In Idaho, 31 men were arrested with riot gear and charged with conspiracy to riot: members of a white supremacist group, they were planning to violently disrupt the gay pride festival in Coeur D’Alene. Since then, the police chief reports getting many death threats phoned in against the officers who made the arrests. This event fits into a pattern of right wing political violence and of anti-LGBTQ rhetoric and legislation in the country.
In a few days I will be attending General Assembly, the annual national gathering of Unitarian Universalists. Our denomination is very small in the national scope of religious organizations, but it is well-known as one of the most liberal. On LGBTQ rights we have been especially proactive, being among the first religions to perform same sex marriages and among the loudest in advocating for trans rights.
This juxtaposition of the arrests in Idaho and the upcoming General Assembly leads me to two thoughts. First, it is possible for our GA, like a pride festival, to be targeted by right wing groups. General Assembly in previous years has attracted such protests. Just like the Black Lives Matter banner and the rainbow flag on the UUFCM building make it a potential target of vandalism (or worse), the liberal stance of the UU denomination makes our national gathering a potential target. This leads to my second thought.
How must we move forward and grow? In a world of increasing right-wing extremism, how can Unitarian Universalism be a continuing and increasing haven for love; an compromising example of radical welcome; a living experiment of creating beloved community that celebrates difference and diversity? General Assembly is a chance to refocus on who we are as a religious movement and to collectively discern our direction. We vote on bylaws that guide the denomination’s way of conducting business and on candidates striving to be the leaders of our movement. As a voting delegate at GA, I will keep this question in mind when considering any vote I am called to make: what choice makes us a stronger institution that can be a spiritual leader for diverse beloved community in these dangerous times? My time at General Assembly is also a chance to retreat and reflect on our small congregation here in Michigan, and I will use the same lens to focus my reflection: how can I be a more effective leader to create greater love in our congregation and to counteract hateful ideologies in our community? Mindful of the challenges of our time, and confident in the power of our Unitarian Universalist faith, I move forward with determined hope.
God of all who love or have loved – which is all of us--
God of the brave people at Coeur D’Alene Pridefest who endured harassment and threats,
Be here now.
Remind us that love is what we are made to do.
Remind us that love wins, that love saves, that love carries us forward in hope when there is no hope.
Spirit of Love, bless this troubled nation, bless the police officers in Idaho, and bless the gathering of ministers and other UU’s in Portland.
May all be touched and blessed by divine love.
Rev. Andrew Frantz
June 16, 2022