Bend the Arc Toward Justice

“I do not pretend to understand the moral universe: the arc is a long one, [and] my eye reaches but a little ways. I cannot calculate the curve and complete the figure by the experience of sight; … But from what I see I am sure it bends towards justice.”
~ Rev. Theodore Parker (1810-1860), Unitarian Minister

“Our vision of the Beloved Community must stand against a vision that would allow the privilege of the few to be accepted as just and even holy. Our religious vision must ask the Gospel question, ’Who is my neighbor[?]’ and strive always to include more and more of us as we intone the words that gave birth to this nation, ’We the people’…”
~ The Rev. William G. Sinkford, “Faith in the Face of Disaster: UU Response to Hurricane Katrina”, September 6, 2005

The aspiration we hold for all our UUCSJ programs is that they will help you gain new insight about some of the root causes of injustice, and sustain you in your own longing to respond as a global citizen and as a person of faith. We hope that as you incorporate the experience you’ve had into your life you will find a new way to walk forward in your justice work.

In Unit 7, you explored ways to frame the narrative of the journey you’ve just completed. In this final unit of our Study Guide, we’ll take a look at ways we might harness our new insight and concern about the harm done to people far away – and also how we can turn and look again at the needs back at home, often right in our own neighborhoods.

As we explore what it means to be effective activists at home, we take into account the varied paths to social justice. For those of us with privileged identities, we consider the difference between charity and social change, and what it means to stand as an ally with those who live in the margins, what it means to learn from and take guidance from those who are oppressed. This implies ongoing personal reflection about our motivations and assumptions, as well as a commitment to develop and sustain respectful relationships with communities in which we build partnerships.

For those of us with target identities, we are reminded of the importance of self-care and spiritual sustenance on the journey toward liberation. It is important that we learn, in the words of bell hooks,

“about the myriad ways racism, sexism, class exploitation, homophobia, and various other structures of domination operate in our daily lives to undermine our capacity to be self-determining. Without knowing what factors have created certain problems in the first place we could not begin to develop meaningful strategies of personal and collective resistance. [Black female] self-recovery, like all [black] self-recovery, is an expression of a liberatory political practice. Living as we do in a white supremacist capitalist patriarchal context that can be best exploit us when we lack a firm grounding in self and identity (knowledge of who we are and where we have come from), choosing ‘wellness’ is an act of political resistance. Before many of us can effectively sustain engagement in organized resistance struggle, in black liberation movements, we need to undergo a process of self-recovery that can heal individual wounds that may prevent us from functioning fully.” (Sisters of the Yam, p. 14) 

“More is asked of us than we could have imagined. The beauty of life is such that it will not let us go until we have offered the blessing we have to give. So let the beauty we have seen become the good that we do, and let us not wrest ourselves free from the claim that life places upon us until we, in faith with all those who have gone before us, place ourselves among those who bless the world.” – Rev. Rebecca Parker

Opening Meditation

Use your chosen spiritual practice to center yourself and quiet your mind. Then listen to this Bobby McFerrin rendition of the 23rd Psalm. When the song has finished, continue to sit quietly for a few moments, and allow yourself to rest in the peacefulness and nurture evoked by the music.

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