Lawn Signs

This summer black lawn signs with colorful words popped up in and around Orono. They don’t carry a candidate’s name and they don’t state a partisan message. But they do convey significant principles affecting our political life together in community. 

Sign distributed by CUF in the summer of 2020

The Deacons at the Church of Universal Fellowship decided to make these signs available to members and friends who wanted to express an important message to their neighbors. 

We Believe. For us, to say “we believe” is to make a commitment beyond ourselves that guides our conduct and holds us accountable. It is different from an assertion of knowledge, but reflects convictions we have tested and learned to trust in an ongoing practice of faith and relationship. 

To use these words in modern times is to recognize that not everyone believes the same things. Precisely for that reason, at the Church of Universal Fellowship we each give voice to our unique beliefs and respect the need to hear from others. 

“Black Lives Matter.” An organizing refrain begun during 2013, when Trayvon Martin’s killer was acquitted. On display was how worthless a Black life was made out to be. The following summer, attention to police violence grew when Mike Brown’s body was filled with police bullets and left dishonored in the streets for hours. Activists in cities across the U.S. propelled a generation to change systems of violence which previously were viewed as acceptable. 

This year many white people – including in small towns and majority-white communities – publicly echoed the statement “Black Lives Matter” after watching the unbearable killing of George Floyd. Out of a spiritual conviction that all lives MUST matter, our signs reflect this growing multi-racial movement. 

As we learn more about the sins of racism, we commit ourselves to undoing the harm of white attempts at supremacy.

“No Human Is Illegal.” When many white families immigrated here historically, no papers were required at the border, and there was no such thing as a Social Security Number. 

Complexity has since evolved including different rules for asylum, refugee process, and layers of status for U.S. immigration – many of which are impossible for actual human beings to follow. Such laws are enforced often unequally on the most vulnerable, separating families and preying upon those with the least ability to pay. 

In over a hundred verses the Bible seeks to alleviate the suffering of the impoverished, the landless, the alien, and the stranger – and to treat workers fairly. To God, none of these human beings is “illegal.” Indeed, the Bible is read today in many languages in many countries, in a global context where more human beings are stateless and displaced than ever before. 

“Love is Love.” Jesus never married, and many of his earliest followers avoided marriage, so marriage can never be an idol in Christian life. Yet, a strange defense of heterosexuality has prompted some Christians to demonize lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer people, and to disparage their loving relationships. 

Relationships founded on promises of giving and support are covenantal relationships, regardless of the gender of the parties making promises. Whatever the gender, covenantal relationships are a place to practice love in action.

“Women’s Rights are Human Rights.” Anti-slavery abolitionists first spoke of human rights two hundred years ago. Women among them, they sought to expand participation in the United States experiment of democracy. 

International feminists have continued to name the links between issues affecting women and issues affecting the community as a whole: discrimination, inequity, under-education, and violence both within and outside the home. Hillary Clinton famously said this line in China in 1995 and her remarks were immediately censored. 

Wherever violence against women is normalized, and wherever male lawmakers control the criminality of sex and reproduction, our world resembles the first-century world where Jesus had to confront violent men and intervene to prevent a stoning (John 8). 

“Science Is Real.” Most of us will never visually see cell signals, outer space, or the hazards of lead paint. Yet all of this is real. 

When it comes to public health, scientific research is not flawless, but it is important. The norms of inquiry and testing, peer review and the refining of knowledge are helpful to a society dealing with tiny microorganisms that cannot be seen, and massive ecosystems of which we can glimpse only a part. 

Science might not be all that is real, in a universe with more unknowns than knowns! However, science as a method cultivates qualities of humility necessary for faith, alongside curiosity and creativity. The affirmation of these qualities is as old as “faith seeking understanding,” from Saint Augustine in the 4th century and Saint Anselm in the 11th century. It keeps Christian faith back from the temptation of fundamentalism. 

“Water is Life.” An English translation of the phrase “mne wiconi” in the Lakota language, heard worldwide in the fall of 2016 when Native-led water protectors gathered at Standing Rock Indian Reservation to oppose an oil pipeline (since ruled illegal) running under the Missouri River on reservation land. 

Locally in Maine, indigenous people have a Penobscot saying “Nibezun” which signifies “water is the first medicine.” 

Like baptism by water in many churches, these words remind us that human beings and human communities cannot live without the sacredness of water. Our ecological commitments are part of reverence for all that makes life wondrous.

“Injustice Anywhere Is A Threat to Justice Everywhere.” Quotation from Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., whose worldview contained an “inextricable web of humanity.” 

As a Christian minister Dr. King served the Lord’s Supper, which we observe as communion. This sacrament displays a compassionate God’s solidarity with all of us, and our connectedness to each other. 

The power for transformation based on mutuality and justice is available freely, a gift of God’s Spirit. It fuels ongoing resistance, ongoing confession, and courageous imagination toward God’s realm on earth.