Don’t Waste a Good Crisis

“Don’t Waste a Good Crisis” is a phrase that is attributed to Winston Churchill…and Rahm Emmanuel, but it turns out that researchers can trace it to a relatively unknown physician who wrote an article in the journal Medical Economics journal in 1976– not nearly as inspiring as Winston Churchill or even Rahm Emmanuel, huh?  The title of his article was “Don’t Waste a Crisis — Your Patient’s or Your Own” and he was addressing how it is in moments of perceived crisis/threat that humans are often most motivated to change.


Church lilacs planted by Sharon A’s mother 

Most UU’s I know do not pay a lot of attention to what happens at our national denominational office in Boston. But UU ministers certainly do!  Controversy over a recent hiring decision, where a white straight man was selected over a woman of color, surfaced lots of concern and discussion over how much we UU’s are successfully “walking our talk” when it comes to our values of justice and multiculturalism.  Last week, the president of the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA), Peter Morales (who identifies as Latino), resigned in response to this controversy.  Then this week, it was announced that two other UUA senior leaders (both White men) have tendered their resignation.   Fortunately, this does not have a lot of direct or immediate impact on life in our congregations.  If you want to read the details, you can read more here.

We UU’s having embraced lofty goals that are expressed in our Seven Principles.  There is a proposal to add an Eighth Principle. That we as a religious tradition struggle and wrestle with our culture of Whiteness and the broader culture of White Supremacy, is not new.   That we continue to fall short is also not new– that people experience profound disappointment and hurt is not new.  One of the things I am most proud of is to be part of a religious tradition that is even having these conversations and yes, even having these “crises.”  Most other predominantly White religious traditions are not having these kinds of conversations or “crises.”

If you are a person of color in our congregation, I welcome your insights and feedback. Since I am both White and Human,  I know I got some serious blindspots and need to listen if we are truly going to grow the Beloved Community.  If you are a White person in the congregation and are struggling with all this whiteness stuff, I encourage you to join many of us White UU’s at our next Showing Up for Racial Justice meeting on Tuesday April 25th: at 7pm at Central Grace Hmong Alliance Church, 918 Sierra Dr.

For me, I am working on being present to the pain and disappointment UUs of Color are expressing and tempering a (White) emotional culture of shame and blame. Shame shuts us down and cuts us off from our source of power–it shuts us off from Love, it makes us want to turn in on ourselves, instead of reach out.  And friends, this is no time to be turning in.   Sometimes a “crisis” is actually a sign of development and growth– an experience to work through so we can evolve and mature.  And there is no one else I would want to be “evolving and maturing” with than YOU.

This Sunday, Avonelle Tomlinson and pianist Sabine Klein lead worship with guest preacher Rev. Jay Atkinson: Living by Liberal Faith–UU theologian Paul Rasor says that our liberal religious tradition “is not for the faint of heart,” suggesting that Unitarian Universalism offers a challenging pathway not always easy to follow. What does it actually mean to live deeply by liberal faith?  And how do we help one another live up to that ideal?





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