The bond of our common humanity is stronger than the divisiveness of our fears and prejudices. God gives us the capacity for choice. We can choose to alleviate suffering. We can choose to work together for peace. We can make these changes – and we must.
— Jimmy Carter from Nobel Lecture after receiving the 2002 Nobel Peace Prize in the Oslo City
First, we are challenged to develop a world perspective. No individual can live alone, no nation can live alone, and anyone who feels that he can live alone is sleeping through a revolution. The world in which we live is geographically one. The challenge that we face today is to make it one in terms of brotherhood.
Now it is true that the geographical oneness of this age has come into being to a large extent through modern man’s scientific ingenuity. Modern man through his scientific genius has been able to dwarf distance and place time in chains. And our jet planes have compressed into minutes distances that once took weeks and even months. All of this tells us that our world is a neighborhood.
Through our scientific and technological genius, we have made of this world a neighborhood and yet we have not had the ethical commitment to make of it a brotherhood. But somehow, and in some way, we have got to do this. We must all learn to live together as brothers or we will all perish together as fools. We are tied together in the single garment of destiny, caught in an inescapable network of mutuality. And whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly. For some strange reason I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. And you can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be. This is the way God’s universe is made; this is the way it is structured.
John Donne caught it years ago and placed it in graphic terms: “No man is an island entire of itself. Every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main.” And he goes on toward the end to say, “Any man’s death diminishes me because I am involved in mankind; therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.” We must see this, believe this, and live by it if we are to remain awake through a great revolution …
There are many things that are not right at the points of intersection in our collective life. A failure to recognize the interrelated nature of our lives has allowed inequality and injustice to flourish. Whether on geo-political, social, or economic stages, acknowledgement of the other is of vital importance. We must recognize the moral and ethical inequities that abound when we ignore the need for unity and seek to rectify them through intellectual and spiritual means.
This acknowledgement is the acceptance of another’s very existence by truly seeing and listening to them. Too many members of our human tribe have been pushed out of sight in our society. Women, men, and children who belong to marginalized communities are rendered silent and invisible, the paralysis of their lives left largely unexamined or unaddressed.
Acknowledgement of another’s humanity should move each us to a practice of affirmation, to the respect of the humanity of those who may be different from us. Hear this: affirmation is neither an act of complicity nor condemnation. Affirming someone’s experience does not mean approving ideology or behavior, but rather it means respecting the other in spite of these differences. We can love people without agreeing with them.
The prophetic radical ethical expression of loving then presses us to abide. Abiding is the imperative is to do something with and for another for our shared uplift. Abiding is daring enough to care. How this looks will constantly change as each community faces their own challenges, but the principle is ultimately the same: caring is being present with each other. Caring is not grounded in the strong protecting or exerting power over the weak, or the haves merely aiding have-nots. Abiding presents opportunities to enter into another’s pain and co-laboring towards the shared promise. Abiding is shared presence, mutual experiences, and connected concerns.
We are all related. We are all responsible for each other. We are bond together for a common purpose … to live loving and just in unity.
— Martin Luther King Jr. (“Remaining Awake Through a Great Revolution”) from A Knock At Midnight
We Are All Mortal
So let us not be blind to our differences, but let us also direct attention to our common interests and the means by which those differences can be resolved. And if we cannot end now our differences, at least we can help make the world safe for diversity. For in the final analysis, our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this small planet. We all breathe the same air. We all cherish our children’s futures. And we are all mortal.
— John F. Kennedy (“Commencement Address at American University”, June 10 1963) from To Move the World: JFK’s Quest for Peace
The Reasons for My Involvement in the Peace Movement
The more deeply immersed I became in the thinking of the prophets, the more powerfully it became clear to me what the lives of the prophets sought to convey: that morally speaking there is no limit to the concern one must feel for the suffering of human beings. It also became clear to me that in regard to cruelties committed in the name of a free society, some are guilty, while all are responsible.
— Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel from Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity
Do not pervert justice; do not show partiality to the poor or favoritism to the great, but judge your neighbor fairly.
— Leviticus 19:15 (NIV)
Defend the weak and the fatherless;
uphold the cause of the poor and the oppressed.
Rescue the weak and the needy;
deliver them from the hand of the wicked.
— Psalm 82:3-4 (NIV)
The Web of Life
There is a living web that runs through us
To all the universe
Linking us each with each and through all life
On to the distant stars.
Each knows a little corner of the world, and lives
As if this were his all.
We no more see the farther reaches of the threads
Than we see of the future, yet they’re there.
Touch but one thread, no matter which;
The thoughtful eye may trace to distant lands
Its firm continuing strand, yet lose its filaments as they reach out,
But find at last it coming back to him from whom it led.
We move as in a fog, aware of self
But only dimly conscious of the rest
As they are close to us in sight or feeling.
New objects loom up for a time, fade in and out;
Then, sometimes, as we look on unawares, the fog lifts
And then there’s the web in shimmering beauty,
Reaching past all horizons.
We catch our breath;
Stretch out our eager hands, and then
In comes the fog again, and we go on,
Feeling a little foolish, doubting what we had seen.
The hands were right. The web is real.
Our folly is that we so soon forget.
— Robert T Weston as quoted in Day of Promise: Collected Meditations (Vol 1)
- Martin Luther King, Jr. on the Parable of the Good Samaritan
- A Change Is Gonna Come
- The Living Image Of God
- Everybody Can Serve
- Love Is The Measure
- Transformed by Hope