In his story of a man with a sneering wife, Sufi master Rumi begins:
A special guest was coming to visit and the man worked 200 days to earn the price for the quality lamb kabob he wished to serve this guest. On the appointed day, the man bought the meat and brought it home for his wife to cook and then went to fetch the guest.
While he was gone, the wife cooked the kabob and
When the man returned with the special guest, she greeted them at the door, saying “the cat has eaten the kabob. You’ll have to buy more, if you have any more money.”
The husband asks a servant to bring the scales and the cat. The cat weighed three pounds. “The meat was 3 pounds and one once. If this is the cat, where is the meat?” “If this is the meat, where is the cat?” Start looking for one or the other!
Sometimes truth can be found on a scale. Usually, it is a more complex endeavor for us human beings. The recent trial of George Zimmerman for the death of teenager Trayvon Martin revealed a plethora of truths in the lived experiences of the people of United States. Some have an expectation of justice within the justice system. Others have no expectation of justice within what they consider a criminal system – one that actively perpetuates crimes against humanity.
What you look like, where you grew up, who you live with – all of these are complex predictors of how you experience truth and what truth you experience.
Walking away from the Justice for Trayvon Vigil in New Orleans last week, I met up with a history professor from Tulane University. She brought up the Jena Six, which some of you may remember as a time when the criminal justice system in Jena, Louisiana revealed to the nation its deep roots in the Reconstruction Era, built after the abolition of slavery to maintain control over black bodies. In 2007, a nationwide protest against the mockery of justice there descended upon the town of Jena, population 2,500, with an estimated 50,000 protesters.
There were so many people – and so few white people. The professor I was walking with said, “if you took all the Unitarians out of the crowd, I could have put the white people present in my car.”
Author activist Jordan Flaherty, in his book Floodlines: Community and Resistance from Katrina to the Jena Six reports that “perhaps one to three percent of the crowd was white, in what amounted to a disturbing silence from the white Left and liberals.”
I would call it a disturbing silence from white people, regardless of their political stance. When children of color are demonized by a criminal justice system created for and by white people, we cannot be silent. We cannot be absent.
What was faithful was the profession of divine living by the white Unitarian Universalists who showed up, were called out as allies, people living into the truth of beloved community with their bodies, their whole and holy beings.
What was faithful was the profession of divine living by the Unitarian Universalists of color who walk in this faith with trust that we are going to live into our collective covenant with more and more anti-oppressive skill, more and more respect for the inherent worth and dignity of each person, more and more beloved community.
When we show up as our whole and holy selves, lives are transformed, systems are changed, beloved community becomes possible. Keep the faith, beloveds. Keep showing up on the side of love in this world.
The Essential Rumi, 1995 (translated by Coleman Barks).
Flaherty, Jordan. Floodlines: Community and Resistance from Katrina to the Jena Six, 2010.