Exploring the elephant(s) in the room

with Sally Mabelle

Exploring the elephant(s) in the room
Listen, or download the MP3

Sally Mabelle © 31 January 2021

Have you heard the phrase ‘there’s an elephant in the room’?…this is just a metaphor

for an important or enormous topic that is obvious but no one mentions or wants to discuss it because it might make them uncomfortable or is personally, socially, or politically embarrassing. However, we Unitarians like digging into important discussions, so I searched for

‘Elephant in the room quotes’ to trumpet out for us today….here are a few of my favourites…

  • “Never ignore the elephant in the room. That’s rude…Play with it and introduce it”
  • “When there’s an elephant in the room, you can’t pretend it isn’t there and just discuss the ants”
  • “I think I realised I’d grown up with an elephant in every room of my life…it was practically our family pet”

Today, I’d like us to explore our ideas of the ‘elephants’ in the room here in our church community…and in our wider Auckland and global communities.

*How do we stretch beyond our own limited perspective to see the bigger picture of who we are now and who we could be….can we listen to each other with open hearts and minds to piece together a fuller picture of the elephant?

One elephant in the room I’d like us to explore this morning is our homophilial tendency..that is the natural human tendency to associate with people who act like us and believe the same things we do…

Nina Khouri and John diLeo have recently asked us to reflect on who we are now and who we want to be as a congregation and what makes this place feel like home or would make this place feel like home. Some of what we said is that…

  • Many of us love our small group discussions and we are united in standing for our 7 principles. We can be proud of our values and our open-minded, non-judgmental philosophy. However, how do we actually practice that open-hearted, open-minded stretching of our comfort zones to actually live in an all-embracing way?
  • We say we would like more opportunities for intergenerational and intercultural connections, we would like to be more diverse and to connect with people of different cultures and classes. However, as I look around, I imagine that we are not as diverse in age or culture as we’d like to be. Please raise your hand if your ancestors come from Europe or the UK – and let’s look around… Now, raise your hands if your ancestors come from South America? From the Middle East? From the South Pacific? From Africa?….Where else have I missed?

I imagine most of us would consider ourselves to be well-educated, middle class and a few upper class and as well – and I don’t imagine we have many working class people among us.

Opening our hearts and expanding our comfort zones takes regular, committed practice.
Do we really want to stretch ourselves? If so, how do we stretch our comfort zones, our hearts and our minds to invite and embrace the diversity and inclusiveness we say we want?

Most of us feel uncomfortable straying outside of our homophilial comfort zones. For instance, i would imagine we might squirm if someone put up their hands and shouted ‘Amen’ ‘Hallelujah!, when they agreed with something Clay said…

However, since we aspire to be more multi-cultural as a congregation, I wonder how we would reach out and look for points of connection with people of other cultures and faiths – to realise the unity of our aspirations, even though our rituals and practices are different. We still share many common values which transcend any particular form. Many of us, as Unitarians, have rejected old forms, yet I wonder what baby we may have thrown out with the bath water in rejecting religion? I would suggest that there are inspiring and nourishing poetic truths which transcend literal truths – just as in good poetry and stories which we may be missing out on… What prejudices, old traumas, fears, and blocks may keep us from learning from and celebrating our diverse religious traditions here in Auckland and relishing the rich tapestry of rituals, songs, prayers, and meditations which could add inspiration and a depth of feeling to our lives and bring us closer together as a human family?

According to Joseph Campbell, the author and comparative mythologist,

  • “All religions are true but none are literal.”
  • “Myth is what we call other people’s religion.”
  • “Mythology is not a lie, mythology is poetry, it is metaphorical. It has been well said that mythology is the penultimate truth–penultimate because the ultimate cannot be put into words
  • “Half the people in the world think that the metaphors of their religious traditions are facts. And the other half contends that they are not facts at all. As a result we have people who consider themselves believers because they accept metaphors as facts, and we have others who classify themselves as atheists because they think religious metaphors are lies.”
  • “Heaven and hell are within us, and all the gods are within us. This is the great realization of the Upanishads of India in the ninth Century B.C. All the gods, all the heavens, all the worlds, are within us. Myth is a manifestation in symbolic images, in metaphorical images, of our own energies in conflict with each other. This part wants this, that part wants that.”

I’ve always been fascinated by other cultures and religions, and having participated in west auckland womens’ interfaith initiative for the past year, I’ve been challenged to stretch my unitarian comfort zone.. recently, i came across a song on youtube from ‘Interfaith: the musical’ which describes in a humorous way how we all have different behaviours and rituals, but we still have more in common than we knew…I’ve added a Unitarian verse at the end, so listen closely 🙂 Please join me on the chorus if you feel like singing and snapping along…

Inspired by ‘Interfaith: the Musical’..by Ruth Broyde Sharone

We have more in common than we knew…

Muslim – Jew

We have more in common than we knew (snap)…We have more in common than we knew
We are Muslim – and a Jew -We have more in common than we knew
We eat halal – you kosher style
We both fast once in awhile
We wear hijabs – you wear wigs
But we both stay far from pigs
You pray 5 times, we pray 3
Men and women – separately
You chant Koran – we chant Torah
We say Hashem – you say Allah
We have more in common than we knew (snap)…We have more in common than we knew (snap)
We are Muslim – and a Jew – We have more in common than we knew

Catholic-Jew

We have more in common than we knew…We have more in common than we knew
You’re a catholic, I’m a Jew, but we have more in common than we knew
Your saviour Jesus was one of us, a Rebel Rabbi who made a fuss
His mother Mary was a saint, a Jewish mother without complaint
Our holy days may coincide – Christmas – Hanukkah can collide
You give presents and so do we –
You light candles – we trim our tree
We have more in common than we knew…We have more in common than we knew
You’re a catholic, I’m a Jew, but we have more in common than we knew

Catholic -Hindu

We have more in common than we knew…We have more in common than we knew (part 3)
I’m a catholic, you’re Hindu but we have more in common than we knew
You chant vedas – we chant psalms – but we both distribute alms
You say Brahma – we say Lord…why not be of one accord?
We teach karma – you warn of sin – in both cases, the just will win
Your St. Francis gave all away – a holy Saddhu as we would say
You seek salvation and so do we – we both have a Trinity
Jesus brown and Krishna blue – they share many points of view
We have more in common than we knew (snap)- We have more in common than we knew (snap)We are Catholic and Hindu – We have more in common than we knew

Muslim – Hindu

We have more in common than we knew (snap)…We have more in common than we knew
You are Muslim, I’m Hindu but we have more in common than we knew
We both share one deity, but we see him differently
Our God comes in many forms, designed to help our soul transform
Your Koran is your Gibraltar – with no statues at your altar
Bhagavad-Gita’s our sacred source – of ancient wisdom and discourse
If we accept what God dispenses – can’t we mend our common fences
We once lived in harmony – shared a long history
We have more in common than we knew…(snap) We have more in common than we knew (snap)
We are Muslim, We’re Hindu- but we have more in common than we knew

Unitarian

We have more in common than we knew.(snap)..We have more in common than we knew (snap).
You’re a Unitarian – me too -We have more in common than we knew (snap)..
We go to church – on sundays
Some say meeting house – but its the same place
We still sing – old Christian hymns.. Just changed the words like God and sins
We don’t move – when we sing..
Checking lyrics – is our thing
We face front – then sit and stand
Hear a sermon – that’s well-planned
We like to think and use our mind – we like to do good and be kind
Building world community – supporting all to be FREE
We have more in common than we knew (snap).
We’re Unitarians it’s true
We have more in common than we knew (snap).
-We have more in common than we knew

FINALE…

We have more in common than we knew-(snap)We have more in common than we knew (snap) I may be different – not quite like you….
but we have more in common than we knew-

AMin – Amen – Namaste – Blessed Be

Discussion / Meditation

I’d like you to take a few minutes and contemplate the question…