I served my country for the majority of my 21 years of active duty as a closeted lesbian. Reflecting upon the meaning of this day of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell’s repeal, I am filled with joy and happiness: As of 20 September, our country now stands proudly for freedom and justice for her military members who happen to be gay, lesbian or bisexual. Discriminatory behaviors and wrong-headed policies and laws toward military gays began two hundred and thirty-three (233) years ago when George Washington discharged the first soldier for being gay. Years and years of work by Americans — straight and gay — brought about this momentous civil rights change.
While this day is bittersweet for military gays who chose to wrestle with an unfair professional environment while on active duty (or were forced to leave under the old policy), I know each one of them feels proud to have served the United States of America and is thrilled for those servicemembers who can now, if they choose to be out, stand tall as gay military members as well as serve with more solid feelings of honor, dignity and integrity. I am proud and honored to have served our UU community as we worked continuously to arrive at this special moment in American history. To those UUs who were on the front lines of “battle” towards changing the hearts and minds of our politico-military leaders about what it means to be gay or lesbian, I send you a huge thank you!More >
Silence, chosen, deepens prayer, opens the window of the soul.
Silence, imposed, denies the truth of life.
Dear One, God of Love,
On this 20th Day of September, 2011, we give thanks for the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, a life-denying prison of silence.
We celebrate with the GLBT men and women who serve our nation who may now speak about home and hearth, love and sorrow without fear of reprisal.
We celebrate every step towards justice, and today is a leap!
Imagine this: two soldiers stand together, hearts turned towards home in the dawning hours of the morning. She carries the burden of waiting for lab results which will reveal whether her spouse Joy has breast cancer. He imagines his partner Mark dressing their small son for his first day of school, aching to be present for this life passage. Yesterday they could not speak of such things and keep their jobs, but today they shyly open up to one another, testing the waters of a new freedom. Something twisted and gnarled inside each of them relaxes, smooths out, and a life friendship is born in their shared tears and hopes.
We pray that the fate of DADT will lead to the overwhelming of DOMA, the Defense of Marriage Act, which continues to perpetuate unequal access to marriage recognition and benefits.
Though the road has been paved with pain, we give thanks for those who refused to be silenced, and left a life in the military that they cherished. May no one be forced again to choose between love and truth, and fulfilling a call to service.
You who are Truth and Beauty, shine upon us all, make us wise and open-hearted. In the name of Love we pray.
The Rev. Sarah Lammert
Director of Ministries and Faith Development
There are two phone calls that reached me ten years ago that remain with me: my mother’s call that loved ones were inside the towers, and that of a woman I’d met by chance at the local Unitarian Universalist church I’d attended for the first time just a few days before. The first left me feeling alone and far from home on a college campus I’d only just moved to. The second offered me exactly what my heart was seeking: a community of common faith to gather with. “Come,” she said, “we are having a potluck, but just come, there will plenty. Bring any students who want a sacred space.”
Comfort in faith communities is something many people sought that week. For American Muslims, however gathering in large numbers brought a degree of apprehension as some Americans responded to the violence of 9/11 with their own violence. The Council on American-Islam Relations had over 1,700 reports of violence against Muslims reported in the six months following 9/11. Those acts of hate were not limited to Muslims – Arab Christians, Sikhs, Hindus, fair skinned African Americans of different faiths and others mistaken to be Muslims were attacked as well.
As we stand on the side of love by “thinking interfaith” during the 10th anniversary year of the 9/11 attacks, many of us will do so by attending interfaith gatherings, hopefully these will be reoccurring events. I’d like to share with you some of the common ground shared between Unitarian Universalists and Muslims in hopes that your interfaith experiences may be a further act of understanding.
- Unitarianism began as a faith embracing the oneness of God, in contrast to the trinitarian approach. Like Unitarians, Muslims respect and love Jesus (pbuh*), who is a revered Prophet in Islam. Also like Unitarians, Muslims rejecting the trinity and the greater divinity of Jesus that is a core part of Christianity today. We call the oneness of God tawhid.
- Universalism began as a faith embracing salvation for people beyond the boundaries of acceptance of Jesus as the messiah. In Islam this message is found in the Qur’an: “There is no compulsion in religion” (Qur’an 2:256) and “yea, indeed: everyone who surrenders his whole being unto God, and is a doer of good withal, shall have his reward with his Sustainer” (Qur’an 2:112).
- In Unitarian Universalism we “covenant to affirm and promote” our seven fundamental principles. Our principles are not merely to be tangential to the way we live our life, but something that we strive to develop in the world around us. In Islam, we share this commitment, calling it a surrender (Islam) to God’s will. This is an engaged surrender**, constantly enacting our free will in work towards the creation of a justice based world. Those of Christian background might relate this engaged surrender to the concept of carrying the cross.
- In Unitarian Universalism, one part of what we are working towards affirmation and promotion of is “justice, equity, and compassion in human relations.” These are three of God’s ninety nine names in the Islamic tradition (Ar-Rahman/All Compassionate, Al-’Adl/The Just, Al-Muqsit/The Equitable) and integrating them into our lives is a part of our surrender.
- Our UU living tradition includes that we are “grateful for the religious pluralism which enriches and ennobles our faith, and we are inspired to deepen our understanding and expand our vision.” In Islam, we find this truth in God’s words above regarding the lack of compulsion. Beyond fostering respect for the diversity of religious practice as God’s intention, we are also compelled to learn from others: “We have created you of different tribes and different tongues so that you might learn from each other.” (Qur’an 49:13)
- UUs reject the notion of original sin and in our Child Dedication Ceremony we recognize the spark of the divine in each child. In Islam, we speak of the fitrah, God’s life breath blown into each human being.
- While Muslims share the Adam and Eve story with our Abrahamic brothers and sisters, responsibility is shared equally between Adam and Eve. It is also an isolated act, with guilt not being passed onto future generations in the way of the original sin.
- When God is spoken of in UU congregations, gender pronouns are often mixed or eliminated. In the Qur’anic Arabic, God takes on both male and female pronouns and adjectives. God is both genders, neither gender, and beyond gender all at once.
- Drawing on our 7th UU principle of respect for the interdependent web of life of which we are all apart, environmental issues are of critical importance for many UUs. In Islam, this principle appears in the in the same concept of tawhid I spoke of before, or the oneness of God. Humans, with their God given free will, are to be the stewards of God’s presence in all living things. There is a growing movement of Muslims who are pressing for tawhid halal food – local, organic, and humanly raised in addition to the baseline requirements of halal. When halal requirements were laid down these were the norm. Now, following in the spirit of the law, Muslims see the need for taking things further. Other environmental movements are rapidly picking up pace in Muslim communities environmental and several books have recently been published.
- Like the Unitarian Universalist congregations, Sunni Muslims (approximately 80% of the global Muslim population) choose their leadership at the local level and the person may or may not have chaplaincy training. Imam is simply the person leading prayers.^ Increasingly, and particularly in Western Muslim communities, this position is becoming a more organized position involving ministry similar to other faith counterparts and congregational community leadership, but not always. Take this into consideration when you hear about “an imam” saying something in the news. This local leadership without a hierarchy is also why it can be difficult to hear the “moderate Muslim voice” that many non-Muslim are looking for – we don’t have a Pope or other hierarchy that speak for the followers.
During the time of Islam’s early development it represented a truly incredible social justice movement: Female infanticide was prohibited and women were given inheritance, property ownership, court testimonial and divorce rights. Slave owners were urged to grant freedom, inter-racial marriages were arranged by Muhammad (pbuh), freedom of religion was allowed to exist, the collection of usury was prohibited, and practitioners were urged to see people beyond their own tribe and equal members of the human family.
At a low estimate there are 1.2 billion Muslims in the world. Only 20% of them reside in the Middle East. There is still much work to be done fully achieving the vision that God laid out for Muslims, but it is also important to consider the historical and cultural contexts when looking at Islam. Just as with the move towards tawhid halal, there was no need for organic, local, or humanly raised in historical context of the time.
As Islam spread, local customs continued to be practiced and some of the things that are now seen by as being “Muslim practices.” Common examples include the strict practice of separating men and women or female genital circumcision/mutilation. Female genital circumcision/mutilation is practiced in many places throughout Africa by people of all locally practiced faiths. Anyone who has traveled in some Hindu communities in India knows that the separation of men and women is far from unique to their equivalent Muslim communities.
I include these last three paragraphs to encourage Unitarian Universalists to learn more. There is much written on these topics, I suggest the following:
1. Being Muslim by Haroon Siddiqui: http://bbpbooks.teachingforchange.org/book/9780888998873
This is a short and easy guide to the foundations of Islamic belief and practice. Its opening provides important perspective on the abuse of Muslim’s civil rights in America while giving accessible information about Islam.
2. The Muslim Next Door: The Qur’an, the Media, and That Veil Thing by Sumbal Ali-Karamali http://www.amazon.com/Muslim-Next-Door-Quran-Media/dp/0974524565
This is a casually written piece for a reader with a little bit more time. The author shares anecdotes from her life experience growing up as a Muslim in America.
3. The Heart of Islam: Enduring Values for Humanity by Seyeed Hossein Nasr: http://bbpbooks.teachingforchange.org/book/9780060730642
I suggest this one for those who believe in an Abrahamic-like God as it provides a good understanding the role of God in Islam.
5. In the Footsteps of the Prophet by Tariq Ramadan: http://bbpbooks.teachingforchange.org/book/9780195374766
If you would like to understand Muhammad (pbuh) this is a beautifully written account of his life that speaks to some of the common misunderstandings that are held.
4. The History of Islam in America by Kambiz GhaneaBassiri*: http://bbpbooks.teachingforchange.org/book/9780521614870
This is for the more academic reader who wants to understand the long history of Muslims in America.
5. Orientalism by Edward Said*: http://bbpbooks.teachingforchange.org/book/9780394740676
If you want to understand where most Western misconceptions about Islam and the Arab world come from, read this.
*UUs often ask me why Muslims are not doing more to debunk the common misperceptions, these two books will help you understand that this is something we’ve been asked to do for generations.
When you are reading any book in Islam be very wary of absolute statements about Muslims beyond the 5 pillars of the faith (prayer, fasting, pilgrimage, charity, and the testament of faith). Muslims are a complex group – we are Sunni, Shi’ia, Sunni Sufi or Shi’ia Sufi, Ahmadiyya, Ismaili, Druze**….and we do not do everything the same. Culture and time period also change. The books above do a good job at speaking to the diversity of Muslims as do the online resources provided by Hartford Seminary’s McDonald Center (http://macdonald.hartsem.edu/answers.htm)
* “peace be upon him/her” (pbuh) is said by Muslims following the names of the Prophets
^ in the Shi’ite tradition the Imam holds a Devine family connection to Muhammad (pbuh) and there is more of a leadership system
** “engaged surrender” is a concept that was, to the best of my knowledge, introduced by Dr. Amina Wadud
^^ Druze’s full name is sometimes translated as People of UnitarianismMore >
Rev. David Miller is a minister at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of San Dieguito in Solana Beach, California.
The message below went out to Standing on the Side of Love supporters on Friday, September 9, 2011. You can sign-up for these emails here.
I was raised Jewish and if I had to label it, I consider myself a spiritual and religious, humanist, mystic, Unitarian Universalist minister who went to a Christian seminary on purpose. I can attest to the fact that sometimes, interfaith work is really hard. There can be so many things for us as humans to argue about, including theology, politics, social issues and other subjects, too numerous to list here.
But, we also have such a deep capacity to find goodness, healing and love from those whose religious ideologies and theologies differ from ours. In seminary I studied with Muslims, Jews, Evangelical Christians, Buddhists, Methodists, Lutherans, Episcopalians, and Pentecostals, among others. I found that we were all struggling with the same questions of meaning, of life, and of our place in the world. We all cared for the fate of our planet; we all cared for the human family.
Through my experience, one thing became clear to me. In a world filled with billions of people with theologies and ideologies that clearly differ from ours, there will never be a way for us to “convince” everyone to think and act as we would like them to. We must build a deeper understanding of difference. We must find commonalities to build on. We must learn how to engage in each other’s lives that challenge us all to grow as we build a sustainable and loving world together.
As we approach September 11, please join me in a commitment to “think interfaith” at this crucial moment in time. The Standing on the Side of Love campaign is offering us resources to help promote words and thoughts that support love.
At a time when people across the world, with differing perspectives, mark the events of September 11th, 2001, the task of working together to cross boundaries and build bridges has never been greater. This important work is work we are called to do as Unitarian Universalists, a tradition steeped in a theology of universal love.
In their book A House of Hope: The Promise of Progressive Religion for the Twenty First Century, Rev. Dr. John A. Buehrens, and Rev. Dr. Rebecca Parker say that there is a defining focus for our progressive faith, “a devotion to the flourishing of life. People of progressive faith, care for the sacredness of this world. We cherish our bodies, this earth, this time and place that is within our grasp. We reverence the intimate, intricate and unshakable reality that all life is connected. We honor and respect the bonds that tie each to all, that weave us into an inescapable net of mutuality.”
Please take these days to focus on the beauty of crossing social, religious, and ethnic borders in faith, love and compassion. Join me in using the new technologies at our fingertips to create interconnectedness the world over.
Through engaging those with views different than our own, and embracing them with love, I hope that we will never have to repeat the violence of that day 10 years ago. I hope that others in the world will also be free from this kind of pain now and forever for after all, we are woven into an inescapable net of mutuality.
May this be so and may peace be upon us all,
Rev. David Miller
Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of San Dieguito
This 10th anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks provoke a wide array of feelings within our American family — profound sadness and loss, a sense of the instability of the world around us and our lack of control over it, gratitude for the many blessings of life. Unfortunately, for a few among us, including some individuals in power positions, September 11th is a moment to stoke the fires of fear, intolerance, paranoia, and scape-goating; promote a rise in anti-Muslim hysteria and attack civil liberties in the name of national security; and focus on that which divides us, rather than that which unites us all.
At the Standing on the Side of Love Campaign, we believe Sept. 11th is a moment in time to embrace the other, especially those of other faith traditions (and also those of no faith tradition at all). We are taking this moment to focus on the beauty of crossing social, religious, and ethnic borders in faith, love and compassion. As a campaign that understands the power of social media to create interconnectedness the world over, we will “Think Interfaith” this September 11th and surrounding days, sharing quotes from various faith traditions’ scriptures, as well as from prominent members of those faith traditions, and others who are simply leading thinkers of our time. Each quote focuses on respect for all faiths and faith traditions, and the notion that wisdom and divinity is not the province of just one religion.
Below, you will find quotes organized by faith traditions, as well as an array of “miscellaneous” quotes. We hope you find wisdom across the board. With one click, you can tweet these quotes, joining people the world over who are promoting cooperation, unity, and interconnectedness this Sept. 11th. You can also paste these into your Facebook status, as well, and change your Facebook profile picture to a universal symbol of religious pluralism. Have a quote of your own? Use the “add your own quote” box below!
Join us in spreading love this Sept. 11th, and may the love find its way back to you in spades.
How to Change Your Profile Picture: On Facebook you can do this by saving this image to your computer (right click on the image and select “save image as”), going to your Facebook profile page, selecting “Edit My Profile” under your profile picture, and then selecting the “Profile Picture” tab in the lefthand sidebar.
Please share these verses:
Use the widgets below to post to Twitter. Cut and paste the full quotes, and share on Facebook.
Sufism & Sufi Leaders
“How many paths are there to God? There are as many paths to God as there are souls on the Earth.” -Persian poet Rumi
Sikhism & Sikh Leaders
“Do not say that the Vedas and the Koran are false. Those who do not contemplate them are false.” -The Sri Guru Granth Sahib, Holy book of the Sikhs
“The true servants of the Most Merciful are those who behave gently and with humility on earth, and whenever the foolish quarrel with them, they reply with [words of] peace.” -Al-Furqan 25:63
“O ye who believe! Be steadfast witnesses for Allah in equity, and let not hatred of any people seduce you that ye deal not justly. Deal justly, that is nearer to your duty. Observe your duty to Allah.” -Al-Maeda 5:8
“We need not think alike to love alike.” -Francis David, Transylvanian minister and early Unitarian
Hinduism & Hindu Leaders
“Peace among religions is a precondition for world peace.” -Social Worker Swami Agnivesh
“What interfaith seeks to do is to not allow religion to fall back into confrontational modes, into contemporary crusades and jihads, rather to move onwards to a new level of interfaith harmony and understanding.” -Dr. Karan Singh, Indian Politician
Judaism & Jewish Leaders
“Man is never as open to fellowship as he is in moments of misery and distress.” -Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, 1966
“He who devotes himself to the mere study of religion without engaging in works of love and mercy is like one who has no God.” -Babylonian Talmud, Abodah Zarah, 16b
“A man should always speak in a way that increases civility with one’s brothers, relatives, and with any person, including a non-Jew.” -Babylonian Talmud, Berakhot 17a
”Our Rabbis taught, ‘Give sustenance to the poor of the non-Jews along with the poor of Israel. Visit the sick of the non-Jews along with the sick of Israel. Bury the dead of the non-Jews along with the dead of Israel – Because of the ways of peace.’” -Babylonian Talmud Gitten 61a
Christianity & Christian Leaders
“There are three things that will endure – faith, hope, and love – and the greatest of these is love.” -1 Corinthians 13:13
“This is my commandment: that you love one another as I have loved you.” -John 15:12
“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love.” -John 4:7-8
Buddhism & Buddhist Leaders
“My religion is very simple. My religion is kindness.” -The Dalai Lama
Judaism & Jewish Leaders
“On what basis do we people of different religious commitments meet one another? First and foremost we meet as human beings who have so much in common: a heart, a face, a voice, the presence of a soul, fears, hope, the ability to trust, a capacity for compassion and understanding, the kinship of being human. My first task in every encounter is to comprehend the personhood of the human being I face, to sense the kinship of being human, solidarity of being.”
Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, 1966
“…in place of the Old Bottom Line of money and power, a New Bottom Line of Love and Generosity is possible. People of all faiths need to shape a political and social movement that reaffirms the most generous, peace-oriented, social justice-committed, and loving truths of the spiritual heritage of the human race.”
Rabbi Michael Lerner
“We need not think alike to love alike.” -Francis David, Transylvanian minister and early Unitarian http://ow.ly/6oJVz #uu via @sideoflove
“We have all of us, whether rich or poor, whether high or low, of whatever nationality and religious conviction, the same supreme necessities and the same great problem and infinity of love.”
Augusta Jane Chapin (1836-1905), Universalist minister and educator
Hinduism & Hindi Leaders
“I offer you peace. I offer you love. I offer you friendship. I see your beauty. I hear your need. I feel your feelings. My wisdom flows from the Highest Source. I salute that Source in you. Let us work together for unity and love.”
“I came to the conclusion long ago … that all religions were true and also that all had some error in them, and whilst I hold by my own, I should hold others as dear as Hinduism. So we can only pray, if we are Hindus, not that a Christian should become a Hindu … But our innermost prayer should be a Hindu should be a better Hindu, a Muslim a better Muslim, a Christian a better Christian.”
Christianity & Christian Leaders
I see religion as a powerful positive healing force for this nation and the world. But that force is blunted, weakened, compromised inestimably, if we turn religion into a tool for advancing political strategy; if we make it a matter of how to win political office; if we treat it as anything other than a sacred part of life from which we ought to draw sustenance and values and strength for living courageously as good citizens.”
Interfaith Alliance President Dr. C. Welton Gaddy
Buddhism & Buddhist Leaders
“Do not be idolatrous about or bound to any doctrine, theory, or ideology, even Buddhist ones. All systems of thought are guiding means; they are not absolute truth.”
Thich Nhat Hanh
Thousands of candles can be lit from a single candle,
and the life of the candle will not be shortened.
Happiness never decreases by being shared.
Sutta Nipata Buddhist scripture
“ I appreciate any organization or individual people who sincerely make an effort to promote harmony between humanity, and particularly harmony between the various religions. I consider it very sacred work and very important work”
The Dalai Lama
“We who have been born Buddhist, Hindu, Christian, Muslim, or any other faith can be very comfortable in each others temple’s, mosques, and churches, praying or meditating together to create a spiritual mass of consciousness which can overcome our greed, hatred, and illusions.”
Dr A. T. Ariyaratne, Founder of the Sarvodaya Shramadana Movement
Islam & Muslim Leaders
“Contact (between religions) is good. One should listen to and respect the doctrines professed by others. Beloved-of-the-Gods, King Piyadasi, desires that all should be well-learned in the good doctrines of other religions.” Rock Edict Nb12 (S. Dhammika)
“Ultimately, America’s answer to the intolerant man is diversity, the very diversity which our heritage of religious freedom has inspired.”
Robert F. Kennedy
“We may have different religions, different languages, different colored skin, but we all belong to one human race.”
Kofi Annan, 7th Secretary-General of the United Nations
“True religion has a universal quality. It does not find fault with other religions. [...] Forgiveness, compassion, tolerance, brotherhood and the feeling of oneness are the signs of a true religion.”
Sri Chinmoy, Spiritual Teacher
“If we live in our oneness-heart, we will feel the essence of all religions which is the love of God. Forgiveness, compassion, tolerance, brotherhood and the feeling of oneness are the signs of a true religion.”
Sri Chinmoy, Spiritual Teacher
“I love you when you bow in your mosque, kneel in your temple, pray in your church. For you and I are sons and daughters of one religion, and it is the spirit.”
Writer Kahlil Gibran
It is not our differences that divide us. It is our inability to recognize, accept, and celebrate those differences.
Poet and Activist Audre Lorde
For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.
Former South African President Nelson MandelaMore >