Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Sixth Principle - "The Goal of World Community With Peace, Liberty and Justice For All"

Part I
Today’s sermon is part of a sermon series on our Unitarian Universalist Principles. Today I will be discussing our sixth principle, “The goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all.”  For those of you paying attention, you will have noticed that I have went from the 1rst and then 2nd principle right to the sixth principle.  I like to think this shows how our journeys in life are not always linear. Sometimes it is good to let go of our attachments to how things should progress. On a practical note, today is UUSC Justice Sunday and I thought this principle lined up very well this topic.  UUSC stands for Unitarian Universalist Service Committee.

UUSC’s MISSION is to advance human rights and social justice around the world, partnering with those who confront unjust power structures and mobilizing to challenge oppressive policies.
UUSC’s VISION envisions a world free from oppression and injustice, where all can realize their full human rights. 

Our Congregation has a very long and deep connection with UUSC. In 1939 Our former minister Waitstill Sharp and his then wife Martha were invited by Rev. Everett Baker of the American Unitarian Association to go to Europe to help rescue refugees. From Waitstill Sharp’s correspondence I read the following.
“My wife Martha said:  “My husband and I felt something should be done.  Refugees in Czechoslovakia  had been murdered.  People had been imprisoned and hurt. But I thought we had two small kids, a very tiny daughter. So I asked Everett  how many men have you offered this to?” He answered “’17.’
“Do I understand they have all turned you down.  “’Yes.’ he replied
“They think a war is definitely coming and they don’t want to be endangered. As my wife Martha and I went home under the starry skies, we went home with a promise to do it.” And the next week at my congregation in Wellesley, MA, I told them, “It’s too late to turn our back on what we know is happening.  We must face the evil that faces us.”

That was the start of what is now the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee.   One couple’s willingness to say yes, to stand up against injustice.  Our former minister Waitstill Sharp.  If you want to hear more about Waitstill and Martha Sharp’s story, there will be a movie “Defying the Nazis – The Sharp’s War” shown at the Figge as part of the Holocaust Film Festival on April 9th at 4pm. The work for refugees that Waitstill and Martha Sharp is a testament to what our religion calls us and leads us to do.  To face the challenges that the world presents us with. I want you to think about that.
How many of us would go today to Syria, let alone the Mexican American Border to help refugees trying to escape certain death in their home countries.  Would we invite undocumented members of our community into our Congregation to avoid deportation.  We are starting a task force to determine if our Congregation is called to do this. If you are interested in participating in this task force, I invite you to contact me or our Immigration Team
Since November a number of you have come to me to share your concerns for the future of our country. I have been able to remain non anxious about this. I try to take the long view. I try to remember how far we have come, and what we have overcome in the past and just like my sermon series, not everything progresses in a linear fashion. I am comforted knowing that I belong to a religion that honors the values of peace liberty and justice through acts of love and compassion and as well through advocacy. It is at times like these that are values and actions are tested. In light of this, The Unitarian Universalist Association and the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee jointly issued the following Declaration of Conscience.
“At this extraordinary time in our nation’s history, we are called to affirm our profound commitment to the fundamental principles of justice, equity and compassion, to truth and core values of American society.

In the face of looming threats to immigrants, Muslims, people of color, and the LGBTQ community and the rise of hate speech, harassment and hate crimes, we affirm our belief in the inherent worth and dignity of every person.

In opposition to any steps to undermine the right of every citizen to vote or to turn back advances in access to health care and reproductive rights, we affirm our commitment to justice and compassion in human relations.

And against actions to weaken or eliminate initiatives to address the threat of climate change – actions that would threaten not only our country but the entire planet – we affirm our unyielding commitment to protect the interdependent web of all existence.
We will oppose any and all unjust government actions to deport, register, discriminate, or despoil.

As people of conscience, we declare our commitment to translate our values into action as we stand on the side of love with the most vulnerable among us. We welcome and invite all to join in this commitment for justice.  The time is now.”

The time is now. Sometimes though it can seem overwhelming. It seems never ending. When that feeling rises up within us, it is important to remember to take time to care for ourselves. In addition to taking care of ourselves, in light of the actions of Waitstill and Martha Sharp and the Unitarian Service Committee let us remember what we can do together by taking action.

In those moments in the night when doubt creeps in, or cynicism barks at my door, and fear starts to surround me I bring myself back to this poem by Adrienne Rich
“My heart is moved by all I cannot save
So much has been destroyed
I have to cast my lot with those
Who age after age,
Perversely, with no extraordinary power
Reconstitute the world.”
That is why we gather. To remind ourselves first and foremost in the face of danger and uncertainty, we are not alone. We gather to remind ourselves of who we are and what our purpose is. We gather to be with each other, to sing together to eat together, to share together, to act together. We gather to remember that  we are the keepers of the flame,  we are the ones whose religion calls us to stand for peace, liberty and justice for all. That is why we are here and why we do what we do. We come together to remember that we are not alone on our journey. To remember our true selves, and our purpose in healing, healing ourselves, healing each other and healing this broken world.  As you ponder these thoughts, I also ask you to remember the needs of the congregation and the community as we take our morning offering. Once you have had the opportunity to donate, we invite you to come down and light a candle to mark a joy or sorrow in your personal life. Let this sacred time begin.

Part II
When I think of the goal of world community with peace liberty and justice for all, this video comes to mind (PPT).  You will notice I used the intro to Star Trek Next Generation, not the original Star Trek. As much as I loved the original Star Trek, its verbiage was not gender neutral, and although groundbreaking for its time, now it seems a bit campy and misogynistic at times. What reminds me of the show and movies is that it envisions a United Earth under one government.
The United Earth came about after first contact with the Vulcans in 2063 as indicated in the movie Star Trek First Contact.  So we still have almost 50 years to accomplish this. Then the United Earth became part of the United Federation of planets in 2161. Now I think it is important to envision this. Before something becomes real, we have to envision it and then work to make it real. Star trek was the first show I saw that had mobile communicators what we might call cell phones. It proposed automatic doors opening based on one walking up to it, something we take for granted today with every store we walk into. If we could just get the transporter thing working it could go a long way to solve our environmental problems. 
So why not a United Earth. I think most people struggle with our sixth principle above all others. Compared to most of the world the standard of living for the United States is in the top 10 of all countries by the various economic calculations used. As globalization has expanded over the past 20 years the standard of living particularly in Asia has risen, while the Standard of living for the average American has fallen. That is the rub. What if having peace liberty and justice for all means we have to have a lower standard of living in our country? I believe this is the fear that has driven the anti-globalization movements in America and Western Europe.
This comes from a theology of scarceness. A belief that the world is zero sum game that means if someone wins someone else has to lose.   How would our outlook be if we believed in a Theology of abundance?  A belief that we are enriched when all are enriched. A belief that there can be enough for everyone. Even if we just look at America. What would it mean to have peace, liberty, and justice for all? What would the cost be to make that happen. What is the cost if we do not make that happen? Can a person have peace if they do not have adequate medical care? Can a person have liberty if they do not have adequate opportunity for a quality education? Can a person feel they are being treated justly if they are the target of racism, homophobia, transphobia, antisemitism, and other forms of oppression? Should a child who lives in Bettendorf be valued more then a child in Davenport, or South Chicago.  And Conversely should a child born the United States be valued more then the child in Bangladesh. Do we believe the parent of that child in Bangladesh have the same hopes and dreams for their child as we do here?
I think the truth is we don’t know the answer to that question.   Not every culture has the same dreams as we do. We are often formed by the circle of circumstances that surround us, so we need to expand our circle and expand our circumstances. (PPT) Thinking of Maslows Hierarchy of Needs most people in the larger world are focused on the physiological and safety needs.  I think some of the anxiety we feel about the world can be attributed to many who feel we have moved up this pyramid are now experiencing that we are falling back into the safety needs whether it is from climate change or more outward expressions of hate and oppression in the world today.
So what can we do? Looking again to Star Trek, lets see how its wisdom can help us. Their mission to explore strange new worlds. To seek out new life and new civilizations and to boldly go where no one has gone before. I think that is very much like our Congregational mission. To create a vibrant, welcoming, diverse church family which embraces individual searches for meaning and devotes itself to community good. 
To explore strange new worlds asks us to embrace individual searches for meaning. Plurality doesn’t have to mean I am only going to believe what I believe and you can believe what you believe. That is part of it. But it also says we embrace the search for meaning. If we get stuck in one place, we have stopped searching. Part of our mission is about exploring different ways of thinking and being in the world. Expanding our current worldview and opening our minds to something new.
To create a vibrant welcoming diverse church family requires us to seek out new life and new civilizations. That requires us to be interested in other people who may be and think differently then us. If we are truly to be pluralistic and welcoming, we can not be dismissive to others who think differently then us. We should live with an ethos of curiosity and compassion towards others. As I previously talked about the Board will be doing a listening campaign in the spring. We didn’t call it a talking campaign, or a sharing campaign. We called it a listening campaign. So we can hear what and where your passions and interests are. This will not only help us get to know each other better, but will let the leaders of the Congregation know how to better lead the Congregation. I think this is spiritual practice we can all do informally. When you go down to coffee hour I encourage you to sit with someone you don’t know and ask them, what is meaningful in your life today.
Lastly to boldly go where no one has gone before is a requirement for devoting ourselves to community good. We need to go out to the community to do community good. We have to understand the needs of the community to do community good. We cannot assume we know the right answer for others. We cannot assume we even understand what the needs of others are whether it is halfway across the world or half way across the city, or sometimes even halfway across the sanctuary. We can only know by being in deeper relationship with others. Opening ones self up to others and being open to really hearing others takes boldness.
I think Star Trek also has another lesson for us. The Prime Directive. The Prime Directive. prohibits Starfleet personnel from interfering with the internal development of alien civilizations. Our goal should not be to change another person or assume we know what is best for another. We should focus our efforts to better understand them and what their needs are. And yet, and yet the challenge of diversity and multiculturalism is that we each have certain values that we hold steadfast. And sometimes our values are in conflict with other’s values.  We need to learn to live together with that dichotomy.
Whether it is our Congregation, our city, our country, our world, I am brought back to the words of Martin Luther King Jr.  ""We must all learn to live together as siblings, or we will all perish together as fools. We must come to see that no individual can live alone; no nation can live alone. We must all live together; we must be concerned about each other” May it be so. .