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March 22, 2009: “The Goal of World Community Justice Sunday, The Universal Declaration of Human Rights”

OPENING HYMN         #  “We’ve Got the Whole World in Our Hands”
Chorus We’ve got the whole world in our hands,
We’ve got the whole world in  our hands,
We’ve got the whole world in our hands,
We’ve got the whole world in  our hands.

1. We’ve got the lIttle, bitty baby,  in  our hands,
  We’ve got the old and infirmed,  in  our hands,
  We’ve got the youth and the children…
2. We’ve got the colors of the rainbow,
  We’ve got the rich and the poor,
  We’ve got the city and the country…
3.  We’ve got to stop  global warming, with our hands
  We’ve got to clean up the water,
  We’ve got to clean up the air…
Chorus                        adapted by A. Severance

    From one of my favorite scriptures: Children’s Letters to God: The New
Collection, Compiled by Stuart  Hample and Eric Marshall:
Dear God,
I am American What are you?

Dear God,
I bet it is very hard for you to love all of the people in the whole world. There are only 4 people in our family and I can never do it.

    The last letter is not funny, but when you stop to think about it, sad, because children, and probably many adults, seem to  believe that God in HIS infinite wisdom separates the countries, perhaps for some good, but surely a divine reason, and more that HE then appoints good and just rulers to watch over all Gods children.
Dear God,
Who draws the lines around the countries?

    There’s a big difference between the globe we see in a school classroom and that beautiful picture of the earth from space. What are some of the differences? The globe, of course, has those lines drawn around the countries and further the countries are different colors, but from space, we cant see the borders, except maybe, if we look closely the great wall of China! I think we should have that picture of the earth taken from space, the beautiful blue ball of, well, of us, isn’t it, posted behind the pulpit to remind us that we are part of that interdependent web of all existence.  As seen by, well, shall we say, God? The rest of the Universe? Of course, we know  that a  camera took the picture and sent it back to earth, but it sure seems mystical to me. It also helps me to remember that we are all part of the world community, part of Gaia, Mother Earth, Mother Nature, maybe even Mother Universe or is it Mother Earth, Father Universe? No, lets not start naming rights, that’s another whole discussion, isn’t it?

    Lets just get back to earth and those lines around the countries. Who DID put them there? And even more importantly, who decided which color each country should be? Then we might ask who named the countries, of course. The history of the world. Some countries go back thousands of years like Greece, Turkey, and  Egypt, among others for instance, and some are very new.

    How countries are formed are often subjects of legends, sometimes called myths, sometimes even religious beliefs. It is often difficult to separate the difference between history and religion, and some people believe it is the same thing. So sometimes, you cant separate it, and it makes it difficult to talk to them. In our Judeo-Christian heritage, indeed, we are brought up with the idea of a divinely promised land, are we not? Who promises the land?. God? Who is it promised to? The Chosen people. Who are the Chosen people? The winners of the war that occupies the promised land! Is that too cynical?

    I want to argue that that model is symbolic of much that is wrong with the world today and I don’t mean that it is the Judeo Christian Bible story or heritage, religion or belief that is at fault. I am not talking about the situation in Gaza and I hope I am not being anti-Semitic because I want to use this as a metaphor.

    Lets start with basics, of course. In Jewish and Christian teachings( and Moslems believe it too, by the way) the Jews are Gods Chosen people, and Israel is the Promised Land, and Moses leads the Jews out of Egypt through 40 years of wilderness and the Sinai Desert then Joshua leads the Jews into Israel . Well, its not quite that easy. Israel is not empty of people. It is not even Israel yet. Its Canaan and full of perfectly good Canaanites, but they are not chosen people. In fact, they are the opposite for some unknown reason. We are never really told why, by the way in scripture. But we are told, quite clearly that God tells Joshua and his chosen people to slay every man, woman and child and thing that breathes, leaving nothing alive in Canaan, so that the Chosen people can occupy the country. Joshua and the Jews do as they are told by God. Who wouldn’t? Who doesn’t?  Who isn’t still?

    Now, first let me say something about history. Scholars now say that Israel was settled by the Hebrew people gradually over hundreds of years fairly peacefully as they evolved into becoming a people, not by a huge group of Israelites invading from the wilderness and suddenly killing everyone! The exodus itself is a metaphor.

    It is important to remember that there are many different ways that different writers in different parts of the Bible have viewed or believed in God and have interpreted him, her, or it that way. That does NOT mean, therefore, either that there are many Gods, or that God is warlike, or even that there is no God. Nor does it mean that those people were wrong, and I am right. It means we all have different ways of viewing God, so be careful when some claims to be one of the chosen people and tells you that God wants you to kill everyone in a land that is Promised land that is unfortunately occupied by someone else. 

    Even our own country was founded as a Promised Land and WE were the chosen people! Only the Promised land was also already populated by the native Americans, and the chosen people in this case of course, were not the Jews, but the White, Northern European Christians. Though we didn’t have specific instructions to kill everything that breathed, we did have the Bible to go by and the story of Canaan, and over and over again, you will see us refer tot his country throughout history as the Promised Land. Much of the Colonializing European powers of the conquest of Africa, Asia, South and Central America, were also seen in that same vein with the natives as inferior and the Europeans as the chosen people. Today in Africa, for instance, it may be simply one tribe against another, the tribe that had come to power under the  colonial power because it had been a minority, and that was the only way it could survive, Under the colonial power there was, if you will, a perversion of human rights, so that great hatred built up over generations, that may take further generations to dissipate. All history has been violent, but that does not mean we can not learn how to overcome it. If after the First World War, the ruling powers had come together to form the League of Nations as our own President Wilson suggested among others,, as a way to get nations to try to work diplomatically with each other, perhaps W.W.II might have been averted.

    We support the United Nations, a way for the world to try to be a world community so that one group of people wont think that they are the only chosen people favored by a deity, or that they can do anything they want with a country and its people, even though we still see that daily in the news as if nothing has changed except the weapons and the fact that we can now shrink the globe down to village size by seeing what’s going on in Africa, Asia, South America, Latin America, Mexico, other Third World Countries on our TV sets.

    As we watch the news from around the world it is hard to believe that 60 years ago there was a Universal declaration of Human Rights for they are still so often abused and ignored. When we sing, We’ve got the Whole World in our Hands, I know that’s an exaggeration and that so many of us  feel like we barely have our own lives on our hands! That’s why there are other organizations we can join to help. The UU Service Committee is sometimes called the Unitarian Universalists idea od missionaries, not trying to save souls from hell, but saving the poor from the poverty, from starvation, sickness, refugee camps armies of children, orphans, dirty water.

We come out of that  Judeo Christian heritage after all,  and our principles say:
 ” We, the member congregations of the Unitarian Universalist Association, covenant to affirm and promote:
– The inherent worth and dignity of every person;
– Justice, equity and compassion in human relations;
– Acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations;
– A free and responsible search for truth and meaning;
– The right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large;
– The goal of world community with peace, liberty and justice for all;
– Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.

    The goal of a world community sounds scary to some people, yet that phrase, or something like it, has shown up in many of the statements about Unitarian and Universalist beliefs over the last 200 years, and we’ve often been accused of being communists because of it, yet we certainly are also freedom loving and almost too individualistic for our own good! We are strong believers in human rights and should be strong supporters in this  Unitarian Universalist Service Committee Justice Sunday and the 60th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

    Today we talk about Economic Justice, Environmental Justice, Civil Liberties, Humanitarian Crisis. We must work together to accomplish these. The Unitarian Service Committee was founded during W.W.II to help get refugees out of Nazi German and 2 of the founders, a Unitarian minister, Waitstill Sharp, and his wife, Martha, who risked their lives to help get Jews out of Germany at that time were recently honored by Israel with a special designation for non-Jews who risked their lives to save Jews during the Holocaust, called Righteous Among the Nations. In 2006, they became only the 2nd and 3rd Americans to be so honored. Out of the horror of W.W.II came that goal of world community that came tom be known as the United Nations with the hope that further horror might be prevented and towards the end of 1948  came a great document, after consulting sacred texts, constitutions and declarations from around the world with the recognition that human dignity is at the foundation of all freedom, freedom of religion, freedom of thought, freedom of opinion, freedom of movement, freedom to move, freedom to go to school, freedom to own property, freedom  to marry, and so many more. Think of the freedoms we take for granted, well that freedom to marry, of course, is one we question now, don’t we.

    SO, the goal of world community means that we must all do what we can to make the world one, to find our way of helping however small that may be.  There is a story of two people talking and one said to the other: Id like to see God and ask God just one question, but I’m afraid to
. What’s the question? the other asked.
Well the question is why God allows suffering in the world, you know, especially like in Darfur.
Well that makes sense, said the other. But why are you afraid to ask  ?
I’m afraid God might ask me the same question. said the first.

    That’s why I changed the world to that old gospel song, He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands, to We’ve Got the Whole in Our Hands. Or to say it another way: we are the only hands that God has; why do we allow suffering?

Amen, Peace, Love, Shalom, Salaam, Blessed Be, Namaste, Abrazo a Todos, Vaya con su Dios