She was born on Valentine’s Day, which seems more divine providence than coincidence. Valarie Kaur is an advocate for social justice who has created the Revolutionary Love Project.
Kaur’s Sikh faith is the fifth largest world religion. It began in the 15th century in India and has moved around the globe. In the face of an Indian caste system, the founder of Sikhism, Guru Nanak, asserted the oneness of God and the equality of all human beings.
Dallas is blessed with a vibrant Sikh community that lives peaceably and works for justice alongside neighbors of other religions. There are 500,000 Sikhs in the United States. You can tell the men by their turbans, which conceal uncut hair that is a sign of devotion to God and a promise to neighbors that they can be depended upon to fight for right.
Kaur has published a new book, “See No Stranger: A Memoir and Manifesto of Revolutionary Love.” She writes, “Love is more than a feeling. Love is a form of sweet labor: fierce, bloody, imperfect, and life giving — a choice we make over and over again. … This labor engages all our emotions. Joy is the gift of love. Grief is the price of love. Anger protects that which is loved. And when we think we have reached our limit, wonder is the act that returns us to love. … ‘Revolutionary love’ is the choice to enter into wonder and labor for others, for our opponents and for ourselves in order to transform the world around us.”
In our city, state, nation and world, we need to practice revolutionary love that transforms our collective life. The divisions of religions, conflicts of cultures and differences of politics have become all too well known to us and threaten to defeat our union and our Union. They cannot prevail if we want to live together fruitfully on this planet.
We can find our way toward one another by practicing the highest ideals of our own religious traditions and dutifully carrying out our faith convictions. But sometimes the truth that shines through other religions becomes a mirror that allows us to see the truth anew in our own faith.
Sikhs are exotic to most Americans, who forget that most of our religions originated elsewhere. Our country is an experiment in religious pluralism that aspires to welcome the other as if we ourselves are the other too.
“Love is a form of sweet labor: fierce, bloody, imperfect and life giving.”
Every religion has its own version of the Jewish and Christian foundational formula: Love thy neighbor as thyself. Jews are told: The stranger who resides with you shall be to you as one of your citizens. St. Benedict instructed his monks to welcome all as Christ, by which he meant to receive everyone we meet as if we were welcoming Christ himself. Other religions contain similar commands.
Revolutionary love, Kaur says, “is not a formal code or prescription but an orientation to life that is personal and political and rooted in joy.” More of that this year, please, here and everywhere.
George Mason is pastor of Wilshire Baptist Church, president of Faith Commons and host of the “Good God” podcast. The Worship section is underwritten by Advocate Publishing and neighborhood businesses and churches. For information about helping support the Worship section, call 214.560.4202.