Before convening your Learning Circle, review our suggestions for how these groups can be structured. Please read through the discussion guide on this page before convening your Learning Circle, so participants know what readings to complete by the time of each discussion.
Each of our Learning Circle discussions includes two sections. The first section will help your group think about and discuss one of the reflection exercises in each unit of our Study Guide. The second section, “Destination Discussion”, is tailored to support conversation around the political history text specific to your destination (generally Haiti, India or Mexico).
Unit 2: Who We Are Together
Gather: Invite people to sit quietly for a moment and take a few centering breaths. Light the chalice, and offer opening words. Allow a few more moments of silence. Invite members into a brief personal check-in.
Part 1: Who are we as Unitarian Universalists? (30 minutes)
How can we become more aware of our own cultural lenses?
Review the Reading (30 minutes)
Invite the members of your Circle to reflect on the excerpt from Paul Rasor that was offered in this unit. In particular, we ask your Circle to read this section together:
“[Our UU] legacy encourages us to keep our religious commitments largely in our heads, where we can hold them at a comfortable arm’s length. This gives us a sense of control; it allows us to feel spiritually safe.
Multiculturalism threatens this sense of safety….At one level it is the fear of change, and the fear of difference that change always represents. At a deeper level, it is a fear of losing control.
I am not talking here about political or social control….Instead, the real fear is the loss of intellectual control. Our move toward becoming a multiracial and multicultural faith challenges our safe and tidy way of being religious. In this sense, multiculturalism might represent for some a threat not simply to our illusion of control, but to our very identity.
[But] we cannot reason our way into multiculturalism.
The reality of lived multiracial and multicultural communities cannot be grasped through analysis, statistical or otherwise. We will have to embrace it bodily, not just intellectually. We will have to wade into the new cultural waters up to our necks, and even risk getting in over our heads, without first being able to measure the currents or predict the storm cycles….” [Source: “Can Unitarian Universalism Change?” Rev. Dr. Paul Rasor, UU World, Spring 2010. Italics added.]
Work in Pairs
After a few minutes of silent reflection, divide into pairs with your journals. With your partner, share your responses to the questions we asked about the scenarios that followed the Rasor reading (review the four scenarios).
Large Group Discussion
After both members of each pair have had a chance to share their perspectives or questions, return to the larger group. Spend about ten more minutes in conversation around these questions:
- What kinds of feelings arose for you as you imagined yourself in the scenarios?
- If you found yourself in such a setting, is there a way you’d like to respond that’s different from the hypothetical “you” in each scenario?
Destination Discussion (40 minutes)
Advance reading: Members of the group should read Chapter 3 of Haiti: The Aftershocks of History (“Stalemate”).
- As a group, consider these questions:
- What were you surprised by as you read through this chapter?
- Discuss the indemnity that France assigned Haiti as the price of its liberation. How might this piece of history help us understand current realities in Haiti?
- Have a member of your Circle read this excerpt from Dubois aloud:
- “For decades,…ordinary men and women had been building their own local communities. Drawing on traditions of farming that they had brought from Africa and developed in their plantation gardens, they took the plantations and created something new. Thanks to a remarkably strong and widely shared set of cultural forms — the Kreyòl language, the Vodou religion, and innovative ways of managing land ownership and extended families — they built a society able to resist all forms of subjection that recalled the days of slavery.” (p. 104)
- Dubois goes on to describe the lakou system — a system with strong echoes in the current structures of UUCSJ/UUSC partner MPP (the Papaye Peasant Movement, who will host the CSJ travelers to Haiti).
- How does this description of the lakou system shed light on the deeply-rooted struggles over land in Haiti?
- How did the resistance to large-scale plantation farming impact Haiti economically?