Common Humanity

Last Thursday I spent the day at the Equal Justice Initiative Legacy Museum and the National Memorial for Peace and Justice with my colleagues from the Church Pension Group. We have spent significant time together doing DEI work and this sojourn was another piece in our journey of understanding the deep roots of systemic racism.

With every step forward and every new image I could feel my whole body become heavier and heavier. I had been preparing for this pilgrimage for months, yet frankly nothing could have truly prepared me for the images and stories now before me.

Throughout the day my reflections continued to navigate between both the historical and present day atrocities that humans inflict on each other. Many individuals whom I spoke with prior to the pilgrimage said that their experience at the museum and memorial was reminiscent of their sojourn to Auschwitz or other concentration camps. All the while I was acutely aware of the significant devastation of the Ukrainian people right in this very moment.

 And the question that kept, and continues to come back to me is where is our understanding of our common humanity?  How is it we can treat another human as property, or as dispensable or collateral damage?  What shapes us to see others as possessing a lesser value, and not deserving of the same dignity and respect that we believe is our due?

As former President Jimmy Carter wrote quite eloquently in 2020 when he reiterated part of his 1970 Georgia gubernatorial inaugural address, “Dehumanizing people debases us all; humanity is beautifully and almost infinitely diverse. The bonds of our common humanity must overcome the divisiveness of our fears and prejudices.”

“The bonds of our common humanity must overcome…” These words from President Carter are for me clarity for what we are all called to. We must consistently in all places and in all times commit to ensure the dignity of every human is not only respected but truly valued. As Richard Lischer writes in The Preacher King: Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Word that Moved America, “This understanding of full humanity lies at the heart of King’s efforts to develop the Beloved Community.”

Sometime early in the pilgrimage the prayer that came to me, that provided me with both strength and hope was, “Grant that the bonds of our common humanity, by which all your children are united one to another, and the living to the dead, may be so transformed by your grace, that your will may be done on earth as it is in heaven.” Book of Common Praye

3 thoughts on “Common Humanity”

  1. Michael K Daley

    Does justification for atrocities (including racism) arise from dehumanizing or ascribing animalistic traits to others others?

  2. Rev. Thomas Roy

    Alexis and I both went the EJI as well as the legacy museum and then to Haneyville for the Johnathan Daniels memorial march in 2019. Bishop Prior your post brought all those memories flooding back. Indeed we must use our common humanity to over come this. Thank You for your post.

  3. Harriet B Linville

    Thanks, Brian, for your witness and ministry. Dominator culture is a major bane in/for humankind. Minutes ago I read in Lent Madness the stories of Perpetual and Cecelia. Humankind has learned little in these 2000 years. Yet, we move forward to be more faithful reflections of the God we love and serve. Blessings. Harriet

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