We Must Speak for Them: A Message Shared at the National Interfaith Vigil Outside the National Rifle Association in Remembrance of Sandy Hook

sandy hook

The scripture tell us. “Speak out for those who cannot speak for themselves.” The children massacred at the Sandy Hook Elementary school cannot speak for themselves. We must speak for them.

The teenagers gunned down at Columbine High School cannot speak for themselves.

We must speak for them.

The college students slaughtered on the campus of Virginia Tech cannot speak for themselves.

We must speak for them.

The young adults murdered at the Pulse Night Club cannot speak for themselves.

We must speak for them.

The martyrs at Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston cannot speak for themselves.

We must speak for them.

The people killed at work in San Bernardino, California and the people killed on vacation in Las Vegas cannot speak for themselves.

We must speak for them.

There is an old activist saying, “I’d rather be a guard rail at the top of the hill than an ambulance at the bottom.” We need responsible public policy. We need more guard rails and fewer ambulances.

86% of Americans believe that universal background checks is the responsible thing to do.

83% of Americans agree that preventing people with prior violent crime convictions from obtaining guns is the responsible thing to do.

76 % of Americans believe that requiring gun owners to have a lisences in the same way car drivers do is the responsible thing to do.

We need more guard rails and fewer ambulances.

These are just of few of our options. There are more. The way forward will require deliberation, debate and disagreement but we must move forward not backwards. We must do something not nothing. When the National Rifle Association is for violent anarchy we must be for peace and freedom.

There is a prayer in Alcoholic’s Anonymous, “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference.”

I refuse to accept that 27 killed in an elementary school is the new normal. I refuse to accept 49 killed in a nightclub and 58 killed at a concert is the new normal. We must refuse to accept the things that we can change. We must have the courage to change the things we can.

We need to enforce the laws we have. When the Air Force failed to follow procedures to report domestic violence allowing a violent offender to obtain a gun and shoot down 26 people in church on a Sunday morning in Texas it was not just a bureaucratic blunder. It was a failure of national security. We need to enforce the laws we have. We need leaders who take seriously our national security.

We need new laws, ones that will prevent someone from firing 600 rounds per minute into a concert crowd, church, nightclub or elementary school.

The words “too soon” are often used to keep us quiet. After a violent massacre we are told it is “too soon” to talk about responsible public policy when in fact it is too late. Now is the time to speak and act before the next tragedy. Now is the time to act before the next Sandy Hook, before the next Columbine, before the next Virginia Tech, before the next tragedy, before it is too late.

The gun lobby is very powerful today just the tobacco lobby was when I was a child. Did you know my junior high school actually took us on field trips to the cigarette factory? The power of the tobacco was unassailable and unquestioned. However, today we are protected from the dangers of second hand smoke so if we act responsibly today we can be protect future generations.

We are told to focus on protection not prevention. We are told that what this country needs is more armed security guards. However, the armed security guard at my high school was killed with his own weapon. A theater manager who is a member of my church was shot with an armed security guard standing right next to her. A police officer (the stepmother of a member of my church) was gunned down by an assault rifle while she was wearing a bullet proof vest.

We need prevention and not just protection.

You may wonder why the clergy would speak out on this issue. The reason is simple. We are the ones who do the memorial services. We comfort the grieving family. We minister to the traumatized communities. We are the chaplains at the bottom of the hill and that’s why we know we need guard rails at the top.

On July 27, 2008, a man opened fire in my church in the middle of a children’s play, a production of Annie Jr. Two people, Greg McKendry and Linda Kraeger, were killed, eight others were injured and all of us were traumatized. Had the man had an automatic weapon like the assailant in Sunderland Springs, the carnage would have been far worse.

Today, I am mindful of the mothers who pushed their children down to the ground and sheltered those children with their bodies. I am mindful of the men who rushed the gunman and tackled him preventing further loss of life. I am mindful of the children who were in the play who surprised us all with their spirit when at a healing service the night after they stood up at the end and began to sing, “The sun will come out tomorrow.”

Today we too must be brave. We must speak out for those who cannot speak for themselves. We must have to courage to change the things we can.

Thoughts and prayers are not enough.

We must pray with our work.

Pray with our organizing.

Pray with our energy.

Pray with our activism.

Pray with our voice

Pray with out votes.

Pray that our world will be safe for our children.

Pray that the sun will come out tomorrow.

(The Reverend Chris Buice shared this message at the first national interfaith clergy vigil outside the headquarters of the National Rifle Association on December 14, 2017, the 5th anniversary of the shooting at the Sandy Hook Elementary School.)

 

 

 

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Defense Against the Dark Arts

dark arts

I am an optimist. I like to look for the good in people. This may be why a friend once shared with me some fortune cookie like wisdom, “Those who look at life through rose colored glasses tend to miss red flags.” A psychologist once told me something similar when he said, “Chris, you are the opposite of paranoid. When “they” are out to get you – you will be the last one to know.”

So this morning I am going to try preach against type. I am going to try to take off my rose colored glasses in order to speak about spirituality in those moments when we can no longer be in denial that “they” are out to get us. To use theological language I want to talk about evil and the text for today’s sermon is from the book of Romans, “Do not be overcome by evil but overcome evil with good.”

In the Harry Potter Books we are told about a class at the Hogwarts School for Witchcraft and Wizardry called the Defense Against the Dark Arts. In these classes students are taught how to use their magic wands for self-defense; how to cast defensive spells and counter jinxes and otherwise protect themselves against malevolent magic.

Severus Snape, one of the teachers for the course, explained to his students, “The Dark Arts are many, varied, ever-changing, and eternal… You are fighting that which is unfixed, mutating, indestructible.”

The Harry Potter books are set in a land of magic and make-believe. However, in real life there are times when all of us need to be on guard to protect ourselves from malevolent powers and toxic relationships. I have a friend who leads a Harry Potter camp at her church that includes a Defense Against the Dark Arts class to help young people learn to deal with bullying, mind-games and other forms of oppression.

The dark arts are a real thing that can enter into our personal relationships and our body politic. When right wing activist Steve Bannon was asked by a reporter if he had any qualms about his polarizing political tactics he replied, “Darkness is good…Darth Vader. Satan. That’s power.”

Bannon is simply being more honest that most political operatives. Since time began it has been a temptation felt by people of every political disposition to tap into the powers of darkness, to tap into the power of the ends justify any means.

Howard Thurman, who was an elder and mentor to Dr. Martin Luther King once wrote that in the fight for equal rights it is very important not to look at life through rose colored glasses in, “We must not shrink from …the evilness of evil,” he said, “Over and over we must know that the real target of evil is not destruction of the body, the reduction to rubble of cities; the real target of evil is to corrupt the human spirit and to give the soul the contagion of inner disintegration. When this happens, there is nothing left, the very citadel of the human being is captured and laid waste. Therefore, the evil in the world around us must not be allowed to move from without to within.” In other words we must make sure we work diligently so external oppression never becomes internalized oppression.

The evil that does the most damage is the evil that targets our spirit. “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood,” the apostle told us, “but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.”

All of this is to say that each one of us can benefit from practicing our defenses against the dark arts, to find a spiritually grounded way to respond to abusive powers and personalities. Sometimes the abusive personality might be our partner and other times it might be our president or it may be someone else entirely.

In the Harry Potter world there is a counter spell for every spell. In our world we need protection from many forms of negativity that may not be supernatural but can be super painful and super destructive.

Many of the dark arts I am about to describe are mind games. They are the techniques that abusive people use to maintain control over their partners or their families or their employees or their neighbors or whoever. The techniques are related to many forms of oppression from racism, sexism, homophobia and other kinds of bias and bigotry. The list of dark arts I will provide today is not exhaustive. Indeed, one might think of this as a crash course, a Defense Against the Dark Arts 101 class.

These techniques are about addressing the spiritual dimension of the problem. Therefore if you ever feel physically threatened or physically unsafe remember safety first. Find a safe place first and then you will be in a better environment to contemplate the problems of the spirit.

As we listen to these techniques we may identify with the victims but it is also possible that we will see ways that we have also been victimizers. Human beings are capable of both, but for today due to limitations of time our focus is going to be on defense not offense.

Technique 1: Practitioners of the dark arts try to undermine our self-esteem. They try to make us feel like we are nobody. They use name-calling, verbal abuse, insults and intimidation to maintain control over us.

Technique 2: Practitioners of the dark arts try to undermine our self-confidence by making us doubt the evidence of our senses, distrust our own perceptions, minimize our legitimate concerns, belittle our feelings and intuitions, sabotage our own efforts to change the relationship or our circumstances.

Technique 3: Practitioners of the dark arts know that the best defense is an overwhelming offense so they blur the issues by blaming the victim, attacking the critic, changing the subject, creating distractions and redirecting attention away from their own behavior to someone or something else, anything that keeps anyone from shining a light on to their own actions.

Technique 4: Practitioners of the dark arts try to isolate us, make us feel like we are the only one with a problem, that no one shares our concerns, that no one agrees with us or supports us or loves us.

These are four techniques. There are many others. In the Harry Potter books the students of Hogwarts have to take the Defense Against the Dark Arts class every year, which seems to suggest that it is a continual learning process. We are never done. Defense against the dark arts takes a commitment to lifelong learning.

So here are a few defenses we can use against the dark arts. Rather than be prescriptive let me be descriptive. Let me share some things that have proven helpful in my own spiritual journey and in my own efforts to overcome evil with good.

Speaking for myself, coming to this church is a defense against the dark arts. Coming to church reminds me that there are others who share my concerns, a place where – at our best – we love each other, support each other and encourage each other, a place where I am not isolated or alone.

Many years ago, I was in a class called Build Your Own Theology where each of us were invited to write down on an index card our own personal definition of the word God. Since we are Unitarian Universalists you could opt out of the exercise but I decided to do it and I wrote, “Whenever two or more are gathered to love, support and encourage each other there is a power greater than ourselves that can renew, restore and sustain us. That’s my definition of God,” but it is also an excellent defense against the dark arts.

Another defense against the dark arts is prayer or meditation. This is because practitioners of the dark arts have a way of getting into our heads, dominating our thoughts and our imaginations. And we need to find way to clear our minds and open ourselves in order to experience greater freedom. And in such moments I often remember the prayer of Howard Thurman,

Open unto me, light for my darkness
Open unto me, courage for my fear
Open unto me, hope for my despair
Open unto me, strength for my weakness

And I might add

Open unto me, pride for times of humiliation. Open unto me clear vision when I want to wear rose-colored glasses. Open unto me dignity in the face of discrimination. Open unto me the self-respect that overcomes evil with good.

However, sometimes the most effective prayer is with our actions. If we are in an abusive situation we need to pray with our feet, get to a safe place and then we will be in a better position to pray and meditate, but once we are in a safe space, prayer and meditation can be a good thing, a way of bring inner resistance to outward oppression. Don’t let the bad come from the outside in, but let the good come from the inside out.

If spoken prayer doesn’t help us we can always try silent meditation. If you take a cup of water with dirt and debris at the bottom and you stir it up it will be dark and murky but if you let it be still and wait for all the sediment to slowly sink to the bottom then we can see clearness and clarity and light can shine through it. So it is with our minds and our spirits when we meditate.

Practitioners of the dark arts love to make us angry because they know that angry people are often not as effective as we would be otherwise. We can get so caught up in our own emotions that we start to make mistakes, to react instead of act. So meditation can help keep us grounded in that clarity and clearness that can be a very effective defense against the dark arts.

These are just some of the techniques we can use in our defense against the dark arts. I’m sure there are many, many more techniques we can use. This week I was in one of our church restrooms. If you know anything about our restrooms then you may know that the lights are on a timer that is connected to a motion detector. So I was in the restroom when suddenly everything went completely dark. I couldn’t see a thing. But I knew what to do. I waved my arms and that enacted the motion detector and the lights came on. And for a moment I felt like a wizard practicing defense against the dark arts – a very powerful wizard.

And so in conclusion let me say that I hope you leave church today feeling equally empowered to address the problems in your life. The prayer of Saint Francis tells us, “where there is darkness may we bring light,” and this describes to me the mission of our church. There are many different kinds of people in this church. Some of us look at life through rose colored glasses and some of us see red flags (and some of both are on the church board together.) Some of us are cynical to the point of paranoia and some of us are the opposite of paranoid. However, everyone of us can work together to build the kind of community that will our best defense against the dark arts.

(This sermon was preached by the Rev. Chris Buice at the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church on Sunday, December 3, 2017.)

Come, Come Whoever You Are

3 kinds of church w captionThere is no official dress code at the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church.

“Come, come whoever you are,” we sing on Sunday mornings. “We welcome you whoever you are, wherever you are from, wherever you are on life’s journey,” our greeter tells us. Of course, people have to actually be in the building to hear these messages. So how do we get people into the building? We invite them.

Do you know anyone who might benefit from being a part of our church community? Do you have a friend of another faith who is simply curious about what you do on Sunday morning? Invite a friend to church. Although we live in the age of social media, television and mass communication, most people learn about a church because a friend invited them.

Sometimes we UUs can be reticent about our church because we do not want to impose on others with our own beliefs. However most authoritative medical research confirms that inviting someone to church never killed anyone (either the inviter or the invitee.)

Lauren Hulse informs me that most people in other denominations invite someone to church once every 10 years. For Unitarian Universalists, it is once every 25 years. Why not make this the year?

(The Tao of Tennessee is the written by the Reverend Chris Buice of the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church.)

What’s God Got to Do With It?

10.8 o god

Thomas Jefferson, who described himself as a Unitarian to his friends, once sent some spiritual advice to his nephew in the form of a letter. “Question with boldness even the existence of a God,” he wrote, “because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason, than that of blind-folded fear.”

Unitarian Universalists feel our beliefs must be open to questioning including a belief in God. I once met a man of another faith who thought this attitude was too risky in his own congregation. He said, “Asking questions in church is my idea of an a extreme sport.” In the UU church we feel that asking questions about religion should be safer than bunji jumping, hang-gliding or roller derby.

We believe that each one of us should be free to state our beliefs without fear of being rejected or ostracized from the community. “The only way a person can be excommunicated from this church,” opined William Ellery Channing, “is through the death of goodness in in his/her own heart.”

In 1966 there was actually a survey to ask people in our denomination what they believed about God.

2.9 percent defined God as a supernatural being, 23.1 percent see God as the ground of all being, while 44.2 percent find God to be a name defining some natural processes within the universe, such as love or creative evolution. On the other hand, 28 percent found God to be an irrelevant concept while 1.8 percent found God to be a harmful concept. (Source: The Challenge of a Liberal Faith by George N. Marshall.

In 1987 there was another survey in which UUs were asked to describe the divine by filling in the statement, “The way I would describe the divine for myself…

Creative force (29%) Highest potential (18%) Harmony with nature (11%) Unknowable power (11%) Uncertain (11%) Superior being (3%) Meaningless (3%)                           Harmful concept (14%) (Source: Build Your Own Theology by Richard Gilbert)

 What would survey results look like in 2017? Good question! No doubt results would vary from year to year, as UUs are free to change their minds about their theological beliefs as they grow in knowledge and experience.

The rocker Tina Turner sings the song, “What’s love got to do with it?” and the Universalist side of our faith replies, “Everything!” If you visit one of the old Universalist church constructed in the 19th century it is common to see the words, “God is love” inscribed above the church entrance or on the altar or on the mantle piece or some other visible location.

What do Unitarian Universalists believe about God? How you answer the question is a part of our answer. The humor in my cartoon aside, you should feel free to express your own ideas on this fundamental question. There is no reason for any of us to feel excluded.

(The Tao of Tennessee is written by Chris Buice, minister of the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church)

 

 

Question Authority?

9.25 anarchy in the uuI used to have a bumper sticker that said, “Question Authority” then I saw the one that said, “Who are you to tell me to question authority?” Point well taken.

Lauren Hulse, our membership coordinator, has been collecting questions for the minister from visitors to the church. So for the next few blogposts I will be responding to some common questions including this one, “Why do UUs talk about Ralph Waldo Emerson so much?”

Emerson lived from 1803-1882. Most of us encountered Emerson for the first time in a high school literature class where we read the essay Self-Reliance or excerpts from his book Nature. What you may not know is that before he was a famous essayist he was a Unitarian minister.

The ministry was not a great fit for Emerson. He once went to visit a parishioner who was ill and was sent back to the church by the man’s wife who said, “He did not know his business.” I’ve read some of his sermons, many of which are arid and pedantic. Indeed, leaving the ministry was a good career decision. It was outside the church that Emerson found his true voice.

emerson

Because I have a predisposition to appreciate paradox I am tempted to answer the newcomers question by saying, “We talk about Ralph Waldo Emerson so much because he is our authority for anti-authoritarianism.”

Emerson’s entire theology can be summed up in the words of the Quaker leader George Fox who interrupted a church service and said to the preacher, “You will say, ‘Christ saith this, and the apostles say this;’ but what canst thou say? Art thou a child of the Light, and hast thou walked in the Light, and what thou speakest, is it inwardly from God?”

Of course, in his Harvard Divinity School Address Emerson took eighteen pages to say what George Fox said in two sentences. Emerson was not spare in his prose. However, he coined many a good phrase to describe that our authority comes not from the church or from the state but from an inward source. “From within…a light shines through us upon things, and makes us aware that we are nothing, but the light is all.” He also felt our authority was not rooted in past tradition but in the present moment, “Why should we grope among the dry bones of the past?…the sun shines today also.”

When Emerson was a Unitarian minister, our faith was a liberal Christian denomination. Emerson and other Transcendentalists began reading newly translated copies of The Upanishads, the Vedas and The Bhagavad Gita. They studied Buddhism, a non-theistic tradition, and discovered that they could find wisdom from many different sources. In this way, he helped pave the way for our broader and deeper understanding of what it means to be a Unitarian Universalist. His opposition to slavery and the removal of the Cherokee Indians in the Trail of Tears presage our contemporary commitments to the Black Lives Matter and the Standing Rock movements.

So in answer to the question, “Why do UUs talk about Ralph Waldo Emerson so much?” I reply with a sense of paradox, “Because he is our authority for anti-authoritarianism. He is an important part of our tradition of anti-traditionalism.” However, setting the paradox aside, Emerson has left us a legacy of writing that can inspire us to claim our authority, find inspiration in the present moment, seek wisdom beyond our borders, feel illuminated by an inward light and question authority. I don’t know if Emerson was ever asked, “Who are you to tell us to question authority?” but I am sure his answer would’ve been a simple one, “I’m Ralph Waldo Emerson.”

 

 

Tending the Spiritual Salad Bar at the Philosophical Cafe

9.11 philosophy creates jobs

Here is a joke that philosophy majors will get. The philosopher Descartes walks into a fast food restaurant and says, “I’d like a hamburger.” The server asks, “Would you like fries with that?” Descartes says, “”I think not” and then disappears.

Most of us are familiar with Descartes’ maxim, cogito ergo sum, “I think therefore I am.” He took that idea very seriously. Once he sat completely still in his chair for an entire day. When someone asked what he was doing he said, “Thinking.”

The Unitarian Universalist Church has been called, “a thinking person’s church.” While we do not have a monopoly on that it is a defining quality. For this reason some have said, “Unitarian Universalism is more of a philosophy than a religion.” I prefer to say we are a religion grounded in philosophy-the love of wisdom.

“Unitarian Universalism is a 2,000 year old Jewish Reform movement,” proclaims my friend Barry Whittemore. If so, it is grounded in the wisdom tradition that is found in the Bible and beyond. In this tradition the central question about a teaching is not, “Is it Jewish?” or “Is it Christian?” but “Is it wise?” The book of Proverbs contains wisdom from many different cultures and religions cut and pasted and assembled into one book. This book reminds us that we can seek wisdom wherever it may be found anywhere in the world.

Recently a visitor to the church told me her coworker made a less-than-complimentary remark about our faith saying we are a “spiritual salad bar where you can pick and choose what you want.” I told her, “I find I can get a more nutritious meal at a salad bar than at most set menu restaurants.” Similar, the free and responsible search for truth and meaning is about creating a space where we can make healthy wise choices.

I spent part of my sabbatical in Paris where philosophers are known to congregate in cafes rather than churches. Watching Parisian waiters offer impeccable service to talkative diners inspired my cartoon, “Philosophy Creates Jobs”.

On this side of the Atlantic I can rightly claim to have one of those jobs. I am a Unitarian Universalist minister. Indeed it is the work of all the church staff to help facilitate our shared conversation about the meaning of life through music, art, education, social action, community building, worship and coffee hour. Think of the church staff as the waiters in a philosophical café or the attendants at a spiritual salad bar.

As I write I am in my office ready for duty so that we may continue our shared work that nourishes our spirit, helps heal our planet and empowers the human family. The Unitarian Universalist church will always be a thinking persons church. For this reason I predict we will never disappear.

(The Tao of Tennessee is the blog of the Reverend Chris Buice of the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Keeping the Protest in Protestantism

The Unitarian Universalist church emerges from the left wing of the Protestant Reformation, which is to say, we are as Universalist as Protestants can be. “Wait!” you may be thinking, “There are Jewish UUs and Buddhist UUs and Atheist UUs –How can you say we are Protestant?” It’s easy. Here’s how.

The Unitarian Universalist Association is a product of the merger of the American Unitarian Association and the Universalist Church of America in 1961. The American Unitarian church emerged from congregational churches in New England, which makes us cousins with the United Church of Christ (UCC.) For this reason it is sometimes suggested that UCC stands for Unitarians Considering Christ.

The American Universalist Church has its roots in the Wesleyan revival movement, which makes us cousins with the Methodists. It makes sense that both Universalists and Methodists embrace John Wesley’s dictum, “Do all the good you can. By all the means you can. In all the ways you can. In all the places you can. At all the times you can. To all the people you can. As long as ever you can.”

So our historical roots are Protestant. So is our architecture. If you walk into a Catholic Church or a Hindu temple you will be inundated with images, statues of saints or gods or goddesses, stain glass windows with pictures that tell stories. Walk into our sanctuary and you will note that it is almost imageless, unadorned walls, clear windows. It is a place of light for all people.

Unlike our Protestant forebears we did not topple the statues or smash the stain glass windows – we simply opted out when we built our new building in 1998. Protestants remove images for the same reason a person might take curtains off a window, to let in the light.

One of the more visible ways we are still Protestant is that we produce a disproportionate number of protestors. Like Martin Luther we want to nail our 95 theses to the door of the church and state, Our history has been marked by protests against slavery, racism, bigotry and injustice.

This past Saturday when a white supremacist group held a rally in Fort Sanders there were members of this church there to protest. Kathy Poese held up a sign that said, “Love Not Hate.” Katy Benson held up one that said, “Make America Kind Again.” Eddie Chin’s said, “Will Trade Racists for Refugees.” And the winner of the contest for the lengthiest protest sign was Lauren Hulse whose sign read, ““No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love.”

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Not every one of us is temperamentally inclined to be a protestor but even so we find ways to speak up rather than remain silent. Some of us change the world in quieter ways. Even so, we know democracy does not work if we remain silent or do not participate. We are not passive consumers of the society we are active shapers of a common future.

On Monday many members of our church were present at a rally by The Torch on the campus of the University of Tennessee protesting for a living wage and against the outsourcing of state jobs to private corporations. As Ken Stephenson’s sign said, “We want an education not a corporation.” Another sign read, “People Over Profits.” Lately, I have been contemplating that protest signs may be our answer to stain glass windows and statuary; our outward and visible signs of our inward and invisible convictions.

One could argue that Protestantism has a reputation for being mainstream, predictable and domesticated. However, this need not be true as long as we are willing to speak out on the issues that really matter and keep the protest in Protestant.

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Bad on Both Sides?

8.16.17 bad on both sidesWhen the President addressed the nation about the violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, saying that there was “bad on both sides” it was disorienting to people of goodwill everywhere. To equate the actions of nonviolent protestors to Nazis is to make a comparison that would have been deeply offensive to every President of every political party from Franklin Delano Roosevelt to Barrack Obama.

The Southern Poverty Law Center described the rally of Neo-Nazis, white supremacists and Confederate revisionists as “the largest hate-gathering of its kind in decades in the United States.” It was a gathering that quickly turned violent. One young woman, Heather Heyer, died and many others were injured when a car plowed into a sea of counter-protesters.

Heyer died on Saturday. On Sunday there was a rally organized on Market Square here in Knoxville to “Stand Against Hate.” If you had divided the crowd of hundreds of people into groups of ten every single one of those groups would have contained a member or friend of the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church. Rarely, have I seen so many of us turn up for something so important on such short notice. There we joined people of conscience of every faith and belief; finding common ground and organizing for the common good.

By temperament, I am a peacemaker not a polarizer. However, there are times when we need to ask ourselves the question made famous by an old labor organizing song, “Which side are you on?” The Unitarian Universalist church is often described as a liberal church. It has been said, “Liberals are people who know both sides of an argument so well they are unable to take their own.” I reject this notion of liberalism. I believe there are times to say with the Unitarian poet James Russell Lowell the words set to music in our hymnbook, “Once to every soul and nation, comes the moment to decide, In the strife of truth with falsehood, for the good or evil side.” Heather Heyer made a decision. She knew which side she was on. She fought the good fight. She finished the race. She kept the faith.