As a Unitarian Universalist, I draw ethical and spiritual inspiration from the wisdom of all religions. One gains an insight when studying comparative religions; the world’s major faith traditions share most of the same fundamental principles. Love your neighbor. Care for the sick, the poor, the oppressed. Do not kill. Love your enemy. Speak the truth. Do not steal. Love unconditionally.
“Do not wrongfully consume each other’s wealth, but trade by mutual consent. Do not kill each other, for God is merciful to you.” Sura 4:29Sacred texts of the world’s major religions vary widely. Some combine history and theology. Others resound like lyric poetry. Most include mythic tales, riddles and parables. All provide instruction on mindfulness and spiritual practice.
Most important, religious writings challenge readers to think, to feel and to act. Possessing only right belief does not make one truly religious. Empathy and kindness alone cannot produce complete salvation. And correct action without knowledge and belief is like a foundation of brick without water and cement. Spiritual growth requires exercise of the mind, the heart and the hands as one.
“Be good to your parents, to relatives, to orphans, to the needy, to neighbors near and far, to travelers in need…God does not like arrogant boastful people, who are miserly and order other people to be the same, hiding the bounty God has given them.” Sura 4:36-37Studying religious texts presents a special challenge to the student. Each work resides in a past time, reflects ancient contexts and suffers human frailty in translation and interpretation. Subsequent to the writing of every major religious work, questions arose causing scholars to amplify, clarify and even correct previous understandings. Out of this expansion of spiritual insights emerged countless denominations and sects within all the major faiths.
The metaphor of stone tablets ignores the reality that every religion represents a living tradition, ever changing, ever growing. For religions to remain vital, spiritual practice must recognize changing times and adapt to each new generation’s capacities and needs.
Underlying these swirls of change, however, lie immutable principles — rules of decency, goodness and basic common sense — to which we all can agree. Despite our human history of violence and war, we possess the ability to dialogue, to compromise and to reach mutually acceptable rules for living.
“Repel evil with what is better and your enemy will become as close as an old and valued friend…only those who are steadfast in patience, only those who are blessed with great righteousness, will attain to such goodness.” Sura 41:34-35The shadow of fear now cloaks America. Some use fear to divide us, to set us against each other, and to maintain historic systems of oppression. America must strive for better. Our greatness does not lie in our wealth; the world does not respect us because of our power. America endures because its arms embrace the refugee, its blood pumps the beat of freedom and its eyes see a future of equal opportunity and equal reward for all dedicated to its principles. We must never look backwards for our greatness. America’s greatness lies in its future — a time during which all people will be treated with inherent worth and dignity.
Achieving this future will take a revolution of the mind, the heart and the body. In other words, America’s future depends on a spiritual awakening that respects all religious voices and rejects any notion of dogmatic truth. Joining together in unity and cooperation, our faith traditions can tear down the walls of separation and break the chains of conquest, manipulation and cultural invasion.
“There is no cause to act against anyone who defends himself after being wronged, but there is cause to act against those who oppress people and transgress in the land against all justice…” Sura 42:41-42
If our president-elect pursues the registry of Muslim Americans — an idea he repeatedly suggested during his campaign, and which his transition team continues to discuss — then I will be the first in line when the government officials come to Midland. I will stand with my Muslim brothers and sisters not simply because it is the just action. I will stand with my Muslim neighbors because I believe in what they believe and I love them as kindred souls.
By whatever name we use, each of us experiences transcending mystery and wonder during our lives. Regardless of our culture, each of us faces opportunities to renew our spirits and guide us on our path toward enlightenment. Our current national climate will test our resolve to love unconditionally, and it is up to each of us to rise to that challenge.