First, we breathe.
As we witness the aftermath of an insurrection at the United States Capitol, we need to remember our breath, we must recall our practices of grounding, of remaining connected to the source of our being. Particularly when we are bombarded with the reactivity In the news coverage and our social media feeds, we need to lean into our spiritual grounding so we may be responsive, thoughtful, and true to our deeply held values.
So that we may gently and resolutely refuse to live into our fears, our anxieties.
So that we may be compassionate.
So that we may be resilient.
So that we may continue the work of building the beloved community.
The attack was an atrocity against our democracy: a democracy that calls us to recognize our humanity in the diversity of this country; a democracy that calls us to seek justice — not merely for our own safety and security — but for everyone, without exception. A democracy that calls us to, as Rev. Kathleen McTigue writes, “look into one another’s faces and see communion: the reflection of our own eyes.”
Such an attack on the symbols and the people of this country is a frightening moment to witness. There is undoubtably blame to be cast. There must, of course, be accountability for both the mob and for those who callously incited these actions. To be a citizen of this great experiment means we must hold ourselves and each other to a higher standard of care, a higher standard of moral action.
As evidenced by the Congress re-convening last night and completing their work — well into the wee hours of the morning — I believe our democracy is resilient, defiant, and strong. And, I have faith that most of those who hold the public trust will prosecute that accountability. Maybe not to my personal satisfaction, but to the best common good they are able to discern.
What then, is our role as people of faith, as Unitarian Universalists, in the face of terror, division, and polarity? What is our role in sustaining, protecting, and growing our democracy?
I believe our role is to raise the bar of the common good.
We have a vision, grounded in our personal experience and spiritual practice, of a deeply interconnected world. A vision of a world where the inherent worth and dignity of all people is honored. A vision of a world where transformation is possible, where all people are able to move from brokenness to wholeness, from oppression to power, from unjust to just, from separateness to relationship, from isolation to beloved community.
We have this vision not merely for our own personal blessing, our own advantage, but as a blessing upon all the world — for a higher common good. Not merely for our own survival, but for the flourishing of all life — for a higher common good.
Still, I know that this work to which we are called is not easy.
This morning, I ran across words that the poet Adrienne Rich wrote in a collection called On Lies, Secrets, and Silence. These words resonated with me. She writes:
An honorable human relationship — that is, one in which two people have the right to use the word “love” — is a process, delicate, violent, often terrifying to both persons involved, a process of refining the truths they can tell each other.
It is important to do this because it breaks down human self-delusion and isolation.
It is important to do this because in doing so we do justice to our own complexity.
It is important to do this because we can count on so few people to go that hard way with us.
Rich is reminding us that the work of human relationship is fraught — delicate, violent, terrifying. It is about telling and refining truth. And when we commit ourselves to doing this, we break down our self-delusions, we do justice to our complexity. In the words of our Mill Creek mission, we awaken to love.
Friends, the work of our awakening is never complete. Yesterday, thousands of American citizens who, I believe, are living in brokenness, oppression, injustice, separateness, and isolation — who are living in fear — physically attacked the Capitol and symbolically assaulted our deeply held values. It is my prayer that in our anger and fear, that we might find, too, compassion.
I readily acknowledge that we may not yet be able to find that compassion for the rioters. That’s the advanced course of spiritual growth. But, might we be able to find compassion for ourselves? For those close to us? Might we be able to continually push the boundaries of our compassion to an ever-larger common good? Might we continually refine the truths we tell each other so that everyone, without exception, finds themselves awakening to love?
Breathe with me, friends. Tonight, I invite you to acknowledge whatever you are feeling as true — be that fear, anger, resignation, or ambivalence. And then, I invite you to re-commit yourself to your acts of compassion, your acts of love. As you do so, you build the world of our deepest imaginings, built on our deepest values, our strongest faith.
Take another breath.
Are you ready?
Let’s get to work.