Do what you know you ought to do. Why should we ever go abroad, even across the way, to ask a neighbor's advice? There is a nearer neighbor within us incessantly telling us how we should behave. But we wait for the neighbor without to tell us of some false, easier way.
Unitarian Universalists are proud boat-rockers. Speaking truth to power is encoded in UU theology. UU's trace their religious ancestry back to theologians and activists who were considered heretics in their time. More recently, the movement has been identified first with "liberal Christianity," which changed over time to "liberal religion" because a large percentage of UU's self-identify as humanist, agnostic, atheist, or pagan.
At various times in US history, Unitarians and Universalists have vocally opposed war and slavery. UU churches in the South opened their doors to black worshipers and visitors when segregation was the law. UU churches across the US were among the first to welcome LGBT congregants and ministers.
UU's also tend to be knowledge-workers: academics and teachers, doctors and lawyers, artists and architects. Although they represent about 0.1% of the US population, UU's make up a huge chunk of America's intellectual 1%.
A huge majority of UU's in the US are active Democrats. Conversation at coffee hour sometimes turns to politics, and everyone can safely assume that everyone else is at least liberal, if not a practicing Democrat. Quite a few of us UU's consider ourselves progressive, economically and socially to the left of the Democratic mainstream.
Now that we have established that we are taking about very smart, open-minded people, let's get to the substance of this post.
Within the UU movement, there is a rather unsettling degree of unwritten orthodoxy. My impression, from 20 years as a practicing UU, is that it's easier for a typical UU Democrat to understand that some UU's are Republicans than that some of us are Green or Libertarian. Some have trouble wrapping their formidable minds around the concept of "third parties." This binary "either/or" thinking is a baseline human trait, but it is also a form of intellectual laziness, especially for people who recognize the falsity of the gender binary.
Yesterday at First UU Church Houston, senior minister Rev. Dr. Daniel O'Connell's sermon was entitled "The End of Democracy." I got to hear it during the early service; our choir usually leaves with the Sunday schoolers in the middle of the late service, before the sermon begins.
As I understand it (and forgive me if I got it wrong), the main messages of the sermon were that
- the end (i.e., main goal) of democracy is voting, the process of choosing leaders in which every person's vote is equal irrespective are their wealth or ancestry;
- not participating in the democratic process will be the end (i.e. termination) of democracy as we know it; and
- UU's in particular are obligated by our principles to participate in that process.
OK, yeah. But then again, nah.
What irritated me the most was that the sermon focused almost exclusively on one electoral contest, the one for US President, and that Dr. O'Connell framed the entire message as if there will only two candidates for whom one might vote. He referred to one of these candidates as "He Who Must Not Be Named."
Even while recognizing that both major-party nominees have historic levels of unpopularity, the sermon did not contain even a hint of a mention of minor-party candidates.
O'Connell related a conversation with a lifelong Republican UU who admitted that she couldn't possibly vote for HWMNBN, but who for numerous reasons also had trouble with the idea of voting for the Democratic nominee. As a minister and a strong believer in the separation of church and state, O'Connell could not give any advice on for whom to vote. All he could do was resort to the cliché of telling a very conscientious religious liberal and fiscal conservative to listen deeply to her conscience and vote based on what it tells her.
Thank you, Rev. Daniel, for affirming my right of conscience as outlined in the UUA's Fifth Principle. My own conscience will not allow me to vote for Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump. However, by implying that Trump is Lord Voldemort and ignoring the minor-party candidates, you have made your endorsement abundantly clear.
I decided during the sermon that I saw a boat in need of rocking. And I rocked it gently, in my own quiet way. On the blank side of an offering envelope, I wrote something like this:
Can we stop pretending that there are only two choices for president? The two-party hegemony is crushing democracy and is in direct opposition to our Fifth Principle. I expect better of our church and its leadership.
When the congregation sang the closing hymn, "This Is My Song," I knew that I had to do more. The words to this song, set to a theme from Jean Sibelius's "Finlandia," has profound meaning to me, especially the first verse:
This is my song, O God of all the nations,
A song of peace for lands afar and mine.
This is my home, the country where my heart is.
Here are my hopes, my dreams, my holy shrine.
But other lands in other hearts are beating
With hopes and dreams as true and high as mine.
In the late service, I took advantage of the fact that I had a rhythmically spoken solo in the choral anthem, an arrangement of "Words" by Swedish a cappella quintet The Real Group. During the first service, I performed the solo as written, but that was before the sermon. During the second service, for the fourth of my eight lines I substituted, "There are four choices for president, not just two."
Whatever fallout may come of my ad libbing, I am prepared to face it. Most likely, there will be none, especially if my churchmates and the church leadership are mindful of our Principles and our historical reputation. But just as I understand why so many smart, open-minded people are promoting Hillary Clinton's candidacy mostly out of Fear of a Trump Planet, I hope my brethren and sistren will understand what my senses and my conscience tell me:
My Green Litany
My vote is mine. Your vote is yours.
A vote for Hillary Clinton is a vote for continued drone attacks.
A vote for Hillary Clinton is a vote for disastrous foreign interventions and coups d'étât.
A vote for Hillary Clinton is a vote for fracking, tar sands, and continued global warming.
A vote for Hillary Clinton is a vote for continuing the War on Drugs.
A vote for Hillary Clinton is a vote for deportations of displaced Drug War survivors.
A vote for Hillary Clinton is a vote for mass incarceration and militarized policing.
A vote for Hillary Clinton is a vote for a corporate-friendly health care policy.
My vote for Jill Stein is a vote against these policies and practices, among others.
The composition of the Supreme Court is itty-bitty fingerling potatoes compared to all that death and destruction.
Amen, Shalom, and Blessed Be.