by Connie Goodbread, UUA Southern Region Congregational Life staff
Come on people now smile on your brother,
everybody get together, try to love one another, right now.
I wrote this blog three days before the mass shooting at Pulse in Orlando. I read it through and it is still what I want to say. However, I cannot let our newsletter go out without saying something about this horrific act of violence that happened in the heart of Florida. We humans are born out of a violent past and into a violent world. The violence of nature cannot be tamed but we could try to curb the violence that is in our control. If violence is preached about as the way into heaven, as one person’s right over another, as the only way of being heard, as a good way to make others bend to our will, as a true path to riches - we just end up with more and more violence. If we do not look at how The United Stares of America contributes to this culture of violence, not only here, at home, but all over the world, the violence only continues. My questions are - how do I contribute to this culture of violence? What do I need to change in myself? Am I brave enough to make those needed changes?
In a workshop last month I was asked by a participant - “What can we do to fight against the radicalization that is going on in the world today?” This participant went on to say that what seemed to be at the core of this radicalization is the marginalization of segments of the world’s culture that seems to leave people oppressed and feeling powerless, with nowhere to turn. Hate is easy when you are unloved and think that you have little to lose. What I said back was, “Radical love. We need to be who we say we are and, therefore, be truly counter-cultural. We need to radicalize love.”
Where do we begin to radicalize love? What’s the first step? It seems to me that the only place we can begin is with our own hearts. Am I willing to allow love into my heart? I mean to really let love in. Am I willing to look at creation lovingly? Am I willing to manifest more love in the world - be loved and be love? And when I fail to be as loving as I should be - am I willing to forgive myself and begin again, in love?
How might this love help me to be a better person and partner? How might this love help me to work toward deeper community? To be in genuine community I must be willing to give part of me to become the we. What am I willing to give, share, work at, discuss, compromise, take responsibility for, change, process and take part in - so that me becomes we and we are community. It is only in community that we will have the greatest impact. I am not talking about a community of like-minded people - or a social club or a discussion group. This would be a full soul, body and mind community and experience.
In a different workshop a participant asked me – “Then what? What would happen if we succeeded?” I laughed and said that I didn’t know but it would be fun to find out - maybe we would just lift off the Earth. Someone yelled Rapture! We all laughed. I don’t know what would happen next. I don’t know what it would be like if fear and greed and jealousy were not driving the bus. If people were not oppressed by other people, if we really cared for one another, understanding that if one is oppressed all are oppressed. I don’t know what that would be like - but I think it would be amazing.
Dr. King’s Beloved Community is a global vision, in which all people can share in the wealth of the earth. In the Beloved Community, poverty, hunger and homelessness will not be tolerated because international standards of human decency will not allow it. Racism and all forms of discrimination, bigotry and prejudice will be replaced by an all-inclusive spirit of sisterhood and brotherhood. In the Beloved Community, international disputes will be resolved by peaceful conflict-resolution and reconciliation of adversaries, instead of military power. Love and trust will triumph over fear and hatred. Peace with justice will prevail over war and military conflict.
The Beloved Community - I went on line and looked it up. I found a wealth of information. Josiah Royce is quoted, as is Dr. King. There are sermons from all across our Association. Faith development programs are doing discussion groups and classes. Progressive religious blogs from many Denominations discuss its merit. It is compared to The Kingdom of God, Utopia, Nirvana and the harmony of all life. It is used as an invitation on congregational website - Come into our Beloved Community. In this invitation it is implied that this congregation has indeed achieved becoming a Beloved Community. I would like to see that because far too often we mistake the Beloved Community for the walled city on the hill. They are not the same. I want to suggest that we have not built the Beloved Community yet. Even if we have the greatest congregation in the whole wide world, we are not there yet. We do not sit at the welcome table. We are still struggling to find more love somewhere and we have not found, nor have we formed, the Beloved Community.
We hunger and long for it and because of our hunger and our longing, when, for the briefest of moments, we get a glimpse of it, a twinkling, a sparkle, a perfect harmonious note - we think we have found it. But we have merely gotten a glimpse, a twinkle, a sparkle and a note of perfect harmony. Because of that - because of having had that moment, we know what it feels like - it feels like home. Home, that place where you are warm, understood, loved and cherished for who you are not what you can do or give or even what others want you to be. Home, where there is love and trust and all are welcome. Home, where there is empathy and support.
Dr. King’s Beloved Community is a global vision. We cannot be there in small pockets. If one is oppressed all are oppressed. Therefore, the Beloved Community cannot happen merely inside a congregation - because our congregations do not exist in isolation, in a vacuum, all alone. Our congregations, no matter how great they are, exist in this world, this imperfect human world. This imperfect human world that is far too often driven by fear, greed and hatred. This imperfect human world where oppression is the water we swim in.
So - in this world of imperfection - what can we hope for? What is to be done? How can we make a difference? Where do we begin? What can we change? Again, we begin with ourselves as we are. We begin with a change of heart. I reach out to you; will you reach out to me?