Reflection on February’s Worship theme – Identity

"Spirituality is meant to take us beyond our tribal identity into a domain of awareness that is more universal." Deepak Chopra

I remember attending a graduate-level psychology class at the University of Minnesota many years ago when I was working on my Masters of Educational Policy and Administration. The faculty member was talking about identity and I remember him specifically noting how being gay or lesbian (it was in the late 1990s so bisexuality and transgender were barely acknowledged) was a primary identity. I thought to myself, “That can’t be true, I am so much more than that one part of my identity.”

Today, I’d acknowledge that being a lesbian is certainly is central to my identity and has impacted many aspects of my life. Deeper family relationships, my understanding of engaged democracy, and continuing to learn how to impact unjust systems are some of the outcomes of coming out and living as an out and outspoken lesbian. It has also impacted my ability to understand and advocate for other marginalized groups who lack the privileges that are afforded to me and so many. The truth is that we all have multiple identities which intersect and inform our perspectives in our own personal lives and beyond. Intersectionality is a term we hear often in interfaith organizing work. It is defined as “the interconnected nature of social categorizations such as race, class, and gender as they apply to a given individual or group, regarded as creating overlapping and interdependent systems of discrimination or disadvantage.” Intersectional community and political organizing is now more intentional with some unlikely coalitions forming around a common goal even if there are differences in other areas of policy or approaches to systemic change.

We enter into this new U.S. Presidency with great division in our country. Some have called out “identity politics” as being part of the problem. I believe we must honor our unique identities (which are complex and multi-layered) and find places where we can work for common cause with our UU Principles as our spiritual guide. As a faith community, my prayer is that we find a way to move beyond our “tribal identities” which can feed isolationism, self-righteousness, and close-mindedness in order to find points of commonality be they large or small. If we can’t do that here, where can we? Let our spirits guide us to stay awake to that which requires action and continue to call us to lives of generosity, understanding, and healing.

Rev. Laura Smidzik