Bishop Michael Curry speaks to an audience at the University of South Carolina on Saturday, Oct. 30, 2021. After a speech on the role love can play in hearing national divisions, he and local leaders spoke about issue facing South Carolina.
After Michael Curry gained world-wide attention for giving the sermon at the wedding of Meghan Markle and Prince Harry, he often heard the same refrain.
People said they didn’t know Christianity was about love.
He was shocked.
Curry brought a similar message of love to conquer social ills to Columbia on Saturday at the Fellowship of South Carolina Bishops Dialogue sponsored by University of South Carolina Center for Civil Rights and Research and the S.C. Council of Bishops. About 300 people attended the forum at Capstone House.
Curry called for a second American Revolution, steeped in love and respect for one another to bring about social justice for all.
In a speech that was at once funny, heartfelt and pointed, Curry said Robert Fulgrum got it right in this book, “All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten.” Share, play fair, don’t hit, put things back, clean up your messes, don’t take anything that isn’t yours, say sorry, wash hands before you eat, flush, nap, when you go out in traffic watch out for each other and hold hands.
He turned the admonitions on their heads to show their opposites. The opposites look like much of the history of the United States past and present: income inequality, land taken from Native Americans, climate change, hurting others through social injustice.
He said it’s not just about politics but is deeply rooted in history and spiritual maladies that will continue until people decide they must put care for others above care for themselves. He has asked himself whether it’s possible, and his resounding answer is yes.
“The world of love is not naive,” he said, his voice dropping to a near whisper. “It is the way to save the world.”
Curry said the way to an America that can live up to the words of the Declaration of Independence is for people to build relationships across differences and face painful truths. He called the phrase ”life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” a vision because when it was written it didn’t apply to people like him or to women.
“How do we talk about love to people who don’t want it?” he asked. “Love them anyway.”
In an interview after the session, Curry said he has seen this in action in a former Ku Klux Klan member, in a family accepting an LGBTQ member and in the reactions of some of the survivors of the shooting victims at Mother Emanuel AME Church. In 2015, they had welcomed the shooter into their Bible study, where he killed nine people.
“They didn’t stop loving,” he said. “How they forgave him, who knows how to do that?”
How do we bring about a ‘Beloved Community’?
The forum also included a panel discussion about how to bring about what Curry called the Beloved Community in health care, education and the justice system.
State Epidemiologist Linda Bell said health care is actually sick care. The priority ought to be on keeping people from getting sick. She said a person’s medical outcomes can be predicted by their ZIP code.
The coronavirus pandemic drove home this point, Bell said. Black people were more susceptible to getting the virus and, overall, had worse outcomes.
“I hope we won’t forget that. We can change environments,” she said. It’s a matter of deciding it is a priority.
Robin Coletrain, principal at W.A. Perry Middle School, said she works every day to even out the inequities in education. In a former school, when she asked for something, she got it immediately. At Wright, it took longer at first, but she kept pushing.
“It’s hard work, but it’s heart work,” she said.
Aulzue “Blue” Fields, outreach coordinator at Turn90, a group that works with former inmates, said he spent 17 years in prison and felt the judgment of people when he tried to turn his life around. He said the lack of compassion and opportunity often lead people back to the life they wanted to leave behind.
At the end of the session, Curry was asked to describe for people their next steps to a Beloved Community.
“The hope is in you,” he said. “We must not let hope die.”
He added, “Get up. Stand up. Speak up and love up, until the revolution happens.”