In Western Christianity, we are approaching the celebration of Pentecost (May 15th this year). Pentecost in Christianity is the 50th day after Easter Sunday, though it was borrowed and “Christianized” from an older Jewish tradition.
In the Christian observance of Pentecost, the church is imagined to have been energized by the power of God’s spirit. On the day of Pentecost, the tradition tells us, a powerful energy filled a room where a diverse group of people gathered. In their diversity, they experienced unity and they were empowered to be a force for good in the world.
I suppose that ancient narrative is on my mind just now, not only because Pentecost is at hand, but also because a force for good in the world is still needed. I don’t mean to suggest that only one religion can be a force for good, nor do I mean to imply that secular efforts to make a positive difference can’t succeed. The poetry of religion lifts up sacred moments and liminal experiences, but the truth is, whatever our religious inclinations (if indeed we have any), we still need to find unity in our diversity.
There is still a need to celebrate our various points of uniqueness while coming together to work for “liberty and justice for all.” After all, the Seal of the United States does say, “E Pluribus Unum” (“Out of many, One”); that seems like a worthy goal as much now as ever.
In a world where fear of difference continues to plague us, where fear of the “Other” still divides us, where entire groups of people are continuously dehumanized in order to protect the privilege of some and to marginalize others, a healing wind blowing through human consciousness, through societies and cultures, through communities and neighborhoods could still be put to good use.
In a world where bakers and therapists can deny service to same-gender loving people in the name of religion, where humiliating bathroom bills are callously passed, and where the flames of hysteria are fanned to persuade the masses that some nefarious “Other” is out to get us, a unifying spirit to inspire us all to be a force for justice and goodwill in the world could be very useful indeed.
My wish and prayer as Pentecost approaches is that a divine Breath (or even a profoundly human impulse) will infuse us all, so that regardless of our fondness for religious vocabularies, we may simply strive to be our best, to do our best, and to work together to create the best possible future for us all, and for those who will follow us.
Durrell Watkins is the Senior Minister of Sunshine Cathedral in Fort Lauderdale.