- Rev. Charles Perry
You're Doing It Right Now
Recently, on our Facebook feed, we posted a meme that said, “If you’ve ever wondered what you’d do during slavery, the Holocaust, or Civil Rights movement; you’re doing it right now”. Someone trolling the page commented that we should stay out of politics, and that we are called “Unity, not dis-Unity ”.
Unity, defined, is “the state of being in harmony.” But harmony cannot exist side-by-side with war; harmony is not synonymous with “complicit.” The state of being in harmony does not mean that the abused submits to the will of the abuser so conflict is internalized instead of externalized. The state of being in harmony does not mean that we watch with smiling faces when the lives of innocent people of color are claimed by racist violence. It does not mean that we accept the anti-Semitism of Neo-Nazis, that we look the other way if parents starve or strike their children, that we refuse to confront systemic or interpersonal wrongdoing.
The pursuit of the state of being in harmony REQUIRES that we confront wrong in order for true harmony to exist. It is more important to be good than it is to be nice, and often one cannot be both simultaneously. In the words of Mahatma Gandhi, “Peace is not the absence of conflict, but the ability to cope with it.”
In short, coming from love doesn’t mean standing idly by in the face of bad behavior, blatant discrimination, or the exercise of selfish power and privilege. Calling people, institutions, or even our government out for violations of moral principles is what we, as Unity Truth Students, are called to do.
The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was prolific in speaking of the dangers of remaining silent. Among many other things, he stated:
"There comes a time when silence is betrayal."
"Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter."
"In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends."
So, let me be clear.
Yesterday, in a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court of the United States decided that what has become known as the “Muslim travel ban” is actually Constitutional, thus hammering home the point I made in church on Sunday about the difference between that which is ethical, and that which is moral. Our country is currently engaged in several examples of behavior which may legally be argued to be ethical, but which are morally wrong.
The travel ban is wrong. Separating parents from their children is wrong. Deporting families without due process when they are seeking Asylum is wrong. It was wrong when we did it to Jews who were fleeing Hitler in the 1940s, and it is wrong now.
It is not an act of love to ignore wrong events and behaviors, or worse, to pretend that they do not exist. It is an act of violence, and outside of the essential truth of Unity, to assume that others are so lacking in the capacity for divinity that they cannot be confronted with the truth.
Jesus didn't hesitate to condemn the Pharisees who were making life harder for the poor (see Matthew 23). We can't live in peace and love when there is injustice in front of our faces. The Muslims denied entrance to this country are our brothers and sisters. The children torn away from their parents are our children. Those families fleeing persecution and death are our families.
Time and again, Jesus called out those guilty of wrong behavior (in fact, he is quoted as saying “Woe to you”, mostly directed at scribes and Pharisees, the “government” of Israel in his day, 18 times in Matthew, Mark, and Luke). His expression of displeasure with wrongdoers even became physically disruptive as he overturned their money-changing tables and whipped them with knotted ropes in public.
It is not Christ-like, it is not in concert with the Unity principles we hold dear, it is not morally correct to say that we shouldn’t risk hurting someone’s feelings because we call an action wrong. It is out of concert with everything Unity and true harmony stands for to say that we can’t weigh in on the morality of the politics of the day, for fear of offending someone who supports some of the amoral stances our country has recently taken. Now is not the time for silence. Now is the time to speak Truth – to power, to privilege, in politics, and in private.
The price of Unity is not to remain silent in the face of evil. It is to stand for Truth despite the cost, until evil no longer remains.