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December 2006
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February 2007

Morning meditation - What's the best way to live life?

The ninth of ten beliefs of the Unitarian Universalists is "We believe in the necessity of the democratic process. Records are open to scutiny, elections are open to members, and ideas are open to criticism- so that people might govern themselves." Having been raised a Roman Catholic this seems like a very foreign and exotic belief. As an American it seems only right. When we consider the hierarchial abuses of the Catholic Church over the centuries, it seems that the governance of the RC church is anything but Christian. It is truly "Father knows best" even if Father is sexually abusing the youngsters under his care. The hierachy secretly shuffled the deck and hid the ugly underbelly of clerical behavior from the people they professed to be serving. It was these kinds of abuses of power which led to the Protestant reformation instigated by Martin Luther and sadly not much has changed in the centuries since.

A good spiritual life is not dependent on others although it can be nurtured and supported by a positive community life. Religion becomes dysfunctional when is governance structure becomes autocratic and dictatorial. When the governance structure allows for the participation of all members, it tends to be more healthy and constructive. As young children who have found their own voice say, "You're not the boss of me!", a good spiritual life also recognizes that no cleric can be the boss of me without my consent and willingness to give up my exercising of my own will by submitting in obedience to the will of another.

When parents say to a questioning teenager, "Do it because I say so!" it is like a cleric requiring blind allegiance from a disciple or follower. There is a fine line between cult like submission, and reverent obedience.

The UUs governance structure is open, transparent, and democratic. For people who have been raised in other faith traditions it doesn't seem very "religious". If people turn to religion looking for answers from someone, or a group, who claims to speak for a higher power, they will be sorely disappointed with the Unitarian Universalists. UU is a faith for mature minds and hearts ready to take on the tough challenge and responsibility of trying to figure out with love,compassion, tolerance, and patience, the best way to live life.


Morning meditation - Would Jesus and Gandhi be Unitarian Universalists?

The eighth tenant of the theology of the Unitarian Universalists is "We believe in the motive force of love. The governing priniciple in human relationships is the principle of love, which always seeks the welfare of others and never seeks to hurt or destroy."

When I was teaching marriage and family for the Health Science department I remember the textbook said that there were five kinds of love: philia, eros, altruistic, platonic, and storge. In Rotary International a guiding prinicple is "Service above self." Love is one of those general words that refers to many things: I love green grass, an ice cream cone on a hot day, humankind, and I really love you.

In Christianity there is the reference to the Body of Christ meaning the whole fellowship of believers, but what about unbelievers? Are they a part of the Body of Christ as well without knowing it or even rejecting it? The Universalists believed that everyone goes to heaven, nobody goes to hell. A loving God does not consign people to eternal damnation and hellfire.

I personally believe in the eternal opportunity for redemption. I believe that people create their own hell, it is not an externally imposed punishment, but the result of ignorance and bad faith.

What does a church built on love look like? Jesus said, "Love as I have loved." Gandhi said he would convert to Christianity if he ever found a church that actually followed the teachings of Jesus. While not all UUs are Christian, UUs do believe in love and attempt to practice its applications. Do you suppose that Gandhi or Jesus would, if alive in this day, be Unitarian Universalists?


Quote of the day

"There is an Indian proverb or axiom that says that everyone is a house with four rooms, a physical, a mental, an emotional, and a spiritual. Most of us tend to live in one room most of the time but, unless we go into every room every day, even if only to keep it aired, we are not a complete person."

Rumer Godden


Morning meditation - Actions speak louder than words

Jesus said that it is not what a person puts into his mouth that defiles him but what comes out of his mouth. The cliche says that "actions speak louder than words". A more modern cynical observation says "If you want to know what is really going on, follow the money."

The seventh of ten tenants of Unitarian Universalist belief is "We believe in the ethical application of religion. Good works are the natural product of a good faith, the evidence of an inner grace that finds completion in social and community involvement."

Jesus said, "By their fruit you will know them" when he was asked how people could distinguish between true and false prophets. I have learned in my life that it is not people's attitudes the count as much as their behavior. People can have all kinds of whacky beliefs such as prejudice, hatred, delusional superstitions, and yet they can treat people fairly, justly, kindly, and helpfully. Religion often times is not helpful to people acting right. Religion often is bigoted, exclusionary, hateful, and arrogantly righteous leading to abuses of power. The oppression and subjugation of one class of people by another class of people is not something that God Wants. We are all God's children. God loves us all, and we deserve to be here and should be treated ethically with dignity and respect, compassion and kindness, justice and love. It will be a grand day on planet earth if we were to experience an ethical application of religion. In this regard many professions and civic organizations have much to offer religions as models of ethical conduct.


Morning meditation - People above policy

What is a human life worth? Unfortunately, while many religions pay lip service to the idea that human life is sacred, they willingly kill people which they find unacceptable. More people have been killed in the name of God than for any other reason. When the politicians get involved and claim that God is on their side and blesses their cause, the carnage is even worse.

The sixth tenant of ten of the Unitarian Universalists is " We believe in the worth and dignity of each human being. All people on earth have a equal claim to life, liberty, and justice, and no idea, ideal, or philosophy is superior to a single human life."

It is a refreshing idea that humans don't get to kill other humans while claiming it is God's work. I cringe when I hear our President fear monger, and then claim that the U.S. pre-emptive war in Iraq is to bring freedom and democracy to people who don't seem to want it, and then end his speech on war making with "and may God bless America" as if this justifies his murderous foreign policy.

Life is precious and should not be a bargaining chip for politicians and theologians. Religious leaders seem fond of condemning people to hell, and advocating for the extermination of people who don't agree with their beliefs.To say that the worth and dignity of every individual is more important than any theology, any ideology, any political policy is a remarkable, courageous, and heroic statement. Would that we could live up to it.


Morning Meditation - Truth is nothing to fear

It is very interesting that in the United States of America, the land of the free and home of the brave, where we have entered into international war under the pretext of bringing freedom and democracy to less enlightened countries around the world, there are culture wars at home between religion and science which concern our understanding as a people of how our world was formed, when life begins, and the extent to which we humans should manipulate nature to control our own existence. The fifth tenant of ten of the Unitarian Universalist beliefs is "We believe in the unity of experience. There is no fundamental conflict between faith and knowledge, religion and the world, the sacred and the secular, since they all have their source in the same reality."

Perhaps it is possible for a higher power, a creator, a God Almighty to design the universe in such a way that it is created through evolution. Perhaps, the Intelligent Design is evolution, and the creation story in Genesis is a metaphor, and the language is symbolic not literal. Perhaps it is possible for a higher power, a creator, a God Almighty to want human beings to gather the knowledge to improve the quality of life through the use of stem cells, and to make decisions about birth and death based upon consideration of ethical concerns about what might be best for the individuals involved. These are grave and burdensome responsibilities and should be deliberately, seriously, and purposefuly considered, and not foisted off on some supersitious belief system in a mythical being or beings. These responsibilities must be borne by the humans who suffer the consequences of decisions and behaviors chosen to deal with the situations with which they are presented.

Spirituaity is not afraid of the truth. Many religions are. Galileo was condemned to life imprisonment for saying that the sun was the center of our solar system not the earth by the Catholic Church in the 1600s. It was not until 1992, 359 years after his being found guilty of heresy, did Pope John Paul II apologize for the church's behavior and formally acknowledge that Galileo had been condemned for speaking the truth.

UUs believe that there is no inherent conflict between spiritual faith and knowledge, there is no truth of which to be afraid, that the source of truth and spiritual understandings are the same. Religion which fears the truth, hids the truth, despises the truth, would not acknowledge the truth because it conflicts with its doctrine is not true religion, but idolotry. The truth is nothing that true religion should fear, but rather should embrace in the unity of experience.