Moral courage and Resistance
Rev. Paul D. Daniel
Yom Ha’Shoah or as some refer to it as
Holocaust Remembrance Day, was memorialized this past April 23rd.
Jewish communities prefer not to call
the dreadful events of the 1930’s and 40’s the Holocaust,
because of that word’s original meaning was of a burnt offering made to God.
Jews and others know there was no sacred offering.
Rather, the lives of six million Jews (and many others) were murdered
and if there was an offering it was to
the evil idea of racial purification, not to God.
The Hebrew term, Yom Ha’ Shoah means day of the destruction, or day of the catastrophe.
And indeed, it was a destruction and a catastrophe, marked each year.
So today we remember, and because
so many families were completely wiped out,
leaving no one to say Kaddish in honor of the parents after they died,
we will close this time of candles with an English translation of that traditional prayer.
I light this first candle for the Shoah, the extermination of so many Jews, gays, gypsies, the handicapped, intellectuals and artists and dissenters.
Some of our own UUs were included in that great destruction,
among whom we remember Norbert Capek, the Czech Unitarian who
left us the ceremony of flower communion.
This dreadful chapter in human history is still not over:
Within the last year, a Nazi prison guard
who is alleged to have been part of the killing of several thousand Jews
was ordered deported from the United States where he has been living all these years.
At 89, he was ruled too frail to stand trial, and
the disposition of the case for his deportation and trial is still under consideration.
We light our first candle] as a symbol of the sadism and brutality committed against each other.
Human savagery has been endemic throughout the ages of man.
There have been mass exterminations throughout history
From Genghis Khan to the
Turkish slaughter of the Armenians in
the nineteenth century into the early twentieth century under the Turkish republic.
These same struggles continue in our time against, repression and brutality.
Resistance to these forces mandatory and never feudal.
Had the Jews and the rest of the world not cowered in denial
about the rhetoric and action of Hitler
millions of people would not have fallen to the forces of hatred and prejudice.
This very day, we are all called to
use truth and moral courage to resist
the anti-democratic fear inducing tweets that
uses vailed language of exclusion of minorities and the marginalized to
scapegoat whole groups of people as
the cause for all the ills of this country.
We ignore these events at our own peril
and doom ourselves to repeat the excesses of a previous hateful time.
One only has to look to this very day
in Syria, Iraq or the Ukraine to know
such disregard for human dignity and life itself is ubiquitous.
The grief of so many victims is a stain on all of humanity.
Such pain, death and destruction
have no national boundaries and too
many peoples across this globe and through all the ages have suffered
their own Yom Ha’shoah, each a day of personal destruction, despair and catastrophe.
Our own country has been complicit
in the extermination of so many, to many native people.
We all need to be ashamed of our duplicitous history that left between
20 to 100 million indigenous people murdered since white Europeans came to their lands.
This shaming and persecution of
native people has left deep scars of
humiliation, suffering that continue right to this very day.
Last February, the Trump administration has approved the
previously blocked Dakota/Keystone pipe line to run through sacred Indian lands
with the strong potential to pollute local drinking water.
This decision is one of greed over people.
Just a few short months ago, in recognition of these issues many UU
stood hand in hand in the cold with the tribes most negatively impacted.
Sadly, victory turned to defeat when
the government changed hand and
Republicans took back all of congress and the presidency.
History teaches us that power tends
to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely (Lord Acton1837–1869).
In the political realm oppression and scapegoating begins at the highest levels of government.
We are already witnessing disturbing echo of totalitarian rule in
Washington with executive orders that violate the constitution,
administration officials who lie without flinching and violate ethics laws with ignorance or impunity.
The courts are attacked and the judges defamed personally on the
of their origins and because the
President does not understand or respect the strict separation of powers between our three branches of government.
The administration seems to be filled with those who have exhibited
prejudice against certain groups of Americans
starting with the new Attorney General tasked to impartially upholding the law.
When the rule of law is ignored or abridged,
then all our cherished rights are in danger.
Those with white privilege may not be first to lose their rights nor will they be spared.
f we were to extending what is now happening to its sinister conclusion,
it is not a far reach to see oppression of certain groups grow and fester into
outright hostility and violence like what we saw in the 1930s and 1940s.
Are we to have our own ethnic cleansing of brown people and
immigrants, and see further diminishment of people of color
through enhanced stop and frisk and increased mass incarceration and
other restrictions of basic human right under the guise of protecting the
public from terrorism and violence in our streets.
While I fully acknowledge, we have legitimate concerns in these areas we all know from history it can be
taken to extremes as we saw in the last century.
Groups can be singled out for special scrutiny and persecution if we do not
hold tight to and defend to our rights guaranteed in the constitution.
Regardless of our political views we
must all be vigilant that the rule of law is followed.
Resistance to tyranny is mandatory to save our very souls.
This is not a partisan issue.
Rather it is a time for all of us to
revisit our constitution and then stand up for democracy before it is too late.
As a Jew, I have always believed that
another holocaust could happen somewhere in the world
when good people do nothing in the face of oppression and unchecked power.
Those who stoke our fears to justify
oppression in its many forms must be
opposed by all people of faith and all of us who love this country.
As UUs, our core value is the believe in the worth and dignity of all people as part of the connected web of all existence.
It is our sacred duty and calling as Unitarian Universalists to
stand against governmental powers when used inappropriately to demean certain groups of people.
We UUs have a long and storied history of defending the right of
the oppressed and standing on the
side of love and justice against tyranny.
Now more than ever our commitment to justice calls us to resistance and action.
We are all called to stand up to
defend our freedom and speak out
again injustice where ever it rears its’ ugly head,
starting in our national and state capitals.
If we do nothing when we see people abused and maligned,
we open the door to another day of catastrophe somewhere in the world.
Now, I light another candle for the failures to act, and for the
remembrance of those times when it might have helped.
And I light another candle of hope
that the world community will find ways to intervene in situations where
religious, ethnic, economic or political tensions are threatening to
turn repressive and murderous.
May there be no more days of destruction, days of catastrophe, anywhere in the world. Never again.
Now in closing, Let us speak
the words of the traditional Jewish prayer for the dead,
on behalf of all those children who perished with their parents and those
children and young people who never had a chance to have children of their own.
These words are also for all who are
oppressed and endangered by the laws and actions that occur in every country.
The words are in your order of service.
Unison words to honor the dead:
Let the glory of God be extolled. Let Your great name be hallowed, in the world whose creation You willed. May Your sovereign rule soon prevail, in our own day, our own lives, and the life of all Israel, and let us say: Amen.
Let your great name be blessed forever and ever.
Let the name of the Holy Blessed One be glorified, exalted, and honored, although You are beyond all the praises, songs, and adorations that we can utter, and let us say: Amen.
For us and for all Israel (and by extension to the whole of creation), may the blessing of peace and the promise of life come true, and let us say: Amen.
May the one who makes peace in the high places, let peace descend on us, on all Israel (indeed, all the world), and let us say: Amen.