We are one.
It’s a frail and fragile solution I offer to the problems of the world; its only virtue is that it is the only possible permanent fix. In the old Quaker phrasing, it runs, “Walk cheerfully over the earth, answering that of God in every one.” The voice out of Nazareth had it as “Love your neighbor.” In more modern terms, it might be, “You’ve got to be kind.” Give all people what you would ask for yourself and for your own family. Because we are all one kin, one people — we are all one.
There are plenty who don’t agree with these rules, and who feel there’s no wisdom and no hope in them. There are plenty who say, “I want to get what’s mine for those who are mine.” There are those who say, “Look out for Number One.” There are those who say, “The world’s out to get us, let’s get them first.” There are those who stop caring as soon as their desires are met. There are also those who love to draw lines between people, saying “This flag is glorious, that flag is rubbish; this faith is true, those faiths are false; we are good, they are bad.” There are always those who will draw lines between an us and a them. They will call themselves realists, or saved, or successful, or whatever.
There are also those who see the crises rising around us and see only opportunities for power and plunder. There are those who would gut schools for the sake of prisons and sacrifice hospitals for missiles, as if one more prisoner or one more casualty would tip the scales and keep us “safe.” There are those who would spit on street people because homelessness needs to be made “less attractive” to street people, so that they will get jobs and get off the street — or simply make them go away, cease to exist. There are those who would rather tell women to dress more “appropriately” rather than deal with a society that lets one in six women and one in ten men be sexually abused in their lifetimes, no matter what they’re wearing, or deal with the fact that most perpetrators will go unpunished and may even be privately praised. There are those who loudly ridicule the concept of climate change for the sake of their power base and profit margins (or out of real dread of the governmental and collectivist action that is almost certainly required to survive a changing climate), but I predict with some confidence that they will be — if they aren’t already — the selfsame folk to start resource wars “in the national interest” as soon as water and food become scarce.
I love all these people. They are horribly wrong and they are all holy.
My friends and allies, those self-described progressives aware of the present or coming crises, are sometimes not much different. The Stranger, Seattle’s flamingly liberal self-described “newsrag,” celebrated Gay Pride Week in 2011 by running a series of articles on the theme of “You’re doing it wrong,” bashing political friend and foe alike. Quakers, despite the injunctions to love everyone, seem only fractionally less prone to turning on each other and drawing uncrossable lines. My own father is starting to advocate arks, refuges from the oncoming tides of chaos, with the unspoken implication that some people won’t make the boat.
I love these people too. I even love the ark idea. If my dad or any others choose to build such an ark and thus draw another line, this time between the saved and the swimming, I certainly won’t stop them. But they are not modern-day Noahs, because here’s what the One told me:
No more arks. No more remnants. No Rapture, either. Not this time, nor ever again. We stand or fall together, so we’ve got to get it right. The One will help; the One always helps. But we must open our eyes and our hearts to our neighbors around us.
Because if we deny love and justice to anyone, then our love and justice are not inherent but bought and sold. Bought by a pretty face or white skin, bought by a flag or a medal, bought by masculinity or heterosexuality or gender normality, bought by class and cross (or star, or crescent), and above all bought by wealth. If we cannot love everyone, if we cannot do justly and righteously to all as we would have done to ourselves, then compassion and rights are just commodities like any other, and the world’s a stock exchange.
No, we must love all. And it’s a lie to say it can’t be done. What we forget is that love is not finite; loving more people more strongly does not draw love away from those we loved first (although it may draw time). It is hard, painfully hard, but what other way do we have? Build your ark, build your walls, hire your guards and close your gates; you may save yourselves, at least for a time. But you’ll also preserve the idea of drawing lines, and in a generation, or two, or ten, there will be a need for still more arks, because we will still be dividing the world — and that division dooms us. It is hard, but we can love everyone as if they were our partners and our kin, and our partners and kin will not suffer for it, but be even more blessed because of it.
We must love all, and do justice for all, and have compassion for all, to become truly one, for we must be one.
And here is the sign for you: for months and years now I have been saying that we are one, and for a year I have been wearing a sweatshirt that has a picture of the globe and the words, “One in seven billion.” I had always interpreted the phrase as “One person in seven billion,” but there’s more in it than that. One people, one family, in seven billion bodies, one love in seven billion hearts. I have been carrying my message on my shirt for a year, bringing the word of the One to this generation every time I walk down the street, and only now do I see what I’ve been doing.
No matter the splits, no matter the rifts, no matter our partings and strife, we are one. One people in seven billion parts on one stone in space, one people in the eyes of the One Who Is who goes by many names, one. Our uttermost truth and our ultimate hope.
Draw no more lines. We are one.