what in the World?
Jesus, fundamentalism, and other matters
by Jane Greer
BUSINESS RULES. In “Business Ethics beyond the Classroom,” Judith Samuelson writes: “Given the extraordinary scale and reach of global companies and service firms, business now competes with government as the most important actor in societies around the globe.” She argues that business leaders need more than an ethics class or two; they need to know how to assess factors like a business's environmental impact and effects on the local economy, too.
Question: What kind of role should international business play in developing countries? Should international business people be expected to have such a broad portfolio as Samuelson suggests? What role should government play in regulating international business?
RELIGIOUS ROOTS. In “Jesus and the Modern Seeker,” Erik Walker Wikstrom describes his rediscovery of Christianity, a religion he had rejected. He relates a story in which a Japanese Buddhist asks an American aspirant why Americans are increasingly attracted to Buddhism. “If your roots are in Christianity,” the Buddhist says, “develop your understanding of that tradition; don't seek your religious nourishment from distant lands.”
Question: If you were raised in a religious tradition other than Unitarian Universalism, why did you leave it? Have you ever thought about re-exploring it? How has the religion of your childhood shaped you?
SOUL SATISFACTION. Erik Walker Wikstrom notes a distinction that has been increasingly made between religion and spirituality. “People go to church seeking community, or because they feel they 'should.' But when it comes to feeding their souls, many Americans go to retreat centers, into the woods, or almost anywhere but to the churches and synagogues in which they were raised.” (“Jesus and the Modern Seeker”)
Question: Do you find spiritual satisfaction in your church, or do you seek it elsewhere? Can you expect to find both community and spiritual satisfaction in the same place?
INERT MEANING. In “The Fundamentalist Agenda,” Davidson Loehr describes the human resistance to change as instinctual. “Fundamentalism's conservative impulse wants stability in societies,” he writes. But “the essential job of liberals in human societies is to enlarge our understanding of who belongs in our in-group.”
Question: If humans are instinctively conservative, what conditions are necessary to promote liberal growth? In what kinds of societies is liberalism most prevalent?
INTERDEPENDENT WEB. Davidson Loehr asserts that to suceed, liberalism needs to honor the conservative impulse. “When liberal visions work,” he writes, “it's because they have kept one foot solidly in our deep territorial impulses with the other foot free to push the margin, to expand the definition of those who belong in 'our' territory.” This often means packaging liberal advances in conservative terms. (“The Fundamentalist Agenda”)
Question: Does the liberal agenda need to be wrapped in conservative packaging to succeed? If so, does this compromise liberalism? Can you see examples of the blending of liberal and conservative impulses in current political campaigns?
CLEAN ELECTION. Tom Andrews has tried to live out his values and beliefs as a politician. “I was in office for twelve years,” he tells Kimberly French. “I never compromised on principle, I was able to sleep at night, and I lost only one election in six. So I'm not discouraged. It can be done.” (“A Life Committed to Justice”)
Question: What enables an elected official to maintain his or her principles? Do you agree with Andrews when he says that in politics, “The biggest problem is money”? Can you identify other problems?
SAME-SEX MARRIAGE. On November 18, 2003, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled that same-sex couples cannot be denied the right to marry. Seven of the fourteen plaintiffs in the highly publicized case are Unitarian Universalists. (“UUs celebrate marriage decision”)
Question: How has your congregation dealt with same-sex marriage? Which social and religious institutions would be impacted if same-sex marriage were legalized?