I grew up in a rural part of Connecticut, in the northeastern United States. My home town, Plainfield, was small, the population was almost entirely white Europeans, and – as far as those in authority in my life were concerned – everybody was cisgendered and straight.
As was the social norm of the time, when someone we knew was gender non-conforming, we were all expected to act as though that fact didn’t exist. Our parents referred to their gay and lesbian relatives and acquaintances as ‘eccentric,’ and to their life partners as ‘roommates.’
We were indoctrinated to the “fact” that being cisgendered and straight was the one true “lifestyle choice,” in much the same way we were indoctrinated to believe our mainstream Christian sect was the one true religion.
For much of my life, my conscious perspective on ‘freedom’ was always in terms of “freedom to.” As a child enjoying nearly every privilege one could – an able-bodied White, Christian, cis, hetero male of European descent, born to a reasonably stable two-parent household, and living in a quiet, small, lily-white town in rural Connecticut – “freedom from” wasn’t something I ever thought about.
Since I mentioned it at the beginning of our time together, let me start my musings with a bit more background on my hospital stay. As I mentioned when I last led our service, in October, I’ve found myself during this lockdown eating less well, gaining back weight I’d thought I was long rid of, and becoming more and more sedentary. My workdays have gotten really long, resulting in my spending as much as 15 hours a day sitting in this very chair.
Well, it finally happened. On the 17th of August, New Zealand joined the rest of the world in dealing with an outbreak of the Delta COVID variant in the community. Our government’s “short, sharp” response announced that afternoon turned out not to be all that short…and, recently, has lost a great deal of its sharpness, as well.
Today, I’m going to spend some time talking mostly about myself. These musings put me in mind of the Talking Heads song lyric: “And I think to myself / well…how did I get here?” Today, as I stand before you, I’m comfortable calling myself a UU Sceptic. Even just a couple of years ago, that wasn’t the case…
Nina Khouri led our service a few weeks ago, mentioning that she, Derek Handley, and I have embarked on an inquiry regarding the “Future Church.” We have been asked to reflect on the current state of our community, and ponder the possibilities for what it could be in the future. It occurred to us – pretty much immediately – that this isn’t something we can go off and do on behalf of everyone else. Instead, we need to lead a guided introspection by the entire congregation.
” I was white, and I was pretty, and I had a big mouth. And for some reason, that was rewarded in Hollywood. I just never really questioned anything, because I thought I deserved everything. I’m clearly the beneficiary of white privilege, and I want to know what my personal responsibility is, moving forward in the world that we live in today…where race is concerned. I want to know how to be a better white person to people of color…”
Before I begin my talk, I want to give you a brief rundown of my history, with regard to religion and church.
Although my parents were both active in their respective churches as children and teens, they remained largely unchurched after they married, and never did much to encourage my siblings or me in that regard. I would occasionally go to church with various relatives, but really didn’t have any sort of a religious upbringing.