The Great Principles That Bind Us: #2—”The World Is Our Family”
The world we live in has become a rather confusing place for most of us. Things are changing so fast that we don’t know where we fit in or how we should react.
A process has developed over the past decades that economists and sociologists have called, globalization. This process has come upon us at the speed of lightning and has left many confused and bewildered.
Our sense of identity (who we are) and place (where do I belong), leaves one feeling vulnerable, even displaced.
We are also witnessing a reaction to this uncertainty. Call it push back.
Our social structures are important and when we are uncertain and afraid we tend to want to draw back to something familiar. To hustle back to the way it used to be. It a natural reaction. It’s a survival reaction.
In many different countries and societies we see movements attempting to reassert the former boundaries that they were familiar with. In its best form it offers one a short-term sense of safety and grounded-ness. In its worst form it drives us into separate camps and towards new forms of tribalism that perceives the “otherness” of people as a threat.
Religion is so interwoven with our culture and societal experiences that it too, falls victim to these forces pulling people this way and that. Societal shifts through history have always been difficult and even dangerous but they are what they are. A Tsunami wave is unstoppable. The societal changes we face comes mostly as a result of the great Information Revolution. This radical phenomenon is even more disruptive than the Industrial Revolution was a few centuries ago.
The point is, we can only learn to adapt our lives and expectations in the light of these changes or we risk becoming mired in suspicion, tension and even anger as we realize our powerlessness to return to “the way things were”.
Being conscious of the fact that our Christian faith tradition has survived and even thrived through all the great societal changes the world has experienced, should bring us comfort.
This shrinking of the world into a global village presents an opportunity for us to discover God in new ways. Rather than protecting God from foreign contamination—this might be an opportunity to discover the expansive grace of God that spills over all of humanity with its different God-narratives.
Other faith traditions are not a threat to us. In this new and changing world we have the opportunity to discover that God is a universal God who loves all of creation including all the people of the world.
That may come as a surprise for some people who might think of God as being American or South African, depending on the place you call “home”.
The God of our faith is usually much bigger than we imagine.
In these times when we feel threatened by the changes we experience I believe that God is calling us not to withdraw behind our own cultural and spiritual banners and flags, but to embrace the opportunity to broaden our understanding of our connection to the larger world, including the natural world.
There is way too much that we share and have in common for us to view each other as a threat.
Last Sunday we talked about the Principles That World Religions Have In Common”. The first common principle we discussed was The Golden Rule; “do not do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” We saw how this principle is a recurring theme among the many religions of the world.
Today I’d like us to consider a second principle that is broadly shared by all the great religions of the world, namely, The World Is Our Family. Can we broaden our sense of identity and place to allow the space for others to be who they are?
Imagine for a moment if pre WWII Germany could have embraced this principle, how hard it would have been for the Nazi’s to find a foothold in that society. What would the world have looked like if that had been foundation of people’s lives? How many lives could have been spared. How many families could have remained whole? How many cures for cancer and Alzheimers could have been pursued with the money spent on that war?
The crusades are a prime example of what happens when Christianity became tribal and exclusive. The Inquisition happens when people were tortured until they accepted Christianity or executed if they did not.
When we recognize in each other God’s creative hand presenting us in different colors and sizes, different languages and cultures, different sexualities, we might just begin to discover the beauty in the “other”. Every stranger is a friend unknown.
Recognizing and embracing the humanity of others we realize that to harm them is to harm ourselves, to exclude them is to impoverish ourselves.
Listen to the writings and sayings of the sages within different religions when it comes to our connectedness.
From Christianity, in Acts 17:26 and onwards we read what Paul says to the citizens of Athens as he teaches in the Areopagus.
“From one ancestor he made all nations to inhabit the whole earth, and he allotted the times of their existence and the boundaries of the places where they would live, so that they would search for God and perhaps grope for him and find him—though indeed he is not far from each one of us…”
From Hinduism (Bhavishya Purana LLL, IV, Ch.23) comes the next;
“For we too are his offspring.” All are the sons and daughters of God, good people all, Brothers and Sisters, since created by One Father.
No rooted difference is there between them.
From Judaism (Malachi 2:10)
“Have we not all one father? Has not one God created us? Why then are we faithless to one another, profaning the covenant of our ancestors? All creatures are the family of God; and he is the most beloved of God who does most good to His family.”
From Islam (Hadith)
“Do not forget that the world is one great family … Regard Heaven
as your father, Earth as your mother, and all things as your
brothers and sisters.”
From Shintoism (Oracle of Deity of Atsuta)
“God is the Father, Earth the Mother. With all things
and in all things, we are relatives.”
Finally, from the Native American religions (Sioux)
“God hath made of one blood all nations of men.”
In the United Church of Christ, our specific faith family of congregations, we have a saying. “You are welcome here no matter who you are or where you have been on life’s journey.”
The only caveat we have is that you seek to love God by loving your neighbor. We intentionally do not identify as a group who prescribes what others must believe. We intentionally perform the ritual of marriage for those who ask us to, no matter what their sexual orientation. We intentionally open our communion service to those who come to seek that closer bond with God by seeking a closer bond with our neighbor.
We do this because we are convinced that God’s love is the true Tsunami that overcomes all of our fears and prejudices. Yes, even in the midst of great societal changes that leave many of us feeling bereft of our identity and displaced. Even there the love of God will triumph if we are open to it.
Psalm 8 is a love song. It tells of God’s immense care for humanity and for creation. May we embrace God’s world with love and kindness in this age of uncertainty. Amen.