Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Holidays 2012- The Spiritual Life, Modern Education, and Justice

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays, 2012.  Unitarian-Universalism is an interfaith association created out of two previous Christian denominations.  Following my spiritual awakening years ago thanks to Huston Smith's description of Taoism, I have played with ways of describing my spirituality.  Unitarian-Universalism has been a long-time support, although fairly low intensity.  The Twelve Steps have also given me an extensive basis for appreciating spiritual practice.  My recent master's degree focused on international grassroots sustainability in theory and practice also confirmed for me the role of education maintained in books, seminars, and activism since my bachelor's in Bio Anthropology.   Now located in South America and having left my life in the New York City area behind for the foreseeable future, I can no longer rely on external sources so passively.
      While I like to keep focused on essential practical issues of social and environmental justice, I find that underlying power issues leave other basic issues unaddressed and unresolved.  For instance, an older student with some real estate properties played around by raising the subject of nuclear power, maybe or maybe not as a Devil's Advocate.  Others hold up Skol Beer  (a kind of local Budweiser....) as a rallying symbol in facebook postings.
       Fortunately, I have with me here a copy of O Tao da Fisica por Fritjof Capra, the portuguese version of Capra's The Tao of Physics, which gives me some additional support to raise topics for discussion.
      More generally, my many years of spiritual exploration have given me a basis to understand modern culture in terms of its Christian roots.  Moreover, I can link Unitarian-Universalist premises to a more dynamic interfaith Christianity.  Based on teachings of loving our neighbor as ourselves (Matthew 5) and that "God will teach; who listens and learns will arrive in Jesus."  John 12:14, I can begin to articulate Christian semantics.  Also, Matt. 23:23 "(They clean the plate on the outside, while the inside remains dirty, full of greed and hate.  Clean the plate and cup on the inside first, and the outside will also become clean.)" 
       Unitarian-Universalism articulates seven principles of a civilized interfaith association, along with six essential sources of inspiration.  Since St. Thomas of Aquinas as a Dominican monk graduated from work with Albert Magnus in Cologne and moved to the University of Paris, he established a link from Jesus, the Apostles, and early Christians to modern education especially in the Universities.  Taoism and Tai Chi, Buddhist philosophy and meditation, and Yogic Hinduism all supported a Twelve Step process in which I can now understand life-affirming values as interconnected to modern education and justice activism. 
         The problem of peoples' economic beliefs and behaviors as a force behind religious attitudes then can be addressed with some deftness.  Gandhi shed some light on this process, as does Brazil's CPT, and the various denominations that participate in promoting Fair Trade Certification.
In pursuing understanding of diverse Christian efforts to promote this kind of awareness, I have been aware of the Quaker Religious Society of Friends, the declarations on evolution by the United Church of Christ, the Episcopalians, and even the Catholic Church, the efforts by Catholic priests like Padre Jose Maria Arizmendiarieta which began the Mondragon Co-operative in Spain, Padre Thomas Amistad which started the durable co-operative credit unions in Brazil, and the Danish Protestant minister who brought the UK's Rochdale co-operative model there.
       I haven't even mentioned the Reverend Billy and the Church of Earthlujah (formerly "Stop-Shopping" and "Life After Shopping")  Again, Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays, 2012.  More later.

There are seven principles which Unitarian Universalist congregations affirm and promote:

  • The inherent worth and dignity of every person;
  • Justice, equity and compassion in human relations;
  • Acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations;
  • A free and responsible search for truth and meaning;
  • The right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large;
  • The goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all;
  • Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.

Unitarian Universalism (UU) draws from many sources:

  • Direct experience of that transcending mystery and wonder, affirmed in all cultures, which moves us to a renewal of the spirit and an openness to the forces which create and uphold life;
  • Words and deeds of prophetic women and men which challenge us to confront powers and structures of evil with justice, compassion, and the transforming power of love;
  • Wisdom from the world's religions which inspires us in our ethical and spiritual life;
  • Jewish and Christian teachings which call us to respond to God's love by loving our neighbors as ourselves;
  • Humanist teachings which counsel us to heed the guidance of reason and the results of science, and warn us against idolatries of the mind and spirit;
  • Spiritual teachings of earth-centered traditions which celebrate the sacred circle of life and instruct us to live in harmony with the rhythms of nature.

These principles and sources of faith are the backbone of our religious community.

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