I’m a member of the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Topeka, and I serve on our congregation’s Social Justice Committee. Our minister was unable to attend a prayer vigil with our local AME churches, and I felt compelled to speak on behalf of our group. While Unitarians do not necessarily all believe as the African Methodist Episcopalians do, we DO Hunger for Justice, and are Standing on the Side of Love.
The President of our Unitarian Universalist Association, Rev. Peter Morales has commented on the Charleston murders: “Unitarian Universalists are sadly familiar with the tragedy of church shootings. When two congregants were killed and six wounded at our Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church in 2008, the entire community reached out and embraced our congregation with love and support. We will pass that love along to the Emanuel Church community in any way we can.”
I cannot understand how anyone can justify thoughts and behaviors of Hate through Christianity, or any other Religion. Many religious texts stress the importance of Love for all humans, for all of Creation, and yet we have not learned. We have not learned to tear down our own man-made barriers, to realize the Love God speaks of through Jesus. We have not realized the truth of Universal Love through treating each and every person with kindness.
Race is a Social Construct. That means humans created it. That means humans can undo it. WWJD? Jesus was all-inclusive, and so any Christian should be as well.
For all the lessons we have learned about Love, Hate is still a monster within our midst. As we work to teach our children love and compassion, justice and equality, there are still parents continuing lessons of hate, bigotry, and fear learned from their ancestors. Good has to Be Good all the time. Evil only has to Be Evil once to destroy the house that Love built.
Arielle Newton of the Black Youth Project writes “This isn’t just a Shooting. This was a strategic racist attack festered, smeared, and drenched in anti-Blackness. Dominant media narratives will suggest otherwise. Don’t let them. Name this massacre appropriately.”
We cannot continue to excuse violent, destructive behavior by pacifying the public with statements such as “he was disturbed” or “the shooter was mentally unstable.” I’ve know plenty of ‘mentally unstable’ white folks in my time on Earth, none of them ever walked into a church or a school building with the intent to murder. This hate is a learned behavior handed down through prejudice and bigotry, from generation to generation. The Southern Poverty Law Center has identified 784 Hate Groups throughout the U.S. Recently here in Topeka we have experienced the scare tactics of the Klan, and the ever-present thorn of the Westboro Baptist Church. The truth is – Dylann Roof is a terrorist who deserves to be convicted of murder. Do not allow other white supremacists to dismiss his behavior, or to deny their complicity in his beliefs. It is their hate that taught him to believe racism and murder are acceptable. That any one color of skin is superior to another.
We must join together to overcome hate TODAY. We must continuously petition our leaders in Government and in the Church to strictly punish violent crimes, no matter if the perpetrator is white. We must start TODAY. Several other countries have adopted laws to reduce gun violence and restrict hate speech, which inflames vicious hearts to violence. Why not the U.S.?
Another UU minister, Rev. Buehrens once wrote “we have difficulty, as modern privileged people, acknowledging that any evil –especially a social evil– might be within us, and not just out there –”
As in the actions of others, such as this hateful young man.
Early American theologian Tryon Edwards wrote “He that is possessed with a prejudice is possessed with a devil, and one of the worst kind of devils, for it shouts out the truth, and often leads to ruinous error.”
Dylann Roof made a ruinous error, and he must be held accountable for his actions.
Rev. Clementa Pinckney, Tywanza Sanders, Cynthia Hurd, Rev. Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, Myra Thompson, Ethel Lance, Rev. Daniel Simmons, Rev. DePayne Middleton-Doctor and Susie Jackson. All were decent, working Americans, strong members of their communities, educators and leaders.
While we pray this evening for those souls of the Emmanuel AME family, let us also pray for ourselves, for our children who we must educate to reject the evil of racist hate. Let us pray for citizens in our own community, that they may know more of Love than of Hate. Let us not be weighted down by fear, but instead take each step forward strengthened by Love.
I offer this prayer from Wayne B. Arnason
O God, whom we know as Love,
We gather here together, as seekers and finders, as creators and destroyers, givers and receivers of love. From the day of our birth we have asked for love, and yet as we grow and change in time we realize how little we really know about how love is given and how to grow within its nurture. Help us to recognize the love that surrounds us and in which we have our being. Help us to understand how we can be perfect channels for that love. Help us to see ourselves as the loving people we are and can be.
Let the love of Jesus continue to shine ever bright, so that we may continue on our path to Your eternal heart.