Just a brief thought today, as I suspect many of my readers are wrapping up at the General Assembly of the Unitarian Universalist Association in New Orleans, or are in transit home. Safe travels to you. My best wishes to Susan Frederick-Gray, who was elected the new president of the UUA, and my prayers for a speedy recovery and resolution to James Curran and Tim Byrne, two UUA staffers who, according to reports were attacked and injured Saturday night.
This is also Eid al-Fitr, the celebration following Ramadan, though this year’s Ramadan has been harder for many Muslims than others. Crude slurs, threats and property damage: these can be overcome, but at a cost. But when the wounds become physical, even unbearable, then what? A few days ago, a 17-year-old woman named Nabra Hassanen was horribly killed in the suburbs of Washington, D.C. The police have not (at press time) called it a hate crime but it’s hard to buy that this was a just case of road rage as described. Mourn young Nabra; she deserved a full life and deserved better. Mourn with her family who will have to bear this pain. And mourn for who will certainly come next.
Violence (and our reflection on it) intensifies a tendency to assign people roles; to find a place for people and keep them there. Nabra, the murdered Muslim woman, for one. There are roles wrapped up in the decription itself. With so much focus on her being Muslim that it’s easy to assign her an identity, particularly now that she cannot speak for herself. Mourn for her personality, interests and desires that were distinctly hers, or rather let those who know her reflect on them, and let us who did not know her give them space to do so.
Instead, as Universalist Christians, let us find solace that our creation is particular within a common humanity, and that this breaks down assigned roles. Our value is not fundamentally dependent on what we do, but that we are. We trust in God’s love, and that it is not the benefit of church membership. I don’t have to contort my theology, or regret God’s lovingkindness and care towards Nabra because she was Muslim. She and you and I share a bond that cannot be desolved, but neither does it restrict us into set roles. The Larger Hope allows us to be grateful for good people and good acts, wherever from where they come, and to mourn the dead whomever they may be. And we can recognize that people who otherwise are quite unlike us can have this same hope and cherish these same values. We need not confuse or conflate our differences to have this same joy and affirm this same insistant liberating message: one that dignifies life at its most vulnerable and fragile, and for which we must rejoice.
Eid Mubarak, to those who celebrate it.
Also please note, if you have not seen the universalistchristian.org site lately, please check it out. I built it to debut at General Assembly last year, but it has failed to load for me more often than not, and the images make it much weightier than it needs to be, especially for people on limited data plans. The new site is much simpler in appearance, but has the same content.
(The Rev.) Scott Wells