The power to question is the basis of all human progress.
— Indira Gandhi
I became convinced that non-cooperation with evil is as much a moral obligation as is cooperation with good. No other person has been more eloquent and passionate in getting this idea across than Henry David Thoreau. As a result of his writings and personal witness, we are the heirs of a legacy of creative protest.
— Martin Luther King, Jr., Autobiography
IN TODAY'S SESSION...
The hammer symbolizes power. In this session, children reflected on the power each of us has to work for good. We talked about times when people have used their power to question authority. Participants had time to engage the issues of civil disobedience when a law is unjust. We emphasized that power can be used for good or for ill. In addition, we emphasized the distinction between strength and power.
- We learned about power to illustrate that Unitarian Universalism is a faith that will help you identify the power you have and use it for good. We explored ways we can use our own power to live in affirmation of Unitarian Universalist Principles.
- Unitarian Universalism values the right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large (fifth Principle).
- Unitarian Universalism affirms that we are part of an interdependent web (seventh Principle); when one part of that web suffers injustice, the entire web suffers injustice.
EXPLORE THE TOPIC TOGETHER. Talk about...
The children heard the story, "Theodore Parker and the Fugitive Slaves: Refusing to Follow an Unjust Law." The story describes the escape from the south of Ellen and William Craft, and their success in eluding capture by slave-catchers who came looking for them in Boston. Theodore Parker, a Unitarian minister, was a spokesperson for the fugitive slaves, along with free African Americans and white abolitionists who resisted enforcement of this federal law in the 1850s. The story also tells how President Millard Fillmore, also a Unitarian, upheld the Fugitive Slave Law in the hope of keeping the United States from a civil war.
Throughout the history of the United States, the readiness of citizens to question authority and at times undertake civil disobedience has played a significant role in achieving reforms that we take for granted today — the legal protection of our civil rights, including our voting rights, and the formation of labor unions, among others. How do you think we should teach children when it is right to question authority and when it is important to follow the rules? As a family, you may want to explore these questions:
- Do you think there are times when it is right to use violence to fight against injustice? Why or why not?
- If you lived in Boston in October of 1850, and you knew where the slave-catchers from Georgia could find Ellen and William Craft, what would you do? Would you act differently if you were white than if you were black? Would you act differently if you were an adult than if you were a child?
EXTEND THE TOPIC TOGETHER. Try...
A FAMILY ADVENTURE
Experience a demonstration or march against injustice, or join in a walk for justice, such as a CROP Walk. CROP (Communities Responding to Overcome Poverty) Walks were initiated in locations around the United States by the non-profit organization, Church World Service, a service ministry of thirty-five U.S. Protestant, Orthodox, and Anglican denominations. A web page about the Newton, Massachusetts, CROP Walk describes it as "neighbors walking together to take a stand against hunger in our world. Together we raise awareness and funds for international relief and development, as well as local hunger-fighting." Find information online about CROP Walks in your area.
Singing is a traditional hallmark of civil disobedience actions. Singing together helps demonstrators feel the power of their numbers. At a family campfire or at a family meal, sing together the song, "If I Had a Hammer." Learn and sing together other folk, traditional, and political songs. You may want to consult the book, Rise Up Singing, conceived, developed, and edited by Peter Blood and Annie Patterson (Bethlehem, PA: Sing Out Publications, 2004).