Wednesday, January 21, 2009

A Call to International Engagement

Anyone can travel; it takes a lot more compassion, humility and faith to wander. When we wander without expectations, we accept our surroundings as they are - glorious - dynamic reflections of our own nature. One of the gaping miscalculations that plagues our denomination, I believe, is the conflation of these two categories. As anyone who has voyaged abroad almost certainly experienced, other peoples can have strikingly different customs and ways of life than we have here in the United States. It is tempting to dismiss these differences as deficiencies. It is tempting to insist on similarity in the midst of discomfort. We can’t afford isolationism and we can’t afford paternalism. International Unitarians and Universalists will undoubtedly surprise us. They will catch us off guard, make demands of us that test our resilience. They will practice this faith very differently than we do. Regardless, we must collectively wander beyond a pathetic provincialism (Dana McLean Greeley) into world community with peace, liberty and justice for all.

In his inaugural address, President Barack Obama articulated his goal of world community: in his words, “the God-given promise that all are equal, all are free, and all deserve a chance to pursue their full measure of happiness.” What the President recognizes, and what we Unitarian Universalists must recognize, is that ‘the world has changed, and that we must change with it.’ Old prejudices, hard-fought hatreds, have unfortunately not yet disappeared. We must continue to toil for these basic human rights. But let us not forget the great calling of tomorrow: the increasingly interdependent global community of which we are a part. ‘This challenge may be new. The instruments with which we meet it may be new. But those values upon which our success depends – the seven principles of our faith – these things are old.’

The inner power and strength of this living tradition derive from its ability to reach out to and compassionately absorb its margins. We renew the vitality of our faith by deliberately wandering beyond our pathetic provincialisms – be they gender, race, sexuality or geographical location.

Let us extend a hand to our fellow Unitarian and Universalist brothers and sisters around the world. Let us build meaningful relationships and savor difference in equality. Let us exchange love without judgment. Lao Tzu poignantly observes, “a journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step.” Today is our day to take that defiant step towards realizing the Kingdom of God on earth.

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