal how social justice work can transform us and our relationships, even as we transform our community and the world.
We can embrace social justice to heal ourselves and the world, one small step at a time. While it can seem far away, the world we want is within our grasp. All we need to ask is what are we willing to do to create it?
David E. Michael is a member of the UUCF Board of Directors.