Dear Members and Friends,
Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.
-Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., 20th century
A total solar eclipse traveled across the United States this past week. Millions of people paused in their daily activity, some even traveling great distances to be in the path of totality, to experience this “once in a lifetime” moment. Many of those who experienced the total eclipse spoke of it as a life-changing moment.
In the Bible, especially in apocalyptic literature portions of the scripture, descriptions of eclipses of the sun and moon are used to announce the appearance of some dramatic activity of God among human beings on the earth. Perhaps it was most appropriate that the Sun was eclipsed by the moon just a little over a week after the events of Charlottesville. Maybe this natural phenomenon can mark a turning point in our nation and provide a lesson to us for next steps in our national life regarding relations among races and ethnic groups.
Canadian blogger Jim Taylor wrote on Monday, pre-eclipse, about the eclipse he experienced in Nova Scotia in 1972. He was teaching a writing class at the time and had assigned his students to write about the experience. He shared the poem he wrote which included these lines:
The sun dies, a black bullet hole in the sky.
I wanted the mourning stars to come out,
But only the bugs did.
The “bugs” were an unexpected side effect of the eclipse. “My biggest surprise,” he wrote in his journal that day, “was not the eclipse itself, but the way that the mosquitoes and blackflies came out so viciously for the few instants that the sun was obscured.”
Much has been written about the racism and attitudes of white supremacy which have resurfaced with the bold actions of the neo-Nazis and KKK marchers. A large amount of fear has been surfaced as people worry about the future of our nation and what the vocal presence of such “bugs” suggests. Many people wonder and worry what to do in response and how we can prevent our nation from spiraling into darkness and violence.
It is important to remember the truth Dr. King voiced in the above quote. Darkness does not drive out darkness; only light ends the darkness. Violence is never truly overcome by more violence, contrary to what conventional wisdom continues to offer. The darkness of the eclipse ended only when the sun again shone brightly.
What this means for us as followers of Jesus is that the way forward is the path of love. It means that we need to stand up for equality of all people, remembering that all people are created by God and are equal in God’s sight. It means that we need to stand up for justice and fairness for all people, remembering that equality is never fully achieved until everyone is treated equally by us and by society.
This is what it means to be the light. As Jesus said, “No one lights a lamp and then places it under a bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others.” So we must denounce the evil life of white supremacy. But more than that, we must proclaim the truth of God’s love for all people; acceptance of all people; and God’s desire for fullness of life for all people.
In the light of all the hyper rhetoric, and the actual physical violence occurring when people are standing up and offering an alternative, counter-witness to white supremacy, this can feel like a difficult and frightening prospect to think about “letting your light shine before others.” But we can find alternative, non-violent ways to do so. For example an interfaith coalition in San Francisco/Oakland, California is holding a “family-friendly prayer and non-violent response” event at the Berkeley Civic Center park on Saturday. This is the day before a neo-Nazi event is planned for the same space on Sunday. Those sponsoring the event include The Network of Spiritual Progressives, Tikkun magazine, Beyt Tikkun Synagogue-Without-Walls, Pacific School of Religion (a UCC affiliated Seminary) and City of Refuge UCC. They have created this event to provide an alternative witness to the Neo-Nazi event without providing a direct confrontation to them, and therefore seeking to maintain a reality of non-violence and safety.
As we contemplate the call God is placing on our hearts to “be the light of the world” which drives out the darkness and the love which drives out hate, I share with you the following poem/prayer which you might use in your meditation time to open your heart to listen to what the Still Speaking God is saying to you.
“To give love from the heart and to receive love
To be the light and project the light
To know yourself and thus know spirit
I am part of you and you of me
The seeds of yesterday,
Today and tomorrow have been painted
Now we must learn to nurture,
To love to overflow with Spirit.”
Light your faces with a smile.
-Jo Ann Mast
R. Steven Hudder
Pastor, Christ Congregational United Church of Christ
Palmetto Bay, Florida