Wow, the last two weeks or so have been so very full of both sorrow and joy, despair and celebration, horror and hope. From Charleston, South Carolina and the terrible, terrorist killings of nine African Americans by a young white man, who had joined them for Bible study before murdering them, to the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold the right of same sex couples to marry and receive equal treatment under the law of the land. It is a lot to take in.
Neither of these events stands alone. Both are a part of years of history and struggle, of stories told and untold. We never know what part of the story is going to tip the balance of things. Twenty or thirty years ago, it was hard to imagine that the Supreme Court would ever uphold equal marriage. Even ten years ago, when Massachusetts legalized equal marriage, I wasn’t sure that it would ever gain much ground beyond our tiny, liberal island.
Going back to last August 9th, the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri—an event too common in our society to be noticed most of the time—proved a tipping point to lifting up again the truth that racism is very much a reality and that we still have not reached the vision of racial equality we would like to believe. The killings in Charleston are another watershed moment in our country’s struggle to come to terms with this truth. Last August, I never imagined a Southern Republican governor saying that it was time to put the Confederate flag in a museum. I grieve that it took such a horrifying event to get her and others to understand this. I suspect that our nation is in for a turbulent time as we wrestle with the conflicts before us.
I came across this quote by Dr. King: “Faith is taking the first step, even when you don’t see the whole staircase.” It is easier to do this when we don’t have to do it alone. Being part of a Unitarian Universalist community of faith gives me the courage and the hope to take these first steps toward advocating for human dignity for all, witnessing to the work of justice and peace, and listening attentively and compassionately to the stories of others whose lives are different from mine and to a larger Love, the source of “... the unity that makes us one and binds us forever together in spite of time, death and the space between the stars” (David and Beverly Bumbaugh). We never know what step it is that brings us close enough to see our hope become reality. And some of us may not live long enough to do so. But it doesn’t mean it can’t or won’t happen. These past two weeks have been testimony to this truth—both in their despair and their celebration.