Being at the First Unitarian Church of Honolulu yesterday evening was a very catholic experience. Not a sign of the cross anywhere, but plenty of light and air in the room, illuminating issues that go to the heart of Catholic social justice teaching.
It was an evening of song by a group—Emma’s Revolution—that takes its name from Emma Goldman who reputedly said: “If I can’t dance, I don’t want to be part of your revolution.” For a couple of hours, Pat Humphries and Sandy O, with Gary Johnson on keyboard and accordion, told stories of love, solidarity and yearning. And great commonsense.
Really, does it make any sense for us to be making life miserable for others when, poor or rich, powerful or powerless, we all are “washed by the very same rain?” Without exception we all are “swimming to the other side” and we will all arrive as naked as the day we were born.
They sang of earth’s largess as “gifts we’ve been given to share.” Words that could have been lifted straight out of the Gospels. Or a Catholic hymnal.
In the church where a sitting President had once gone to Sunday school, a church where his grandmother had worshipped, they sang with urgency of the need for “change we can believe in.” Songs that held both people and politicians accountable. Even as they celebrated the election of Barack Obama as an event that made the ground shift under people’s feet, unsettling us in ways that made us see each other differently, they offered the cautionary note that we, the people, need to stay vigilant. More than ever, we need to remind politicians of the promises on which they rode into office.
Emma’s Revolution paid homage to women’s ordination and LGBT rights. To the need to do a better job of looking after our planet and each other. They looked at the quest for marriage equality through the prism of simply wanting to know that the community acknowledged their commitment and “had their backs.” They recognized Native Hawaiian activists for civil unions, Tambry and Suzanne Young who were in the audience.
They made the global matter by making it personal and local. They made their advocacy on behalf of the planet local, noting that Hawaii now experiences only 170 days of trade winds, not the 220 it once enjoyed, describing the wind turbines they had seen on the way to Matsumoto Shave Ice and turbines they had encountered elsewhere. They spoke out against GMOs and the death penalty; against drone warfare and what it does to the rules of warfare we had once pledged to respect.
On every issue, they sang for high stakes. They sang with the conviction that “we can learn to move together” and that even if “we may never reach consensus/Hope is still within our reach.” And with that might come “peace, salaam, shalom.”
And how Catholic is that?
With thanks to Pat Gozemba and Karen Kahn for the introduction to Emma’s Revolution.