It’s Happening to All of Us

Rev. Dr. DeWayne L. Davis

This Week at Plymouth, March 22, 2024

Whatever has happened to humanity, whatever is currently happening to humanity, it is happening to all of us. No matter how hidden the cruelty, no matter how far off the screams of pain and terror, we live in one world. We are one people.

—Alice Walker, Overcoming Speechlessness

I recall two times when denying one’s humanity shook my sense of safety and belonging. The first time came when my family gathered around the television to watch the miniseries Roots and the news coverage surrounding it. It was the first portrayal I ever saw of the horrors perpetrated upon Black bodies. I was young, so a lot of what happened in the movie and what people said about it on the news went over my head, but I do remember thinking, “Wow, white people do not like us.” The second time came with the attack on Matthew Shephard, a gay college student in Wyoming who was left to die tied to a split rail fence. At a rally at the U.S. Capitol where survivors of anti-gay violence told their stories, I remember thinking, “Wow, straight people do not like us.” The lesson was that humans do horrible things to other humans.

I have read Rev. Martin Luther King’s words many times: “We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny.” But watching how humans hate, harm, and kill other human beings made those words seem solely aspirational, untethered from the reality and banality of war, violence, and persecution. And yet, in the context of church life, worshiping, discerning, and sharing as a gathered community, I’ve discovered the meaning of connection to others and affirmation of humanity. Looking back on those feelings of disconnection because of race and sexuality, I now know I was experiencing loss and diminishment because of the behaviors of others. As Alice Walker described it, “no matter how far off the screams of pain and terror,” it was happening to me. Something in my young mind understood the impact on humanity of hate and violence because, in those moments, far removed from the actual offense, I felt it.

Despite humanity’s inhumanity, the idea of us being all one people resonates with me. Perhaps it has something to do with the bigness and mystery of creation. Or the belief that all of humanity bears the image of God. Or the witness to how the poisons of war, hate, and violence harm both victims and perpetrators. Or the suspicion that we inhabit a moral universe in which the law of God is perfect, the decrees of God are true, the precepts of God are right, and the commandment of God is clear (Psalm 19). What is happening to the people in Gaza, Ukraine, Haiti, Israel, and anywhere else who cry out in pain and suffering is happening to us. We must care for all of us.