The Almighty Dollar

Spiritual Reflections

We all hope for change in LGBT rights. We all aspire to live in a world where justice rolls down like water. Some of us even dream it and a few of us get to be in on the groundwork building.

When I saw “we all,” I speak of religious liberals and progressives alike.

There are a few items, however, we need to bend “the moral arc of the universe,” to quote Theodore Parker (later quoted by Martin Luther King Jr.).

Dreams are crucial. Justice in action is key. Rallies, signatures, stories, courage and love are all integral.

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But, I know one thing in our modern world: change ain’t free!

I hate talking about money. I am the last person to call raising money “fun-draisers” or demand tithing to my congregation. In fact, most Unitarian Universalists give as much to their surrounding community as they do to their congregation. We think this is a wonderful thing! Each Sunday we give half of our undesignated plate collection to a community organization. I encourage folks to give outside of their spiritual community rather than tithing 10 percent just to us. And, I am a minister.

Have I lost my mind?

It’s simple for me.

Generosity to our wider community goes to my core values, as well as the values of Unitarian Universalism.

And, frankly, I know that the great social justice movements in history also required some funding. Volunteers were invaluable during the civil rights movement, but there were also costs for ensuring that rallies could be held, folks bailed out of jail, trainings developed, folks fed and leaders paid. And, in the midst of that movement, many civil rights leaders went without so they could see those dreams cemented for their children.

So, each year when my wife and I allocate our giving, we ensure five percent goes back to the wider community. We know we are fortunate to be able to give anything back and to be able to meet our basic needs. We give out of gratitude. We give gladly.

We also do so because we’ve watched our conservative brothers and sisters bankroll organizations that attempt to dismantle marriage equality and oppress LGBT folks. As liberal religious people we know it’s important to support love in every way we can — including through our bank account. As my congregation looks across the organizations we will support through our plate collection, fundraisers and budget, we ask the same question. Where can we fund love in action?

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Today, we see towering victories in the LGBT rights movement, particularly with marriage equality. We’ve seen states create same-sex marriage, alongside the national fall of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” These social justice victories rest upon the shoulders of organizers, leaders, volunteers and generations of courage. They also rest on folks who gave of their time, and their financial resources.

We each contribute in the ways in which we can. Some cannot give money, but only time. For some time is impossible, but small changes in their lifestyle could offer huge donations to significant causes.

With the Human Rights Campaign Carolina Gala occurring this month, it’s a good time to reflect on our generosity. Without guilt or burden, to ask what we can give to any number of organizations to continue to build that beloved world we dream of for our children’s children.

And, as spring approaches and we are inspired to clean out our homes, perhaps it’s an opportune moment to ask what simplicity and generosity might mean for our current life choices.

Every gift we share, when given out of gratitude and gladness, is a drop toward the dream. : :

— The Rev. Robin Tanner is pastor of Piedmont Unitarian Universalist Church. She is a graduate of the University of Rochester and Harvard Divinity School. She began her tenure at Piedmont in the fall of 2010.

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