Sunday, September 04, 2005

Destruction of a Religion

One week ago today a hurricane roared into the Gulf Coast and flooded New Orleans, destroying much of what is in it and creating a serious diaspora problem in this country. One and a half months ago, I attended the Southeast Unitarian Universalist Summer Institute (SUUSI) and heard a theme talk by the Rev. Melanie Morel Sullivan on a proposed marriage of Boston and New Orleans. By Boston she meant the Unitarian Universalist religion. This implies that New Orleans is also a religion. Destruction of property is bad enough; destruction of a religion would be severely damaging to the spirit of this country as a whole. So was a religion destroyed last week in this country?

According to Rev. Sullivan, the spirit of Unitarian-Universalism is embodied in a good New Orleans jazz band. According to her, the people fulfill themselves as musicians in such a band, and the group play together to produce a song of harmony and joy. Such jazz bands played regularly in New Orleans, helping to give its flavor. According to Rev. Sullivan, New Orleans represents a deep love of life's pleasures, including food, dance, and celebration. These celebrations are frequent, and people come out to participate in these ceremonies. These indeed represent a religion, since religion is the celebration of life. New Orleans is also diverse, and welcomes all groups and persuasions, like a good religion does. And New Orleans spends all kinds of money in its festivals. Come to think of it, New Orleans is a year-long SUUSI, something that all of us need. Indeed, New Orleans is a way of life. New Orleans is a religion.

So it is sad to think that it is now all gone. The waters came in and drowned the houses, drowned the jazz bands, drowned the festivals. They are having to empty the city, and a cleanup may take a year or two. Further, the people left there are living a life of hell - something that is entirely antithetical to the New Orleans spirit. So is it all gone?

A black man came up to a news reporter and said that this thing about all the people left in New Orleans being black is nonsense - that there are whites, Vietnamese, and other nationalities suffering, too, and that even this is diverse. I saw on a news clip a person left in New Orleans walking up an interstate with a tuba in his hands. The jazz is still there. I even heard people playing "When the Saints come Marching In". So maybe New Orleans is coming back. This is because no flood waters, no hurricane-force winds, no day after day of little help, can destroy a religion.

The city of New Orleans is destroyed. The religion of New Orleans is still alive and as vibrant as ever. And because of this, New Orleans the city will be coming back soon, for no one can destroy the Spirit of New Orleans.


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