Unitarian Universalists believe that religion is about nurturing souls and helping heal the world.
“Nurturing souls” is pretty obvious: our spiritual life should enlarge our hearts and souls, bringing a lively sense of greater compassion, forgiveness, love and commitment to others.
“Helping heal the world”? Maybe not so obvious. And yet, think of how religion and religious leaders have helped make the word significantly better. Jesus tells us that we serve him when we serve “the least” in society. Muhammed treated women with respect, when that was not the social expectation. A fundamental tenet of Judaism is tikkun olam, “repairing the world” (or “construction for eternity”).
Martin Luther helped bring much-needed reform to the Catholic Church, speaking out, founding a new religion born of protest. Four centuries later, The Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., led thousands toward the vision of a racially-united America. Currently, the Catholic Archdiocese of Cinncinnati has powerful, diocese-wide programs for social justice and community development.
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And now, the Unitarian Universalist Association and the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee have made a step in the spirit of these religiously-based justice workers. They have issued a joint Declaration of Conscience (uua.org), signed by more and more individuals and congregations, reaffirming our commitment to justice, equity and compassion. The presidents of the two organizations introduce the document by saying, “This is not about partisan politics. It is a principled response to the potential targeting of people not for what they have done, but for who they are.”
We UUs believe that the holy resides within all people — “that of God in everyone,” in Quaker George Fox’s words. Therefore, all children of God deserve to be treated equally. The Declaration states, “In the face of looming threats to immigrants, Muslims, people of color, and the LGBTQ community, and the rise of hate speech, harassment and hate crimes, we affirm our belief in the inherent worth and dignity of every person.”
The Declaration, a brief document, goes on to urge that our country maintain what progress has been made in health care, women’s equality, voting rights and the environment, including global warning. Our UU principles affirm “the interdependent web of all existence” — we believe all parts of Creation are connected to one another. We believe that we all need to see ourselves as our sisters’ and brothers’ keepers, plus keepers of this beautiful earth.
I serve a small Unitarian Universalist congregation in Twin Falls. Last Sunday, I was very proud that they had a copy of the Declaration, with lots of room for signatures. It has been in church for several Sundays, and almost everyone has signed it. We will now frame it.
And, from the signing, action. There is a new spiritually-based energy in the air, in Twin Falls and all over the place. UUs, people of other faiths, and people of no established faith are taking careful looks at our religious obligations, to bring more justice, peace, equity into the world. We are living in times of uncertainty, but more and more people are finding renewed commitment to the principles of their faiths, to the Golden Rule, to the large-heartedness that is America at its best.
May we all look into our hearts and find those connections we share with all people. May we open ourselves to defending the oppressed, helping those of ill fortunes. May we loosen our narrow religious views, in order to keep our world peaceful and safe from fear. May we follow in the footsteps of the many religious leaders who have helped heal the world.
Rev. Elizabeth Greene is Minister Emerita of the Boise Unitarian Universalist Fellowship. Contact her at email@example.com
The Idaho Statesman’s weekly faith column features a rotation of writers from many different faiths and perspectives.