At the recent Network of Spiritual Progressives conference, I gave the opening remarks for Thursday’s activities. I was asked by number of participants if those comments could be reflected in print. Below are my remarks:
We ask blessings on this gathering. We pray for the spirit of love to be in the midst. For it is that spirit that binds us to the eternal prison of hope.
We find when in the course of the human adventure, in moments of crisis, it becomes necessary for a people to dissolve the bands of group-think, which ultimately confine them to a false sense of patriotism and to the will of the few, in order to assume the powers that have been universally granted.
We pray that we would be used as spiritual volunteers in a movement for peace and justice to lift those who are down, to put a smile on a downtrodden face, to open the eyes of the spiritually blind and to give the voiceless a song to sing.
We petition, as did the prophet Isaiah, to send "us!" Send us to urban areas that see the gun as the only effective means of conflict resolution. Send us into failing schools where hope unborn has died.
Send us to the elderly so that the winter of their lives will be filled with the renewal and joy of spring.
Send us so that the poor whites, poor blacks, poor Hispanics and others living in the red state of Mississippi will realize they have more economic self-interest that unites them than the percentage of melanin in their skin that divides them.
For we profess on this day that fear and hatred are no match for possibility and hope.
We also pray for forgiveness. Forgive us for participating in the silence of consent. Forgive us for our collective silence as we allowed guns, the death penalty, tax cuts, war, the destruction of our natural resources and the dehumanization of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender brothers and sisters to be synonymous with the will of God.
We, too, are guilty of collectively dancing the seductive melody of nationalism’s "you are either with us or against us" chorus, which was nothing more than the morphine of comfort that allows one to condense dissent into a lack of patriotism.
But we proclaim that dissent is the oxygen of democracy. Without it, we would risk choking on the fumes from our own megalomania.
We further proclaim on this day a Declaration of Interdependence.
We confess in the words of Martin Luther King, "We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied to a single garment of destiny."
We declare a respect for the opinions of those whose world view may differ from ours, for they are not our enemies.
But we hold certain truths to be self-evident; that all are created equal. We have been endowed with certain inalienable rights; among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
The right that everyone have access to health care, the right that everyone have shelter, the right that everyone not go to bed hungry, the right to work for a livable wage, the right to a quality education and the right to be responsible stewards of our natural resources.
And because it is the pursuit of happiness, we recognize that there is a nexus of hope that stands in the gap.
Not only does our interdependence connect us to each other, it connects us to our past.
Therefore, we believe that Martin King was right: The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.
We believe that James Russell Lowell is right: Truth forever on the scaffold, wrong forever on the throne, yet that scaffold sways the future.
We believe that Fannie Lou Hamer was right: We, too, are sick and tired of being sick and tired.
We believe that Gandhi was right: An eye for an eye leaves everyone blind.
We believe that Abraham Heschel was right: The road to the sacred leads through the secular.
For in the words of John Kennedy: "Here on earth, God’s work must truly be our own."