What Would You Do?
Our Time for All Ages this morning is a time of make-believe. I’d like you to put your imagination caps on so that we can pretend together.
Raise your hand if you've ever been to a baseball game. How many of you follow a team you think of as “your” team?
Well, I have bad news. (Here’s the game of let’s pretend. Remember: I need you to imagine this.) I’ve just received an advance copy of a statement that will be released tomorrow by our Governor. It’s very surprising. You won’t believe what it says!
Unroll a parchment or open a fancy letter to “read” the following:
Hear ye, hear ye! All citizens of [your state/province], effective immediately, are hereby notified that baseball is now illegal within our borders. From today onward, it is absolutely forbidden to watch baseball, play baseball, or go to a baseball game. You can’t even stand in your backyard with a ball and bat. If you must, buy a frisbee or kick around a soccer ball.
Don’t ask why. We have reasons, and we mean it. No matter how old you are or which team you used to root for, you will be in HUGE trouble and go to jail for a long time if you watch or play baseball in the state of [your state/province], starting today.
Baseball is going to be illegal? What are each of us going to do? Let’s pretend: what would you do if you could go to jail for playing baseball or watching it?
Take about five responses from the children and adults. You’ll likely hear responses that sound like this. If you don’t, offer up the possible responses that haven’t been named:
- “I wouldn’t care, because I don’t like baseball.”
- "I’d play anyway, and see if they mean it. I’d go to jail if I had to.”
- "I’d go to [neighboring state/province] to watch baseball, where it’s still legal.”
- "I’d protest in front of the Statehouse”/“I’d try to reverse the law.”
- "I’d keep playing or watching baseball in secret, with people I trust not to tell.”
All of those are possible ways to respond. Maybe this new law doesn’t affect you, so you shrug it off. Maybe the threat of prison scares you enough to stop, or to sneak around. Maybe you leave [state/province] every time you want to hit a few balls, or watch a team play.
This may sound like a funny example to talk about, but there are countries where doing simple, everyday things are forbidden. A lot of the time, those forbidden things have to do with speaking your mind, or practicing your religion.
Imagine that you woke up tomorrow and found out that it was against the law to be a Unitarian Universalist, or talk about Unitarian Universalist beliefs!
That’s the pickle that some of our religious ancestors faced.
Nearly five hundred years ago, in Europe, people got tired of being told that there was only one way to practice religion. They began to read the Bible themselves, and they thought about it, which meant that they started coming up with new religious beliefs. A few of them were our religious ancestors: they were part of a movement called the Radical Reformation, and they talked about a new religious belief that we, today, would call Unitarian. These brave people began to practice being Unitarians even though it was forbidden; they could get in a lot of trouble. And they did.
Some of them said, I’ll stop — it’s not that important to me. I’ll go along with what we’re supposed to believe.
Some of them said, I’ll be a Unitarian in secret with people I trust, and in public I’ll pretend to go along with what I’m told.
Some of them said, I’m out of here! And they left the places it was most dangerous to be a Unitarian, and tried to find countries where it was safer to be Unitarian.
And a few of them said: nope. I’m going to be a Unitarian anyway, and talk about my beliefs, even if it gets me into trouble, because I can’t deny my conscience and my faith.
The truth is, we needed all of those early Unitarians:
the ones like Michael Servetus, who died because of his courage and his faith
the ones who fled to other countries, like Faustus Socinus
the ones who practiced and taught Unitarian beliefs in secret
…and maybe we even needed the people who said, “Eh. It’s not that important”—because they got to make a choice.
You’ll be happy to know that it’s safe to play and watch baseball in [state/province]. But I hope you’re also happy to be a UU. Let’s be grateful for the people throughout the past five hundred years who made sure that we could inherit this faith, and take care of it for the next generations.