Do the values and principles of Unitarian Universalism inform how I live my life?
I’ve been thinking about this since May Day, when I marched with All Souls UU‘s Director of Religious Education, Taryn, and she asked me that very question. I think she asked in part because she was preparing the youth service in which the 9th graders in the Coming of Age class read to the congregation the credos they’d been working on since September, and because I generally say that I was “raised UU,” because compared to most adult UUs I was.
In fact, my family didn’t actually discover UUsim till I was in middle school, though we’re among those who would say we were always UU and just never knew there was a term or a community for that. We became active, affiliated members of a UU congregation because we were already living the liberal religious and social values that the Unitarian Universalist Association affirms and promotes. Initially, that’s what I told Taryn.
As our conversation continued, however, something amazing popped out of my mouth. “You know,” I said, “I think I probably study Arabic and the Islamic world because of the Neighboring Faiths curriculum we did in my middle school religious education.” That was the first year that my family attended UU services, and it made an indelible mark, so much so that I have come back twice and taught parts of that curriculum. So that got me thinking about other ways UUism has influenced the way I live my life.
In fact, I would say that “acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth” in any and all religious communities is a cornerstone of the way I lead my life. Since even before I considered myself a UU, I sought to learn and teach as much as possible about all world religions, with respect for the truth and value in all of them. I think that’s what mothers in my Peace Corps village were seeing when they said to their daughters, “Do you see how Maryah dresses / behaves? She’s a better Muslim than you are!”
- The inherent worth and dignity of every person;
- Justice, equity and compassion in human relations;
- The goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all;
These are the foundational values for which I was a Rotary Youth Exchange Scholar and active ROTEX member, for which I was a Girl Scout camp counselor, for which I joined the Peace Corps, for which I taught refugees in Amman and Cairo, for which I became a NYC Teaching Fellow, because of which I couldn’t keep my mouth shut and stay a NYCT Fellow, and for which I now teach immigrant women.
Those values and “the right of conscience and the use of the democratic process” are the reason I visited Tahrir Square every morning of the Egyptian Revolution and frequently thereafter, and then blogged and published my observations of what I observed. It’s why I continue to avidly and empathetically follow the fight for democracy across the Arab world in the last two years.
“Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part” is the one I wish I lived more consciously. While I certainly live almost every day aware of the interdependence of human existence, I am less conscientious about my interdependence with the natural environment. I do more than some people, perhaps. I was raised to take what some call a “navy shower,” turning off the water while I shampoo or soap up. I’ve given up Ziplocs and Saran Wrap in favor of reusable Tupperware, and try to remember to take my reusable shopping bags to the grocery store. I try to dress for the weather and rely less on heat and A/C. But I’m also addicted to my electronics with their high electricity needs, and to my hormone-injected beef and cheaper, more convenient non-organic produce.
Still and all, I’ve discovered over the last month or so that I really do live by the values and principles of my faith. The next question is this: Where can I take those values and principles from here?