Truth and Meaning: The Call for Moral Dissent

As you read this, my wife and I are driving back to Midland from Raleigh, N.C.. Why did I preach my sermon via Internet video and not from my pulpit this morning? I preached from the road this morning because my predecessors did. Because I can. And because I must.

For centuries, Unitarian Universalist ministers stood at the forefront of change movements: abolishing slavery; developing public education and public health systems; securing civil rights for racial and ethnic minorities, women, LGBT folk and other marginalized people; defending our religious liberties; promoting peace and disarmament; and protecting our representative democracy. I stand on the shoulders of great men and women who have struggled, sacrificed and even died defending our belief in the inherent worth and dignity of every person. And I have the tremendous good fortune to serve a congregation in Midland that supports my work. It is my duty to carry on our legacy of activism.

As a financially secure, straight, white male in a society that privileges all of these things, I can march and be noticed, speak and be heard, protest and be acknowledged. I went to Raleigh because of the injustices taking place in North Carolina affecting our most vulnerable citizens. I went to Raleigh because of the young black man in prison serving time that a white man does not; because of the woman living in a domestic violence shelter with no car, no time off from work and inadequate child care; because of the students in school with no voice and no political influence regarding their future. I went to Raleigh because I can be in Raleigh and they cannot. It is my duty to march, to speak and to protest on their behalf.

When the call from the North Carolina NAACP went out for clergy to come to Raleigh, I remembered a similar call that was answered by the Rev. James Reeb and 100 other Unitarian Universalist ministers 40 years ago when the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. called for us to stand with him in Selma. Reeb was later killed by racist cowards on the streets of Selma. The circumstances have changed, but the issues very certainly remain the same. I went to Raleigh because I must do whatever I can to stand with my brothers and sisters in justice, equity and compassion, and in defense of the democratic process we hold sacred.

The situation in Michigan today is no less serious. Our legislature continues its war against women by cutting their access to medical treatment and ignoring their voices in Lansing. Our government continues attacking LGBT folk by sanctioning discrimination and limiting the civil rights of loving gay couples. People with inordinate wealth are funding efforts to destroy organized labor and maintain a permanent and growing underclass by suppressing wages and cutting necessary benefits. Gerrymandering and emergency managers have stripped voting power away from half of our state’s African Americans.

Michigan is better than this. We are better than those who would turn our state into a feudal theocracy. We are better than this because true people of faith love their neighbors without regard to their race, creed, identity or gender. True people of faith care about the poor, the sick, the prisoner, the helpless and the hopeless. True people of faith will unite to overcome greed and power lust. We will unite fearlessly, hand in hand, to live in peace because the truth will set us free. And, until that time, those of us who can will rise in moral dissent against injustice wherever it arises. We will march because moral dissent is our calling.