This sermon series “First Journeys” has been quite a journey for me, especially as I prepare to write the final installment looking at the hardship and struggle of poor European immigrants on our beloved United States of America.
Let’s be real now. You don’t often see UU ministers treading into this territory. We don’t like to talk about class or our classism within whiteness. It’s more comfortable to explore the territory of the Native and African American experiences, because, as a mostly white religion, these categories tend to be separate from us, and we can examine them from a distance. “That’s their experience.” But what about our experience?
We all have ancestors, and if we look into the genealogy of our immigrant forbears, many of us will discover family stories of poverty and toil, and legends of mothers and fathers “pulling themselves up with their own bootstraps.” Some made it, and some didn’t. It so often depended on teasing life out of this land. But these generations may go so far back that their stories are largely forgotten to history. And we’re okay with that, because we don’t have to struggle anywhere near as much as that anymore. We’d sooner not think about it.
But it’s a useful spiritual exercise to look at just how hard life was in the 18th and 19th centuries. We take so much for granted nowadays: plentiful food, comfort, modern life. It’s important for us to reflect on how abundant and blessed our age is, not knowing what’s in store for our children, or their children, as climate change looms and this land continues to change.
The other concept I plan to talk about this Sunday is showing how our current political climate is not new. It’s as old as Andrew Jackson, who appears on the $20 bill for a reason. The populist fervor then and now is a result of the extreme difficulty of being poor in this land, and the inequality that is baked in to that. When you look deeply at history, it’s impossible to avoid the politics and government policies that determined and influenced so many lives. Can we understand it better through this lens? I think it’s worth trying, for this land is more divided everyday.
Thank you for taking all of these First Journeys with me. Thank you for having faith in my use of the free pulpit, and considering that these topics are important as we strive to live our lives with awareness, integrity, and compassion.
See you in church!
– Rev. Hannah