"Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things" (Philippians 4:8)
As a man of faith in the Unitarian Universalist tradition, I hold this passage close in times of strife and injustice—those moments when I am called as a servant to the wide family of humanity to witness the brutality we inflict upon each other and the planet we borrow from our grandchildren.
There are rare times when I find purity, love, and virtue all in the same place. Those moments are necessary to keep up energy for the fight for justice for all.
This past weekend in Raleigh, North Carolina, was such a time, and I felt affirmed in my call to fight for justice.
I am a political junkie, a seminary student, and a gay man in modern America. There are plenty of reasons to justify my default cynicism with the current state of political affairs in much of the country. The dream of upward mobility and root egalitarianism that was sold for so many years as the "American Dream" has largely been exposed as a front for the predatory greed and immoral actions inspired by the wealthiest in America to rob from the poor and give to the rich.
In the last year, the governor and legislature in North Carolina have exposed the citizens of that state to an unparalleled power grab and unethical assault on an individual's right to vote, see a doctor when sick, and earn a sustainable living with full-time work, among so many other heinous deeds.
The Moral March in Raleigh reminded me of the power that collective action against evil can hold to turn the tide. The NAACP marched hand in hand with Planned Parenthood and Raging Grannies and college students and people of faith and people of no faith and so many others.
In this march, tens of thousands of people marched, arm in arm, together.
This was the type of energizing moment that causes concern among people of corrupt power. This was the type of moment that Jesus witnessed near the end of his life when challenging Roman rule. This was the type of moment Gandhi witnessed as British rule in India came to an end. This was the type of moment that Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. witnessed as people came together to demand a peaceful end to war and poverty. As people of conscience, we must keep the faith. A faith rooted in the knowledge that the arc of the universe is long, but it bends toward justice.
One of the most sacred acts in life is to bear witness, with naked eyes, to the world before you and find beauty there. That is the essence of God, the spirit that grants us the strength and energy to get through times that are dark and full of evil.
Witnessing the thousands upon thousands of conscience who descended upon Raleigh this past Saturday for a protest against the evil actions of a state government with no moral center guiding its duplicitous actions was a sight of beauty. People of all colors, all ages, all orientations, and ability levels joined together in a peaceful protest. This is the type of protest that starts movements.
For the LGBT community, we are at a crossroads.
In my opinion, we are now 5 years, at most, from total marriage equality. The long journey for legal equality for gays and lesbians seeking all the rights and legal benefits afforded married couples is nearly over. This march in Raleigh can serve as a reminder that as long as any of us are oppressed, none of us are free.
As long as people of color and people of low economic means are turned away at the voting booth, none of us are free. As long as a working mother has to choose between feeding her children or keeping the heat on, none of us are free. As long as people are forced to wander the streets in extreme weather conditions and die from homelessness, none of us are free.
We shall overcome all the injustices and barriers that have been placed between the people and the lives of peace and happiness they deserve.
Years from now, I think people will reference this protest when the people finally take back America from the very interests who have gutted the middle class and set war as the default mindset for the government and the people.
We are called as people of conscience and of faith to stand up and march, arm in arm.
May all who participated remember this protest in North Carolina, and may it serve as an example of what is possible in the never-ending quest for justice. And may we find more virtue and love in a world desperately in need of both.
Photo via flickr user James Willamor