Friday, September 1, 2017

Nature through the lens of Spirit by Reverend Tom Capo

Story


In the time before time, there was nothing.  Not a thing!
            Who knows how it happened, and whether it was caused by a spark or a shudder or a breath of wind.  But suddenly the moon rose, the sun shone, and Earth Mother and Sky Father were revealed.
            The attraction between Earth Mother and Sky Father was magnetic.  Nothing else existed before them.  They fell into an embrace that was so close and went on for so long that they had seventy sons.

            They continued to lay in an embrace so close that their children, those boy-gods, dwelt in darkness.  They had no room to move or play or grow.
            The boy-gods felt suffocated without space and light.  They whispered and complained; they plotted and planned. 
            The god of war shouted, “Let’s kill Earth Mother and Sky Father!”
            But sixty-nine brothers shouted, “No!” and continued to plot and plan.
            Finally, Tane, the god of forest, spoke: “Let’s pull our mother and father apart!”
            Sixty-eight brothers shouted, “Yes!” The god of storms raged in disagreement, but the others ignored him and proceeded with the plan.
            The god of edible plants pushed up against the Sky Father with all his might.
            He could not budge Sky Father.
            The god of women and men tried and failed.
            The god of fish and reptiles was unsuccessful.
            And so it went: One god after another was unable to separate Earth Mother and Sky Father.  Defeated, they turned to Tane, the god of forests.  “It was a good idea, but it is impossible.”
            Tane lay down on the earth.  He braced himself against Earth Mother and gathered her strength into his shoulders.  He lifted his legs and pressed them against Sky Father.  He pushed! Tane pushed and pushed with all his might, until suddenly, there was a groan and then a snap!  Tane had separated his parents.
            Tane and sixty-eight brothers rejoiced.  They leapt and celebrated the newfound space and light all around them.
            Sky Father floated high above his wife and was full of sorrow.  He cried and continued to cry tears of rain, which made her more beautiful than ever.  Earth Mother responded by sending mist skyward. 
            Meanwhile, the gods busied themselves with their work of creating the world.
            Each god did as he was called to do.  Tane decorated his mother with trees and plants of all shapes and sizes.  He searched out sparks of light and threw them into the heavens to decorate his father with stars. 
            The gods of storms joined his father in upper realms and lives there still.  As you well know, he continues to rage—that’s how it is with some people.
            His rages undo some off their work, but Tane and the other gods go on creating and tending to Earth Mother and all that dwells there.

Meditation
These are words from Walt Whitman

I know nothing of miracles…
Whether I …wade with naked feet along the beach just in the edge of the water,
Or watch honey-bees busy around the hive of a summer forenoon,
Or animals feeding in the fields,

Or birds, or the wonderfulness of insects in the air,
Or the exquisite delicate thin curve of the new moon in the spring.
These with the rest, one and all, are to me miracles.
To me every hour of the light and dark is a miracle,
Every square yard of the surface of the earth is spread with miracles
Every foot of the interior [of the earth] swarms with miracles.

Sermon 
      The story and the meditation reflect two aspects of nature.  The story is the origin myth from the Māori, the indigenous Polynesian people of New Zealand.  Origin myths in religion and culture attribute natural phenomena, the weather, the stars and the moon, the fish of the sea, the birds of the forest, and the forests themselves with gods, goddesses and supernatural phenomena.  Many people, some who are members of this church, hold beliefs about nature that include a sense of divinity or the sacred.  I consider myself a Panentheist—holding a belief that the divine pervades and penetrates every part of the universe. 
        I also embrace the understanding of nature that is reflected in the meditation.  A sense that what I experience in nature is miraculous, not in a sense that a god or goddess created it, but in the sense that so many amazing things occur in the natural world that I am held in awe when I take the time to attend to them—whether it be a sunset, a seed opening up into a plant, a butterfly emerging from a cocoon.  Whatever your theology--belief in something supernatural or the innate miraculousness of the natural world—whatever your language of reverence, nature has many opportunities to foster and enrich our spiritual lives.
        When I was in my senior year of High School, my friends and I went to Big Bend National Park on Spring Break.  There are certainly many stories from that trip, but one that I want to share with you.  Our first night in the park, we hiked to the top of Mt. Emory, the highest peak in the Chisos Mountains.  We sat atop the peak and watched the sunset, then camped out for the night just below the peak.  The next morning, my friends and I decided that we could cut across the park and save a good 5 miles of hiking, on our way to Boot Canyon.  
This picture is not from our trip, but you now see what we saw looking toward Boot Rock from Mount Emory.   Boot Canyon is one of the lushest and greenest parts of Big Bend.  Hiking off trail to shorten our route really seemed like a great idea at the time.  All we had to do was scale a sheer cliff that was about 50 yards straight down, which ended not in a flat surface, but angled out into a steep decline down to the base of the mountain an additional 300 plus yards down.  And the decline was densely populated with various types of cacti.   But we would be saving 5 miles from our hike!
        I was little concerned, but you know we were young and full of testosterone.  None of us wanted to say we couldn’t make the climb.  One of my friends, Patrick O’Malley, was the first to make the descent.  We lowered all the backpacks down to him.  I think he went first because his backpack was filled with canned peaches.  It was outrageously heavy, and while he strained under the weight as we hiked, he was the only one who wasn’t eating freeze dried beef stew at night.  One by one my friends made it down the cliff, until there were just me and Richard Smith.  I decided I would probably be safer if I had someone up top and someone below me when I made my way down the cliff.  Just to complete the picture: we decided we didn’t need ropes to climb down, we all wore brand new leather hiking boots, and we had no gloves or any other kind of gear to make this climb.  Like I said young and full of testosterone.  So over the lip of the cliff I went.  As I began, I found a few openings for my hands and feet.  I was scared, but gradually making my way.  About a third of the way down, I couldn’t find any hand-holds or foot-holds.  I was stuck.  For a moment I was paralyzed, deathly afraid I would fall, and feeling tired and acutely aware of the strain on my fingers, hands, and legs.  I remember saying something to my friends about not being sure I could make it.  They called up and down to me to reassure me.  I took a deep breath and closed my eyes for a moment, centering myself.  Then I brought my attention to my hands.  I focused on the sensation of my fingers holding onto the rock.  There was nothing else but my hands, and fingers, and the cliff face.  I moved my right hand slowly to the right, sensing, not seeing, the outcroppings and indentions in the cliff.  Eventually I found a new hand hold, a rock solidly sticking out of the cliff.  I grabbed it firmly and then adjusted my body.  I did this again and again, one hand and one foot at a time, only focusing on the sensation from my hands and feet.  My sense of time faded.  Even my progress faded.  My world was my hands, feet, and the cliff face.  When I finally reached the bottom, I was surprised, as if coming out of a trance.  I was elated to have made it down the cliff face.  Then I slipped on some rocks, my bottom landing hard on a cactus with very long spines.
         I tell you this story because one of the spiritual gifts of nature is mindfulness.  In my story mindfulness—the meditative technique that combines relaxation with acute alertness and/or extreme attentiveness-- mindfulness was discovered in the taking of a risk that required a focus and intense awareness that most of us don’t cultivate in our daily lives.
         You don’t have to be climbing down a cliff to practice mindfulness outside in nature.  Being outside, in nature, elicits mindfulness in many of us.  When I go home from work on a normal evening.  I get in your car, drive home, open the garage with the remote, park the car, and go inside. Most times, I don’t take time to look up at the stars, to notice the moon, to feel the breeze brushing against my cheek, or hear the rustle of the leaves in the trees.  But when we intentionally go out in nature, walk a trail or camp in a park, we slow down, we look around, we appreciate those things that are around us every day.  You notice things around you with that combination of relaxation and alertness or attentiveness, the mindfulness that being in nature seems to elicit.  You feel like you could look up at the moon or gaze up at the stars for hours.   You stop, slow down and really notice the beauty and detail of a single flower.  We can cultivate mindfulness through meditation, but nature provides additional opportunities for mindfulness that are spontaneous and, because they are spontaneous, can be just as impactful.
        Martha, my lovely wife, sometimes reminds me to be mindful as we walk in nature.  I am all about the exercise.  She is all about the experience. Exercise for me is about my physical and mental health, and I see it as a must in my daily routine.  I can be so driven by this that even my natural instincts to stop, relax and be alert in nature can be suppressed.  Martha is all about the side trails.  She sees little trails and is happy to wonder far away from the paved or limestone roads.  She can be so focused on the experience that she never notices I have marched on ahead without her.  I can be so focused on marching ahead that I never notice she has gone rogue.  Thank goodness for cell phones.  Unitarian and Transcendentalist Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote in his essay Nature:  “Standing on the bare ground—my head bathed by blithe air, and uplifted into infinite space—all egoism vanishes.  I become a transparent eyeball; I am nothing; the currents of the Universal Being circulate through me; I am part or particle of God.”  Experiences in nature provide us with opportunities to sense or feel our unity with the universe, with god or goddess, with humanity.  We are able to set aside our own ego, our own personal desires and priorities, and realize or remember that we are part of all that exists.  Nature can offer us this.         
          I am anticipating something that is happening tomorrow.  If you have read a paper or watched the news, you know I am talking about the solar eclipse that will sweep across the country.  I will be joining our Science Sunday leaders outside on our property tomorrow to watch the 85% eclipse with them.  We are a little north of the total eclipse. While I and perhaps many of you will be looking up at the sun with our proper eyewear, I will be opening myself up to another spiritual gift that nature offers: humility.  Nature reminds us that we are small part in a vast universe and that our lives are surrounded by mystery.  This is a deeply spiritual feeling.  When we see a mountain so tall it seems to touch the clouds or red woods big enough for cars to drive through or glaciers so vast they seem to go on forever or a planet through a telescope, we have the opportunity to open ourselves to a profound sense of connectedness.  The book, Soul to Soul by Unitarian Universalists Reverend Christine Robinson and Alicia Hawkins, was resource as I prepared for this service.  They write: “Humility is a sobering and necessary correction to the heady discovery that we are at one with the universe.  Some people dislike the word humility, because it has connotations of bowing and scraping before an arrogant power.  But the root of the word humility is the same as the root of words like humus, meaning fertile topsoil or earth, and human.  Humility has connotations of groundedness, of connection to earth and humanity.  The truth of the matter is that we are specks of life and consciousness in immensity; short lived, soft shelled and vulnerable.  Experiences in nature offer a healthy corrective to hubris.”
       German theologian, philosopher and mystic Meister Eckhart wrote: “If I spent enough time with the tiniest of creatures, even a caterpillar, I would never have to prepare a sermon, so full of God is every creature.”  I had have a number of people tell me that their church is nature.  They get more from a walk in nature than they have ever gotten in a church building.  And I get that.  I still want to encourage you to come to church, but I get that.  I believe that Meister Eckhart speaks a deep truth: being in nature can be, if we are open to it, if we allow ourselves to be mindful, if we walk in nature in a reverent way, deeply spiritual.  We can learn more about ourselves, about our connection to others—the universe, mother earth and all that resides on it—and we can get a break from the routines of life that distance us from ourselves and creation.  We need to attend to our feet as we slip them into the cool water of a babbling brook or to our hands as we dig in the dirt of a garden.  We are able to remember what is really important when our daily routine is stripped away and we step away from the work-a-day world as naturalist, Transcendentalist, and Unitarian Henry David Thoreau did.  As he sat out by Walden Pond, he wrote:  “If the day and the night are such that you greet them with joy, and life emits a fragrance like flowers and sweet-scented herbs, [that] is more elastic, more starry, more immortal- that is your success. All nature is your congratulation, and you have cause momentarily to bless yourself. The greatest gains and values are farthest from being appreciated. We easily come to doubt if they exist. We soon forget them. They are the highest reality. Perhaps the facts most astounding and most real are never communicated by [hu]man to [hu]man. The true harvest of my daily life is somewhat as intangible and indescribable as the tints of morning or evening. It is a little star-dust caught, a segment of the rainbow which I have clutched.”  Namaste





Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Considering Fundamentalism and Political Correctness as a Unitarian Universalist by Reverend Tom Capo



Definitions:
Fundamentalism
A Fundamentalist as defined by the Urban Dictionary is: “A person who takes their religion so literally and to such extremes that they contradict the very basis of their faith. They typically believe in a literal, verbatim interpretation of their scripture.”
British Sociologist Anthony Gibbens writes: “Fundamentalism … is a tradition defended in the traditional way - by reference to ritual truth - in a globalizing world that asks for reasons. Fundamentalism, therefore, has nothing to do with the context of beliefs, religious or otherwise. What matters is how the truth of beliefs is defended or asserted…Whatever form it takes - religious, ethnic, nationalist, or directly political, I think it right to regard fundamentalism as problematic. It [can be] edged with the possibility of violence, and it is the enemy of cosmopolitan dialogue.  Yet fundamentalism isn't just the antithesis of globalizing modernity, but poses questions to it. The most basic one is this: can we live in a world where nothing is sacred? I have to say, in conclusion, that I don't think we can.”
Political Correctness
            Merriam-Webster’s Learner’s Dictionary gives this as the simple definition of “Politically Correct”: “agreeing with the idea that people should be careful to not use language or behave in a way that could offend a particular group of people”.

            The second is the Urban Dictionary: Political Correctness is “The [ideology] of … left wing liberals who want society to be nothing but accepting of all … freaks everywhere. The main basis is not to offend anyone with one little incorrect word.”
The following excerpt is from Business Insider, July19, 2017, by Matthew Jones, titled “Millienials want everyone to know these 5 things about political correctness”:   “Political correctness is not about censorship, it's about showing respect…  The purpose of political correctness is to treat all people with the love and respect they deserve.”

Sermon by Reverend Tom Capo
             When Bill and I met about this service, he gave me the February 27, 2017 National Law Journal; he had circled the following paragraph in the article (“Meet Yale Law’s Female Dean, Heather Gerken”):
“[A reporter asks Heather Gerken, the first female Yale Law School Dean]: Are you talking about the political discourse surrounding Trump?  The “Trump Effect” if you will?
Heather Gerken [answers]: I don’t think it is just the Trump Effect.  I don’t mean just that lawyers on both side of the aisle believe in constitutional rights and due process.  I think this is a moment in politics when people have lost the ability to do battle and respect the other side.  One of the things that make lawyers part of an honorable profession is the fact that we’re able to go to war, then go out for drinks afterward.  Part of that is the training that we provide our students.  We teach people not just to recognize the flaws in their own arguments, but to recognize the strengths in the arguments on the other side.  That’s something that’s missing from current political discourse.  It has nothing to do with one administration or another.”
            A concern of Bill’s was that we here at DuPage Unitarian Universalist Church (DUUC), and perhaps most Unitarian Universalists, are not particularly accepting of people who don’t hold liberal political beliefs.   As Bill says, “There never seems to be any recognition of the possibility that [‘valid’] viewpoints other than those of … liberal democrats...”might exist within our congregations.  And I think he makes a valid point.  The sign in Kreves hall says all are welcome: lesbian, gay,
bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, intersex, ally, black, white, Hispanic, Latino/a, Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, Interfatih, Pagan, Elder, Adult, Young Adult, Teen Child, Infant, Native Born, Immigrant, First Nations, Humanist, Atheist, Agnostic, Theist, Conservative, Liberal, Single, Partnered, Special Needs, Visitor, You.  I do see the word conservative.  What does that mean, political, social, theological conservative? For a moment, add the word “fundamentalist” to that list.  Does that seem to fit for you?  You might think, “They have their own places to go for community and worship. We don’t.” or “They wouldn’t feel comfortable here, anyway.”
Our denomination prides itself on being able to engage in rigorous discussions with people whose ideas are very different from our own, recognizing the strengths in their arguments as well as the flaws in our own, and afterwards go out into coffee hour, being in respectful, compassionate, caring relationships with one another.  Is this vision of ourselves truly our reality?
            Back in 1979, I drove up to my first Unitarian Universalist church.  As I entered, I was ushered into the sanctuary for a pre-service adult forum.  As I sat down, the speakers were introduced, one was from Planned Parenthood and was from a local fundamentalist Christian Church.  The topic was abortion rights.  The discussion was articulate, passionate at times, but also respectful and civil.  After the presentation there was a time for questions for both speakers, obviously since UUs were asking the questions, some questions were quite penetrating and insightful, for both speakers.  And after the forum, we all gathered, including the speakers, around the coffee pot while the ushers prepared for the service.  This experience was not atypical of what I experienced at that church.  I often went to small adult discussion groups about controversial topics and heard people talk eloquently and passionately on both sides of all kinds of issues.  I remember going to a party with church members for the first time, and alcohol was being served.  I turned to Martha and said, “I can’t drink tonight because if I do then I won’t be able to hold up my side of the conversation with these Unitarian Universalists.”        
As many of you know DuPage Unitarian Universalist Church’s Social Justice Committee works with PTMAN, the Proviso Township Ministerial Alliance Network, a group of African American evangelical, often theologically fundamentalist, churches.  We have heard many speakers at our monthly breakfast meetings with PTMAN, some who were quite inspirational, almost all who emphasized their belief in Christ as their Lord and Savior.  One breakfast meeting this spring we were all taken aback though—pushed way past our comfort zones—when a speaker vigorously proclaimed that sex should only be between a man and a woman, and that a woman must fulfill her husband’s sexual needs.  And many of those present, not us, clapped.  You can imagine the lively conversation on the drive home from that breakfast meeting. On the hand I was thinking of our third principle—acceptance of one another—while on the other hand I was thinking our group of liberal white folks being in a partnership role, not a leadership role in PTMAN. And on my third hand, anyway, I was thinking: we were accomplishing so much with PTMAN.  I asked myself: “was the work we were accomplishing worth having to hear this kind of message and the support this message received?”   I went to Bishop Saffo, the leader of PTMAN.  We had a long talk about how members of our church felt about these sexuality issues and we came away from the conversation with greater understanding on both of our parts about our own personal beliefs, his church’s beliefs, my Unitarian Universalist values, why our personal beliefs and values are important to us, and how we can continue to work together, as friends.  And the Social Justice Committee and PTMAN continue to work together.
            And yet I still understand where Bill is coming from.  How many of you read the article by our community minister Reverend Myriam Renaud in the June/July newsletter?  Here is an excerpt: “Unitarian Universalist congregations are often quite explicit about […their …] values; they also send implicit and informal signals to inform members and visitors about the Democratic-values culture to which all are expected to conform. Does the insistence on shared values make open dialogue between progressive and conservative members about issues like abortion, gun control, health care, etc. difficult? You bet. And, does it silence those who are committed to Unitarian Universalism’s Seven Principles, but who interpret them in different ways than those of the dominant culture? Yes, it does.
Values are important, of course, but they tend to be emotion-based. In contrast, the Seven Principles which bind Unitarian Universalists together are reason-based, and leave ample room for a variety of values. The “values test” or the view that, to be welcome in our congregations, one must subscribe to progressive values may be getting in the way of a more fundamental commitment to the inherent worth and dignity of others—regardless of their values. Instead, we (yes, all of us!) can find, in our shared Principles, common ground for conversations across progressive-conservative value-lines.”
If you were to take a few minutes to come up with your own values test for DUUC members, what would be included?  I think that’s an exercise worth doing if only to learn something more about yourself.  When I first came here, someone asked whether we should tell people who came through the doors of the church that we had humanist values.  I answered something like “No, I don’t think we should.”  Why?  A couple  reasons: one, I don’t know how folks walking through the door for the first time on a Sunday morning define “humanist” for themselves and they don’t know how we live out these values as Unitarian Universalists.   Two: I don’t know if I think it is particularly welcoming to start out by saying you need to be a humanist, or for that matter hold any particular belief system, to come here.  What I do think is important is to ask a first time visitor about themselves.  A relationship is between people, not belief systems. 
I would say the same about telling people who enter that they have to have liberal political values.  There is no political litmus test for Unitarian Universalism; although I do tell newcomers that it is difficult to be a Unitarian Universalist because we ask each person who joins us to search within for truth and meaning, to live their values and beliefs in the world and share with us how that works for them; I also say to them that they are asked by our faith to treat all others with respect and dignity and to try to make the world a better place for all. I ask them about where they are on their faith journey and to be willing to share that journey with others here.  And I discourage them from talking about what they don’t believe in.  Do I ask if they support open carry gun laws?  Do I ask if they voted for President Trump?  Do I ask if they believe in Christ as their Lord and Savior?  No, I do not.  I treat each and every person as someone who is here to search, to love, to be part of this community, and to work with us to make the world a better place. 
I believe that we here at DUUC embrace being respectful, civil, kind, understanding, compassionate, and different from one another.  That is the basis of this faith.  If we look in our heart of hearts we know that people who hold fundamentalist or conservative beliefs are not bad or stupid.   They are trying to find a way to cope with an ever changing world.  Belief in a god/goddess/or the supernatural is not outdated or invalidated by science and rationalism.  Fundamentalism is not a bad word.   It is a descriptor of a belief system.  A belief system, like any other belief system, has both strengths and weaknesses.  The Unitarian Universalist Principles and Sources is a belief system, while it is more descriptive than prescriptive.  As such it, too, has strengths and weaknesses.  I glad to see none of you have booed me for saying that and lighting has not struck me down. 
When I went to a conservative seminary as openly Unitarian Universalist, I had conversations with fundamentalist Christians, engaging conversations, in which we both learned something about each another and developed respect for one another, and sometimes even friendship.  They learned from me about the historical basis of Unitarian Universalism.  Unitarianism, the belief that Jesus was a prophet or very human model for how to live in the world, not a divine being; and Universalism, a belief in a loving god who would not damn anyone to hell.  These ideas had a very profound effect on some of my classmates.  I learned from them how a creedal, dogmatic, even a fundamentalist belief system can be experienced as helpful to them in coping with life.  I remember more than one of them telling me of personal experiences when they felt paralyzed by suffering or oppression or racism.   They described feeling like they were standing before a chasm, and nothing they could do would get them across.   For them, devotion to a personal incarnation of god enabled them to take a step, a leap if you will.  They could go forward secure in the faith that their god will never let them fall but will carry them safely to the other side.  While I have not had that experience and do not have a belief in a personal god, I was able to gain a greater understanding of the strength of their faith and how it helped them in their lives.
And there are strengths and weakness in political ideologies.  This is true for Democrats and
Republicans, and for liberals and conservatives.  We just each see the world through different moral lenses.  Recently I read Jonathan Haidt’s book The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion.  After reading a great deal of research and doing his own research of thousands of people across this nation, he found that liberals and conservatives emphasize different moral foundations, and thus tend to view the world through different moral matrices.  Please note the chart to my right.  Notice everyone shares the same five moral foundations.  The weight they give to each of the foundations is different.  Conservatives tend to equally prioritize these five moral foundations, care/harm, fairness/cheating, loyalty/betrayal, authority/subversion, and sanctity/degradation.   And thus conservative are more willing to, at times, reduce the priority of one moral foundation because of the perceived importance of another, say reducing loyalty for the benefit of fairness, or vice versa.  Liberals tend to prioritize the moral foundations of care/harm which includes such priorities as kindness, gentleness, and nurturance, and of fairness/cheating which includes such priorities as justice, and personal rights.  I want to emphasize that understanding these differences, particularly the strengths and weakness of these differences, is important for all us to be able to be able to work together and get along.  And that there is benefit to all churches, including ours, to have members who have varying moral foundations.  Haidt writes: “We are deeply intuitive creatures whose gut feelings drive our strategic reasoning.  This makes it difficult –but not impossible—to connect with those who live in different matrices, which are often built on different configurations of the available moral foundations.  So next time you find yourself seated beside someone from another matrix…Don’t bring up morality until you’ve found a few points of commonality or in some way established a bit of trust.  And when you bring up issues of morality, try to start with some praise, or with a since expression of interest.  We’re all stuck here for a while, so let’s try to work it out.”
In this time of Trump, it seems harder for us to understand and accept differences.   I know it is harder today to engage with people whose ideologies and moral foundations are different from our own, because the stakes seem too high.  But I believe our Principles call us to civility, respect, kindness, compassion—affirming and promoting the inherent worth and dignity of every person, justice, equity and compassion in human relations, and acceptance of one another. 
            I know this congregation is capable of being a neutral, no not just neutral, a safe space for people who share disparate ideas, beliefs, and politics.  I have seen it happen.  I have seen pagans and humanists talk to each other about their beliefs.  I have heard a member discuss his belief in Jesus, and not one person at the table of 15 or so members of this church even blinked.  I have seen atheists at the Winter Solstice Service.  And I know theists attend Science Sunday presentations.  
             This church has been and will continue to be a garden of paradoxes and differences, of varying ideologies and tensions, of conflict and civility, of righteousness and compassion.  How we nurture this, and I mean intentionally, nurture this is important.  Let me reflect back on what the excerpt from an article about Millenials said: “Political correctness is not about censorship, it's about showing respect.  Censorship is a coercive attempt to hide something from people. Asking people to use more inclusive language is not silencing their voice, it's inviting them to use language in a way that promotes productive conversation.  The purpose of political correctness is to treat all people with the love and respect they deserve. This means calling people by the pronouns they use, and avoiding words and phrases that stereotype and demonize entire groups of people. You can still possess whatever ideology you follow and you can still share your opinion, you're just being asked to do so in a way that is not hurtful to others.”   I want to reflect on two things from this passage.  I believe all of you would agree that we, as Unitarian Universalist, are not about censorship, no-one should be afraid to say who they are, what they believe, where they work, or who they voted for.  And we, as human beings, will never be perfect in treating all people with the love and respect they deserve, but when we cross the line, when we use sarcasm when speaking about fundamentalists or anyone or anything, when we react in mean-spirited anger about all the political correctness or any other issue, we must stop.  Take a deep breath.  Forgive ourselves, admit to the person we have hurt that we have reacted in a destructive, non-civil, non-respectful, non-loving way, and re-engage with our best selves, showing that we can be trusted, we are safe to be around and we can be a friend.  And regardless of how the other person responds, you will know in your heart that you have taken the right path, the path that we all aspire to, the path of living our Principles, values, and beliefs.  I know this church community.  I believe that when a line is crossed, that we all have the capacity to acknowledge it, forgive one another, and begin again in love, living our UU Principles and Values. We will not be perfect with this.  But in the end, I have seen you do it and know I will continue to see us all rise up to be our best selves when we slip.   As we continue to practice this with one another, those who join us will know this about us.  And we carry this forth into the world, making the world a better place.   
Anyone who enters these doors--whether it’s for the first time or the 1,000st time--everyone is here to hear the saving message that they are loved, just as they are, and that we will be with them, fundamentalist or liberal, politically correct or making mistakes, because each person here needs a safe place to search for meaning, purpose, and truth.  A place that accepts them for who they are, and a people who will encourage them on their own personal journey, no matter where that journey may take you.  This is who we are as Unitarian Universalists.