Erik Halseth, August 30, 2020

Black Lives Matter.

Black Lives Matter.

Black Lives Matter is more than just a slogan.

Black Lives Matter is more than just a Zoom avatar that turns on when I shut my video down.

A week ago, another Black man, Jacob Blake, was shot in Kenosha, Wisconsin, 7 shots to the

back, and he now lies in a hospital bed, paralyzed, and fighting for his life.

A couple of weeks before that, Anthony McClain was fatally shot in Pasadena.

When does the killing stop?

It’s been a year of lamentation. A year of vigils, protests, and marches (all while a pandemic

ravages this nation and the rest of the world). A year of church services, in our faith and others,

that sometimes have dealt with the violence against Black, Indigeneous, and other People of

Color, or members of the LGBTQIA+ community.

Earlier in this service, we heard Mathew say the names of people killed by police, and we held a

moment of silence to honor them.

But I’m not sure that’s enough in this time, in this place, in the face of this recurring violence.

This week, as the NBA playoffs were supposed to be happening in Florida, the protests in

Kenosha became significantly more dangerous as armed vigilantes worked to assist the police

in keeping the peace.

Of course, it wasn’t peaceful. A 17 year old shot 3 people, killing 2 of them. After the shooting,

this young man, or child, if you will, raised his hands and walked away from the scene of the

crime, past police cars, being followed by a journalist who had filmed the occurrence in almost

its entirety. After this, the 17 year old drove back to Illinois, where he was arrested a day later

and charged with 2 counts of 1st degree intentional homicide.

I brought up the NBA playoffs a bit earlier because the Milwaukee Bucks are in the playoffs. If

you haven’t seen the video of the refs standing around on an empty court in a futile wait for the

Bucks, who had decided to boycott the game, it’s a strange sight. A basketball arena first made

empty of fans by Covid-19, and then made emptier by a team’s decision to forgo an important

game. Milwaukee is only about 45 minutes away from Kenosha. And… about 3 of every 4

players in the NBA is Black.

Doc RIvers, coach of the Los Angeles clippers said this in response to the boycott by the Bucks

(and we should note during the week of the Republican National Convention):

“All you hear is Donald Trump and all of them talking about fear. We’re the ones getting

killed. We’re the ones getting shot.”

“It’s amazing why we keep loving this country and this country does not love us back. It’s

really so sad. Like, I should just be a coach. I’m so often reminded of my color. It’s just

really sad. We got to do better, but we got to demand better.”

Rivers goes on to talk further about the police and defunding…

“The unions have to be taken down in the police force. My dad was a cop. I believe in

good cops. We’re not trying to defund the police and take all their money away. We’re

trying to get them to protect us, just like they protect everybody else.”

There are three main points made by Rivers. First, the fear-mongering done (primarily by

conservative politicos) at the expense of black people. Second, a recognition of the true state of

race relations in this country. Third, the need for an evaluation of the concept of just who is

being Protected and Served by the police.

Rivers’ eloquent and emotional response to Kenosha goes deeply into the bifurcation of this

country between white people and black people, as well as all other people of color. His tears,

whether of sadness or rage, provide a lense into the depth of feeling, of what he might be

feeling as his vulnerable words come out…

Lebron James put it a little more bluntly on Twitter:


And y’all wonder why we say what we say about the Police!! Someone please tell me

WTF is this???!!! Exactly another black man being targeted. This (stuff) is so wrong and

so sad!! Feel so sorry for him, his family and OUR PEOPLE!! We want JUSTICE”

Lebron was going to sit out the rest of the playoffs, but former US President Barack Obama

talked him into continuing to play, and he also tweeted this in support of the walk out and


I commend the players on the @Bucks for standing up for what they believe in, coaches

like @DocRivers, and the @NBA and @WNBA for setting an example. It’s going to take

all our institutions to stand up for our values.

He says “it’s going to take all our institutions to stand up for our values.” The institutions he’s

talking about go beyond just sports leagues like the NBA, Major League Baseball, or the NFL.

He’s also talking about any of our community organizations, our state and local governments.

I’m not going to mention the federal government right now, because, well, I just can’t. Maybe

after November 3rd, but not today. And he’s talking about churches.

Churches like ours. Faiths like Unitarian Universalism. Faiths that have historically taken a stand

in support of the rights of all, that have structures of ethical behavior like our 7 Principles.

Admittedly, we Unitarian Universalists have not always succeeded in establishing our

institutions as structures of equity, but we have tried, and we are trying.

When Mathew Taylor spoke here in Santa Paula a few weeks ago on August 9th, he spoke

about the 7 Principles we hold so dear in Unitarian Universalism, asking us to think about them

in regards to the America we find ourselves in today. I quote from his sermon:

There are some hard truths that we have to address. They are hard, uncomfortable, and

still, they are the truth. We have to admit that America exists as a place of societal

turmoil, class warfare, and political upheaval. We have to admit that Implicit bias and

systemic white supremacy inhabit all corners of this country. We have to acknowledge

that Issues such as the immigration/asylum crisis, police brutality, and attacks on

LGBTQIA+ people’s rights are a bellwether pointing towards a fundamental change in

our democracy. Lastly, as UUs in an ever-changing world, we can ensure that our

principles reflect the current state of the world and our moral place in it.

Now, as we know from our UU history, the 7 Principles are intended not to be an ahistorical

static document that we learn as a catechism that repeats what parents and grandparents

recited, and gets passed down to younger generations over the course of ages. No, the 7

Principles are intended to be a living document that changes over time. In fact, the 7 Principles

started as the 6 Principles with the 7th added in the mid-90s, as well as changes to the

language of each principle through the ‘70s and ‘80s to make them more inclusive. Specifically,

the vision for the UU Principles was for review approximately every 15 years, and that changes

were to be welcomed as realities shift, and the needs of the world call for different words, or

novel viewpoints, or, to put it bluntly, we might have missed something.

I love the 7 Principles. They, along with the 6 Sources, are one of the things that drew me

toward our faith. Unitarian Universalism is fairly unique in this living tradition of non-credal belief.

But, as I said a moment ago, we might have missed something.

A year ago almost exactly, sitting in Mathew’s workshop on the 7 Principles at Turning the

Tides, it was apparent that the 7 Principles exist differently for each of us. Our differing spiritual

beliefs provide a different lense of interpretation of what the Principles mean. Which religion we

were raised in, our educational background, how much money we make, our ancestral heritage,

the color of our skin, our gender identity, our sexual attractions, the job we do every day, our

age, whether we have children, each of these parts of who we are open up the Principles for

interpretation, and through that interpretation we each choose to live the Principles out a

different way.

Concurrent with the start of the Black LIves Matter movement in 2013 (when Trayvon Martin’s

killer was acquitted of murder), some Unitarian Universalists on the East Coast started engaging

with concepts of racial equity in our faith. This topic that has been around since the Black

Empowerment Tragedy (renamed by Rev. Mark Morrison-Reed from “Controversy”) of the late

‘60s and early ‘70s, and then the 1992 Resolution of Immediate Witness called us to “affirm and

support this vision of a racially diverse and multicultural Unitarian Universalism”. This led to

resolutions passed at General Assembly in 1994 and 1997 that called us to become an

anti-racist, multicultural faith community.

But saying you are something is much different than doing the work to become that thing.

So this 2013 work, coming as it did on the heels of the acquittal of Trayvon Martin’s killer,

focused on a call to action to do the work of dismantling oppressions; and thus, the 8th Principle

was born.,,

“We, the member congregations of the Unitarian Universalist Association, covenant to

affirm and promote: journeying toward spiritual wholeness by working to build a diverse

multicultural Beloved Community by our actions that accountably dismantle racism and

other oppressions in ourselves and our institutions.”

“But wait, Erik,” someone might say to me. “Isn’t all of that essentially included in our 7


“Why yes,” I would reply in this hypothetical discussion. “But it isn’t explicit. And in this time of

police killings of black men and women, and having the highest leadership within our land

espouse racist tropes, we need to do more.”

From the website, I quote:

“Our existing 7 principles imply this 8th principle, but do not explicitly hold us

accountable for addressing these oppressions directly, especially at the systemic level.”

When added to my thoughts on the personal interpretability of the 7 Principles, this is the best

description I’ve found for why the addition of an 8th Principle could create the Beloved

Community called forth by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King.

The 8th Principle was presented to the General Assembly Planning Committee by Paula Cole

Jones, one of 2 writers of the 8th Principle (the other being Bruce Pollack-Johnson), in 2013. In

2017, it was voted into committee at General Assembly, but I can find no further information as

to its status.

According to the UU Church of Columbia, MD, as of spring of 2020, the 8th Principle has been

adopted by 18 UU congregations, one Religious Education program, and two affiliate UU

groups. These include:

All Souls Church, Unitarian in Washington, DC and UU Church of the Restoration in


(two churches key in the development of the 8th Principle)

First Unitarian Church of Honolulu

UU Church of Annapolis in Maryland

UU Church of Lexington, KY

First UU of Lubbock, TX

Magic Valley UU Fellowship in Twin Falls, ID

UU Church of Delaware County, in Pensylvania

And Covenant UU, an online covenanting community.

There are more, but actually, there is no centralized list of those congregations who’ve adopted

the 8th Principle. This grassroots movement has started a discussion within our larger faith

community about what it means to do the work of anti-racism and dismantling oppression in all

of its forms. While our Beloved Conversations workshops started us, Unitarian Universalists, on

a path towards wholeness, they were by no means the end of the journey.

I believe that we should be talking about the 8th Principle, and the power it holds to move our

faith tradition towards a place of accountability when it comes to doing the work. I’m going to

read it again for you:

“We, the member congregations of the Unitarian Universalist Association, covenant to

affirm and promote: journeying toward spiritual wholeness by working to build a diverse

multicultural Beloved Community by our actions that accountably dismantle racism and

other oppressions in ourselves and our institutions.”

What do we do with these words?

Well, we can sit with them for a while. Sit with them. Let the words percolate within our souls.

We can recall them the next time we see thousands of people massing in our streets, protesting

another tragedy, another death, another affront to human dignity.

We can think about what it means to be Black in America, where any encounter with a police

officer holds the risk of violence and tragedy. We can think about how this might affect those we

know and love, and how it affects us, regardless of the color of our skin, when we live in a

society where racism and oppression are the defining characteristic of many of the institutions

around us.

We can hold the 8th Principle in our hearts the next time someone asks us why we are a

Unitarian Universalist…

Last weekend, I was fortunate to spend a few days out of the heat, relaxing in the mountains. A

friend of mine came up to visit for a spell, getting out of the heat themselves, and enjoying some

time away from the city. That evening, my friend headed to a mini-mart for a snack. A few

minutes later, I received a call that some guys in a pickup with large Trump flags hanging off the

cab were saying weird stuff to my friend, making comments about their Blackness. Not overtly

racist or violent, but more like creepy, this might be bad, kind of stuff. I had a moment of terror

envisioning the worst, but simply said “get your snack and head on back here.” The truck,

probably randomly given the nature of the area in which we were staying, followed my friend for

a bit before turning onto a different road.

Racism and oppression exist everywhere.

Take a vacation in a small mountain town? It happens there.

Go shopping at any big box store? It happens there.

Attend a progressive educational institution? It happens there.

Interview for a job? It happens there.

Apply for a mortgage? It happens there.

Get pulled over by the police? It definitely happens there.

Perhaps, when we hold in our hearts words such as those in the 8th Principle, we can get a little

better each day recognizing all those small and large instances of racism and oppression that

exist in the world. And by recognizing them, we can start doing the work of countering them with

acts of love and justice.

Perhaps it would be easier to apply the 7 Principles to this if we had the accountability of the


May it be so.

Beith Amaleigh.

And Amen.