Meditative Moments by Rev. Ruth Rinehart – September 28, 2014

Meditative moments

Thich Naht Hanh says: People usually consider walking on water or in thin air a miracle. But that is not what is important. Our breath is a miracle. Breathing in… breathing out … you are alive. Right now … the miracle we are sharing with each other … the atmosphere we are sharing with each other …

Come into your body, sitting there in your seat. Feet flat on the floor is best. Back straight but not rigid. Relax. Close your eyes as you are willing, and relax. Right here. Right now. Just pay attention to your breath … breathing in and breathing out. When your mind wanders, just bring it back. We are breathing together here.

And, we are breathing with the tides … and with the wind … and with every other living soul on this planet … we are breathing with all the plants, in our interdependent web of existence … we are all a part … we are one … there is no separation …

We’ll just breathe together for another minute, and I’ll bring you back with a bell. Relax. You are alive. Breathe …

Sacred Co-Creation and Reproductive Justice

You might know that right now, down at the Colorado State Capitol, in downtown Denver, many of your fellow congregants have joined the Standing on the Side of Love service. Witnessing for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer justice. Continuing to press for marriage equality. Last year, 700 UUs from all over Colorado joined.

This service began in 2006, as a public witness of the First Unitarian Society of Denver against the referendum to the Colorado Constitution to define marriage as ONLY a union between one man and one woman. We know that referendum passed, and that backwards definition of who is deemed acceptable to honor their love with the rite of marriage is now constitutional law in Colorado. And, we know that repressive law is soon to be overturned. Any day now! Unitarian Universalists have been at the forefront, here in Colorado and across the nation, standing up for the rights of people to have their love honored, recognized, valued.

We are with them in spirit. We are Standing on the Side of Love, right now, right here in this Earth Room.

And, now I’ve got a sad story to tell you. About a young mother of two in Longmont, who in 2012 was expecting her third child. Heather Surovik was almost full-term in her pregnancy, and had named her soon-to-be-born son, Brady. She was hit by a drunk driver, and she survived but her almost-born child did not. It’s a terribly sad story, and I have the greatest compassion for her.

The man who hit her was a chronic alcoholic, with several prior DWIs. He was convicted of vehicular assault and DWI, but he was NOT convicted of homicide, because Brady hadn’t been born yet, and in the eyes of Colorado law, he was not yet a person. Until a baby is born alive, it is considered part of its mother’s body, here in this state.

Now, this tragic story has been picked up by the Personhood movement, the national headquarters of which are here in Colorado. Amendment 67, on the ballot in November, would change the criminal code so that the definition of “person” and “child” would include the words “unborn human being.” There’s no definition of “unborn human being” in the ballot amendment. Legal advisors tell us, and we know this is the purpose of Amendment 67and the Personhood movement, this would mean that a fertilized egg would be given the same rights as a person, and the result would be disastrous for women and reproductive health here in Colorado.

The campaign FOR Amendment 67 is being called the Brady Amendment, or the Brady Initiative, after the boy who was not born, the son of Heather Surovik who was lost in that terrible car accident. Their campaign is being called “Justice for Brady,” because the drunk driver wasn’t charged with homicide. He WAS CONVICTED of two other charges, and he committed suicide before he was sentenced.

The story of Heather Surovik is emotional and tragic and compelling. And if a voter hears only her story and sees the text of the ballot amendment, the polls show that they WILL vote FOR it, because the ballot text is so misleading.

Here is exactly what the amendment says, on the ballot in November:

Shall there be an amendment to the Colorado constitution protecting pregnant women and unborn children by defining “person” and “child” in the Colorado criminal code and the Colorado wrongful death act to include unborn human beings?”

That’s it. The first part reads: Shall there be an amendment to the Colorado constitution protecting pregnant women …

Incredibly and purposefully misleading. They are running this campaign as if they want to protect pregnant women, when there is no way she could have been protected from that terrible accident. This mother has become the darling of the personhood movement, and she is fixated on it as a way to process her own grief. She has claimed that, since the driver committed suicide, she cannot get closure because she won’t get her day in court, AS IF a day in court could give closure to something as complicated as the grief of losing the potential of a wanted child.

Many of us here in this sanctuary probably know this story, and are planning to vote against Amendment 67. Some of you might not know that it is entirely appropriate for me to use this pulpit to preach about this issue: it is a bipartisan campaign to defeat Amendment 67, and pulpits have been used for centuries on social issues such as this, without violating the very important separation of church and state.

And the liberal religious voice in this campaign needs to be heard more. Amendment 67 is trying to enshrine one religious belief in our state constitution. The moment when life begins is a religious belief. Only a minority of people believe that a fertilized egg constitutes personhood, rather than potential life. The range of belief about when life begins ranges from at conception – the zygote – to the moment a child draws breath outside the mother’s body. The Constitution of the State of Colorado is no place to criminalize the vast majority of Coloradans, who believe in the privacy of medical decisions, who believe in the rights of women to make these choices, based on their own circumstances, within their own ethics, in the context of their own religious beliefs.

Religion has too often created a culture based on dominance. We can’t let women have control over their own bodies! A legislator in El Salvador was actually quoted as saying just this – We can’t let women have control over their own bodies!   This was in the context of criminalizing women for miscarriages and abortion, in one of the five countries in South America in which abortion is illegal for any reason at all, including rape or incest. It is so repressive in El Salvador that there are currently 17 women, serving murder sentences between 30 and 50 years, because they miscarried and their doctors turned them in to law enforcement.

Fetuses have personhood in El Salvador, so the charge is murder, and the doctors are scared that THEY will be the ones charged with murder, so they turn their patients in. Human Rights Watch is working hard right now to get these 17 women out of jail; women who suffered an untimely end to their pregnancies through miscarriage, were convicted of murder, and are now in jail serving long sentences.

This is a very clear example of what Riane Eisler, author of The Chalice and the Blade, calls a “dominator society.” Religion has too often carried the banner of a dominator culture.      “This model lies at the root of both war and the war of the sexes, both wife beating and child beating, both the exploitation and rape of other humans and of nature.”

We humans work at making meaning in our lives. We always have. It’s part of what makes us human. And, in millennia past, 5,000 years ago, we created a creator deity, and we made that deity all-powerful, because it gave some comfort and security, and helped us to make some sense of the random and frightening aspects of the natural world around us.

UU theologian, the Rev. Sharon Welch, is a professor at Meadville- Lombard, one of our UU seminaries, and author of A Feminist Ethic of Risk. She calls this the “erotics of domination.” Wherein a theology that gives value to the ABSOLUTE POWER of a deity is dangerous. A deep “idolatry” of an omnipotent God, then “reinforces a human desire for absolute power.”

“The claim of complete obedience to a higher power justifies total control of others.” We have seen this play out in millennia of wars, scourges, oppression, brutality, and unspeakable violence. This claim of allegiance to this dominator deity, as well as justification for force over others, played out in Crusades, the Inquisition, the genocide we perpetrated against the native peoples of this continent, and the rise of Hitler to power. Today, we see it in so many ways, in so many places around the world.

One hundred and fifty years ago, it was legal to own another human, as property, as a slave. Today, children in our country are pretty much considered the property of their parents, just like animals are property. I wonder if, 150 years from now, we will look at how we treated children and animals the way we are horrified today at slavery. This horror does still exist:  human trafficking, slavery is very real. But it’s illegal! We recognize that it’s wrong. And, even while we have laws against child abuse, the “hands off” culture still basically treats children as the property of their parents.

Sacred Co-Creation and Reproductive Justice. How do they connect? As we move beyond a notion of an all-powerful God, with human attributes, an ego bigger than belief, a God that demands to be worshipped and strikes out in anger – as we move BEYOND those notions, we in THESE sanctuaries are holding onto the sacred, which arises in our covenantal relationships, our religious path to walk together in sometimes messy human relations …

The interdependent web of all existence … we know that how we think, how we act, is our responsibility, and we also know that these are acts of creation. As Clarissa Pinkola Estes reminds us: “Ours is not the task of fixing the entire world all at once, but of stretching out to mend the part of the world that is within our reach. Any small, calm thing that one soul can do to help another soul, to assist some portion of this poor suffering world, will help immensely. It is not given to us to know which acts or by whom, will cause the critical mass to tip toward an enduring good. What is needed for dramatic change is an accumulation of acts, adding, adding to, adding more, continuing. We know that it does not take everyone on Earth to bring justice and peace, but only a small, determined group who will not give up during the first, second, or hundredth gale …”

We are IT. This is in our hands. To create the new partnership way, to move beyond a domination culture, to create the more beautiful world we all know is possible.

May it be so.

Closing words


 We are Standing on the Side of Love

Hands joined together, as our hearts beat as one.

Emboldened by faith, we DARE to proclaim

We are standing on the side of love!

We are all connected. There is no US vs. THEM. Go out there and talk about Amendment 67, and why it MUST be defeated! And be sure you vote, and everyone you know votes.

This coming week, UUs are hosting evening gatherings as informational events on Amendment 67: Tuesday in Henderson and Friday in Evergreen. We’ve also got yard signs and bumper stickers and literature here at UUCB, right out in the Sky room.

But don’t demonize Heather Surovik, or the Personhood folks who are using her story to try and control women’s bodies and women’s lives. Stand strong in love. Because we are all connected … we are all interdependent … we are all responsible … we are responsible for the sacred co-creation of a partnership culture, evolving BEYOND the dominator culture we all grew up with.

Standing on the Side of Love.

You are so powerful. You are so beautiful. I love you all. Go in peace.


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