“Whenever we try to envision a world without war, without violence, without prisons, without capitalism,” writes Walidah Imarisha, “we are engaging in speculative fiction. All organizing is science fiction. Organizers and activists dedicate their lives to creating and envisioning another world, or many other worlds…” (Octavia’s Brood). David Loy writes, “...stories are not just stories. They teach us what is real, what is valuable, and what is possible. Without stories there is no way to engage with the world because there is no world, and no one to engage with it because there is no self...” (The World Is Made of Stories) The novelist Walter Mosley says, “Without the fictive imagination, there is no growth. Everything remains the same.”
In our description of Spiritual Leadership, we say, “Spiritual Leadership is grounded in a vision of Beloved Community that reflects ‘the more beautiful world our hearts know is possible.’” Beloved Community is a story — a story about
people of diverse racial, ethnic, educational, class, gender, sexual orientation backgrounds/identities [coming] together in an interdependent relationship of love, mutual respect, and care that seeks to realize justice within the community and in the broader world. (from 8th Principle of Unitarian Universalism)
I’ve encountered many Unitarian Universalists who are skeptical about Beloved Community. They are afraid of being duped by visions of heaven and utopia. They are realists who seek to ground their understanding in the world as they experience it. If they haven’t experienced it, it doesn’t exist. I know because I am that skeptic much of the time.
It’s so easy to fixate on the dominant story of our time: empire, extraction, enslavement, militarism, poverty, violence, and greed. This story is so powerful, it is literally out of control. We cannot help being part of it — as victims, colluders, and beneficiaries.
The only thing more powerful than this story is another story. The only thing more powerful than the dominant stories of isolation, despair, captivity, abuse, and systems of exploitation are stories we call into being as we actively and intentionally imagine and choose a community called Beloved.
If, as the apostle Paul writes, “faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen,” then, as people of faith, we are called to exercise our fictive imaginations. If we do not imagine Beloved Community, not only will we miss opportunities to choose it into existence, we will trample the emergent forms it takes every day.