"The Goal of World Community"
Design credit to Ellen Rockett, Worship Web, uua.org
“You are only given one life, so cherish this moment, cherish this day, be kind to others, be kind to yourself.” Yasujiro Tanaka Age: 75 / Location: Nagasaki / Distance from hypocenter: 3.4 km “Peace is our number one priority.” Sachiko Matsuo 83/Nagasaki/1.3 km “Life is a curious treasure.” Fujio Torikoshi 86 / Hiroshima / 2km “Within the Buddhist vernacular, there is a bird called the gumyouchou. This bird has one body and two heads. Even if two entities have differing ideologies or philosophies, their lives are bound together by a single form – this is a Buddhist principle manifested in the form of a bird. It would be ideal if we could all cultivate in us the ability to dignify each other instead of getting upset over our differences.” Ryouga Suwa 84 / Hiroshima Entered the affected area after the bombing and was exposed to radiation. I share these quotes from a recent Time Magazine article edited by Lily Rothman not to romanticize or exoticize the culture from which they arise, but to point to the potential affect of such devastation on a life that by all accounts could easily have been destroyed in an instant, was destroyed for some 200.000 persons. Mostly young children at the time, their recollections are of blinding light, being buried in rubble, intense burns, mysterious illnesses, and symptoms that arrived over the ensuing years. And then later, questions well up, pondering what they had done to the Americans to deserve this; and finally, a conviction that we “cannot continue to sacrifice precious lives to warfare” coupled with prayers for world peace. And yet, we do make such sacrifices, again and again, setting aside the poignancy of such reflections and the wisdom of their evolution. It’s all about the goal, isn’t it? When I began researching details for this sermon, I realized something which I am embarrassed to say that I hadn’t before. I was thinking retaliation, not paying attention to dates or proximity of precipitating events, which it turns out had little to do with the decision to drop these bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. What it came down to was the fact that we had developed these weapons and needed a place to test them out. And not just any place. We wanted one that would show their horrific capabilities without question or doubt. We wanted to demonstrate a level of power over life itself that was far greater than anything witnessed previously. So, it needed to destroy the environment where it landed, but also to take lives in the process and to be a proving ground for the ongoing destruction of life for years to come. That it effectively ushered in Japan’s exit from the war was secondary. The goal is clear: undeniable evidence of supreme power. For survivors it is very different. They express a desire for all people to be able to live a full life. They value kindness. “To live in peace is a countries most prized commodity,” said one. I learned that Japan has an International Peace Clause – Article 9 of its constitution and has not entered into war since those days in the summer of 1945. There is a momentum to the concept of peace even as some are now more concerned with the direction their nation is tending toward. Their hope is in the young who have come of age in a time of peace, that they may
1 know the value of this and carry it forward into the next generation. Their goal is unmistakable. Humanity and nuclear weaponry cannot coexist. Peace alone is the answer. Recently I was seated at a table with participants in a celebration of program completion at WE CAN. Conversation rolled around, as it does these days, to COVID and vaccinations and someone expressed their fears at having heard from a vaccine hesitant person about trickery and deceit intended to make us into “one world.” And several folks at the table said, well, that ship has pretty much sailed – if you look around, you’ll see that this really is all one world. Man-made artificial borders don’t serve to keep people and technology and crises and even peace, I believe, from spreading across the globe. But I remember the hype about this some years ago – a seed of mistrust that was planted and a spin on the idea that focused on the negative – and I can see that it still exists. When some people hear that our Sixth Principle calls for an affirmation of the goal of world community, it may sound scary to them. While our nation has not yet managed to incorporate a call for peace into its writings since the Declaration of Independence was drafted, our faith tradition has produced a “Declaration of Interdependence” written in 1976 by the Unitarian Universalist historian Henry Steele Commager. It was presented to the World Affairs Council of Philadelphia and signed by several members of Congress and endorsed by a number of NGO’s and United Nations agencies. Its preamble begins, “When in the course of history the threat of extinction confronts mankind, it is necessary for the people of the United States to declare their interdependence with the people of all nations and to embrace those principles and build those institutions which will enable mankind to survive and civilization to flourish.” It goes on to say, “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal; that the inequalities and injustices which afflict so much of the human race are the product of history and society, not of God or nature; that people everywhere are entitled to the blessings of life and liberty, peace and security and the realization of their full potential; that they have an inescapable moral obligation to preserve those rights for posterity; and that to achieve these ends all the peoples and nations of the globe should acknowledge their interdependence and join together to dedicate their minds and their hearts to the solution of those problems which threaten their survival.” It calls for compassion and peace, justice, and security across the globe. It notes how limiting prejudice can be and points to humanities uniting forces, acknowledging the oneness of the global community and our dependence on the earth’s resources as a species. We hear the ‘new world order” language in this, the type of thing that sparked the fears I mentioned, but what is the fear really about? What I find at the bottom of this is a fear over loss of power; the kind of power that western nations hold over the rest of the world. Joy DeGruy, in our reading this morning points to the historical nature of this attribute of humankind – to levy our power over others in the name of tribe or country as a means of expanding that control. She calls these crimes against humanity and points to their existence still today. 2 John Beurhens, in his 1998 essay on our Sixth Principle, references the thoughts of Martin Buber in his address to the United Nations and a story about the ideals of liberty, equality and fraternity, which we might now call a spirit of kinship, these three walking hand in hand at the beginning of the modern world. Buber suggests that liberty went west and turned into freedom - freedom from restraint and freedom to exploit. Equality went east and morphed into collectivism. And kinship – that sense of the oneness of all humanity, born of one Great Mystery, and its power to be a bridge, a religious principle that binds one to another, went into hiding among the communities of the powerless where it survived because of its meaningfulness in their midst, where neither individualism nor collectivism served their purpose. It is this spirit of kinship that I hear our Sixth Principle calling us back to. The goal involving the whole of the world but focusing on the idea of community. The Principle in total reads, “The goal of world community with peace, liberty and justice for all.” And I wonder as I reflect on these words if peace, liberty, and justice are the desired outcomes; the goal, if you will, or if they are the means to the hoped-for end of world community. Are they what we are striving to get to or are they the practices we need to employ? Because sometimes I think our Principles are pretty lofty goals. We say they are aspirational. We strive to affirm and promote the ideals they contain. Is this because we know that we may never actually achieve them? Instead, we will always be close, always on the journey as David Whyte so aptly noted in my reading the other morning. Let’s say for a minute that the practice of these three things really is what we need to be doing on order reach our goal. What does that look like for us as a people of faith? What does that ask of each of us on a regular basis so that the momentum builds? Our larger Association maintains a strong connection to the United Nations where the UUA office advocates for human rights, climate, and peace work, bringing a UU perspective to international movements for justice. There are lots of ways to become involved on that level. Maybe you have done some of that work in the past. There is still so much to do! The survivors whose stories we began with this morning are strong advocates for peace. It has become a way of being for them, believing that peace begets peace in our world. Every day we hear about violent or disruptive or aggressive means of attaining one’s goals. And we know in our guts when we use less peaceful tactics in response to what we face because they run counter to our values and our bodies react viscerally. Can we pause and breathe and ask ourselves in those moments what the peaceful response might be? We hear a lot these days about liberty, about one’s individual freedoms. How can we use liberty in ways that promote world community? This sounds hard, but maybe I am making it harder than it needs to be! Didn’t I start this sermon by saying that it is all about the goal? We need to think about freedom less in terms of “mine” and more in terms of promoting the good of the whole, a freedom washed clean of selfishness and greed. It is about justice – right relationship – with people and places and planet. Because we only have this one life in this one world on this one Earth home after all is said and done; this curious treasure with which we have been blessed.
3 One more story, which you may have read about, because it illustrates the power of building world community on a personal level. In this year’s Olympic games in Tokyo, in the high jump competition, both Italy and Qatar had topped out at 2.37 meters, neither making the next jump at 2.39. Instead of going into a jump-off, battling it out competitively for the top spot, they decided that what they had accomplished was good enough and asked to share the gold medal, something that is allowed under Olympic rules but rarely ever done. It was in a spirit of kinship that they made this choice – no need for power over. They had both done well. Their achievement was enough. Today is an invitation into intentional practices that promote the goal of world community – practices of peace, liberty and justice. It is an invitation to pause and consider our goals as we move through our days; to ground ourselves in our Unitarian Universalist values and to act from that space in our encounters with life. May we, in this moment of remembrance, recall the suffering imposed upon the people of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and honor the goal of peace it has engendered.
So may it be and Amen.
Rev. Tracy Johnson August 8, 2021