June 14, 2020 Message from Dr. Benton
Remaking Our Home in the Universe
Welcome members and friends of Fellowship Church! It is with great trepidation and a great deal of humility that I write our community message this week. Perhaps that is why I have called on the persistence, hope, strength, audacity of Nina Simone to start us out. Without this vision of freedom…of the unleashing of the human spirit…girded with the Holy Spirit, we can have no way forward in this, our brink of time. It has been, in a way, a week of possible reckoning…a time when our entire history…the behavior of an entire nation has been brought out into the open…literally aired on national TV. The image of George Floyd, pleading for his life while his murderer casually kneels on his neck is etched into our minds…a horrendous example…a symbol of the gross injustice upon which this nation has been built. Matthew Fox says of injustice: Injustice is not an abstraction. It kicks you in the gut. It hits you in the third chakra. That is also where compassion begins. Fox is saying that there is an inherent connection between justice and compassion. Our sense of justice…of identity as children of God can be felt in the gut (third chakra) but then acted upon in the fourth chakra (the heart). The heart is where, if we keep it open and flowing, we can develop and nurture these feelings of compassion for others…based on our intellect (sixth chakra) to be sure, but the heart is the place of compassion…of our inborn sense of connection to others…our fellow human beings, but also all parts of creation. Fox continued with his assessment of the symbolism of this most recent murder…he says that kneeling on George Floyd’s neck/throat is another instance of dominance…of shutting up…of gagging…of ending truth-telling and sharing…but also of ending poetry and song…of the creative process. Fox points out that the neck or throat is the fifth chakra. The fifth chakra is said to be the prophetic chakra…the part of our bodies that is capable of communication…of voicing our truth. He says “it is through the birth canal of the fifth chakra that we put our heart and mind, our wisdom, into the world”. The throat is the source of the sharing of what is on our hearts (fourth chakra) and our minds (sixth chakra). The reaction of the people to this horrific act has been profound. People coming together in solidarity and in outrage…the people’s refusal to be silenced…a refusal to going back to “business as usual”…even at times destroying those businesses that symbolize the dominant society…the ones in charge. People are refusing to be silenced…to be ignored…to be told to “calm down”. We are, we hope, closer to the dream of the Beloved Community…to the reign of the all-pervading presence…our creator. We need this energy of the people united to be sure, but we also need something else…something that Nina Simone sang about…something that was written all over her face…the Holy Spirit…the source of our passion and our compassion…our strength in times of despair…the flame of justice that, in the words of Thomas Aquinas “leads to the reign of God” among us. For our meditation let us listen to this amazing choir singing the Taizé chant: Veni Sancte Spiritus (Come Holy Spirit).
I was struck by the breathtaking ability of all these people to work together on this piece of music. It is a testament to our human spirits as well as the Holy Spirit that guides us. We are amazing creatures…capable of universe. So, why is it that we have put up with this injustice for so long? Why is it that we are in what seems to be the same place we were in so many years ago when Simone expressed her outrage and her hope and when Dr. King had the vision of the Beloved Community? When so many people put their minds and their hearts together to find solutions? I don’t profess to be able to answer these questions. What I do know is that we have an opportunity right now to come together and get serious about change…serious change. I feel the power of the spirit in the voice of Nina Simone…in the voices of so many Taizé singers…and in the voices of so many protesters on the street today. One such protester was Kimberly Jones. She spoke to the criticism of those who have chosen to act out violently in their communities. She looked around her and said, “It’s not ours. We don’t own anything.” She went on to speak about the “social contract” made between citizens and those in power. When asked why she and the other protesters are rioting she responded that the social contract was broken…that it had been broken for the past 400 years. She used the example of the slaughter of her people in Tulsa…in Rosewood…and now all over the country at the hands of those that are supposed to protect us. Kimberly is a prophet…one who will not be silenced…one who is fueled by the spirit and is making appropriate use of her fifth chakra…one who has clearly been “kicked in the gut” by injustice and is responding with truth and with compassion…with the knowledge that we are in this together and we need to move forward together. She is standing up to her responsibility to “make plain” what is going on…to respond to the call to prophesy. Fox continued his consideration of this call when he writes: This life is not a rehearsal. It is for real. It is what is real. The deeper the injustices, the deeper the pain, the louder must be our response at reinventing those structures—what Martin Luther King, Jr. called the “conditions”—that allow bad things to happen and injustice to flourish. If it is the conditions that allow injustice to flourish as it has been, then it is our call to change those conditions…to answer the call of what American writer and Womanist Audre Lorde calls our “prophetic vocations”. She says we must speak out…we must interfere…we must act. We must change. This change must be thoroughgoing…it may include our profession, our work, our spirituality, our way of seeing the world, our economy, our interactions with others. Fox reminds us that others depend on our standing up and speaking out, for in the words of Audre Lorde: We can sit in our corners mute forever while our sisters and our selves are wasted, while our children are distorted and destroyed, while our earth is poisoned; we can sit in our safe corners mute as bottles, and we will still be no less afraid. Are we ready to begin the work of remaking our home? Catch the train…