When Confronted with Unbridled Fear

When confronted with unbridled fear

I have only one response:  Love one another.

Let me say that in another way:  Be gentle with one another.

Let me say that in another way:  Be mindful with one another.

Let me say that in another way:  Respect one another.

Let me say that in another way:  Honor each other’s dignity.

Let me say that in another way:  Hold on to one another.

Let me say that in another way:  Forgive one another.

Let me say that in another way:  Be fully present with one another.

Let me say that in another way:  Show compassion to one another.

Let me say that in another way:  Recognize each other’s humanity.

Let me say that in another way:  Be fabulous with one another.

Let me say that in another way:  Namaste.

Let me say that in another way:  Treat others as you want to be treated.

And if I haven’t been extremely clear in what I mean,

perhaps these words from Kurt Vonnegut will be helpful:

“God damn it, you’ve got to be kind.”

In other words, Love one another.


(c) 2015 Fred L Hammond



Harry Potter, You-know-who, and Unitarian Universalists

Here is the story for all ages and the homily I delivered on 29 August 2010 to the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Tuscaloosa, AL.

“Harry Potter: The Boy That Lived” A story for all ages based on the stories of Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling adapted by Rev. Fred L Hammond.  Given to the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Tuscaloosa, AL on 29 August 2010

This is the story about Harry Potter’s early years when he was just an infant.  He was born in a time of great political distress.  The source of this distress was a powerful wizard, whose name shall not be mentioned. This wizard used his magic for harm rather than for good.  He was out to destroy all who stood in his way.

Now Harry’s parents were among those who fought against the bad things this wizard was doing. They did everything they could think of to stand up against this wizard.  The wizard had learned a very powerful spell that would kill any who stood in his way.  He killed many, many people.

But the time came when the wizard came to their house to kill Harry’s entire family.  The fierce wizard drew his wand and uttered the curse of death, and Harry’s parents were struck dead.  He did the same against Harry as well, but something happened.  Harry Potter did not die.  In fact, Harry Potter lived.

Harry Potter was taken to live with his relatives where it was thought he would be hidden away and safe from the forces of evil.   And in his absence, the story spread … Harry Potter, the boy that lived.   He unknowingly became famous because no one ever lived after being struck by the death spell. Harry Potter did all the things that young boys do; the only mark that something horrible had happened was a jagged scar on his forehead.

But why did he live?  What was the source of his protection?  No one really knew until many years later.  There is a magic that is greater than evil.  And this magic is available to everyone, even to us Muggles, who are not wise in the ways of magic. Do you know what this magic is?

This magic is said to be the source of all of creation. This magic makes the flowers bloom, the birds to sing, and rainbows to appear in the sky after a rainstorm. This magic enables people to speak up for what is fair and just.  This magic empowers people to express joy when justice is served.  What protected Harry Potter all those years ago from the evil wizard is the magic of love.  His parents loved him very much and so while pain and injustices might happen, the love his parents had for him would prevail.  Love would be the ground on which he would walk.  And that foundation is what kept Harry Potter safe and alive after the evil wizard’s spells.   May we also walk on the ground of love all of our days.

“Harry Potter, You-Know-Who, and Unitarian Universalists”  Homily delivered by Rev. Fred L Hammond 29 August 2010 (c)  Unitarian Universalist Congregation Tuscaloosa

At the end of the movie version of The Goblet of Fire, we witness Harry Potter in a battle with You-know-who, the dark lord who is so evil that to even speak his name is feared to bring harm to those present.  In the process of this battle, a classmate, Cedric is killed by You-know-who.

So when we pick up the story in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, the ministry of magic has determined that Harry Potter and the Headmaster of Hogwarts, Dumbledore is lying.  The ministry of magic has used its influence to have the newspaper of the wizards, the Daily Prophet, inflame the public by discrediting Harry Potter and Dumbledore.  The paper also is declaring that all is well and that You-know-who has not returned.  The head of the ministry has come to believe that Dumbledore is stating You-know-who is back in order to take the head magistrate’s job. But as Remus Lupin tells Harry, people become “twisted and warped by fear and that makes people do terrible things.”

Fear is rampant and the ministry of magic has determined that the common enemy is Harry Potter and Dumbledore.  In order to regain control over a presumed renegade school, the ministry of magic places as the professor of the dark arts, a Delores Umbredge.  When she is introduced at the school, she states, “Progress for the sake of progress must be discouraged, let us preserve what must be preserved, perfect what can be perfected and prune practices which ought to be prohibited.”

She then begins to systematically take over the school.  She begins by scrutinizing everyone’s move, punishing Harry Potter for speaking the truth, and announcing that anyone who questions her is therefore suspect of disloyalty. An inquisitor’s team is developed to hunt out those who are disloyal and / or plotting against the ministry of magic.  Teachers are dismissed.  The dark arts become a class on theory and not on practical defense.  She resorts to posting more and more restrictive rules on the school.  She uses fear to maintain order and resorts to torture to keep control.  And the ministry of magic focuses on security as being the number one priority for the wizard nation.

Any of this sounds vaguely familiar?  We have a lot of things being discussed around our nation.  In Arizona and across the country we have hatred and fear being spewed about immigrants.  In California, hateful lies have been spread about same sex couples causing a law for same sex marriage to be placed on hold.  In New York City, in Murfreesboro, TN and in Gainesville, FL we have angry, hateful lies being spread about American Muslims and their alleged intentions.  In Gainesville, a church plans to burn copies of the Qu’ran on September 11th to send a message to Muslims living in America.  Yesterday, Glenn Beck and his tea party met on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial to allegedly ‘restore honor’ to the civil rights movement on the anniversary of Martin Luther King’s “I have a Dream” speech.

These are all outrageous events happening.  It makes our blood boil.  This isn’t just about the politics of the extreme right versus the politics of the left.  This is about how are we to live as a people in a nation made up of minorities.  And we are all members of a minority group.  Some are minorities by skin color, others are minorities by sexual orientation or gender identification, and others are minorities by ethnicity or by religious or political affiliation, or by class, or even by life experiences.   This nation of minorities is again debating somewhat angrily, and with violence as in Murfreesboro yesterday, who gets to join the coalition of the new majority and the benefits and privileges thereof.  Do gays?  Do immigrants from Mexico?  Do Muslim Americans?  Do African Americans?  Who else should be excluded as other?  Where is the line to be drawn that says these are the real Americans?

In 1947, the US government created a short film called “Don’t be a Sucker” that dissected how a fascist government could come to power here in America. 

The process was to divide people against the other.  Tell the nation that these individual groups are not really Americans.  These others are here to destroy the American Way of life, to take from real Americans what real Americans fought and died for.  Speak of the threat to national security these groups pose. And offer the hope of a better life to the ‘real Americans’, those who have labored long and hard for freedom by passing laws that restrict these other group’s freedom.  Oh, and one more thing, have the news agencies; print, radio, TV, and internet become part of the same conglomeration so only one side of the news could be told, the side that those in power want told.

The narrator in the film stated, “We have no ‘other’ people in America.  We are all American people.”  He instructed us to stand together, to be who we are, say what we think, and “to guard everyone’s liberty or lose our own.”  There is no we and they, there is only us.

The story line in J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix is also about fear of the other. The ministry of magic thought if they could keep You-know-who to remain underground then there would be no cause for alarm.  If hatred is kept out of public sight then all must be right with the world.  But hiding hatred or using politically correct words to mitigate hatred to something sounding less threatening does not get rid of hatred; it only causes hatred to seethe underground and then it erupts violently.

I understand the outrage at demagogue Glenn Beck and Fox News who are skillfully weaving hatred across the nation against other people, against our president, against our government.   But outrage is not going to change the outcome; it will only burn undirected energy into ash.

Just as in the story where Harry Potter and Dumbledore are on the vanguard, we need to be intentional and public with our presence of acceptance of the other. There is a need to be visible in standing on the side of love with those most impacted by the hatred. There is a need to say the word that no one else wants to say, just as Harry Potter states matter of factly Lord Voldemort’s name instead of the hushed You-know-who, we need to say the word racism and bigotry because that is what is at play here.  And there should be no apology for doing so.

Harry Potter’s story also reveals some very creative ways to combat those who manipulate fear to control and intimidate others.   The responses that Harry Potter and his friends make are responses that Unitarian Universalists can also use to address the issues of our day.

The Weasely twins in the story plan a very intricate and wonderful act of civil disobedience in response to the new tyranny that Professor Umbredge has imposed on the school.  With their magic, they disrupt the school’s final examinations with fireworks and breathing dragons made of fire.  In their doing this they show the rest of the school that they are not going to be intimidated by the forces of oppression; that they will continue to live free.  The Unitarian Universalist’s ‘Standing on the Side of Love’ campaign with immigrants, with sexual minorities, and with Muslims is a visible way to show that we are not afraid of the forces of racism and bigotry.  And there are other creative ways to show that what is happening is not acceptable in a country that values liberty and justice for all.

Harry Potter and friends search out the words of prophecy because they believe that therein may indeed be information that might guide them in their actions against the dark lord.   Search out and use the prophetic words of women and men for clues on how we might respond to the concerns of our day.  Make their words known again in editorials, letters to the editors, and paid advertisements letting others know that there are higher ideals that all can be striving towards.

Yesterday friends encouraged friends on facebook to hear the words of Rev. Martin Luther King’s famous speech “I Have a Dream.” Because within these words lie a dream of hope that all people of America might one day realize the power of the American creed for themselves.  The words of this prophetic leader are just one who speaks through the ages of how to be a nation, judged not by the color of our skin but by our character as a people.

I know that I have spoken much lately about what is happening in this country from a variety of angles.  As a people of faith who historically heard the call for justice in the civil rights movement, the call is being sent out to stand on the side of love once again.  The cry for justice is not just in Arizona, or in New York City, or even in Murfreesboro, TN. Yes, their cries are being heard from afar.  But the cry for justice is coming here in Alabama as well.  Maybe not today, and maybe not tomorrow, but soon the cry for justice will be sounded here as well.   Will we be among those who respond?  Will we be prepared like Dumbledore’s Army skilled according to our unique abilities the ways for justice?

In the words of Martin Luther King, “I refuse to accept the view that [hu]mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality… I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word.” May it be so.

Leviticus 19:34

Leviticus 19:34
“But the stranger that dwelleth with you shall be unto you as one born among you, and thou shalt love him as thyself; for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God.”

A recent comment on what has been the most read blog entry to date on this site, ICE Raid in Laurel MS, made a statement that I was “veiling my liberal philosophy behind a facade of religious love.”   I responded to this by stating that I was not veiling my liberal philosophy and that I claimed my stance on Biblical teaching.  I then quoted the above quote.   

The person felt that undocumented people had no rights, no inalienable rights as declared by our most sacred civil documents.  They broke the law and therefore must be rounded up and deported, end of story.  Does this also mean that we are to have no compassion?  No sense of moral decency in our treatment of these people?   The families who have had their husbands and wives taken into custody, have no ability to buy food, they will not be able to maintain their shelter because their income is now gone.  Is this what it means to be an American; to turn our backs on the stranger in our lands?  Is this who we have become?  Have our hearts really grown this cold towards the face of suffering?  

The writer re-iterates an argument for the clapping that occurred as these workers were rounded up.  It was mentioned in previous comments that the clapping was done only because a law was being enforced.  I suggested clapping at that moment was a rejoicing at the misfortune of others. 

Which message was sent to those being carried away by ICE agents? Clapping because a law was upheld or clapping because these people are getting what they deserve?  I still believe the latter was sent.  It stated, ‘you are not welcome here.’  It stated, ‘what happens to you is not of my concern.’  It stated, ‘you are not a person that I identify as having human worth.’  This is the message the clapping sent.  And it goes against the commandment that is expressed in Leviticus 19. 

There is a growing trend in the south and elsewhere in the country to demonize groups of people.  I see it in our congregations when conservative religious topics are brought up.  I see it in the conservative media  reports of Bill O’Reilly, Michael Savage, and others.  We need to stop this nonsense. 

Bill Moyers did a PBS story on the events that occurred in sister congregation in Knoxville, TN.  In a letter written by Jim Adkisson, he blames the liberals for his woes and states that because he could not get to the elected liberals, he was going to target to kill those liberals who voted  for them.   Bill Moyers examines the virulent messages that are being sent out by the media that may have spurred Jim Adkisson on to commit a such violent act.  It is a disturbing report with graphic hate language against groups of people, immigrants and liberals among them.  http://www.pbs.org/moyers/journal/09122008/watch.html

There is a way to disagree with presenting points of view without succumbing to demonizing language that seeks to strip the humanity from a person or group of peoples.  That way is to honor the person who is speaking as being more than just the words they are saying.  To listen to what is being said behind the words to what the real message is. 

I am hearing fear.  That ubiquitous emotion that takes on a form of a ghoul and devours  a person’s heart if they are not careful.  When the heart is devoured then there is no telling what the person may end up doing.  Clapping at the arrest of co-workers seems pretty benign on the onset but it was, I believe fear that instigated the events at Howard Industries. Fear of loss of jobs.  Fear of not being able to support families.  Fear of not recognizing ones community as it becomes bi-lingual.  

Listening intently to the radical right on talk radio spew their hatred at groups of people is a more invasive fear that corrupts the heart.  Listening to the radical left do the same in return has the same result.   If one begins to believe this fear is based in a real threat, then people begin to act on these hateful words the radical right and radical left spew.  That is when fear has won the soul and spirit of a person, of a community.  We only need to look at Rwanda and Darfur for recent examples of how fear spewed from the media engendered a people to place into action a genocide.  Germany is now too distant a memory to see how they used their messages of hatred to blame the Jews for their economic problems.

And America is in trouble economically.  Another bank collapses due to faulty management practices and gas prices rocket to all time highs of over $5 a gallon; people will be looking for a scapecoat for their woes.  It is not hard to imagine where the radical right will be looking to place blame.  Yet, we are all accountable for our current economy.  As the cartoon character Pogo from the 1940’s to 1970’s said, “we have met the enemy and he is us.”  

We are our own worst enemy.  And that acknowledgement alone should engender some compassion on those who are in the minority among us.  Getting rid of them is not the answer.  It does not solve the problems that our system has institutionalized into our fabric of being.  Blaming groups of people is an immature way of solving problems.  We used it when we were kids and it didn’t work then.   So why would we think it would work now? 

One of Unitarian Universalists’ forebears, Francis David of 16th century Hungary, is quoted as saying, “We do not need to think alike to love alike.”  May we begin to emphasis the loving alike in how we live our daily lives.  Blessings,

Postscript:  In case some of my readers think that what I am writing here is just a liberal religious point of view I offer you these following links of more conservative (conservative to Unitarian Universalists) Christian faiths who are seeking to live out the commandment in Leviticus 19:34:  Disciples of Christ ;  Roman Catholic Church  and there is an excellent video on the blog site of Jim Wallis, leader of Sojourners, a conservative Christian community in Washington, DC.

Published in: on September 15, 2008 at 1:04 pm  Comments Off on Leviticus 19:34  
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9/11 reflection

Seven years ago, I was driving to work on a beautiful fall day when I heard on NPR that a plane had collided into one of the World Trade Towers in New York City.  At the time, it was not known if this was a small plane or a large plane.  Soon we were to know the horrific truth that this was no accidental collision but a well orchestrated plan of attack as a second plane aimed for the second tower.  Fear loomed large that day. 

I lived only 65 miles from the center of Manhattan in Danbury, CT.  There were many people that I knew who worked in the towers or nearby and by mysterious grace they were fine.  I decided to keep the agency I ran open for business in case any of our clients needed someone to talk about what they were observing  / feeling.   In retrospect, I needed to keep the doors open so I could talk about what I was observing /feeling. 

A couple of things happened in Danbury that I am still very proud.  As the news unfolded and we learned this was done by arab terrorists, the Jewish community offered escorts to the women of the Islamic mosque in town to enable them to do their shopping.  It was evident that a backlash on anyone of Arabic descent was going to occur.   Jews and Christians attended the Islamic mosque in prayer and as watchful eyes for any potential hate crime to occur.   The interfaith community gathered in a way that had not happened as fully before.  Jews, Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, Unitarian Universalists, and I am sure a few more faiths gathered in prayer representing all these faiths.  I was proud of Danbury’s response.  In other communities to vent ones frustration and anger, hate crimes increased against Arabic people; yet in Danbury we were able to say no to this sort of irrational response to something so horrific.  I believe we are better for it.

I wish I could say that Danbury’s response mirrored the country’s response.   Sadly, I cannot.  The days and months that followed, I saw our government use every fear inducing tactic imaginable to increase the anxiety of the American People against a nebulous enemy.  Our government whipped us into such an anti-Arab anti-Islam sentiment that when we were told that a dictator known for his vile and hateful cruelty against his own people was somehow connected to the airplane hijackings aimed at destroying American lives and symbols of our democracy, we bowed and said Amen to our government’s plan to wipe them from the face of the earth.   

A few of us felt aghast at such a plan.  I joined the millions who gathered in NYC to protest going to war against Iraq. The day we gathered the US government raised the terrorist alert to Red to try to keep us from speaking and gathering.  We were not all allowed to join the site of the protest at the UN building on the east side.  I was with people who were sidelined by police in a more central location in the city.  So we were cut off from what the speakers were saying.   And at some appointed hour, the police came in with busses and horses to round us up should we not disburse.  Instead of announcing by bull horn that the protest at the UN building was over, to disburse, we were pushed by the encroaching police in riot gear and on horses against the buildings.  Children were separated from their families under the crush.  The crush was to force feed us like a river down pre-determined channels.  It worked but the image remains in my mind as to where our country is heading as these are the tactics used by regimes that do not tolerate freedom of speech or the right to assembly. 

In the years since the beginning of this unjust war against an innocent people who we now know had nothing to do with the events on 9/11.  I feel betrayed by my own government.  The government has lied to us repeatedly and continues to instill fear and hatred into our hearts.  It has used this event to turn against our neighbors from the south who seek to live a better life. Fear has been carefully and manipulatively manufactured against undocumented workers and families.  And we used 9/11 to turn them into enemies of our nation when they are not enemies at all.   Homeland Security has become misguided in its mission to protect this country from terrorists.  Instead it sees all immigrants as a sort of terrorist and encourages the citizens of this country to do the same.   Hatred and xenophobia are at an all time high in this country of bountiful. 

I shudder when I hear candidates for the highest office of the land state their beliefs that Iraq and Iran are the battle grounds in the spiritual fight of good and evil.  I shudder when I hear candidates state that it is God’s will that this battle be fought by us today. I shudder when I hear candidates state that this is a war between Christianity and Islam.  Because these are words that have been used by dictators and totalitarian leaders for centuries to coerce their people into submission. 

It was not so long ago, that America saw the horrors of one such dictator who marched across Europe, rounding up 11 million Jews, gays, and political opponents sending them to concentration camps to be gassed or tortured to death.  The argument used: it was a war between Christianity and Judaism.  We were in denial that this could happen.  We are in denial that it is still happening in parts of our world today.  Yet, this dictator used language of faith for his arguments and the religious people gave ascent because they were also fearful.  Fear is a powerful tool for submission of the masses.  Fear if not checked will crush a person’s / a nation’s spirit just like a dog who has been abused who comes whimpering at the call of its owner. 

So as I mourn today in remembrance of the thousands of lives lost on 9/11, as I mourn the thousands of Americans lost in Afghanistan and Iraq, as I mourn the even more thousands of Afghanis and Iraqis whose lives unknowingly were going to be caught up in the aftermath of this day, seven years ago;  I also mourn the loss of my country that has allowed its will to be crushed by a deceitful government.  This is not what America hopes to be.  These are not the ideals we proclaim loudly to the world. 

I pray for America’s repentance in its arrogance in thinking it is the world’s savior. I pray for America’s people that we will let go of paralyzing fear and embrace love and compassion for other nation’s people.  I pray that America will once again capture the vision of its integrity and dignity and respond from this core and not from deceit and shear military power.   I pray that America will begin to understand that with great gifts and riches are also given great responsibility and accountability to the world community.  That this abundance is to be shared not hoarded.  Not doled out as charity where the poorer  nations grow reliant on it or beholden to do our biddings, but shared in a manner that enables self-empowerment and development of emerging equal partners in the global community.  I pray that America will turn from its domestic sins of racism, xenophobia, and corporate greed to enable all of its citizens; its people, its wildlife, its vegetation to thrive within its borders.   Blessings, SerenityHome

Published in: on September 11, 2008 at 10:30 am  Comments Off on 9/11 reflection  
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