As Unitarian Universalists we find meaning in not only the sacred text of the world’s religions but in the sacred moments in everyday life. There are no bounds to our exploration for truth and meaning, which is why – as part of our Racial Justice ministry – we welcomed over 80 Unitarian Universalists from 9 regional congregations to Center City, Philadelphia to witness a production of The Rant at the Interact Theater, which has inspired today’s service. The Rant is a tragic story about the death of an African American adolescent at the hand of the police, due to a coincidence of inflamed passions and flawed intervention. The drama that follows is built on repeated and calculated failures to tell the truth, to face personal failure and culpability, to own vulnerability in the face of immense societal pressures. The play as a whole points out the difficulty of seeing clearly given the distorted lenses and arguments regularly offered up by contemporary society. It challenges us to imagine some more adequate responses and some better outcomes. The following words are from playwright Andrew Case, which will serve as today’s reading.
Archive for February 2009
A reflection by Reverend Nathan C. Walker
On Thursday, February 12, 2009, we will honor the bicentennial birthdays of two men who shaped the course of human history. Why do their ideas still resonate with us today?
When thinking of Darwin we are reminded of the ways religion has suppressed scientific inquiry and put a false divide between faith and reason. In his time, Charles Darwin had to confront a culture of superstitious religiosity that closed the mind, feared science and rejected anything contrary to creation myths. Two hundred years later, we gather in the spirit of Evolution Sunday – where worship services are held throughout the country that affirm the coupling of faith and reason. We celebrate the fact that we are still evolving in body, in mind, in spirit. We celebrate our collective ability to take but one more step toward understanding our place in the world. We know we are not there yet, but in celebrating his birth we see how Darwin was but one voice in the many throughout history who has helped us evolve.
When thinking of Lincoln we are reminded of what many scholars call America’s greatest sin – the sin of slavery. In his time President Lincoln had to confront slavery and move the country into a trajectory toward emancipation. Two hundred years later, after having just elected the first African American to the highest office of the land, we gather in the spirit of Black history month and hold our heads back in wonder at the moral arch of our evolution. In terms of racial justice, we are but still evolving toward freedom; for each day we deliberately take one more step toward equality. We know we are not there yet, but in celebrating his birth we see how Lincoln was but one voice in the many who sought to liberate us from the discriminatory mind.
In what ways are we still bound by the discriminatory mind? Who in our society and in our world are physically, morally or spiritually enslaved? Darwin speaks of the survival of the fittest – are humans going to be the species that will survive or will we fall victim to the power of Mother Nature? We may not be the fittest. Maybe our planet needs to be emancipated from human domination. In terms of the environment, maybe humans need to evolve from species of consumption to species of sustainable creation. In terms of politics, maybe humans need to evolve from nuclear-nation states to peace-making citizens of the world. In doing so, we not only help one another evolve but we emancipate one another from destructive practices, aware that in order to survive humans must be not only physically, but also intellectually, morally and spiritually fit.
Rev. Nate Walker was the guest preacher at the Unitarian Society of Germantown, Philadelphia on February 1, 2009. He delivered the following sermon entitled, A Letter to My Murderer, which serves as an advanced directive should he ever be a victim of murder. This sermon about capital punishment is shared in the context of the shootings in Knoxville, TN in July of 2008.