The Journal Gazette
Wednesday, December 08, 2021 1:00 am

Unity is only path to true community

Bill McGill

“Now let me suggest first that if we are to have peace on earth, our loyalties must become ecumenical rather than sectional. Our loyalties must transcend our race, our tribe, our class and our nation; and this means we must develop a world perspective. No individual can live alone; no nation can live alone, and as long as we try, the more we are going to have war in this world. Now the judgment of God is upon us, and we must learn to live together as brothers or we are all going to perish together as fools.”

– Martin Luther King, Jr.

December 1967


If Michael Flynn had his way, ours would be a nation where only his personal view of Christianity would be on display, and every other line of thought would be thrown away.

His assertion that we should be “one nation under God and one religion under God” is a dangerous road for reasonable people of faith to have trod.

In the words of the late but great theologian Samuel Proctor, “I am unashamedly Black and unapologetically Christian,” but I refuse to dismiss other citizens' right to be guided by a different standard of conviction. Just because it is not our choice is no reason to advocate silencing their voice.

In fact, it was our founder who suggested letting the wheat and tare grow together, so that the final judgment could decide who was really a valid spiritual treasure.

In this holy season of reflection that began with Hanukkah, midpoints with Christmas and Kwanza, and finds its end at Ramadan, we would do well to encourage all to live out any faith that they can depend upon.

This nation must be careful in claiming spiritual superiority when for more than 400 years its majority claimed the Bible relegated a whole race of people to inferiority. It was a dangerous and deceptive view that denied my ancestors full access to entrees on the biblical menu.

If we are to survive this COVID and now omicron train wreck, we need all spiritual hands on deck. If we want to ensure that no more civilians die because they have a knee on their neck, we need all spiritual hands on deck.

If we want the doors of opportunity to open wide so people of color can stop receiving a non-sufficient funds check, then we must make room for all spiritual hands to be on deck!

It was that great Republican statesman Frederick Douglass who said, “I would unite with anybody to do right and nobody to do wrong.”

A more mature and conciliatory Malcom X wisely said, “I, for one, will join in with anyone – I don't care what color you are – as long as you want to change this miserable condition that exists on this earth.”

Some of us have fought far too long and yet seen bigotry and hate remain ever so strong, so we are not of the mindset to declare that anyone in God's family does not belong. Red and yellow, Black and white, they are not only precious in the creator's sight, but welcome at the table to heal racial, social and economic blight.

If we hope to heal our nation's confusion, we must expand the ideal of inclusion. If we truly want peace and harmony to have dominion, we must decide to deal once and for all with the seeds of division. If we hope the year ahead is filled with less heartache and dread, then we must actively commit to a more earnestly woven ecumenical thread.

Mahatma Gandhi was right to surmise that “religions are different roads converging upon the same point. What does it matter that we take different roads so long as we reach the same goal?”

Instead of facing one another with a sense of wrath, let's begin making the decision to at least honor and respect their path.

Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel was right: “A religious man is a person who holds God and man in one thought at one time, at all times, who suffers harm done to others, whose greatest passion is compassion, whose greatest strength is love and defiance of despair.” 

The Rev. Bill McGill is senior pastor at Fort Wayne's Imani Baptist Temple. 

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