By Rev. Matthew McHale
Minister, Emerson Unitarian Universalist Church
At our ministerial start-up weekend in October, congregational leaders identified several key priorities for our first year together, one of which was to revitalize our justice work. As a minister, I’m very passionate about justice work and I had been wishing for a more vibrant justice presence at Emerson, so I was really grateful that we identified that as a priority.
In the wake of this election, our justice worship has received a big boost, but came as the result of an election that could easily be a catastrophe for our community, our country and our world.
We had a really great turnout of around 40 people for the special, post-election Justice Action Ministry (JAM) meeting on November 20, and many more indicated that they wanted to be there, but couldn’t make it. Clearly, a lot of people are eager and ready to get involved in justice work in the wake of this election.
At the meeting, I articulated what I saw as key priorities for our justice work, now that we are facing a Trump presidency, and a resurgence of bigotry and intolerance from his supporters: working for immigrant justice, standing up to religious intolerance, and continuing to fight for climate justice. And undergirding all three of these issues is the necessary work of racial justice.
Trump has promised to deport 11 million undocumented immigrants, regardless of how that would tear apart families and peoples lives, and has repeatedly said racist things about Latinos. Canoga Park is heavily Latino neighborhood, and a lot of our neighbors are undocumented or have family who is undocumented. If we are going to be responsive to our community’s needs, this is an obvious place to start.
Muslims are another group that Trump and his supporters have vociferously targeted, even suggesting the possible creation of registry for Muslims, which horrifically evokes Nazi Germany. As people of faith, who believe in religious pluralism, we must stand up against the rise in hate crimes and violent rhetoric directed at Muslims. Because of the large Muslim population in the west valley, there is a great need here, and because of our relationship with the Islamic Society of the West Valley we have a good foundation to build on.
Because Trump has indicated that he doesn’t believe in global warming, his administration may cut back on environmental regulations, push for fossil fuel exploration, and undo emissions reductions at a time when we simply cannot afford to wait, let alone go backwards. So we must fight for climate justice, to make sure that those who bear the least responsibility for causing global warming—primarily People of Color and poor people—do not bear the worst impacts, and to ensure future generations have a world that is livable.
If we are to be effective in any of these struggles, all of these will require joining with other communities in solidarity and in action, because we cannot do it alone. It is our role to show up and ask Muslim and immigrant communities what they need and how we can support. As a predominantly white congregation, will need to learn how to be effective allies, and develop our capacity for working in multicultural environments.
Though there are so many issues beyond these that we are all passionate about, in this particular moment I want to invite us all to listen attentively to the needs of those vulnerable among us, particularly within our community, and have that be the guide for where we focus our work.
Though I deeply wish the circumstances were different, I am heartened to see how many people are ready and willing to show up for justice. I am glad to be doing this work with all of you.
In Blessed Struggle,