Apocalyptic!

Apocalyptic!
Sunday, November 13th, 10:30 AM                Rev. Fiona Heath

It’s the end of the world and I don’t feel fine. I don’t feel fine at all.

I grew up with the threat of nuclear war.

My high school English teacher had us read a short story about a suburban family in the immediate days following a nuclear explosion. It doesn’t end well.

I had nightmares for months.

In university I saw the film Miracle Mile, about the last night in Los Angeles before a nuclear attack.

A young man meets a girl of his dreams and they try to escape before the end.

It doesn’t end well.

I cried for days.

The future did not always seem bright when I was growing up.

That short story and movie convinced me that the twenty first century was not going to go well.

Nuclear war was a real threat.

When I lived in Ottawa in my twenties, my friends and I developed an escape plan.

I was the one with the car, they collected supplies.

After I picked everyone up we were going to head to a cottage on Georgian Bay.

In Waterloo, my friends and I had two plans.

In the event of a nuclear attack on Toronto, we’ll all try to meet at the Pinery Provincial Park group campsites on Lake Huron.

If it’s an epidemic or the end of energy infrastructure, we’ll all bike down to Doon Heritage Crossroads in Kitchener.

Doon is a historic village set in 1914, where a friend works as a gardener.

The houses function without electricity, there’s horses and chickens, an orchard and lots of vegetable gardens.

Some of these plans have been made late at night and tongue in cheek.

At the same time, we also promised each other to take them seriously, just in case.

I have been preparing all my life for the apocalypse.

I know how to can food and dry food.

I’ve taken courses on wild foraging.

I know how to build a solar oven.

There’s a bow and arrow in my garage that I know how to use.

Nuclear war was a real threat in my youth.

And now climate change, pandemics, and economic collapse have risen up to join war as the four horsemen of the apocalypse.  

It’s a little scary. And, for me, a little appealing.

The demands and expectations of modern society, the physical infrastructure of cities and traffic, all stress me out. I learnt how to preserve food and wild forage out of a desire to live simply, to live more connected to the earth.

Status and materialism, wealth and ambition, never held much appeal to me.

But in the end, neither did trying to live self sufficiently in the country.

It turns out I like movie theatres and thai food to be in close proximity.

So my desire for a simpler life has made me a post apocalyptic junkie instead.

Books, movies, tv series.

I want to know how people will live in the end times, when life is a simple matter of survival, from the safety of my comfy couch.

Many of the stories don’t end well, especially the zombie apocalypse.

If you don’t watch the walking dead, don’t start. It is bleak and gruesome.

Because it’s not just the zombies trying to eat everyone, the people are horrible to each other.

We disintegrate into sects and tribes and treat everyone as a dangerous stranger.

Fear and anxiety and distrust prevail.

People grab resources and hoard.

There are a lot of guns and an endless supply of bullets.

It becomes us versus them.

It is bleak. And if you take out the zombies, this is the world as we know it.

This is the state of societies across the globe.

In the United States right now.

Us versus them. People have been horrible to each other. They have retreated into tribes and treat others as dangerous strangers.

Minorities and immigrants have been vilified.

Women are feared for being accomplished and competent.

Trump supporters are seen as stupid at best, evil at worst.

Fear and anxiety and distrust prevail.

Wealth and resources are concentrated in the hands of the few.

There are a lot of guns.

It is us versus them. It’s the end of the world as we know it and I don’t feel fine.

Donald Trump will be the next U.S. president.

And we should all be worried.

This is not a triumph of conservative values of small government and fiscal responsibility. He is not a republican.  This is a triumph of destruction, a rejection of politics as usual.

Trump won because of fear and anxiety and distrust.

He won because of frustration on the parts of millions of Americans who feel left behind by globalization.

They feel forgotten by traditional politicians.

And he won because of rich people too.

The policies he supports overwhelmingly benefit the wealthy and they knew it.

Trump won because of white people. Frustrated working class white men and women who have seen their stable jobs disappear in the new economic order. Rich, privileged white people who voted in their self interest, wanting better tax breaks.

And so they voted for a man whose expressions of racism, homophobia and misogyny are horrifying.

This election and the days since have exposed just how deep the divisions are in American society.

Now a man who has no political experience, and never held public office, is the leader of one of the superpowers.

And while I think not even Donald Trump believes most of the words that come out of his mouth, I do know that he cares about winning.

And winning at any cost.

I’m a little worried. I don’t feel fine.

This week I’ve spent a lot of time in meditation, in lighting a chalice, in checking in with ministerial colleagues. We’ve encouraged one another to take the time to grieve, to rest, to care for ourselves. It’s vital to make space for rest and recovery.

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We need time to heal and process.

Many of my American Minister colleagues took time off this week to grieve at home and off line.

Many opened the church so that members and strangers could come together to share their feelings.

Time to simply sit and be is as important as organizing.

After service today I will be in the barn, in the OWL meditation room, for those in need of company to process their feelings.

When we nourish our spirits we restore our resilience.

Our spirits are nourished by connecting to the whole, to the core self, to one another.

Some are filled by long walks in the woods, others by beautiful music.

Some by the company of others.

I encourage you to embrace whatever your spirit needs most.

The order of service begins with a strange quote from Trappist monk Thomas Merton, “When you expect the world to end at any moment, you know there is no need to hurry.”

No need to hurry?

Isn’t that the time to panic?

In the movies, the world is always being saved at the very last minute by very desperate people.

But Merton says when the world is ending, there is no need to hurry.

I think he is saying that life is always ending, somewhere, somehow.

When I was growing up it was the threat of nuclear war.

Now it is a sea change in political systems.

There is a second sentence to the quote, Merton says “When you expect the world to end at any moment, you know there is no need to hurry. You take your time, you do your work well.”

There is no need to hurry.

You take your time, you do your work well.

The world is ending, but America isn’t going to collapse tomorrow.

I don’t need to polish up my bow and arrow skills anytime soon.

But we do need to pay attention.

Minority groups in the United States are right to be concerned.

Rights can be rescinded.

Unacceptable behaviour can become acceptable.

Civilizations fall as well as rise.

Organized action will be needed.

And so will a deep grounding in a vision of a better world.

I want a world like the one in today’s story.

The beautiful city on the hill by the ocean comes from a novel by Starhawk, a pagan earth activist. This new San Francisco comes from her novel the Fifth Sacred Thing.

While Starhawk was imagining a pagan utopia, its values overlap with Unitarian principles.

It is grounded in a vision of the interdependent web of all existence.

In the worth and dignity of all people.

In the principles of justice, equity and compassion.

In a vision of collective decision making and inclusive society.

The Unitarian Universalist vision is a world in which our interdependence calls us to love and justice.

If this vision matters to us, if we would rather live in the beautiful city, we can begin building it.

UUA president Peter Morales issued a statement this week. It reads in part,

“The laws change when attitudes change. Our role is to help change attitudes, to lead by example. 

Fear, anger, racism and xenophobia have created fertile ground for demagogues.

Our voice is going to matter in the coming years. Our role, as always, will be to be a powerful voice for compassion and civil rights…Together we can shape the future."

Together we can shape the future.

We have a powerful voice for compassion and civil rights.

But there is no need to hurry.

We need to take our time and do our work well.

Our vision of interdependence, our principles of respect and compassion, these are worth working for.

The world we want is a good one.

It won’t be easy to get to the beautiful city on the hill.

Change won’t happen overnight.

There will be many failures along the way.

Grief and anger and fear will walk with us.

Grief and anger and fear will walk with a lot of people.

It will get ugly.

And rather than lash out, and demonize those we disagree with, we can take a deep breath, and respond with compassion.

This doesn’t mean not taking bold action, or avoiding genuine disagreement,

it means acting and speaking with compassion.

It means knowing, underneath the ideological divisions, under the hate and fear, that we are all in this together.

All of us. There is no us and them in an interdependent world.

We are all part of the whole.

We honour the inherent worth and dignity of all people. No exceptions.

Living our principles is challenging.

It takes time. It takes being spiritually strong and grounded in compassion.

It helps to stand firmly in our principles and in our vision of a better world.

If we know who we are, if we hold fast to our values, it’s easier to take that deep breath and respond with compassion.

If we know that what we want is worth working for, no matter the immediate outcome, no matter how long it takes,

we can keep carrying the light of the chalice.

If we behave in accordance with our values and principles, then we know we are doing our best, no matter the outcome.

Know that our way of being in the world, the vision of Unitarianism, is a beacon of hope for a kinder, healthier way.

Be proud and carry the chalice flame.

May we stay grounded in the light of the chalice.

May we take our time and do our work well.

May we seek that beautiful city on the hill.

So Say We All.

 


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