Healing A Broken World

Modified on: April 2, 2021

The etymology of the word “vulnerable”:


vulnus → vulnerare → vulnerabilis → vulnerable
wound     to wound                              early 17th century

early 17th century: from late Latin vulnerabilis, from Latin vulnerare ‘to wound’, from vulnus ‘wound’.

It is very hard to deal with our wounds. We have been taught to act like they are not there, that we do not have them, that we are tougher than that. We spend the first half of our lives, in large part, developing egos to defend ourselves against our vulnerabilities.

But when we ignore our wounds, we tend to act them out.

It is by facing our wounds that we are healed. As ever, spiritual truth is found in paradox. What seems a weakness is often a strength. Paradoxically, wounds can be a source of healing—for ourselves and for the world. When we turn to face our wounds with courage—not a lack of fear, but moving through our fear—we emerge with wisdom and compassion to heal the systems of which we are a part—systems of self, of family, of nation, of world—the whole ecology of our being.

There is a terrible wound in the heart of the Western spiritual tradition: the belief that authority gives us the right to exploit other people’s lives for our own benefit. We see it everywhere—in our politics, in our economy, in our history, in our religion, in our games, in our stories. If we look, we may find it also in ourselves. The UU movement, for all of our shortcomings and flaws, is in large measure an effort to contradict and transform that false and damaging belief.

And there is a terrifying story about this wound, right in the heart of the Western spiritual tradition: the Aqedah, the Binding of Isaac. It is a story of patriarchal authority and sick religion, of theological violence and enduring psychological damage to a father and a son. And it is papered over by our culture’s orthodoxies as a story of providence, faith, and grace. But it is far deeper, far worse, and full of far more healing potential than those simplistic explanations.

More than a year ago, a member of our congregation purchased an auction sermon and asked me to offer a meditation on this most difficult story in our culture. I have wrestled with it for a year, wondering how to we can rework what is so terrible and transform it into something livable and humane.

This month we will attend to the wound in the heart of our society. No one—no god, no parent, no one of us—has the right to exploit someone else’s life for their own benefit. No one.

May we be brave. May we be healers. May we be healed.



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