Unitarians and Black Lives Matter... Debate Spreads

September 28, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us


From a reader:

I wanted to let you know that there continues to be controversy in the wake of the Beverly Unitarian Church taking down their “Black Lives Matter” sign and the call/challenge to them to put it back up.

People taking a stand on principle and insisting on what is right, even if at first a relatively small minority, is really important to changing the way people think and act in society very broadly. Even in the face of serious threats, as there were to the Beverly church, this is one of the lessons of history. (See “Martin Niemöller’s Bitter Lesson For the Movement Today.”) I remember when the war in Vietnam was going on and everyone had to take a side. Family dinners, school classrooms, religious circles, parties, weddings—you name it—everywhere you went people argued over what was right and why, which side they were on, and for those opposed to the war, what they were going to do to stop it. So the controversy that is going on may not always be obvious but it is there and Rise Up October needs to spread far and wide the challenge of “which side are you on” and be a massive vehicle for those who want to stop police terror, including among Unitarians.

Earlier this year, the national Unitarian Universalist Association actually had adopted a resolution in support of the “Black Lives Matter” movement. Their gathering was held after the murders of Charleston church members by a white supremacist. The national Unitarian Universalist general assembly also encouraged local UU branches throughout the country to support the Black Lives Matter movement and put up banners and signs showing this. And other churches did put up signs—and still have them up. Apparently at some other UU churches around the country the Black Lives Matter signs have been torn down or vandalized. The Beverly Unitarians took down their own Black Lives Matter sign after they were threatened by racists, including some who identified themselves as police.

The Beverly UU church has its own Facebook page and members of their own congregation and others wrote arguing that Beverly should put the Black Lives Matter sign back up. For instance, someone from New York wrote, “So I’m sitting at a meeting right now about the upcoming #RiseUpOctober event and we at the NYC UU churches that are in attendance are taking heat for the actions of your church in removing that sign. People are watching what our churches do. Who knew? By putting up a Black Lives Matter sign up and then taking it down, you are sending people that are watching a message that you don’t think that they do. I did respond ‘at least they had a sign to take down,’ but you all need to know that you are not doing our denomination any favors as far as our credibility in terms of support for this movement. When you’re on the side of right, people are going to come after you. Resolve is important.”

The Chicago Stop Mass Incarceration Network sent out their flyer as an Open Letter to the Beverly Unitarian Church—Which Side Are You On? to many local Unitarian ministers and congregants. Some of them do not have the resolve the NY Unitarian was calling for... they continue to argue that the Beverly church had to take the sign down given the threats rather than together mobilize and stand up for what is right and on that basis stand up to the threat. Others are supporting Rise Up October as well as speaking out against the Beverly Unitarian church taking down the sign. One such congregant, in an exchange about what to do, proposed taking all manner of signs that support the Black Lives Matter movement and putting them on the front lawn of the church. He wrote, “Here is the BLACK LIVES MATTER sign that stays in my head thus far: IF YOU THINK BLACK LIVES DON’T MATTER, THERE IS SOMETHING THE MATTER WITH YOU.” He closed with “Let’s put some traction under some action.” I would add that coming to New York on October 24 for a massive march is the most powerful way to stand up to stop police terror.



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