Lessons the Black Church Teaches UUs, pt. 4

So we wrap up our discussion of the Black Church and what it teaches us religious progressive UU's. As we have seen, African-Americans took hold of Christianity, saw how their white enslavers got it all wrong, and subverted the white brand of Christianity. Black people from the very beginning on America's shores, and despite the horrid circumstances, made the faith their own unique and transformative worldview.

It is interesting to parallel this with Unitarian-Universalist history. We possessed Christianity from its very inception as we will see. We were an essential part of the family. We rightly came to see the same kind of flaws that the early African-Americans did, the hypocrisy, the contradictions to Christ, the spirit of hate, not love as the faith preached. We saw those same flaws. But instead of subverting it, we sort of deconverted as a tradition. Yes, we still admire Jesus, but he is just one of a number of religious founders we admire.

There is no moral judgment here…

Lessons the Black Church Teaches UUs, pt. 3

Last week discussed the transition from the enslaved African’s practice of African religious tradition to African-American based Christianity. What emerged was a fusion, a synthesis of what was brought with them in those slave ships and what African-Americans incorporated from the Christian tradition they met here. We should be clear, the first African-Americans did not take the white Christianity of their enslavers wholesale. They took what corresponded with their experience and ignored the rest. So the Exodus story becomes central to African-American Christianity. The preaching of the prophets in the Hebrew Scriptures also becomes crucial. Whereas white Christianity loved the Genesis story, the Psalms and the Proverbs, Black Christians loved the Exodus story, the journey to the Promised Land, and the Prophetic books.

The early Black Christians also quickly internalized the person of Jesus. Whereas white Christianity focuses on the result of Christ’s incarnation, death and resurrect…

Lessons the Black Church Teaches UUs, pt. 2

Last time I was here we talked about the Black Church today. We saw how, comparatively, the Black Church is in pretty good health. It certainly isn't yet feeling the acute downturn white Mainline churches are feeling, a downturn which even UU congregations is feeling. For the first time in some 25 years, UU membership is below 200,000. The Black Church in some parts of the country is growing and where it is declining, it is doing so at a much slower rate.

What can we, Unitarian Universalists, learn from the Black Church? To really answer that question we must understand the history of the Black Church. To do that, we must go way, way back to the time of African-enslavement, a time when the enslaved practiced their traditional African religion yet were beginning to learn about the religion of those who enslaved them. Eventually, the enslaved would adapt and adopt that religion, grafting it onto their African way of being and creating an altogether new approach to the faith. This is t…

Lessons the Black Church Teaches UUs, pt. I

Over the spring and summer, the UUA was forced to confront an issue it has had difficulty being honest about -- systemic white dominance and control of the denomination and a dangerous lack of diversity from top to bottom in the proudly progressive tradition. It came to a peak in the decision of the UUA this Spring to hire another white male minister to lead its Southern region though a completely qualified person of color was also a finalist. The controversy that followed became so potent that the Washington Post caught wind of it and wrote a story. It appeared April 2017

"This is a liberal religion that prides itself on diversity in beliefs, but whose roughly 200,000 members are predominantly white. Morales, the first Latino UUA president, whose eight-year-term as president was to end in June, had pledged to fight the status quo.

But last month, a white man retired from the leadership of the UUA’s Southern Region and was replaced with another white man by the religion’s director …

Transformative Selflessness

LOOK FOR THE HELPERS Maybe you saw it on the news, but a couple months ago legendary American musician Tom Petty died. Petty was one of my favorites and has been for a while. Knowing this, last week, Holly came home from the grocery store with a “Special Tribute Edition” of Rolling Stone remembering Tom Petty. I have been reading through it since then. One of the last essays about Petty in the edition discusses his last tour, the one he finished just before he had a heart event that took his life. It focuses on the friendship and brotherhood of Petty and his bandmates. It begins with these words:

“Bassist Ron Blair has battled stage fright for years since rejoining the Heartbreakers in 2002, after a 20-year sanity break. He wanders into Petty and cops to something you're not likely to admit to your bandleader unless you've known him for 40 years. ‘I'm kinda nervous, you know,’ says Blair in a quiet voice.
Petty rarely describes himself as the leader of his band, but as ‘the o…

Home Never Leaves Us

Luke 4: 16-27

I think about Jesus going home to his old stomping grounds of Nazareth. This happens after he made a stir in Capernaum when he turned water into wine and mesmerized people with his miraculous and scandalous presence. This story has traveled with him. However, he is still little Jesus in Nazareth. He knows this. It is pretty obvious. This doesn’t stop him from speaking his truth however. And in the synagogue in town. Right there in his hometown synagogue he tells them why he is here on this earth. He gives them the gospel he has come to broadcast everywhere.

Its obvious to Jesus that his people, his hometown-folk in Nazareth, they ain’t having none of it. They reject his message.

Realizing this, Jesus basically says, that’s okay because God is sending me to where people will actually listen and receive the gospel I am here to give.

This makes the people there in Nazareth angry. And they drive him out of the temple and then out of town. They are so angry with his preaching …

Righteous Anger

Exodus 32

1When the people saw that Moses was so long in coming down from the mountain, they gathered around Aaron and said, “Come, make us gods who will go before us. As for this fellow Moses who brought us up out of Egypt, we don’t know what has happened to him.”
4[Aaron] made an idol cast in the shape of a calf... Then the people said, “These are your gods, Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.” 5 When Aaron saw this, he built an altar in front of the calf and announced, “Tomorrow there will be a festival to the Lord.” 7 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Go down, because your people, whom you brought up out of Egypt, have become corrupt. 8 They have been quick to turn away from what I commanded them and have made themselves an idol cast in the shape of a calf. They have bowed down to it and sacrificed to it and have said, ‘These are your gods, Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.’ 9 “I have seen these people,” the Lord said to Moses, “and they are a stiff-necked people. 10 Now leav…