Monday, January 21, 2013

Finding Our Common Humanity

      Today is a great day in our nation's history.  It marks the 2nd inauguration of our country's 44th President, Barack Obama.  He is the first African-American to serve our country in this capacity.  No matter your political views, this is a monumental time in our country. Additionally, today marks the 45th remembrance of the life and work of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  He was a man most well known for his sustaining efforts in and commitment to a non-violent approach to the Civil Rights movement.  As I reflect on the magnitude of today and the work of these two men, I cannot help but consider what we can learn from their messages of hope, working together, and a non-violent approach to the struggles we face.
     We are all readily aware of the great number of hate-related crimes that take place in the United States.  We have heard about the shooting at the Sikh Gurdwara in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, arson cases at numerous mosques and churches around the country, and the church in Florida who sponsored the burning of the Qur'an.  All these crimes are examples of the hate in and around our country.  They are examples of the tension dividing us one from another, rather than uniting  us as one nation working for the common good.  These are the very acts we so desperately want to rid our country of in the coming days, months, and years.
      As we stand today, our country is no longer affirming the call to have life and life more abundantly.  We are in need of a significant change within our culture to see the common humanity among us. We cannot solely focus upon the categories and characteristics that seem to define us--Muslim, Christian, Sikh, Hindu, Democrat, Republican, Conservative, Liberal, Moderate, rich, poor, homeless, single, married, and the list goes on.  We are so busy trying to protect ourselves from our neighbor, from that which we are unfamiliar with, that we forget that we are called to be a holistic, diverse, blossoming community and love our neighbor.
      One of the pastor's at my church, Joyce Shin, urged us on Sunday to, "Speak out for what is simply right." So, as we move forward into this year, remembering the work of leaders such as Martin Luther King, Jr, may we not be stopped by the obstacles we see.  Rather, may we combat this hate and do as Joyce suggests to "Speak out for what is simply right."  Most of all, may we see people beyond definitions and recognize our common humanity.

Some parting words for us all to reflect upon:

  • "Nonviolence means avoiding not only external physical violence but also internal violence of spirit.  You not only refuse to shoot a man, but you refuse to hate him." --Martin Luther King, Jr. 
  • "In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends." --Martin Luther King, Jr. 
  • "This generation of Americans has been tested by crises that steeled our resolve and proved our resilience. A decade of war is now ending.  An economic recovery has begun.  America's possibilities are limitless, for we possess all the qualities that this world without boundaries demands: youth and drive; diversity and openness; an endless capacity for risk and a gift for reinvention.  My fellow Americans, we are made for this moment, and we will seize it--so long as we seize it together." --Barack Obama, Inaugural Address, January 21, 2013