Religion, sex and politics are not subjects I write about. This started out as a story about a workshop I gave on creativity. As often happens on my creative journey, the story took a detour. It became two interrelated stories. You can find the link to Part 2 at the end of this post.
* I’m a big crier and come from a family of criers. Someone once told me my Indian name was, “She Who Weeps”. This story contains tears of joy as well as tears of sadness.
Religion, Sex and Politics
Early this summer during a quiet moment of remembrance of loved ones who had passed away, a church in New Orleans was violated by religious terrorists who interrupted the service and began yelling and hollering that the congregation was going to hell.
How did the church respond?
The minister calmly told these violators they were welcome to remain, but if they could not be silent, to please take their protest outside. The congregation fought back with love and started singing.
After these religious zealots left the sanctuary, they went and screamed at the children in the Sunday school classes and pressed horrific images against the windows for the children to see. Those caring for the children moved them to an interior safe room and left a note on the classroom door for the parents to see when they returned after the service to get their babies.
The Unitarian Universalist Church of New Orleans was targeted as Satanists because Unitarians believe that a woman’s body is her own and any health decision should be between the privacy of a woman and her doctor. Unitarians also welcome everyone regardless of their sexual orientation, which is also seen by the same zealots as evil.
There was a powerful and heartfelt interview on the Rachel Maddow Show with the minister, the Rev. Deanna Vandiver, who was in the pulpit that day. Maddow puts the larger story into today’s political context. Rev. Vandiver talks of how religious freedom is a founding principal of our country. How unfathomable it is for one religious group to violate another’s sacred space. She talks of her pride that her congregation choose to stand on the side of love that day.
I was horrified by this story and equally shocked that other than Maddow it received very little media attention. As a Unitarian Universalist, it was very personal and I know that it could have happened at my own church. It was just a few years ago that another religious terrorist entered a Knoxville UU church and started gunning down the congregation, killing two, while the children were putting on the play “Annie”.
In hearing how the New Orleans congregation responded, the overwhelming emotion I felt was pride. My fellow Unitarians walked the talk, they responded to hate with love. While they had to be frightened, they didn’t act out of fear. They responded to intolerance with tolerance and reason. What a great lesson for us all.
Later this summer, my own Unitarian Church hosted a spiritual speaker, Matthew Fox for a series of lectures. I was honored to meet Rev. Deanna Vandiver who had traveled the 90 miles to Baton Rouge for the talk. I told her how moved I was by her interview and by her church’s response to the frightening intrusion into their holy space. Then I teared up and chocked out, “You made me so proud to be a Unitarian.”
I wasn’t embarrassed as the tears rolled down my cheeks. I knew by not suppressing the powerful emotion I felt, I was able to have an real spiritual connection…a holy moment. We are all interconnected in this web of life. May we all honor the sacredness of our connection to each other. I pray for love and tolerance for us all.