Imagine: The Goal of World Community with Peace, Liberty, and Justice for All! (Our Sixth Principle)
March 2, 2003.
Instrumental playing of “Imagine” (words and music by John Lennon)
The Goal of World Community with Peace, Liberty, and Justice for All.
When I told someone that I was doing a sermon on the sixth principle and quoted it – she thought it was a joke. Surely that “Liberty and Justice for all” stuff was my poking fun at the pledge of allegiance or something. I had to go get a copy of our principles and prove that YES, our sixth principle is REALLY “The Goal of World Community with Peace, Liberty, and Justice for All.”
But it does sound like one of those cliche kind of phrases that is often not taken seriously. It’s at times like these, though, that we realize that this Principle is very serious indeed. So what does it mean and is it a worthy goal?
First of all, as Jane Thickstun reminds us, it IS a GOAL.
Imagine – A Goal.
A Goal isn’t necessarily something we think we can achieve – in our lifetime, or even at all. A goal is something to shoot for, something that gives us direction. The well-known Buddhist monk, Thich Nhat Hahn, said, “If I lose my direction, I have to look for the North Star, and I go to the north. That does not mean I expect to arrive at the North Star. I just want to go in that direction.” (Being Peace, p. 98)
And what is the North Star of this principle? The Goal has been identified as “World Community.” And to shoot for it, we have to imagine it.
Imagine World Community!
Sometimes you have to see the invisible in order to do the impossible. What is World Community? I do not think those who drafted our 6thprinciple had in mind the same kind of “Unity” of the world that we hear our B’hai sisters and brothers talk about. We do not all have to be the same religion, the same race, and speak the same language to be in community. We do not have to be one nation – under God or not.
Also the goal of World Community is not equivalent to economic globalization. There are advantages and disadvantages to economic globalization – things to celebrate and things to lament. Economic globalization could contribute or detract from community and is worthy of a sermon itself. Perhaps Greg will help me put one together some day. So while we may not know exactly how to get there, we do know that to have world community — we do have to commune! We need each other.
You know – because Unitarian Universalists put so much emphasis on that first principle which focuses on the individual – we forget that the individual is just the beginning. In fact, some hold that the individual does not even exist except in relation to others. (At least that’s how some process theologian’s I’ve studied view the world.) But it’s not just Whitehead and Hartshorne and as well as many feminist theologians who emphasize relationality, it’s the folks in this congregation. Just look at the chart on the back wall that asks “What keeps you involved? – and you’ll see. Many of us are involved in this fellowship for community. And what is community? Here’s a story attributed to William Schulz.
In the Middle Ages, a certain order of monks lived quietly at their monastery and part of their rule was that periodically they each go on an individual retreat (and live the life of a hermit). The length of the retreat was up to the individual monk and for some it would last a very long time indeed. One day a monk sought out the Abbot and asked for permission to go on his retreat. The Abbot gave his permission and off the monk went. The monk came to the hermitage and opened a Bible that was there. It happened to open to a passage in the Gospel of John that described Jesus washing his disciples’ feet. The monk read that passage and meditated on it for a couple of days, then abruptly got up and returned to the monastery. As was the custom, he presented himself to the Abbot, who was surprised to see him return so soon.
“So. You have returned already,” said the Abbot.
The monk replied, “Of course. For whose feet would the hermit wash?”
(Collier, K.W. Our Seven Principles, pp. 9-90)
Kenneth Collier shared this story with his congregation as an example of what community was all about. Collier told his congregation that “community is about washing feet, serving each other in humility and generosity.”
My parents joined the Primitive Baptist Church after I was grown. The Primitive Baptists participate in a foot washing ceremony once a year. They go one by one to a side room and wash one another’s feet. My mom says that she was apprehensive when she went to her first foot washing ceremony. But she said it was very meaningful because it was so expressive of ultimate serving. Now I’m not suggesting that in order to commune with each other we need to expose our toes. But if we are going to metaphorically wash each other’s feet, what does that mean? It means really sharing and really caring. It means really communing – being part of what Martin Luther King refers to as “the beloved community.” Some are doing that with Evensong. Others are communing through talkback, yard work, and potlucks. And yes, we can commune in these services. When we wash feet, we serve each other and we hold each other- sometimes literally – but always spiritually. If we want world community, we begin with our families and with this fellowship – but we don’t stop there. It’s often harder wash the feet or even cooperate when we move beyond our smaller communities. We depend on political bodies to facilitate that cooperation. Statesboro has its City Council, The United States has its Congress, and the World has the United Nations. Now some might argue that any or all of these political bodies are flawed. But we at least do have ways to work together in community. And we should work with these bodies, including the UN, – not to OUR advantage – but to the World’s advantage.
Although the United Nations doesn’t use the words of our sixth principle, their charter certainly affirms that ideal. Listen to the words of the UN Charter:
We, the peoples of the United Nations,
- Determined to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war,
- To reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women, and of nations large and small,
- To promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom,
- And for these ends to practice tolerance and to live together in peace as good neighbors,
- To unite our strength to maintain international peace and security,
- To insure that armed force shall not be used, save in the common interest,
- To employ international machinery in the promotion of the economic and social advancement of all people,
Have resolved to combine our efforts to accomplish these aims.
These words sound like World Community with Peace, Liberty, and Justice for all to me.
Now it’s true that the words “Liberty and Justice for all” were probably borrowed by the drafters of this principle from our nation’s Pledge of Allegiance. But they added a very important word.
The Goal of World Community with Peace, Liberty, and Justice for All. Since the phrase “liberty and justice for all” is so familiar, the addition of that word “peace” had to be very deliberate. I’m thankful it’s there. When someone asks why I advocate so for peace, I can truthfully say – “It’s part of my religion.”
More than likely all in this room want peace. But just as it was revealed that we have very differing views about the word, god – we also probably have differing views about peace and how to attain it. Since I’m in the pulpit now and Unitarian Universalists are historically supportive of the free pulpit, I’ll share mine. You can have your turn at talkback.
As of March 2, 2003 – I am not a pacifist. I may be one some day and I’m very respectful of those of you who wear this identity, but it’s not my identity. I hope that one day we don’t need a military force but I don’t think we are there yet. For example, I am thankful that we could join with others internationally to use our military to bring peace to Bosnia. In fact, I think we should have moved earlier in that situation. And, indeed, there have been other situations in the world in which I believed that the United States and the world community have not acted with military intervention when perhaps they should have done so. I certainly haven’t studied all of these situations carefully – so I’m in no position to make those calls – but I do believe that there are times when negotiations have failed that force must be used to ameliorate a situation such as genocide. I have high regard for those who enter the military with these peaceful goals in mind.
But – I do not understand why we are – at this very moment – on the brink of war with Iraq. I am not going to turn this sermon into an anti-war editorial. You can read those in the newspaper and on the internet. I’m just using these examples to show how one person can be conflicted in her own mind about the idea of military force. But I’m not conflicted about my desire for peace. And I will continue to hope for peace without war.
So I’ve signed petitions and written letters – what else can I do.
Thich Nhat Hahn reminds us that we ourselves need to “be peace.”
Black Elk said that there can be no peace between people or nations unless there is peace within the soul.
Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers.”
I think as we hope for world peace, we need to challenge ourselves to make sure we’ve done all we can to “be peace” ourselves and to “make peace” with others. Each of us probably needs to make peace with one person – at least one person – but let’s just think of one. We can make contribution to world peace by making peace and being peace ourselves. . . .
As we join people around the world who are singing,
Let there be peace on earth
And let it begin with me
Imagine “Liberty and Justice!”
Two women come to mind. Lady Liberty holds her light of freedom. And the her words beckon the oppressed to come into that light. If you know them, recite these words with me.
Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore, Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!
Then there is Lady Justice. Here is William Penn’s description of her:
Justice is justly represented blind,
because she sees no difference in the
parties concerned. She has but one scale and
weight, for rich and poor, great and small.
Her sentence is not guided by the person,
but the cause.
We have to be careful, though in the implementation of Justice. As Gandhi’s grandson said, “An eye for an eye will leave us all blind.”
I think it’s important to consider Liberty and Justice together. They serve as Yin an Yang. For liberty alone can not complete the circle. One person’s free acts could possibly harm another. And that would not be just. So we need Liberty and Justice – Yin and Yang.
There is a little Yin Yang symbol on my Eudora mail software that spins as my mail is downloaded. It’s like two fish chasing each other. The area that one vacates is immediately filled by the other.
Ken Collier describes the tension between Yin and Yang.
There is tension between them, but it is not a destructive one. It is a dynamic, creative, ongoing, and powerful tension. It is the kind of tension created in music between contrasting keys and in painting between colors and in dance between moving bodies. In classical China, the Yin and Yang diagram was named “the supreme Ultimate,” not for the Yin and Yang, but for the circle their tension creates.
If we are to live at peace in community, we need both liberty and justice.
Imagine “For All”
People around the world should have the right to peace, liberty and justice too. But we have to be careful about this. Jane Thickston warns us that as Americans, “we have quite a bit of power, and so we have to be careful of the tendency toward imperialism, imposing our values on others who don’t share them.” She goes on to say:
Being in community has costs as well as benefits. Community is a balance between the interests of the individual and the interests of the group. Community is a balancing act that takes into account the fact that there will always be conflict, but also good will and means for managing conflict. Being in community can mean giving up some of our individualism, some of our interests, in the interest of the group. A powerful person, or a powerful nation is able to be more self-sufficient and so has less need to belong to a larger group, and has more to lose, at least in terms of material self-interest. The gains are not easily seen, but when we all work together to realize universal values of peace, liberty and justice in the world, we all win.
Can you imagine it? Especially at this difficult time in our world? Perhaps the words of Anne Frank can inspire us to that imagination. Listen.
In spite of everything. I still believe
that people are really good at heart.
I simply can’t build up my hopes on a foundation
consisting of confusion, misery, and death.
I see the world gradually being turned into a wilderness,
I hear the ever-approaching thunder, which will destroy us, too,
I can feel the suffering of millions, and yet,
if I look up into the heavens,
I think that it will all come out right,
that this cruelty will end,
and that peace and tranquility will return again.
In the meantime, I must hold up my ideals
for perhaps the time will come
when I shall be able to carry them out.
Anne Frank could imagine it. Can you?
Imagine all the people,
Living life in peace
You – You may say I’m a dreamer,
But I’m not the only one
I hope some day you’ll join us,
And the world will be as one.
© 2003 Jane A. Page, Statesboro, GA.
All rights reserved.