Rev. David Carl Olson, Lead Minister, First Unitarian Church of Baltimore, Co-chair, Religious Leaders’ Caucus, Gamaliel affiliate, BRIDGE Maryland, Inc.
There is an America in my head and heart which is only partly true. “Land of the free” may describe some of my country at some time; but heeding too closely to the myth of this land obscures my country from what it really is.
In my morning quiet time, I try to begin with deep listening. I can’t escape my own heart, of course, but I listen especially to the voices who have been silenced in the mythology of American exceptionalism and inevitable progress.
This perspective asks me to live deliberately, to develop relations with others unlike myself, to affirm their value and their truth, and to allow myself to be changed so that I may become part of a larger “we,” a “we” that can confront the powers that be so that we all may move toward justice.
Questions for Reflection
- Who are the key partners in your life who help you to confront the essential facts of life? To whom should you listen more deeply to understand more fully “the world as it is”?
- Who really knows you and the gifts you bring to the demand for a more participatory and effective democracy in your neighborhood, your state, our nation? How does that relationship lead to a larger “we”? Where in your life have you found that systemic racism impedes you in the movement toward justice?
It is the church that assures us that we are not struggling for justice on our own, but as members of a larger community. The religious community is essential, for alone our vision is too narrow to see all that must be seen, and our strength too limited to do all that must be done. Together, our vision widens and our strength is renewed.
Mark Morrison-Reed, “The Task of the Religious Community” (1993)
If there is no struggle there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom and yet depreciate agitation, are people who want crops without plowing up the ground; they want rain without thunder and lightning; they want the ocean without the roar of its many waters. This struggle may be a moral one, or it may be a physical one, or it may be both moral and physical, but it must be a struggle. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.
Frederick Douglass, “West India Emancipation” speech (1857)
I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I have not lived. I wanted to live deep, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms, and, if it proves to be mean, why then to get the whole and genuine meanness of it, and publish its meanness to the world; or if it were sublime, to know it by experience, and be able to give a true account of it in my next excursion.
Henry David Thoreau, Walden, “Where I lived and what I lived for” (1854)
The Common Prayer on Our Journey
Source of all being, Sacred mystery, you are the wellspring of justice. Weaver of the warp and weft of history, weave our lives into the fabric of your will. Guide us towards the Beloved Community. Forgive us when we have failed to give shape to the Beloved Community in our communities and in our lives.
All around us the ugly onslaughts of white nationalism, hate crimes, and systemic racism devastate your people, divide us, and threaten our democracy. All around us the wicked strut, and in high places are those who encourage the basest of attitudes and actions. Grant us wisdom and courage to confront these evils with the power of love and truth. Free us from timidity and equivocation. Help us to be bold in thought and action. May our lives and our faith communities model the change we hope to see in the world.
As we approach the November elections, keep us mindful that the right to vote is a sacred trust won by beatings, by imprisonments, by blood, by the relentless struggles of many who came before us. Help us to honor that legacy. May we vote our conscience and encourage others to do the same.
Heal our nation. Heal our hearts. Heal our nation. Amen.
Gamaliel National Religious Leaders’ Caucus invites you to 40 Days of Reflection on Our Journey to the Polls
Few national elections have had similar consequences as the November Election in 2020. Our nation stands in crisis and at a significant crossroad. The Gamaliel Network, an interfaith coalition of persons of faith who stand and act together for justice and equality, pledges to undergird the 40 days leading up to the election with prayer and reflection.
We urge you to use the Common Prayer below every day. On each day, we have asked a faith leader, from different traditions, to offer a reflection on the Common Prayer at this Moment of American Crossroads. We urge you to begin this prayer preparation with a day of fasting on Sept. 24,(or a similar expression of spiritual preparation), and then to engage in prayer at a time of your choosing each day, to prepare yourself, your friends and neighbors, and our nation, for this election.
The Gamaliel Religious Leaders Table has written a “Theological Statement on Hate Crimes and White Nationalism.” a faith statement on “White Nationalism.” The link to this statement is: https://gamaliel.org/our-work/religious-leaders-caucus/gnrlc-a-faithful-response-to-hate-crimes-and-white-nationalism/
Each reflection will include the leader’s personal reflection, questions for contemplation, and a suggested scriptural text from their tradition.
The Gamaliel National Religious Leaders’ Steering Committee