Thankfulness: A Countercultural Practice

Meister Eckhart once said, “If the only prayer you ever utter is ‘Thank You’ it will be sufficient. So sometimes when I am hiking on a trail in the Smokies, walking by the music of a mountain stream I will sing that Natalie Merchant song we heard earlier as a kind of prayer (Kind and Generous.) I invite you to sing it with me.

I want to thank you, thank you, 

thank you, thank you,

thank you, thank you, 

thank you, thank you. 

thank you, thank you, 

thank you, thank you,

thank you, thank you, 

thank you, thank you. 

As I said, this song can be a kind of prayer or meditation. Sometimes we need tools to help us meditate. When I was younger I used to find it easy to clear my mind and enter into a meditative state. However, the older I get the more I feel the need for some words to replace the spiraling negative thinking of my monkey mind. So it is good to have a musical prayer to clear my head and allow me to be in the present moment and feel grateful for that moment. 

My longtime friend, the Reverend Johnny Skinner of the Mount Zion Baptist Church often says, “The scripture says ‘Give thanks in all circumstances.’ It does not say, ‘Give thanks for all circumstances’.” In this way the song may serve as a prayer no matter what we are going through in life. There may be more than a little bit of truth in our negative thinking. We may have understandable reasons for feeling agitated or anxious or angry or antagonistic. We may have understandable reasons for not being grateful for all circumstances. We may even have good reasons for not wanting to be grateful in all circumstances. Or maybe today our dominant feeling is not gratitude but anxiety. If so, there is a poem by Mary Oliver that can speak to our condition. Her poem is called I Worried. 

I worried a lot. Will the garden grow, will the rivers

flow in the right direction, will the earth turn

as it was taught, and if not how shall 

I correct it? 

Was I right, was I wrong, will I be forgiven,

can I do better? 

Will I ever be able to sing, even the sparrows

can do it and I am, well,


Is my eyesight fading or am I just imagining it,

am I going to get rheumatism,

lockjaw, dementia?

Finally I saw that worrying had come to nothing

and gave it up. And took my old body

and went out into the morning,

and sang. 

So maybe we should take Mary Oliver’s poem as a piece of advice, let go of all our worries and imitate the sparrows and the other songbirds and sing.

I want to thank you, thank you, 

thank you, thank you,

thank you, thank you, 

thank you, thank you. 

thank you, thank you, 

thank you, thank you,

thank you, thank you, 

thank you, thank you. 

After all, thankfulness is a countercultural practice. In many ways our culture is built around worry and anxiety. I am reminded of the roadside sign outside a church that read, “Don’t let worry kill you. Let the church help.” All too often a church can be a place that just piles on more worries to an already overburdened spirit. We worry about the earth and forget to appreciate it. We worry about our families or our communities or the state of the world in general and we forget to make room in our hearts for thanksgiving. Our anxiety about ‘what isn’t’ often intrudes on our gratitude for ‘what is.’

Some Native American leaders have renamed this season Thanksgrieving. It is a time to grieve all the losses suffered by this continent’s indigenous people since contact with Europeans. Today we are especially mindful of the Cherokee tribe that was forcibly relocated from this area to Oklahoma on the Trail of Tears. We must name the harm that this season so often tries to cover up. However, the holiday is called Thanksgrieving, which is to say there is both “thanks” and “grieving.” Indeed, the indigenous people of this land have many teachings and practices about fostering gratitude. As the Shawnee warrior Tecumseh taught us, “When you rise in the morning, give thanks for the light, for your life, for your strength. Give thanks for your food and for the joy of living. If you see no reason to give thanks, the fault lies in yourself.” 

If we cannot find any reason to give thanks, the problem is within us, not outside of us. Grieve, yes. Grieve for the lost lives at the Club Q in Colorado Springs. Grieve for the people of Chesapeake, Virginia, who lost their lives doing last minute Thanksgiving shopping. Grieve for every empty seat at the Thanksgiving table that once belonged to someone we loved. Grieve for our loneliness and isolation (or grieve for feeling overwhelmed by the demands of family and friends.) Grieve for the Cherokee, the Chickasaw, the Natchez and Shawnee who once lived on this land and now are the names of the streets in our suburban neighborhoods. Grieve, yes, but also give thanks! 

Giving thanks is countercultural. Our economy is built around planned obsolescence and manufactured discontent. There is a reason Black Friday is the day after Thanksgiving because our economy isn’t built on being grateful for what we have. Our economy isn’t built on feelings of thanksgiving. Our economy is built on wanting more, more, more, and that my friends is why so many Native Americans lost their land, for standing in the way of more, more, more. 

And so it can be countercultural for us to say, “Thank you.” So let’s say those words together, “Thank you.”  This week I was at the KICMA Thanksgiving Service at Bethel AME Church and the pastor there, the Reverend Myron D. Hill, began the service by saying, “At Bethel AME we are a loud church. Not a quiet church.” So let’s see if we can get a little more volume from the Unitarians this morning. Let’s see we can say, “Thank you”  loud enough that they can hear it all the way over at the Bethel AME church in East Knoxville, “Thank You!” 

Very good! Let’s be members of the counterculture and give thanks. Rabbi Joseph Telushkin reminds us that ungrateful people are rarely happy people. When we hear someone described as an ingrate we do not imagine a happy person, a content person, a peaceful person. We are the ones who benefit from gratitude. That’s why Thomas Acquinas taught us, “God does not need our worship. (God does not need us to give thanks) It is we who need to give thanks and praise.”  When we are grateful, we are the primary beneficiaries. 

A couple of decades ago my friend Dan King was being installed as the minister of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Augusta in Georgia. If the name of that church is familiar to you it may be because it was targeted by vandals with hateful graffiti a couple of years ago which made the news. Many years before that hateful act Dan asked me to give the prayer at his installation service and I remember worrying about getting it right. I was a very new minister. It was the first time I’d been asked to be a part of such a ceremony so I was a little bit worried about messing up. 

And so I began with that familiar quote  from Meister Eckhart, “If the only prayer you ever utter is ‘thank you’ it will be sufficient.” And when I said these words there was an audible gasp from folks in the choir loft behind me. That made me even more nervous. I wasn’t sure what that gasp was about. So I continued by offering the prayer followed by a moment of silence. After that the choir began to sing a song I had never heard in a church before and was not expecting to hear (as I had not looked carefully at the order of service.) The words of that song will be familiar to you now. So let’s sing together and make those words the last words. 

I want to thank you, thank you, 

thank you, thank you,

thank you, thank you, 

thank you, thank you. 

thank you, thank you, 

thank you, thank you,

thank you, thank you, 

thank you, thank you. 

Thank you. 

(This sermon was given at the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church by the Reverend Chris Buice on Sunday November 27, 2022)

(Those who would like to hear Natalie Merchant sing the song can go to Natalie Merchant – Kind and Generous – YouTube


The Virtues of Uncertainty

I often describe my brother in law Larry as a bleeding heart conservative. He believes in low taxes and smaller government but he is a sucker for anyone’s hard luck story. This means his generosity is sometimes taken advantage of. He is well known for hiring people who need a second chance in life. One day a truck was stolen from his business and he knew exactly who did it. So he went to the neighborhood of the employee in question, saw the truck, hotwired it and took it back to his house. Since it was late at night he went straight to bed and as he was lying in bed he thought to himself, “I hope I got the right truck.” Well, it turns out it was the wrong truck. In the light of day Larry could see some differences between the truck in his driveway and the one that belonged to his business. Fortunately he lives in a relatively small town where everybody knows everybody. After he called the police to inform them about what he did lots of cop cars came to the house but mainly to laugh about the situation. Understandably the owner of the truck wasn’t as amused at the joke as everyone else but fortunately he did not press charges. 

I think one of the reasons I love this story is that every one of us has been in a similar situation. Maybe not so dramatic but similar. We’ve all been in that situation where we were certain we were right about something, only to discover, sometimes painfully and to our mortification, that we were wrong. 

It is stories like this (and I feel sure that everyone of us has a story like this) that lead me to speak this morning about the virtues of uncertainty. Many of the world’s religions place a lot of emphasis on firm beliefs and strong judgements. Many religions advocate for holding on to our convictions without any compromise. However, in the Unitarian Universalist church we believe in the virtues of uncertainty. What others consider to be a “weakness” we consider to be one of our greatest strengths. 

The Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes once opined that “Certitude is not the test of certainty” and this is because human beings have a tendency to be “cocksure of many things that are not so.” This quote sticks in my mind for a variety of reasons. One of the reasons is that the church I served in Spartanburg built a sign by the road where we could put quotes that could be read by passers by. We were certain this was a good idea. After the sign was constructed we belatedly realized that the quotes needed to be pretty short (and the font size large) to be seen by passing cars, ideally 7 words or less. What we learned from this experience is this – there aren’t many great quotes that are 7 words or less but one of them is this, “Certitude is not the test of certainty.” For this reason, if not any other, the virtues of uncertainty have been an important theme in my ministry. 

One of the reasons that it is important to lift up the virtues of uncertainty is because by doing so we help foster peace in our world. The men who hijacked planes and flew them into the World Trade Center were certain they were right. The domestic terrorists responsible for the Oklahoma City Bombing or the Pulse Nightclub shooting or the Club Q shooting or the attack on the Pittsburgh Synagogue or the one who burned down our local Planned Parenthood Center and fired shots at the John Duncan Federal Building have this in common -they are certain they are right, Certitude under the illusion of certainty is one of the largest causes of violence and bloodshed in our world. 

The Unitarian Universalist Church comes out of the left wing of the Radical Reformation where there was a strong distrust of certitude. Our Liberal Christian forebears observed that those who are overzealous about theological clarity are often completely lacking in Christian charity. Those who are most certain of themselves are often the most savage in how they treat others. Those who are most certain that they are good are often capable of the basest forms of evil. 

During the Albigensian Crusade of the 13th century the violence wasn’t between different faiths but Christian versus Christian. During one military campaign the papal legate Abbot Arnaud Almaric ordered his men to invade the city of Beziers in the South of France and massacre the residents even though most of the people of the city were aligned with his boss the Pope and only a minority aligned with the opposition group the Cathars. When his soldiers approached him and asked, “Sir, what shall we do, for we cannot distinguish between the faithful and the heretics.” He declared, “Kill them all for God will know his own,” or as the more vernacular translation puts it, “Kill them all and let God sort them out.” By Almaric’s own estimation he killed 20,000 people that day. The trauma of that total massacre in the year 1209 still resonates in the population of the city today in the year 2022 where the impact is sometimes compared to the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, a devastating explosion of violence killing men, women and children without discrimination and with reverberrations that echo down the corridors of time. Abbot Almaric was able to commit these atrocities because he was certain that he was right. He was certain God was on his side. Such a massacre is one of the strongest arguments I know of for the virtues of uncertainty. 

One of the great champions of the virtues of uncertainty was Sebastion Castellio who lived in the 16th century during the time of the Wars of Religions in France when Catholics were killing Protestants and Protestants were killing Catholics. Certainty meant bloodshed. Castellio  argued that the only commandment we can know for certain is the commandment to love one another. 

“The true Church,” he declared, “will be known by love which precedes from faith…’By this all..shall know that ye are my disciples if ye have love one to another’…The doctrine of piety is to love your enemies, bless those that curse you, to hunger and thirst for righteousness, and endure persecution for righteousness sake…These and similar matters are certain, however dubious may be the obscure questions about the Trinity, predestination, election, and the rest on account of which people are regarded as heretics. Many of the saints knew nothing about (such matters.)” 

There is a Jewish saying, “If I knew God I would be God.” As Abraham Heschel put it, “Any statement about God is an understatement.” If we understood God we would be God. If our religious beliefs were a certainty then we would be godlike in our omniscience. Or as the Christian mystic Evelyn Underhill said, “Any God small enough to be understood by our small minds would not be big enough for our reverence, our awe or our worship.” In other words, the heart of theological reflection is humility and not hubris. Theology should never become claiming to know more than can we know while refusing to practice what we do know – love, compassion, mercy, goodness, kindness. If getting our theology wrong is a sin then it is a small sin because it affects only ourselves. However, fighting a religious war harms many other innocent people making it a very large sin. 

In Sebastian Castellio’s time many people were put to death for the crime of heresy including the Unitarian theologian Michael Servetus leading him to write, “After a careful investigation into the meaning of the term heretic I can discover no more than this, that we regard those as heretics with whom we disagree.” He continued on this theme, “Today in the Christian churches some of the most saintly persons are put to death indiscriminately. If the Christians entertained a doubt about what they are doing they would not perpetrate such dreadful homicides for which they will have to repent very soon.” Castellio argued that many of the subjects of theological dispute and persecution were based on beliefs that were not clearly taught in the Bible while ignoring those beliefs that are clearly taught like, “Love your neighbor as yourself” and “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” The true test of whether or not we are on the right spiritual path is not our abstract metaphysics but our concrete commitment to love and justice. 

This ancient Reformation theology has ramifications for people of all beliefs today. Neuroscientists teach us today that the human mind was not made to know everything or comprehend everything. Indeed the human mind screens out much of reality in order to focus on those aspects of reality that are most useful. Indeed, the direction of science has been to create more and more disciplines that focus attention on smaller more particular parts of reality – biology, anthropology, chemistry, ecology, astronomy and physics. Medical science has done the same thing with general practitioners making referrals to cardiologists, endocrinologists, dermatologists, neurologists, oncologists, ophthalmologists and more. These different disciplines are a reminder of how the human mind likes to specialize and prioritize those aspects of reality that are most applicable to our interests or needs. 

This week I was listening to an interview with Ran Prieur that led me to reflect that the theologies of all the world religions are like icons on a computer screen. Icons are designed to be simple symbols that help us navigate the much more complex computer system. The icon is a referent to something other than itself. Each icon is a small symbol representing something much bigger than itself. So imagine a computer screen with icons that looked like the Christian Cross or the Star of David or the crescent moon or the yin/yang symbol or the Dharmachakra wheel or the Wiccan pentacle or iconographic version of the word AUM. Each icon is a gateway into a larger world of  experience. All we have to do is click on the icon. 

Indeed, in the Sufi tradition the crescent moon of Islam is meant to be a reminder that we never see the whole truth. All we can see is a very thin part of the truth, a very thin reflection of the light that comes from a larger source. The crescent moon is meant to be a reality check for hubris, an image that helps us to maintain our humility. This kind of symbol should help us practice what Dominic Erdozain calls, “A holy reluctance to dogmatize.” 

When the Reverend Duncan Teague was our ministerial intern we were driving out to Oak Ridge for a meeting with ministers in a Mexican restaurant. Along the way I was reflecting with my intern about the nature of conflict within churches. I said to him, “Duncan, the problem with churches is that people get part of the information and then fill in the rest with their own imaginations and then proceed with the certainty they have all the information.” As we were driving I could not find the Mexican restaurant where we were supposed to meet so I called Jake Morrill who was then the minister in Oak Ridge. I said, “Jake, where is this Mexican restaurant where we are supposed to eat,” and Jake said, “We aren’t meeting in a Mexican restaurant. We are meeting at the church and we are eating Mexican food.” I immediately turned to Duncan and said, “See what people do!” 

The philosopher Blaise Pascal once wrote, “If we could only ever act based on a certainty then we could never act for nothing is certain.” Every belief we hold, every choice we make, every action we initiate is made in the face of uncertainty. As the apostle Paul wrote, “We walk by faith not sight.” All we can do in the face of so much uncertainty is follow the advice of the Quaker mystic Caroline Fox who said, “Live up to the light thou hast and more shall be granted thee.” 

So next time someone steals your truck remember to not act too hastily. Let’s remember to give ourselves time to reflect and ponder on the right course of action. And when we do decide to act, let’s strive to act with the kind of love, mercy, compassion and forgiveness we hope to receive in the event that we accidentally hotwire the wrong truck. In this way, we can benefit profoundly from practicing the virtues of uncertainty. 

(The Reverend Chris Buice gave this sermon at the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church on Sunday November 20, 2022)

Jesus in Whiteface

My friend Jim McKinley is a Unitarian Universalist minister with a deep interest in Buddhism. So he was surprised when one morning as he was driving down the road he heard his young daughter in the backseat say, “Dad I want to go to the church with Jesus.” He thought for a moment and then gave a reply, “You know if we were to go to the church we wouldn’t actually meet Jesus. We would meet the people who believe in Jesus and try to practice what Jesus taught…” At some point his daughter interrupted him and said, “Dad, I said I wanted to go to Chuck E Cheeses!” 

This morning my sermon title is “Jesus in White Face” but I want to begin by stating the obvious. None of the major religions of the world was founded by a white man. Jesus was not a white man. The disciples were not white men. Moses was not a white man. Muhammed was not a white man. The scribes who wrote the Vedas were not white men. Buddha was not a white man. Confucius was not a white man. Lao Tzu was not a white man. Guru Nanek was not a white man. I could continue on and on but I think you get the point. 

Today, I am speaking about Jesus in particular but I think what I have to say has implications for people of all faiths and beliefs in general. Because when we ponder the founders of all the great world religions we realize that white people do not have a monopoly on wisdom. An honest assessment of the origins of the world religions leads us to the inevitable conclusion that Black Lives Matter, Brown Lives Matter, People of Color Lives Matter. 

Indeed, many historic Native American leaders felt that white people did not even begin to understand religion or Jesus. In the 19th century the Shawnee leader Tecumseh said to the white governor of Indiana territory, “When Jesus Christ came upon the Earth, you killed him. The son of your own God. And only after he was dead did you worship him and start killing those who would not (worship him.)”  

In the last century Ohiyesa declared that Jesus was much more aligned with Native American spiritual values than white Christianity. After all Jesus was nomadic, wandering from place to place. He was opposed to the accumulation of material possessions. He did not store up his treasures on earth. He placed his emphasis on peacemaking not war. He did not charge money for his services. He offered his teachings freely on a mountaintop, in the great outdoors. He never built a church or a cathedral. Ohiyesa observed, “These are not the principles upon which the white man has founded his civilization.” Indeed, many contemporary Native American leaders feel that the Christian missionaries are more interested in spreading the religion about Jesus rather than practicing the religion of Jesus. 

Jesus was a 1rst Century Jew. He was a person of color. In recent times forensic anthropologists have created many images of Jesus based on skeletal structures of first century Jews. You may have even seen some of these pictures yourself. Suffice it to say Jesus would have a difficult time getting through airport security without a search. And yet the images of Jesus that pervade in our culture are images of a white man. Since there is no physical description of Jesus in the Bible, we know that these images are a deliberate effort by white people to make Jesus in our own image. There is an ancient term for this kind of practice. It’s called idolatry. 

The feminist theologians tell us that when our images of God are exclusively male then men become gods, and men begin to lord their power over women. Similarly, if our images of God are exclusively white then white people become gods, and begin to lord their power over other people. Christians often accuse Hindus of practicing idolatry but many Hindu practices challenge this particular form of idolatry for in India the image of God might be blue or green or orange or pink or black or white. In India when you see the face of God you do not necessarily see a white face. 

In the early part of the 20th century many white singers would perform in blackface including Al Jolson, Bing Crosby, Fred Astaire, Frank Sinantra and many more. Today the practice of white people performing in black face is roundly condemned and universally acknowledged as offensive behavior. And yet we continue to lift up an image of Jesus in white face. 

The image of white Jesus is not only perpetuated by the church, it is perpetuated by the state. I can’t tell you how many state funded art museums I’ve visited in cities all around this country that are full of images of white Jesus (and bereft of alternative images.) One of the absurdities of our time is that we have white Christian nationalists trying to overturn free and fair elections by storming the Capitol building in the name of Jesus who was not white or Christian or American. 

In the Unitarian Universalist Church we have 7 principles to which this congregation has added an 8th principle. Our seven principles are not a creed. They cannot be used as a test of membership but they are a statement of our values. In the Unitarian Universalist church we covenant together to affirm and promote..

  1. The inherent worth and dignity of every person;
  2. Justice, equity and compassion in human relations;
  3. Acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations;
  4. A free and responsible search for truth and meaning;
  5. The right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large;
  6. The goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all;
  7. Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part
  8. Journeying toward spiritual wholeness by working to build a diverse multicultural Beloved Community by our actions that accountably dismantle racism and other oppressions in ourselves and our institutions.

Every single one of those principles is an anti-racist principle. However, we are now in the process of exploring ways to put this 8th principle into practice in all of our work. So let me add a brainstorming idea to the list. What if our church art gallery hosted a show called The World Religions in Living Color where we shared with our community alternatives to the white Jesus. We could also include racially accurate images of Confucious, Buddha and Moses. We could have pictures of saints like Rosa Parks and Fannie Lou Hamer and Delores Huerta. What if we formed partnerships with the African American Appalachian Arts project and Hola Hora Latina and others arts organizations to put on a show that will demonstrate what art does best – showing life in vibrant colors. 

Now I invite you to think about some aspect of the work of the church that is important to you. Maybe you are a Sunday School teacher or youth group volunteer. Maybe you are a member of the choir or the building and grounds committee. Maybe you are involved in our efforts to feed the hungry and house the homeless. Maybe you are an usher or a greeter or someone who likes to organize public forums and community events. Maybe you are a member of the board or the program council. Wherever you find yourself in the work of the church I want to invite you to re-imagine our work. And don’t be afraid to let your imagination run wild. 

Maybe we could start a campaign to change the name of Devil’s Food Cake to Angel’s Food Cake (and vice versa) Or maybe we can create our own play, a postmodern Western where the good guys wear black hats and the bad guys wear white hats and the Indians win. Maybe we can find ways to celebrate darkness, the darkness of the womb that nurtured us before our painful birth into the light, the darkness that comes after a long hard day of work allowing us to enjoy a long night’s sleep, the darkness of the soil that nourishes the seeds in our community garden and the darkness of winter that allows those seeds to germinate and blossom in spring and help feed the world. 

These are imaginative ideas but underlying them is a serious purpose. When the Reverend Duncan Teague was a ministerial intern here he told me that people of color in the Unitarian Universalist church often feel like a little bit of pepper in the salt shaker. At present Reverend Teague is ministering to a church he founded himself in Atlanta, Abundant LUUV, which is intentionally trying to blend elements of Unitarian Universalist tradition and the black church tradition. His church meets within walking distance of Morehouse College where Dr. Martin King Jr. went to school and Spelman College where Marian Wright Edelman, the founder of the Children’s Defense Fund, studied and Atlanta University where Whitney Young taught. Young was a Unitarian, and served as the leader of the Urban League during the civil rights movement. Young was in meetings in the White House with Dr. King and other civil rights leaders. The Atlanta University school of social work is named after him. And there is even a TVUUC connection in that the Reverend Peter Sampson, a minister who served our church in the 90’s did his memorial service (which at one point involved sitting between the Reverend Jesse Jackson and George Bush Sr.) 

In other words, Abundant LUUV is located in a place that will allow it not only to make a difference in Atlanta, but to make a difference in the world. This week the comedian Trevor Noah said, “Atlanta is to black people what Boston is to white people.” Chew on that Unitarian Universalists.  In February we will be having the Reverend Teague here to lead a workshop on what he has learned through his work with his congregation and what ideas we at TVUUC can put into practice to make our congregation a step closer to being a Beloved Community for people of all races. 

Today, I am grateful for our 8th Principle Committee for organizing the workshop with the Reverend Teague. I am also grateful to Ted Jones and Beauvais Lyons for creating the slideshow that you see when you enter the building. Included in that slide show are pictures of our church’s work in the civil rights movement. Pictures of an integrated congregation in a segregated city in 1950. Pictures of the Unitarian House where people of all races could meet together when the law forbade it in other public spaces. Pictures of church members walking with protest signs as part of the civil rights sit-ins.  Pictures of our 8th Principle Task Force surrounding the Reverend Jametta Alston at her goodbye reception. And by the way we need to get a picture of the Reverend Jametta Alston on the wall with all the pictures of ministers with white faces. Can I get an “Amen”?

Duncan Teague is right that people of color do have reason to feel like a little bit of pepper in the salt shaker or a little bit of cinnamon or a little bit of saffron or a little bit of sage or a little bit of ginseng or a little bit of salsa. At the last India fest I attended I was proud to see a picture of our own Seema Singh lifted up and honored as the first person of Indian descent to serve on the City Council. A picture can send a powerful message. 

Of course, there are examples of positive action. If you go to the Sequoyah Hills Library you will see a picture of Sequoyah that was painted by a member of this church of blessed memory, Arlene Goff. Sequoyah was the creator of the Cherokee syllabary (sometimes called the Cherokee alphabet.) The Sequoyah Hills neighborhood is predominantly a white but thanks to Arlene we have a very visible reminder that Sequoyah himself did not have a white face.

And this leads me to my point this morning,  in a world where there are lots of pictures of Jesus in whiteface we need to make sure that we never erase our diversity by giving the impression that Unitarian Universalism has a whiteface. We need to remind the world that Unitarian Universalism comes in all the colors of the rainbow and all varieties of the spectrum of light and dark. We need to see that color in our art gallery. We need to hear it in our music. We need to read the stories in our Children’s Diversity and Justice library. We need to witness it in our social action. We need to feel it in our hearts. 

Whenever I see a picture of white Jesus I think of what an Anglican bishop said of Mahatma Gandhi, “The most Christlike person of the 20th century was a Hindu.” In other words the most Christlike man was an Indian, a person of color. So let’s build a church that appreciates the human family in all of its variety. Let’s  take Gandhi’s words seriously. Let’s “Be the change we want to see in the world.” (Chris Buice is minister of the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church. This sermon was given on Sunday November 6, 2022)