Beyond Black and White
By The Rev. Dr. Jonipher Kwong
One of the earliest casualties of 2010 (January 3 to be exact) was a woman by the name of Mary Daly. Daring to challenge the institution of patriarchy within the Catholic Church, she wrote a book called Beyond God the Father in 1973, which has since revolutionized and scandalized the religious world. Even though many UUs today will see her work as ‘tame’ or even ‘irrelevant,’ since many of us have moved beyond seeing God as male and even beyond theism, period, Mary Daly was truly ahead of her time by having the audacity to dismantle this deeply-held, dualistic notion of male versus female.
Today, we are far from getting rid of the last vestiges of sexism. We can’t even remove heterosexism from our vocabulary, as evidenced by Prop. 8 in California and other anti-equality legislation. And even though we elected the first African American to the presidency, we certainly can’t say, “We’ve arrived” when it comes to addressing the problem of racism. We are still holding on to the sin or error of dualism, which threatens to keep us apart and blind us to our interrelatedness.
I would like to propose two things to help us move beyond a black and white world. The first is to recognize the fact that we come in many shades of color. In fact, I dare say that we are a rainbow-colored group and not just shades of gray. This was evident for me living in Hawai‘i (appropriately dubbed the ‘Rainbow State’), where race issues clearly are not just black and white. Currently, various Asian ethnic groups have a slight ‘majority’ in the state, but it’s one of the few states where the white population is actually ‘growing’ because of migration from the mainland. Indeed, the human race may manifest itself in many different colors, but our skin tones fail to capture our true essence as a species.
The second is to move beyond race distinctions altogether and this is where I have the brightest hope for young people. I know this is a generic (as well as generational) statement, but when we choose to go on a date, do we date that person because of their skin color or because we like them and feel a certain ‘chemistry?’ In Hawai‘i, over 50% of marriages and family configurations are multi-racial and multi-ethnic. Our president is a product of that diverse environment. Those of us who ‘get it’ are perfect ambassadors to those who still come from a black-or-white framework. We need to move beyond racial differentiations and see the possibilities that are out there. Perhaps that’s one of the message the movie Avatar teaches us. The divine is present even in blue creatures from outer space. We need to get over ourselves if we truly are to survive as a species and see beyond black and white.
The bottom line is exemplified by our seventh principle: Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part. Let us honor Mary Daly’s legacy by moving beyond black and white, and let us break free from the ties of dualism that bind us.
The Rev. Dr. Jonipher Kwong is an Interfaith Organizer for California Faith for Equality. He also sits on the Board of the California Council of Churches and the Steering Committee of the Unitarian Universalist Legislative Ministry of California Marriage Equality Leadership Team. Ordained with the Metropolitan Community Churches, he served as the Founding Minister of ‘Ohana MCC in Honolulu and Resurrection Beach MCC in Costa Mesa, California. He is currently in the process of seeking plural standing with the Unitarian Universalist Association.
Prior to moving back to the mainland, Jonipher was the Executive Director of the Counseling & Spiritual Care Center of Hawai‘i. Raised in an ecumenical background, Jonipher values his pluralistic upbringing – from Evangelical to United Methodist, Episcopalian to Calvary Chapel. He was christened at a Gospel church and baptized as a Chinese Mennonite. In Hawai‘i, Jonipher was a member of the Honolulu Mindfulness Community, a sangha influenced by Zen Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hahn.
Jonipher obtained his Master of Divinity and Doctor of Ministry degrees from Claremont School of Theology. He graduated with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Film Studies from the University of California at Santa Barbara. Prior to getting “the call,” Jonipher worked in the film industry for three years, followed by two years as a Graphics Specialist at McKinsey & Company in Los Angeles.
Beyond Black and White
As you know the country of Haiti was devastated by an earthquake and after shocks in January. It seems that only a few short months ago the country was slammed by five hurricanes that caused wide spread destruction. As I listen to news reports and hear comments by people trying to make sense of the natural disasters that continue to plague Haiti, I thought about the book of Job in the First Testament in the Christian Bible and the issues that are raised in the story; such as innocent or undeserved suffering and how people behave when calamity strikes.
It is becoming a familiar refrain from some leaders in the U.S. to blame the victims of calamity for their plight. As Unitarian Universalist, what is our theology when it comes to calamity? When is it ok to blame someone or a country when a natural disaster causes wide spread death and destruction? I think one of our greatest challenges as UUs is our ability to articulate our theology in a way that communicates our beliefs. Our first Unitarian Universalist principle calls us to promote and affirm the inherent worth and dignity of every person. Our UU theology challenges us to be inclusive, that is to embrace the people of Haiti along with the people who blame them for their plight in their hour of biblical suffering.
It is not too late to show your support for the people of Haiti. Please contact your local UU congregation to learn how you can get involved in relief efforts. You can also donate to the UUSC and UUA joint Haiti earthquake relief fund http://www.uusc.org/. Let us live our UU faith by not judging or questioning why someone is suffering. Rather, let us be mindful and attentive to the fact they are suffering and do our human best to ease their pain.
As always I would love to hear from you. You can message me on Facebook at Monica Cummings, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or leave a comment for me on the YaYA of Color blog, UU Living Mosaic at http://uuyayaoc.blogs.uua.org/.
Living My Faith,
The Rev. Peter Morales
A new year always begins with a sense of possibility. That sense of unrealized potential is particularly acute for us Unitarian Universalists now. We are living in the midst of a historic shift in America.
For the first time since colonial days, the majority of people living in America will be people of color. Your generation will live its adult life in a new America.
At the UUA, we are working to bring in a new generation of diverse religious professionals and to strengthen our programming for youth and young adults. As youth and young adults of color, you have a special role in helping us create a new multi-racial, multi-cultural future. Your part is absolutely essential.
I wish you a blessed new year. I look forward to working with you to build a new Unitarian Universalism.
President, Unitarian Universalist
Association of Congregations
Happy Holydays! In the month of December, Hanukkah, Winter Solstice, Christmas and Kwanzaa will be celebrated. The diversity of traditions celebrated in the month of December is truly amazing. What is diversity? Is it as simple as being open to celebrating the holiday tradition of a friend? Perhaps, educating people of different religious traditions and ethnicities to better understand each other? Or, does it go deeper into all aspects and areas of our lives? According to William Chase,
“Diversity, generally understood and embraced, is not casual liberal tolerance of anything and everything not yourself. It is not polite accommodation.
Instead, diversity is, in action, the sometimes painful awareness that other people, other races, other voices, other habits of mind, have as much integrity of being, as much claim on the world as you do…
And I urge you, amid all the differences present to the eye and mind, to reach out to create the bond that …will protect us all. We are meant to be here together.”
I encourage you to make a special effort to learn and embrace a holiday tradition that is unfamiliar to you. I also encourage you to reach out to family and friends who may be struggling to be joyful during a time of year when we are expected to be jolly. For Youth and Young Adults of Color who are interested, I have a list of UU ministers and religious professionals of color who are willing to provide chaplain support during the holidays. Please contact me for a list of their names.
I wish you all a safe, serene and happy holiday season.
Living My Faith,
If the only prayer you ever say in your whole life is “thank you,” that would suffice.
It snowed recently; a total of two feet in 24 hours. At one point, I ventured outside: pink snow boots, an aged military green parka with missing buttons, my balaclava, thick gloves, and a letter that needed to be mailed. I’m sure I was quite a sight to behold – all that could be seen of my face were eyes squinting against the bitterly cold wind, as I trudged half a mile to the mail drop. Passing cars threatened to splash icy cold snow melt on me and still I trudged on – toes and fingers growing increasingly numb.
On my walk, I paused to photograph snow covered trees and shrubs – fumbling with the camera, cold air warming itself in my lungs. I wanted the slippery, windy walk to be over and I wanted to stay present in the moment watching the landscape change, collecting flakes on my gloves and being entranced by the very day itself. It was a moment to practice gratitude: for a warm home, adequate clothing, health and strength, beauty, the hot cup of tea that I would make once I returned to my home and for a faith that invites me to see myself as a part of this complex web of life. A faith that invites me to participate in this web with responsibility and reverence.
In the midst of the throng and crush of fall, it often feels like there is little to be thankful for. We rush from one very important activity to the next very important activity – each crucial, time sensitive and demanding our attention. Whether it’s mid-terms, work, church, or attending to relationships – it may be dealing with the mishaps of a stolen car, beloved treasure, or the ending of an intimate relationship – all significant and yet without pausing we run the risk of losing ourselves in the flurry of activity. We run the risk of not hearing our still small voice within.
As I trudged home, slipping and working hard to avoid large puddles of icy water, I was reminded of a youth in my youth group who shared that she’d learned the value of taking 10 minutes a day to slow down and give thanks. I was reminded of the book Sleeping with Bread: Holding What Gives You Life. In this short text, Dennis, Sheila, and Matthew Linn ask us to create a practice of examining what gives us life by simply asking and answering:
For what moment today am I most grateful?
For what moment today am I least grateful?
When today did I have the greatest sense of belonging to myself, other, God, the universe?
When did I have the least sense of belonging?
Maybe over meals with family and friends…maybe alone in the presence of a lit candle…maybe practicing consciously in the transition from one activity to the next…maybe just before sleep claims you for the night, consider making the space for yourself to hear where you feel connected, thankful, and truly joyful. Keep a journal of your response.
Ask: what moment am I most grateful for? In the presence of yourself or with others, this can remind you of the sources of love and support in your life. To ask yourself what you’re least grateful for, can remind you of what you have the capacity to begin to change.
Ask: when did I have the greatest sense of belonging to myself, other, God, the universe? And give yourself the gift of listening and attending to the response.
May you be well,
Program Coordinator for Multicultural Congregations
Identity Based Ministries and The Office of Racial and Ethnic Concerns
As I write this article, I am holding in my prayers all the people in the Southeast U.S. and the South Pacific Islands who survived flooding and the tsunami that struck in September. I am also holding in my prayers all the people who are living with the anxiety of not knowing the whereabouts of loved ones or how they will rebuild their lives.
According to my Dictionary of Pastoral Care and Counseling, anxiety can be explained as “A psychic response of dread or fear to a vague, unspecified threat. Anxiety as a psychic condition is experienced by all human beings, although it may be trigged by different sources for different persons. There are different types of anxiety and various theories about it, but, at its core anxiety signals the threat of a fundamental loss or separation.”
Anxiety has become an ever increasing presence in our lives. The increasing strength of hurricanes and wild fires; the continuous loss of life in Afghanistan and Iraq; the financial insecurity that many of you and your families’ are experiencing due to unemployment or underemployment are all valid reasons to feel anxious.
We all have different levels of tolerance and ways to cope with anxiety. While some people choose to meditate, others abuse legal and illegal drugs. Some people choose to become physically or verbally abusive, while others withdraw emotionally. Over eating becomes an option for many people, and for others rejection of food.
The way you deal with your anxiety will affect every aspect of your life. Therefore, I encourage you to become more aware of what you are feeling and what your body is communicating to you. When you feel butterflies in your stomach, tightness in your neck or shoulders, pain in your lower back or suffer frequent headaches, I suggest you acknowledge what you are feeling physically and process/reflect on what is causing your discomfort. Awareness and being proactive will go a long way in lessening your anxiety.
As always I would love to hear from you. You can message me on Facebook at Monica Cummings, email me at email@example.com or leave a comment for me on the YaYA of Color blog at http://uuyayaoc.blogs.uua.org/.
Living My Faith,