Enacting Radical Change

This sermon topic was requested by the UU church in Cumberland MD and I delivered it on April 23, 2006. The original title was Enacting Radical Change: Personal, Political, Global

What is radical change and how do we bring it about?political change pic

As some of you may know, I am a writer. And as I sat on Friday looking out at the rain and gloom, I begin thinking about how hard it was to get motivated at times. As I sat, facing the blank page, in the midst of a cloudy and rainy day, I asked myself, “How do you get motivated in the face of such a landscape?”

And I then realized that this is exactly the outlook many of us face as Americans and as inhabitants of this planet. How in the world do we get motivated to act during a time when everything seems so gloomy and so desperate? When for many of us our every effort seems so small and ineffectual. And every previous seeming victory is now called into question.

Radical change? Hell at this point, I’d guess that many of us would be happy with a sliver of change in the right direction. Or maybe I should say left direction.

I wrote in a frequently forwarded post after the last election, that

“ …if we cannot rely on the "youth vote and the disenfranchised single-female vote and the "Daily Show" vote and the Eminem vote and the celebrity vote and the humanitarian vote and the antiwar vote and the gay vote and the pro-choice vote and the Howard Stern vote and the immigrant vote" to turn an election, what the hell else can we do except re-look at everything again.”

And re-looking at it all again is ultimately what this sermon is about. How do we enact change? Not just at the political level, but also at the personal and the global level?

Okay, confession time -- It has taken me thirty years to finally concede that yes, political change is important. I was skeptical as a black nationalist, and later as a Marxist, with how so many people kept trying to use the American political system to create real change. It still bothers me.

But I now can say unequivocally that, yes, political change is important. However, you cannot rely solely on political change. That was and is the folly of so many movements for social, economic and racial justice. We have to change so much more than the politics; we have to change the symbols, the myths, the language, the art, the music, etc. We have to change the very soul of our culture. And to change or rather to work on the soul of a culture is by definition, a radical act.

We have confused ourselves by relying on our own faulty memories. We think, for example, that women won the right to vote via an amendment to the constitution or that slavery was abolished due to government proclamation. We think the Voting Rights act or the Civil Rights Act or Title Nine or Roe v Wade were the harbingers of major cultural shifts. We think we lost the ERA. We are mistaken.

The Soul of a Nation

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