Side With Love

Please visit our YouTube channel to watch Rev. Ann Marie’s video recording of this reflection.

As Mary Katherine Morn reminded us last week in the introductory video to the UUSC/GAYT program, “Now is the time for courageous change. The injustices and crises of the past year have underscored the importance of our shared goal—a world free from oppression, where all can realize their full human rights. To meet the enormous challenges of… that kind of fundamental change and build a more just future, we need big ideas and bold change. We must… transform the way things are, so that we do not perpetuate systemic inequities and repeat the harms of the past.”

One way to think about it is that we need a love revolution. I am not talking about just the energy of Valentine’s Day Love, although there is nothing wrong with that energy. 

I am thinking of a love revolution with the power that will change people, not just systems, and not just a temporary change to the usual tenor of our intimate relationships. Rather, a Love Revolution that changes our everyday relations with each and every person we encounter. 

If you haven’t already, I strongly encourage you to listen to the TED Talk by Valerie Kaur, a Sikh and a civil rights lawyer. Her talk is entitled “3 lessons of revolutionary love in a time of rage.”  

In Valerie Kaur’s provocative talk, based on her work since 9/11, she says that the first lesson we must learn is to restore our sense of wonder. She suggests that the way we do this is by refusing to hate our would-be enemies. That’s within our power. Revolutionary love means we must refuse to hate any person.  

It is not a matter of willing it so. It is a matter of practice. 

Every day, every person we encounter. All the energy we send out into the world needs to be full of revolutionary love. Love which includes a deep delight in learning who the other person is, what some call “a holy curiosity,” allowing our sense of wonder to return, to be powerful. That is holy.

Ms. Kaur began her practice of revolutionary love by asking herself, “Who have I not yet tried to love?”

Ask yourself that. Who have you not yet tried to love? Who do you immediately or routinely believe is not worthy of your learning to love? With practice you can change the answer you have now.

The power of this love revolution will create the beloved community by eradicating the hate that lies inside you, learning to love those who don’t love you. 

When I was last a “called” minister at a small congregation I served in eastern NC, a debate began among the members of that UU congregation, and many others, about whether or not we should post a notice that guns were not allowed in our building. During the ongoing discussion, someone who thought it wasn’t an issue made a statement that no “real” UU would own a gun. I knew that there were several members who owned guns, so I wondered how they heard that comment. One of those gun-owning members was new. She and her husband owned a number of guns. They collected them and regularly used them for sport.

The conversation could have been a place to practice revolutionary love. It could have started with a question inviting others to tell their story: “Would it be possible for those who are here in this room who own guns to talk about why?  What does owning a gun mean to you?”

Instead, what happened soured the experience of one very new UU.

I invited her later to tell me how she felt. She was at that discussion but hadn’t said anything. 

After I asked, she sent back this message:

“Hey Lady! It made me question my beliefs, my upbringing and whether I belonged to the UU family. I was raised with guns; had 3 grandfathers in the military (one KIA, WWII, Sicily) and an uncle who went to Vietnam. My dad was an avid hunter as were most of his friends. I was taught to shoot at the age of 10 and gun safety was a priority. When UUs say a UU shouldn’t own a gun, it can make you feel ashamed, as if you are betraying your beliefs and your community. You are afraid to speak up in front of certain people, because no matter your argument, they can’t see your side.”

Start with love. Refuse to hate. Free yourself from hate, from pre-determined judgment.

Ask a question that allows and invites the other person to tell you a story about themselves. Then listen, and listen with wonder, with curiosity and with love.

Learn to hear what threatens those who you have not yet tried to love. Listen; open a space within yourself to hear who they are. That is the only avenue to reconciliation, to wider community, to a revolutionary change.   

This new member (still a UU to this day) wasn’t threatened by anything that caused her to want guns. I knew the rest of her story because I had asked her to tell me. She was threatened by shaming. UUs were deepening that wound that she carried with her every day.

Lesson one is to wonder about those who appear to be your enemies. Ask them to share their stories! Refuse to hate them. When they are in harm’s way, let it be your practice to protect those who appear to be your enemies by really knowing what they need protection from. It may not be what you think!

Free yourself from hate, by learning what threatens those you have not yet tried to love. 

The second lesson is to learn to tend to the wound in another human being. You can’t fix it. Only love experienced in the beloved community can do that.

What you can do is tend, tenderly notice, pay attention, be sensitive to another’s wounds.

Let no person be an enemy. Shift the blame to systems, systems of unequal power. Refuse to believe that there are bad people. There are bad systems. They can and will change when we practice attending to what hurts.

Love others. Let wonder and tenderness come into your practice of learning to love who you haven’t yet learned to love.

To do this you must also tend to yourself. To tenderly notice, pay attention to the wound in another, you must be able to tell the difference between your wound and another’s wound. Your wound can help you notice someone else’s, but you can’t tend to them if it is all about you. 

Practice doing whatever you need to do to gain self-knowledge, the ability to be self-reflective, to distinguish yourself from another self. 

Feel your own feelings, especially anger and grief. Make your practice of revolutionary love one of learning to love yourself, all of what is inside you. Tending your own wound will help you notice and be tender with another’s.

You can’t do this without asking “What hurts and why?”

Eradicate hate and replace it with wonder and curiosity.

Tend to yourself and then others, by asking what hurts, by listening to what isn’t you, but belongs to the person in front of you.

Finally, breathe through the pain, your own pain, the pain that may come when you hear the answer in what wounds another. Breathe and refuse to let your pain harden into hate. Feel the fresh pain every time. It isn’t easy.

It is so hard to hear that another is threatened by you, perhaps because to them you or your loved ones look like terrorists, or liberals, or queers. Perhaps because to them, you or those you love are taking their jobs, what “they” think they should have. Because “they” think you are benefiting from a place of privilege from which that they are not benefiting.

Keep breathing. Keep pushing towards the practice of revolutionary love: Revolutionary love that sees no strangers. 

Keep breathing. Keep repeating You are a part of me I do not yet know… I do not yet love you, but I will. I do not yet tend to you, but I can and I will. We are far more powerful than we let ourselves be. Rely on love, not fear.

Love our opponents. Tend to the wound.

Love yourself; learn to breathe and push together. Surround yourself with those who know how to breathe and push together, to dance together. Practice joy.

Practice a fierce and revolutionary love that leaves no one out.

It is powerful, so powerful.

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