2018-12-01

Peace on Earth -- and Justice

Meredith Garmon

During this holiday season, we will frequently see, hear, and perhaps say the words, "Peace on Earth." Unitarians have been noticing that the words do not match the reality at least since Unitarian poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote the carol, "I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day" in 1863: "For hate is strong and mocks the song of peace on earth, good will to men," wrote Longfellow. The challenge to us is to take the words, "Peace on Earth," to heart, reflect on what we've done in the past year to build peace, and what we will commit to do in 2019.

Let us attend, as well, to Justice on Earth, for peace and justice are intricately interconnected. There will be no peace without justice (for human beings systemically denied justice will agitate for it, including turning to violence when there is no other recourse) -- and, too, no justice without peace (for human beings under attack focus on defending themselves, not fairness to others). I take this not as a chicken-and-egg insoluble dilemma, but as indicating the need to gradually build both at the same time. On the "Justice on Earth" side, I recommend a book of that title.

Our Unitarian Universalist Association selects a Common Read every year, which all UUs are urged to read. The Common Read for 2018-19 is: Manish Mishra-Marzetti and Jennifer Nordstrom, Eds., Justice on Earth: People of Faith Working at the Intersections of Race, Class, and Environment (Skinner House Books, 2018). Here's what UUA says about it:
"At a time when racial justice, environmental justice, and economic justice are seen as issues competing for time, attention, and resources, Justice on Earth explores the ways in which the three are intertwined. Those on the margins are invariably those most affected by climate disaster and environmental toxins. The book asks us to recognize that our faith calls us to long-haul work for justice for our human kin, for the Earth and for all life. It invites us to look at our current challenges through a variety of different perspectives, offers tools to equip us for sustained engagement, and proposes multiple pathways for follow-up action."
The book is available from the UUA bookstore (HERE), or Amazon (HERE). Let's read it, talk about it, engage with these ideas, and learn how we can more skillfully contribute to the building of a world of justice and peace.