Resistance – January 2016 Theme

soul matters for january: what does it mean to be a people of resistance?

Wise Words: starts when you care to act,
it starts when you do it again
after they say no,
it starts when you say We
and know who you mean, and each
day you mean one more.
—Marge Piercy, from The Low Road

Resistance defined: The refusal to accept or comply with something; the attempt to prevent something by action or argument. From the Latin verb resistere, “to hold back.”

Yes, this month’s theme is among the most complex of them all. But it also may be the most simple.

The complexity is clear:

Sometimes being a people of resistance involves struggle and requires us to disobey; other times it asks us to just be ourselves and not hide who we really are. Sometimes it involves defeating the enemy; other times it is a matter of noticing that treating them as the enemy defeats us all. Sometimes being a person of resistance is about fighting all the way to the top; other times it’s about picking yourself up off the floor and taking one tiny step. Sometimes it depends on the will to never let them win; other times it hinges on the wisdom to follow the path of least resistance.

It certainly takes the form of speaking our truth. But more often than not, it’s about the harder task of speaking the truth in love.

We all know being a people of resistance involves refusing to comply and demanding change, which requires great courage. But sometimes the most courageous thing is to stop resisting and accepting that things just aren’t going to work out the way we hoped.

Bottom line: being a people of resistance is tricky business and takes multiple forms.

But beyond this complexity lies the simplicity of Marge Piercy’s words. In all cases, she reminds us, being a people of resistance starts when we say we.

January puts this in stark relief. Think about all those New Year’s resolutions that try to overcome our personal inertia? Who of us ever accomplishes that without help? Without someone holding us accountable or cheering us on?  

Martin Luther King Jr Day makes it just as clear. Although we celebrate him as a great leader, he himself preached that change requires a movement. Simply put, none of us resist alone.

Or maybe it’s better to say that none of us have to resist alone. We all know what it is like to want to resist. Think of all those voices we hear in our heads and feel in our hearts: I’m not going to take it anymore. I will not go along. I will not submit. I refuse to conform. I will no longer be numb.  I will not give up. I will not forget. I will not go to sleep. I will ignore it no longer. I will not turn a blind eye. And yet, we also know that those voices are hard to hear and hold on to by ourselves. The blessing, of course, is that we don’t have to hold on alone.

It is one thing to be told, “Resist!” It is quite another to be told, “Resist together!” But often what we need most is simply to be reminded that we don’t have to resist alone.

May this be the gift we give each other this month. Let’s help each other remember to start by saying we! It may be as simple as that.

Spiritual Exercise: Get Going…But Not On Your Own

This is the month of New Year’s resolutions. This year, don’t just pick a resolution; pick a partner! Honoring the spiritual practice of accountability, tell a trusted friend about your resolution and then ask them to help hold you to it. Choose whatever accountability strategy that works best for both of you. Maybe ask them to text you once a day to remind or encourage you. Instead of running alone, ask them to run with you for the month. Maybe your resolution is to get back to writing. If so, ask them to be your editor. 

And don’t just ask them to hold you accountable. Ask them to help you reflect on the experience itself. Sit down for at least one conversation before your small group meeting to talk with your

“resolution partner” about how it felt to be held accountable and to hold one accountable. What did it teach you—and them—about the power of resisting together?

Some Spiritual Practice Questions on Resistance

As always, don’t treat these questions like “homework” or a list that needs to be covered in its entirety.  Instead, simply pick the one question that “hooks” you most and let it lead you where you need to go. The goal of these questions is not to help you analyze what resistance means, but to figure out what being a person of resistance means for you today.  So, which question is calling to you?

  1. What would happen if you saw praise, joy, or the creation of beauty as your primary form of resistance? What if the world needs your praise as much as your picket signs? What if it needs the creation of beauty as much as the elimination of injustice?
  2. Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote, “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”  How is life asking you to end your silence?
  3. Is it really an insurmountable and futile challenge? Or just a matter of taking the next small step in front of you?
  4. The psychiatrist Carl Jung wrote, “What you resist, persists.” So, is it possible that your resistance is the source of the struggle you are in? Would the fight end if you stopped fighting? Would the wall fall down if you stopped pushing on it?
  5. Has the habit become bad? Is it time to be honest about how your habit controls you more than you control it?
  6. If you were put on trial for being countercultural, would you be convicted? 
  7. Is it possible that your refusal to give up and give in may be a way of avoiding the pain?
  8. Is labeling them the enemy defeating both them and you?
  9. Are your efforts to save the world leaving room to savor it?
  10. What would happen if you saw your justice work not as saving the world or bending the arc of the universe towards justice, but simply as “being a pest”? (Inspired by the Dalai Lama, who wrote: "If you think you are too small to make a difference, try sleeping with a mosquito.")
  11. What’s your question? Your question may not be listed above. As always, if the above questions don't include what life is asking from you, spend the month listening to your days to hear it.

Related Quotes from the Library Committee

  • From Norma: “The people of Selma will struggle on for the soul of the nation, but it is fitting that all America help to bear the burden. I call therefore, on clergy of all faiths representative of every part of the country, to join me for a ministers’ march to Montgomery on Tuesday morning, March 9. In this way all America will testify to the fact that the struggle in Selma is for the survival of democracy everywhere in our land.”
    (From a telegram from Martin Luther King Jr. 
    Providing background to the role of UUs in the Civil Rights movement. From The Selma Awakening by Mark D. Morrison-Reed, p. IX.)
  • From Ruth: “Before we can know what we are to do, we must know what we are.”
    Peter Weiss, Marat/Sade, quoted in A Passion for Justice by Robert C. Solomon, p. 102.)
  • From Karen: 

Some of us remember,
And we can hear her yet,
The first black woman singer
Invited to the Met.

(From Keep on Singing: A Ballad of Marian Anderson by Myra Cohn Livingston.)

  • From Carolyn: “Rosa took a breath. It was time to decide. Would she go to the back of the bus? Rosa looked at the driver. She was tired of men like him. She was tired of the whole Jim Crow system. She was tired of being a second-rate citizen. This was her chance to make a difference.”
    From Rosa Parks: Young Rebel by Kathleen Kudlinski, p. 169.)


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