A Happy Dinner Table, or, Politics and Religion

Make channels for the streams of love, where they may broadly run
And love has overflowing streams, to fill us, every one.
But if at any time we cease such channels to provide,
the very founts of love for us will soon be parched and dried.

“Make Channels for the Streams of Love,” Rt. Rev. Richard Chevenix Trench
Singing the Living Tradition, Hymn 299

There’s a billionaire running for President, saying things entirely anathema to Unitarian Universalist principles, behaving with arrogance and immaturity and seemingly getting away with it. And here I am asking you to consider the 1% as people who deserve inclusion in our faith. I came to a point where I did not know what next to write about, and felt pretty demoralized about this project. Mr Trump is making my thoughts seem, well, ridiculous. But—Look, I ask you, what if Mr Trump’s character building had been done with UU principles instead of shoddy materials?

About the name of the blog. I chose to assert “we are the one hundred percent” because as a fellow UU blogger reminded me Unitarian Universalism is about drawing a wider circle; in the words of Edwin Markham’s poem “Outwitted”

“He drew a circle that shut me out—
Heretic, rebel, a thing to flout.
But Love and I had the wit to win:
We drew a circle that took him in!

When we don’t leave room to include someone different, we are not behaving like UUs. And that one percent is a lot of people, after all, to be exclusive about. How big? There are about 211,000 Unitarian Universalists in the United States. One percent of the population of the United States, as of the 2010 census, would be 3,087,455. And if that many people are out there who are so terribly rapacious and hateful and exploitative as Mr. Trump, I’d like to think Unitarian Universalism offers them a message that their lives are “a gift which [they] are called to use to build the common good and make [their] own days glad.” In fact, that one percent number is so large that you can bet that like me, some are already in UU churches and bothered by rhetoric exclusive of them.

Why would a rich person want a church?

Churches without the broken are broken.

Churches without the broken are broken. If we are not attracting people in pain and want and offering them some meaningful message of healing, we really ought to close up shop or call ourselves a social club instead of a religious community. I believe people go to church because it is a safe place to make their need known. Maybe that’s a need for spiritual growth, for oneself or one’s children; maybe it’s the grief of losing a loved one; maybe there is a hardship or sad news to process; maybe it’s feeling rootless and in want of grounding; maybe it’s loneliness. Unitarian Universalism has truths and talents to share in binding those wounds. These are all human needs that afflict rich and poor and everyone in between.

That said, these needs probably differ in amplitude by social class. Let me end this essay by listing off just a few of the particular hurts of the rich or elite, and we can explore each of them in the comments and in future posts.

  • Dysfunctional family dynamics, like everyone’s but especially:
    • Rich people are often busy people. The genuine love they feel for children too often is expressed in the wrong currency, viz. toys instead of time.
    • Interfamilial conflict. Fortunes are fought over and it can get quite nasty. Google “Market Basket supermarket strike” or “Walt Disney’s grandchildren” if you seek examples.
    • Addiction and its problems, in ourselves and in our parents, in what I will aver (minus proof) to be at a greater frequency.
    • Bad spiritual messaging. Mr. Trump seems like an example of someone whose father inculcated the wrong values. My own father has told me stories of his childhood mentor unwinding my grandfather’s values and reassembling them into something nobler. That’s a bit cryptic, but maybe you can guess at where I’ll go with the thought and our Second Principle in future posts.
  • The need for personal and spiritual growth in a community
    • It’s isolating to be rich. Often we hide the fact of wealth in order to form peer relationships and that has its own toxicity. When we do not, we find ourselves sandbagged behind gated communities and private clubs, knowing even fewer people.
    • Avoiding Acquired Situational Narcissism and developing resiliency against its harbingers, which we certainly need to talk about in greater depth.
    • The need simply to be grounded in a place. A jet-set lifestyle can be a lot of fun, but it can leave you wondering what really is “home.”
  • A need for meaningful achievements and celebrations
    • It is healing to put down markers on the major and minor passages of life,  such as weddings, memorials, naming ceremonies and commissionings. Churches have a unique cultural place in providing those opportunities.
    • Often, rich people have our accomplishments discounted because it’s presumed that a headstart with money or privilege made the difference at the finish line. Genuine opportunities to be both accountable and of service to one’s loving community can be really satisfying.

You already know that rich people have things to offer our churches and social justice efforts that they badly need, in money and in kind. But please think of it as a reciprocal relationship: I truly believe that in affirming the inherent worth and dignity of every person, and in teaching compassion, fairness, and justice,  and in guiding people into responsibility in their search for truth and meaning, Unitarian Universalism has an enormous treasure to bestow on the rich that are badly in need of its blessings.

Image: “Donald and Hobbes” by Redditor eucalyptusfire

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