Faith Voices: Sacred Accountability – Rev. Wendy Williams

Did you read the piece in the New York Times describing a focus group comprised of folks with differing political views? While all shared anger and frustration over the state of our country, there was no agreement on the causes or potential solutions and there was plenty of blame being tossed around.

This isn’t a surprise. And, sadly, it’s not new.

I think of Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel’s wisdom from decades ago: “Morally speaking, there is no limit to the concern one must feel for the suffering of human beings. Indifference to evil is worse than evil itself, [and] in a free society, some are guilty, but all are responsible.”

All are responsible. These words haunt me for they invite me to both an inner reckoning and to the ongoing work of justice.

It is hard in these times to resist the cultural impulse to find someone to blame. Yet, if blame was in any way a useful tool, we would surely be on the road to recovery. No. It seems I must keep doing the work not knowing if things will change, but trying again and again to add to the sum of love and justice in the world. As Cornel West reminded us: “Despair and hope are inseparable. One can never understand what hope is really about unless one wrestles with despair. The same is true with faith. There has to be some serious doubt, otherwise faith becomes merely a dogmatic formula, an orthodoxy, a way of evading the complexity of life, rather than a way of engaging honestly with life.”

May we rise above our human tendency to complain and blame and demonize, as we live into our responsibility. May faithfulness help us answer the potent questions posed by writer, educator and trainer for transformative justice and disability justice, Mia Mingus: “What if accountability wasn’t rooted in punishment, revenge or superficiality, but rooted in our values, growth, transformation, healing, freedom, and liberation? What if the work of accountability was held as so supremely sacred, that people who got to practice it—truly practice it—were considered lucky and those who had the honor of supporting it and witnessing it were also changed for the better from its power? What if we understand that no amount of ‘tough love’ or punishment could ever hold a candle to the long and hard labor, fear, and pain of facing our demons and our traumas? What if we learned to desire the challenging and the transformative, instead of the easy and the comfortable? After all, comfort and transformation do not live on the same block.”

– Rev. Wendy Williams
Senior Minister, Jefferson Unitarian Church

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