TWH — Following the highly-divisive election cycle in the United States, leaders in the Unitarian Universalist religion have been speaking out about what should come next. For one leader of the Covenant of Unitarian Universalist Pagans (CUUPs), the call to “provide sanctuary and resist” can be couched in terms of the time of the winter king, who brings hope in times of cold, dark, and despair.
Rev. Peter Morales, president of the Unitarian Universalist Association, laid out what he believed to be necessary in a letter to UU ministers last month.
I believe we are entering dangerous times. I expect that the new administration will unleash human rights abuses aimed at migrants and Muslims shortly after it takes office. In the longer term, other marginalized groups . . . will be in danger. We are already seeing an increase in violent acts by people who see the election as validation of their hate.
Among the dangers we face is the temptation to “normalize” the situation. I pray that the incoming administration will prove to be more humane than its rhetoric and many of its most ardent supporters. I see no evidence that this is the case. None. It is irresponsible folly to act as though we are in a normal transition between administrations.
We must prepare to provide sanctuary and resist.
Sanctuary, in Morales’ view, is broadly defined to include not only safe harbors for spiritual reflection, but active protection for members of those groups likely to be targeted, including Muslims and illegal aliens. He frames resistance as a shift from playing “offense” by advocating for such issues as marriage equality and immigration reform to “defense” to oppose new human-rights abuses that he fully expects will occur under President Trump.
Amy Beltaine, presently the president of CUUPs, is in agreement with Morales. In a lengthy winter solstice video that she transcribed to the blog Nature’s Path,Beltaine placed these concerns into a Pagan context:
The short daylight and the fear and pain among my loved ones are adding layers of weight on my mind. So many of my friends have realistic fears about being able to survive, much less prosper, during the next four years. One must have food, shelter, and health before one can contribute your unique self to the world. I need them to survive.
I’m keenly aware of the responsibilities that come with my layers of relative privilege. I have responsibilities to the marginalized and historically oppressed. Not just responsibilities to interrupt bullying, to resist injustice and agitate for compassion, but responsibility to build bridges and to make connections with those who I have trouble feeling connected to.
For Beltaine, building bridges is every bit as important as building sanctuaries. “Some might argue that many who voted in frustration have little to complain about,” she wrote. “But human beings usually don’t make decisions based on dispassionate fact. We decide based on our story, our emotions, our experience. Whether this perception of helplessness and lost power were objectively true phenomena does not matter.”
For Pagans and anyone else who acknowledges the astronomical shifting, this is the dark time in fact, even for those who don’t feel it is metaphorically. “As king of evergreens, the winter king’s gift is hope during times of despair, and incubation of new birth during times of destruction.” Beltaine argues that the common threads which bind Americans at this time — frustration with the difficulty of achieving the “American Dream,” as well as skepticism in elected leaders’ abilities to change the status quo — are a starting point for incubating that new, hopeful birth.
That means recognizing that the fears and worries of all people are valid for them, and treating each other with respect and decency. “As we wait for the sun to return we need to be intolerant of actions that harm the community or anyone in it, active in finding new ways, and calling in those who are not aware of the work that needs to be done.”
Among UU Pagans, that work comes forward in the form of resolutions passed by board members, and specific actions to back those statements up. When reached for an additional comment, Beltaine said on behalf of the CUUPs board:
CUUPs has a long history of lifting up the importance of our respectful relationship with the sacred earth and the importance of acting on behalf of the worth and dignity of all our siblings. Our current statements regarding Black Lives Matter, environmental justice (and solidarity with the Standing Rock Sioux), and consent culture speak to the need to actively work against bullying, hate, disenfranchisement, oppression, and disconnection from our sacred selves and earth. Like Rev. Morales, we call upon our members and friends to take action to protect the vulnerable and to create a better world.
Beltaine’s full video message can be viewed below.