Call and Response: Journeys in UU Lifespan Faith Development

Reflection and Action, after the Presidential Election

By Lifespan Faith Engagement

I awoke Wednesday morning to a United States that had elected as president a man whose campaign was riddled with sexism, racism, ableism, Islamophobia, childish taunts, and all manner of uncivil discourse. To me, as to many, it felt like a nightmare. The only way we will get through this is by supporting each other in a commitment to not remain silent.

painting of a UU chalice over a splashy colorful background

This painting was created on November 10, 2016 by artist Raven Best of the Sanctuaries DC faith community, at a workshop in the chapel at the Boston headquarters of the Unitarian Universalist Association. Shared with permission of the artist.

The staff of the Faith Development office wanted to submit our thoughts to this special Call and Response blog post. We hope you will share your thoughts, too, by adding your comments to the blog post.

 This is not a prayer that you may find hope 
For hope is a luxury that some cannot find and others cannot afford
This is not a prayer that you find more love in the world
Though I hope you continue to feel love and send love to those near and far
I pray instead that you may find tools
A hammer lying half-hidden in the grass
A roll of duct tape, curled up and forgotten on a high shelf in the back of the closet
A wrench poking out of the back pocket of a stranger
Take these tools and gird thyself
A hammer for justice
Duct tape to hold together your broken heart
A wrench to “grip and provide advantage in applying torque to turn objects” – or turn the world
Take these tools and others you may find in places expected and unexpected
Take these tools and gird thyself
For weeping may last through the night
But the work begins in the morning.

— Jessica York, UUA Faith Development Director

I am a weepy mess today, having gone from anticipating an historic victory to feeling physically ill when the devastating results unfolded. My grief and disappointment come to me in waves, bumping up against my natural tendency toward optimism.

Now we must face the consequences of our country’s actions, which is a terrifying prospect. We can start by taking immediate action to address our congregations’ concerns. My hope is that you will be especially sensitive to the needs of youth who may not have developed sufficient resilience to overcome their fear and sadness. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) youth are of special concern.

If you lead a religious education/faith development program, please include your Our Whole Lives (OWL) facilitators in discussions of the election’s aftermath. They will face questions about the future of reproductive healthcare, abortion access, and the rights and safety of the LGBTQ community. They may welcome your help brainstorming answers to OWL participants' concerns. Parents also may need support as they struggle to assuage their own and their children’s fears.

You can also support your program participants by making available the following resources, which may save lives:
National Suicide Prevention Hotline 1-800-273-8255
GLBT National Youth Talkline (for youth through age 25) 1-800-246-PRIDE (7743)
GLBT National Hotline (peer counseling for all ages) 1-888-843-4564
SAGE LGBT Elder Hotline 888-234-SAGE (7243)
Online Peer-Support Chat

— Dr. Melanie Davis, UUA Our Whole Lives Program Associate

Raven Best, artist, begins her painting; photo by Ted Resnikoff/UUA.

Learn more about The Sanctuaries faith community.

They will be coming through the doors on Sunday. People looking for direction. People looking for a way to soothe the pain and anxiety they feel about the leadership choices our nation has made. The question is a familiar one: What shall we tell the children? Which story will work for our community? How do we “find the helpers” who are working to make the world a better place?

Problem is: this trauma is not a natural disaster. It is not an act of terrorism. It is a failure of our country to honor its own stated values. This election and its results threaten the story we have been told about our exceptional country striving toward a vision of equality, liberty, and justice. For those who identify as white, what has broken is a particular narrative that says that our country is moving away from bigotry and racism toward “a more perfect union.” For those who identify as people of color, immigrants, or GLBTQ people, the threat is more immediate and more dangerous. Emotional and physical violence, discrimination, and the overturning of legal protections are now on the table in a very real way. And the time has come for us to stop looking to political leaders to advance a moral agenda.

Before you begin to plan for Sunday, think about the children, youth, parents, and families who are part of your congregation. Hold them in prayer, especially those who now face real threat from the racism and bigotry that has been brought from behind closed doors into the public square. Reject the impulse to minimize the real fear children and youth of color and their families are experiencing. Don’t downplay the fears of those who are not straight or not cisgender. Offer kindness and compassion, not advice.

With groups of children or youth, don’t ignore what has happened, or minimize it. Reject the impulse to quickly affirm the dignity of all people, promise to work harder for justice, and move on. Instead, teach children, youth, and families that being part of a faith community should give us the courage to face this moment and tell the truth. Talk about why this moment is so painful. Explain that the days ahead call for each of them to bring their Unitarian Universalist values to life with their words and actions.

If you are a white person, linger for a time in the pain and uncertainty of this moment, pondering the truths that were exposed by Tuesday’s election, the fact that so many white Americans chose a leader who turns their fears, anxieties, and anger into weapons directed at those considered “other.” Commit to your own spiritual growth. Resolve to explore more deeply the history and current manifestations of the deep soul sickness in our nation that has been exposed. Choose to raise your voice for justice and inclusion. Teach your children to do the same in the public square and in your own circles of friends and family.

If you are a person of color, an immigrant, or a GLBTQ person, take good care of yourself. Tell your truth only as you feel ready to do so. Hold family and trusted friends close. When you choose to raise your voice for justice and inclusion, ask your faith community to raise their voices alongside yours.

As a people of faith, we need to be in this for the long haul. Not just this week, but every week until we reach that time when “justice shall roll down like waters and peace like an ever-flowing stream.” This is an issue of faith and morality, not politics.

— Gail Forsyth-Vail, UUA Adult Programs Director