When I heard the charge of “depraved heart” murder against Baltimore police officer Caesar Goodson Jr, I had to look up the legal meaning of the term. In the context of the U.S. criminal justice system, “a callous disregard for the value of human life” is a chargeable offense.

I wonder how in the world Officer Goodson and colleagues will be able to  redeem themselves regardless of the criminal charges? In such a retributive culture as our own,  how will their hearts ever be redeemed and their own humanity restored? Freddie Gray died tragically. How will the city of Baltimore heal?

My hope lies in the healing purpose of locally gathered religious communities. If our disaggregated interfaith communities can learn to work together more effectively, we have a unique role to play.  All the world’s wisdom traditions teach something of the transformational power of human forgiveness and restoring right relationship. In the context of our faith communities, we understand “depravity” not in the Calvinistic sense of condemnable and irredeemable, but as not yet being as fully human as we’re yearning to become in this short lifetime. I wonder what restorative role our Unitarian Universalist congregations might play as members of beloved community when we’re willing to go to any length to restore community?

There is an international transformational movement called restorative practices gaining influence in the U.S. today as more and more of us come to the realization that the current retributive justice worldview isn’t getting the results we yearn for in our cities and towns. The International Institute for Restorative Practices is based in Bethlehem, PA offering all institutions and communities concrete tools and practices such as Restorative Circles we can learn and contribute to restoring right relationship. Not only in Baltimore but across the land. And in our congregations.

Our UUA leadership has created a survey intended to gather input into racial justice strategies as people of faith. What role do you think our gathered community has to play in healing and transformation?  Contribute your ideas for healing and transformation here. The survey is open until June 15.