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As Unitarian Universalists, we honor the centrality of love, and we also honor the importance of freedom. ¬†This week is Holy Week for Christians. ¬†It leads up to Good Friday, commemorating the execution of Jesus of Nazareth, and is followed by Easter, which celebrates the good news of (depending on whether you are a liberal or a more conservative Christian) the mystery of how the spirit of Jesus lived on so strongly in his followers, or, that of Jesus‚Äô resurrection from the dead. ¬†In either case, in many ways is Easter is about freedom: freedom to follow the path of living lovingly as Jesus did, not for oneself but for others, or freedom from the shackles of death. ¬†The Jewish holiday of Passover begins this week as well, another freedom story that deeply roots Jewish observance and identity. ¬† Passover celebrates the Jews‚Äô escape from slavery in Egypt. ¬†As a pagan, perhaps you celebrate the fertility and fecundity of spring‚Äôs emerging presence, the resurging life that can be seen everywhere now, freed from the bonds of frozen land and light-starved days.
Freedom means different things in different contexts. ¬†
For people enslaved or oppressed by other groups in the world, freedom seems clear enough, and very physical. ¬†Certainly, an oppressed people can cultivate a freedom of the spirit. ¬†They may celebrate the victories against indignity in their music with a coded language. ¬†They may worship with a freedom of song and movement that stakes out the ultimate freedom of their spirit, regardless of the oppressions of the physical lives.
For folks who are not oppressed, but members of a dominant and privileged group, freedom means something very different. ¬†In my perspective, freedom for those folks -- which means many of us at the church -- means breaking free of the shackles of our unobserved privileges and being willing to understand the context of our lives well enough to be able to do the loving and just thing toward other people who live different lives. ¬†It means exercising our reason and understanding enough to look past the blinders we unconsciously slip on, the blinders about who we are and about our privileges, the ones that come to us simply because we were born part of a dominant group and not through any special achievement or deserving attribute of our own. ¬†
I was chatting with my younger son about this. ¬†He had recently participated in a debate in which his opponents had argued that American society is racist. ¬†He thought that in itself was a racist idea. I pointed out to him that as a young white man he didn‚Äôt have to worry about being followed in a drugstore just because of his skin tone (not to mention being followed, chased, shot and killed in a suburb by a ‚Äėneighborhood watch‚Äô person.) ¬†He will have an easier time getting a job than an equally qualified black man. ¬†He will be less likely to be suspended if he breaks the rules at the high school and his punishment will likely be less severe if he is punished ‚Äď all because of the privilege he was born with, his white skin-tone. These are realities that have been long documented in studies.
At this time of year, we celebrate in many ways and from many traditions the freedom of new life. ¬†And freedom always carries with it responsibilities. ¬†What ¬†responsibilities do you embrace with your freedom? ¬†What responsibilities do we, should we, as a faith community embrace with the new life and possibilities of this spring season?
Blessings to all,