Ohio River Group




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Ohio River Group 2017

November 6-9, 2017

The Transfiguration Spirituality Center,
Village of Glendale, 495 Albion Avenue, Cincinnati, OH 45246

“Resistance & Resilience"


 “There is always a moment in any kind of struggle when one feels in full bloom. Vivid. Alive. One might be blown to bits in such a moment and still be at peace. Martin Luther King, Jr. at the mountaintop. Gandhi dying with the name of God on his lips. Sojourner Truth baring her breasts at a women’s rights convention in 1851. Harriet Tubman exposing her revolver to some of the slaves she had freed, who, fearing an unknown freedom, looked longingly backward to their captivity, thereby endangering the freedom of all. To be such a person or to witness anyone at this moment of transcendent presence is to know that what is human is linked, by a daring compassion, to what is divine.” – Alice Walker


Papers and Responses

(The descriptions below are what the Program Committee gave the paper writers as suggested starting places. Authors will provide titles for their own papers and responses.)


Paper #1 -- Resistance and Resilience in Unitarian, Universalist, and Unitarian Universalist History.  This paper might consider how race, class, and other elements of our historical identity and social location have figured – for good or ill -- in our social justice work.


Paper Writer – Jennie Barrington, Respondent – Gordon Gibson


Paper #2 – How Unitarian, Universalist, and Unitarian Universalist Theology Has Informed Our Resistance Work and Contributed to Our Resilience.  This paper is not expected to be a history survey. Instead it might focus on how our theology makes our resistance work different from work for social justice in general that anyone could do irrespective of their theology. Also, how does our theology help us become resilient and maintain our resilience as we do this work?


Paper Writer – Susan Smith, Respondent – Eric Meter


Paper #3 – Resistance and Resilience at Intersections and on the Margins.  This paper might focus on behavior and attitudes of those who have been in the struggles and on the margins for a long time – and what they can teach those who’ve joined the struggle more recently.  The paper might include forms of resistance and practices to develop resilience that are particularly effective from the margins.


Paper Writer – Deane Oliva, Respondent – Lane Campbell


Paper #4 – An Up-close Look at Resistance and Resilience Today in Unitarian Universalist Congregations and in the UUA. Who is doing what?  What issues are taking precedence? What are the roles of pastoral and prophetic ministry in this time of resistance?  How do resistance and resilience feed each other?


Paper Writer – Emily Gage, Respondent – Shelley Page


Aesthetics and Worship


Amy DeBeck and Misty-Dawn Shelly will jointly lead both.



The Resource List is a little longer this year than in recent years. Often the task of the Program Committee has been to find enough pertinent and good quality material to build a Resource List. This year is different. The universe is daily producing piles of material on resistance and/or resilience. We decided the best service we could provide you would be to gather some of what we see as exceptionally good resources on resilience and some on rationales for resistance in general -– no matter the particular issue – as well as some resources that speak to one particular area of resistance or another. Some of you may choose to read everything on our “highly recommended” list; some of you may want to make selections from that list depending on your particular area of interest. We have vetted the entire “highly recommended” list, and unless an item is truly self-explanatory, we are providing annotations for the items on that list. Then in addition we offer you an un-vetted longer list of “also recommended” resources that anyone has suggested for our attention on this year’s topic. We wish you well as you choose among this year’s embarrassment of riches.



Highly Recommended Resources




Appiah, Kwame Anthony. Cosmopolitanism: Ethics in a World of Strangers (Issues of Our Time), 2006.

·         Appiah asks what it means to be a citizen of the world and what do we owe strangers by virtue of our shared humanity.  He gives us a deep understanding of what the growing nationalism and Christian fundamentalism in our country are really like and an understanding of why it is so critically important to resist them.  This is not a book full of dry abstractions. It is full of thought-provoking stories instead. 

Barber, II, William J. The Third Reconstruction: How a Moral Movement Is Overcoming the Politics of Division and Fear, 2016.

·         This was our UUA Common Read for 2016. It calls for a nation-wide moral revival and offers a blueprint for state-wide grassroots organizing. The Appendix, Fourteen Steps Forward Together is particularly useful.


Coleman, Monica. Making a Way Out of No Way, 2008.

·         Dr. Coleman is a womanist process theologian, and this book is about the practical theology of salvation.  It looks head-on at the ugliness that is possible in humanity, and lifts up the role of creative transformation through teaching and healing in community that is communal and multiperspectival.  It breaks the process of salvation into four interwoven parts: unforeseen possibilities, human agency, the goal of justice, and a challenge to the existing order. 


Gottlieb, Roger. A Spirituality of Resistance: Finding a Peaceful Heart and Protecting the Earth, 2003.

·         Gottlieb pursues the central idea that “what is most precious about our own lives is bound up with the fate of others.” Gottlieb takes on tough questions about what spirituality and resistance have to do with each other and why either one without the other is insufficient.

·         “The Holocaust and ecocide both depend on highly developed technology and large, impersonal bureaucracies; and both demonstrate how irrational these modern ways of life can be. They reveal a profound inability to empathize with other people and other forms of life, expressing a vision of human relationships keyed to domination and exploitation.” 

·         “Why is resistance so powerful? Because in the act of resistance we fully engage that which frightens and depresses us the most. What we would avoid, deny, submit to, or go along with is brought into full reality. We no longer have to feel that it is too much, that we cannot tolerate a world in which this exists, or that we have to let it command our obedience.”

·         We recommend that people read this together with Sebastian Junger’s Tribe and Kwame Appiah’s Cosmopolitanism. 


Junger, Sebastian. Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging, 2016.  

·         Junger explores the qualities of community that come to exist in times of disaster -- whether among soldiers in combat or in a town after a hurricane. He compares the actually primitive ways of being with others in such circumstances to our usual modern life filled with things, self-sufficiency, and loneliness.  This is an amazing little book, only 136 pages of text, and it has much to say to us about what produces resilience.

·         We find this part of a compelling trilogy, with Gottlieb and Appiah.


Kimmerer, Robin Wall. Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants, 2015.

·         As a botanist, Robin Wall Kimmerer asks questions of nature with the tools of science. As a member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation, she embraces indigenous teachings that consider plants and animals to be our oldest teachers. Kimmerer brings these two lenses of knowledge together to take “us on a journey that is every bit as mythic as it is scientific, as sacred as it is historical, as clever as it is wise” (Elizabeth Gilbert)


Loeb, Paul. The Impossible Will Take a Little While, 2014.  

This book is filled with stories of engagement and a realistic, gritty kind of hope, and is an expression of the idea that were both the reason we do the work of peace and justice, and the way we do it.  The stories are brief glimpses into resilience as seen through many different lenses from different experiences.  There is an arc that moves the reader through themes of frailty and strength, desperation and faith, hesitation and commitment, acknowledging the very real reasons for fear, and offering some glimpses into hope.  Loeb writes this about his book: How do we break through Americas pervasive political cynicism and keep going despite all the setbacks? How have the leaders and unsung heroes of world-changing movements persevered in the face of doubt, fear, and seemingly overwhelming odds? In [this book] they tell us in their own words. They explore what its like to go up against Goliath and keep on in the face of everything that tempts us to stop. These stories dont sugarcoat the obstacles. But they inspire hope by showing what keeps us keeping on. Among the voices included in the book are Maya Angelou, Marian Wright Edelman, Vaclav Havel, Tony Kushner, Audre Lorde, Nelson Mandela, Bill Moyers, Pablo Neruda, Dan Savage, Desmond Tutu, Alice Walker, Cornel West, and Howard Zinn.


Stephenson, Wen. What We're Fighting for Now Is Each Other: Dispatches From the  Front Lines of Climate Justice, 2015.

·         The subtitle is “Dispatches From the Front Lines of Climate Justice,” and it is just that. Lots of stories about people doing climate justice, including what inspires them to do the work, and how they find hope in a seemingly impossible task. Not a primer for how to do resistance, nor how to cultivate resilience.


Ward, Jesmyn, ed. The Fire This Time: A New Generation Speaks About Race, 2017.

·         Ward won the 2011 National Book Award for her “Salvage the Bones,” a searing, lyrical, ultimately redemptive novel. Here, she edits a collection full of essays that are similarly powerful. Perhaps the two most useful for our papers are "Black  and Blue" by Cadogan and "The Condition of Black Life Is One of Mourning" by Rankine.



Online Resources


DiAngelo, Robin. "White Fragility”  http://libjournal.uncg.edu/ijcp/article/download/249/116


Indivisible: A Practical Guide for Resisting the Trump Agenda. www.indivisibleguide.com

·         Former congressional staffers reveal best practices for making Congress listen. This guide focuses on a perspective that many of us neglect -- throwing a monkey-wrench into Trump’s machinery and acknowledging the basic self-interest of our elected leaders. As such, it challenges the very middle-class assumption that we only want to do “positive” things and not think about dismantling the structures of oppression that Trump’s administration is benefiting from.


Sharp, Gene. "198 Methods of Nonviolent Action."  http://www.mapm.org/documents/198-nonviolent-methds-2007.pdf


Southern Movement Blueprint -- "A Plan of Action in a Time of Crisis." http://southtosouth.org

·         This is a nice concrete example of practical organization and tools. 




TED Radio Hour 12/18/16.  "How To Get from Conflict to Reconciliation."

·         This program included excerpts from several TED talks, including William Ury on going to the balcony and Elizabeth Lesser on taking the other to lunch.

·         This is a really hopeful hour that offers several voices on practical ways humans can bridge “otherness” and division. In particular, J.D. Vance (who wrote Hillbilly Elegy) talks about the difference between those who have access to the American Dream working out of a frame that things will get better, and those who don’t sinking into a kind of lived hopelessness.


Also Recommended Resources



Barsamian, David. “It’s Easier Than We Think: Ralph Nader on How We Can Change Society,” The Sun, December 2016, pp. 4-13.


Harris, John. "Can the Left Find Its Voice in the 21st Century?" The Nation, November 28, 2016, pp. 16-19, 25.


Hogue, Michael S. “Toward a Pragmatic Political Theory,” American Journal of Theology and Philosophy, Vol. 34, No. 3, Sept. 2013, pp. 264-283.


Holland, Joshua. “Field Guide to the Resistance, The Nation, March 27, 2017, pp. 12-15. 


“The People vs. the President,” a collection of featured articles including “The Prospects for Resistance,” Frances Fox Piven, pp. 13-15; Creative Reconstruction, Margaret Atwood, pp. 15-17; Think Globally, Resist Locally, Benjamin Barber, pp. 17-19; The First Amendment vs. Trump, David Cole, p. 20; In Foreign Pay, Zephyr Teachout, pp. 21-23; and Journalism in Trumps America, Michael Massing, pp. 24-25, The Nation, February 6-13, 2017.




Appiah, Kwame Anthony. The Honor Code: How Moral Revolutions Happen. 2011.


Campbell, Joan Brown. Living into Hope: A Call to Spiritual Action for Such a Time as This. 2012.

Feffer, John. Splinterlands. 2017.

Holsaert, Faith. Hands on the Freedom Plow, an Anthology. 2012.

Johnstone, Macy, Joanna and Chris. Active Hope. 2012.


Lerner, Rabbi Michael. Surplus Powerlessness: The Psychodynamics of Everyday Life and the Psychology of Individual and Social Transformation, 1991.


Loeb, Paul. Soul of a Citizen. 2010.


Welch, Sharon. A Feminist Ethic of Risk. 1990.

Wheatley, Margaret. So Far From Home. 2012.

Wilkerson, Isabel. The Warmth of Other Suns. 2010.


Online Resources


Adichie, Chimamanda Ngozi. “Now is the Time to Talk about What We are Actually Talking About”



Bovee-Kemper, Lisa. “Supporting the Resistance”



Breedlove, Caitlin. “Spiritual muscle, courage, and non-compliance”


Ladd, Donna. “Fannie Lou Hamer”

Murphy, Bill. “Want to Raise Resilient Kids? A Navy SEAL Says Always Do This”

Snyder, Thomas. 20 Lessons from the 20th Century on How to Survive in Trumps America

http://www.inthesetimes.com/article/19658/20-lessons-from-the-20th-century-on-how-to-survive-in-trumps-america  Also published under the title Be a Patriot, UU World, Spring 2017, pp. 30-31.

Unitarian Universalist Association. “Sharon Welch and an Ethic of Risk” 

Vandiver, D. “Be About That Loving and Justice Making”

Walter, Erin J. “Dancing with grief, hope, and resistance” 




“Start Making Sense”




Chavez, Cesar. Prayer of the Farm Workers Struggle

Chavez, Elisa. Revenge

Tutu, Desmond. Liberation is Costly

Vandiver, Deann. A Garden Prayer

Watt, Molly Lynn. On Wings of Song: A Journey into the Civil Rights Era

Wheatley, Margaret. Perseverance