Racism is like the Covid 19 virus, if it can be cured it will be a challenge. Scientists are working on it, but they aren’t there yet. But they do know a few prerequisites. Racism is what Rudyard Kipling coined as “the white man’s burden” — not just for colonisers, not just for Trump supporters, not just for people who dress up in bedsheets, not just for Americans, but all white people, even for Unitarians in their predominantly white faith movement with their first three principles which are the antidote to racism. Recognising the inherent worth and dignity of every person; seeking justice, equity and compassion in human relations; and accepting one another and encouraging spiritual growth in our congregations.
We are in the midst of living the ancient curse: “May you live in interesting times”. Unless we are over a hundred years old, no one alive has been through a pandemic quite like what we are experiencing now. We are still learning about the virus and its spread. What will treat it? How do we prevent it? Will a vaccine be discovered? It is most assuredly impacting economies, but it is also changing how we relate to each other, perform our work if we still have a job, our politics, the social contract and, of special interest to me, the church. What does the future hold for Unitarianism in Aotearoa? Will its values still be voiced for future generations? If so, what will the vessel of those values look like? Will the present assumptions about being a church hold or will we come to see and experience church in totally new ways? Let me be clear, I have no idea what the answers are to these questions. I hope I’ll live long enough to find out. Call it spiritual and intellectual curiosity. The best I can do is offer a suggestion as to how to discern different paths we might take in a time of uncertainty, where the ground beneath us is shifting minute to minute.
Christopher and Catherine are two of my Facebook and real friends. A number of years back I presided at their wedding. During our preparation time for the big day a bond formed that has continued to this day.
During the lockdown I came to look forward to their funny and entertaining posts about their bubble life. Then the posts became intriguing as they shared stories about Gavin, their pet caterpillar that lived on an indoor swan plant.
“If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?” It is a philosophical question raised first by philosopher George Berkeley in 1710. He offered no answer. In 1863 the question was raised again in the magazine The Chautauquan. Their answer was, “No. Sound is the sensation excited in the ear when the air or other medium is set in motion.” Their scientific view was supported by Scientific American in 1884, “Sound is vibration, transmitted to our senses through the mechanism of the ear, and recognized as sound only at our nerve centres. The falling of the tree or any other disturbance will produce vibration of the air. If there be no ears to hear, there will be no sound.”