Sermon to the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Bozeman, 1.25.15
Good morning- it’s so great to be back here!
I’d like to continue with Nina’s theme from last week.
Dr King and Bayard Rustin are heroes for standing up for their race- a springboard for civil rights. They were the precursors of Stonewall, the feminist movement, Occupy Wall Street, It Gets Better- and much more.
It means not being part of the body- on the margins.
Marginalize: “to put or keep (someone) in a powerless or unimportant position within a society or group.”
There are many ways to marginalize and be marginalized.
Socially. Economically. Politically. Physically. Ideologically. Theologically, Spiritually. Religiously. Scientifically. Literarily. Geographically. Hygienically. Racially. By almost any reason human beings can think of.
There’s a psychological principle that’s used to keep people in their place.
It’s very effective- and it’s become so commonplace that most of us don’t realize that it’s happening. And it’s all around us.
It’s called shame. And it’s a killer.
Shame is used by persons or institutions in power to promote powerlessness. It’s often confused with guilt, but it’s very different.
Guilt is a feeling that arises inside from trespassing a value. I feel bad.
Shame comes from the outside and it’s a judgment “You are bad”
We can internalize this shame, believing it ourselves, that because someone or something in power thinks we’re bad, their authority is accepted and we believe it ourselves.
Does this make sense?
Guilt can often be helpful because it helps us define our values- keeps us from doing things against what we believe and hold dear.
I have never found shame to be helpful.
Shame is what often brings young people to hurt or even kill themselves. Shame is disguised as bullying. Shame is disguised as wealth. Shame is disguised as political or religious power. Shame tells us that we aren’t who we “should” be.
I want you to be very clear about the disease of shame in our world. I want you to be able to recognize it so that you can avoid it in your own lives and can counter it when you see it in the world around you.
And I’ll give you the best example I know. Every time you hear a “should” or shouldn’t”, you’re more than likely about to hear a shaming statement or question.
You should know better. You shouldn’t act that way. You shouldn’t complain. You should sit down and be quiet. You shouldn’t ask for what you need. You shouldn’t rock the boat.
Does that make sense?
Which brings us back to marginalization.
What are some of the reasons people are marginalized in our world?
What are some of the ways people are marginalized in our country?
What are particular ways people are marginalized in Bozeman, Montana?
In the US we have a particular social theory called capitalism that was supposed to equalize all people who worked for a living. The theory is that if you work hard, you will be able to thrive.
It is sadly and deeply untrue at this point in our history.
The minimum wage cannot support a family of four unless both parents work over 40 hours a week.
People who have millions- perhaps billions- of dollars in this country have never worked a hard day in their lives. They simply were born into the “right” families. Families of wealth, power and influence. Sounds a lot like Feudal Europe.
I don’t think that this was how it was supposed to work.
We have enshrined wealth in this country, further marginalizing the poor, the disenfranchised, the disadvantaged. Some to the point of despair.
As spiritual people, it is not our job to create despair; it is in fact, the opposite of our job.
There once was a group of people who “were together and had all things in common. They would sell their property and possessions and divide them among all according to each one’s need.” They cared for the widow and the orphan with great care and “They were of one heart and one mind and no one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they had everything in common.”
These quotes are from the book of the Acts of the Apostles- they describe the early Christian community.
Sounds a lot like socialism doesn’t it?
Oops- I said the S word.
All spiritual traditions recognize the marginalized as a part of their mission- and all spiritual traditions recognize the importance of restoring humanity to every human being.
In my tradition, we believe God is in love with every human being- not just those with wealth or power or prestige.
Our job is to bring humanity back to the forefront.
Our job is to see those on the margins and bring them in. Our job is to speak for them when they can’t speak for themselves. Our job is to bring the truth of systems of government and society to the surface- if they don’t serve all equally, they don’t serve at all.
And God is here for everybody.
Despite what some of those in power would have us believe.