Desert Notes November 2, 2023
The news has been filled with harrowing violence. From the wars in Ukraine and in Gaza to more mass shooting events in our own country, we are being bombarded with the trauma of mass murder, hatred, and mass destruction. At this moment it is possible to take a stand against anti-semitism and the horror of terrorism proliferated by Hamas and to call for a cease-fire in a situation in which thousands of civilians are being killed and dislocated as homes are destroyed beyond repair.
As Unitarian Universalists who value our relationships in the interfaith world sometimes it is hard to stand in the breach and have any clarity about what we might call for. We can’t forget the millions of Jews murdered in the genocide of WWII nor the history of centuries of anti-semitic violence and political oppression which have real reverberations and continuity in our contemporary world. We also can’t pretend that the current violence we are witnessing will do anything other than further deeply traumatize and polarize those involved. I think it’s important to remember that the people of a country are not synonymous with the governments of those countries–governments can act in ways that harm their own people just as they can act in ways that protect them.
Don’t we know that ourselves? We know that the gun lobby regularly works against the actual desires of a majority of Americans who want to see a decrease in access to firearms and to interrupt access to them in situations of domestic violence, mental health challenges, and past history of violence/criminal activity. This is why it matters who we elect to state legislatures and to Congress and also why it matters that we organize to make our voices heard around the issues that matter to us. No leader is perfect, and in a democracy it is our responsibility to redirect elected leaders through our own citizen lobbying and through ballots that prioritize money, policies, and elected leaders that are responsive to us instead of to Big Money.
Locally we are working with Valley Interfaith Project to leverage local leadership around the twin crises of mental health and access to affordable housing in our communities. Our young people in particular are in crisis and need us to show up with them to demand that our schools and communities have a better plan for resourcing their needs and addressing the underlying complexities of mental health challenges (bullying, poverty, racism and homo/transphobia, lack of access to health care, social isolation and so many more!).
In addition our immigration team is working together, and with partner organizations, to meet the humanitarian aid needs of immigrants showing up in our country looking for safety from violence, jobs that will sustain their families, and access to opportunities to live full and productive lives with dignity and joy. None of us gets free until all of us are free.
We need to be talking to each other and to our friends and family about these issues and all of the ways that our capacity to be fully human are challenged. My spiritual journey is impacted when the world around me is a place of brutal violence, hatred, misunderstanding and oppression where war wins over diplomacy. I can’t separate my own spiritual needs from the reality around me. Peace is not peace if it doesn’t extend outside of my own body and experiences. Unitarian Universalism isn’t a faith that promotes spiritual ignorance or spiritual self-centeredness. Our journeys are always intertwined, so it matters to me if your path is being blocked by systemic racism or economic disparity, by gun violence or war..Justice is an aspect of spiritual deepening, not a path away or distinct from it. May we stand in the breach and repair what we can or demand the resources necessary to repair our communities.
Isaiah 58:12 NRSV: “Your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt; you shall raise up the foundations of many generations; you shall be called the repairer of the breach, the restorer of streets to live in.”