At this time of year, grassroots organizations all over the world connect to remember the lives of two significant 20th Century prophets and peacemakers, Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King. During the Season for Nonviolence, the 64 days between the anniversaries of the assassinations of Gandhi and King, thousands of people gather to honor their memory. One might interpret the Season for Nonviolence as an appeal for peace. But it extends far beyond that plea. During this time, individuals renew their commitments to a vision of a better world that honors the dignity and worth of all people. At the heart of this message is a unified voice proclaiming that respect and reverence for life are at the core of human relationships and the common good.
It is a time when we are called to intentionally find ways to heal and be healed of that which separates us. It is a time to come together to change the course of destruction of human beings, communities, nations and the world. It is a time to be reminded of the necessity to care about one another. It is a time when new models for reconciliation and harmony are discovered to reclaim the reverence for life.
So the Season for Nonviolence really isn’t just about the absence of war, because that alone will not ensure peace in our hearts or in our world. This year, let’s consider the places where the reverence for life is being threatened. For example, it is unthinkable that the richest nation in the world still cannot feed all its children. It is unreasonable for families to lack basic needs such as adequate housing, affordable child care, and access to medical care. In a nation that values knowledge and education, we must commit to investing more in our schools than in our prisons.
The question is not what is needed because I think most would agree that caring for one another is at the core of our human values. The real question is who should pay for it. Should it be a matter of public responsibility? In our context that public institution is the government. I realize that there is much debate in the halls of congress and statehouses that government needs to be smaller and take only certain responsibilities such as national security and maintaining order in the country. I disagree. If we believe in the common good as a basic human value, then as a government of the people, we have the collective responsibility to provide the basic essentials for those who are the most vulnerable so that all lives are revered. If we don’t, who will?
Both Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King called for a culture of justice and peace. They pressed us to recognize the deep scars created by oppression and greed. They appealed to us to dig deep into our human consciousness and find ways to alleviate human suffering. In their honor, let’s engage in meaningful dialogue about our moral responsibility to care for one another. While the need is year around, during this year’s Season of Nonviolence, let’s have an honest conversation about what the “reverence for life” really means.
The United Church of Christ has more than 5,277 churches throughout the United States. Rooted in the Christian traditions of congregational governance and covenantal relationships, each UCC setting speaks only for itself and not on behalf of every UCC congregation. UCC members and churches are free to differ on important social issues, even as the UCC remains principally committed to unity in the midst of our diversity.