Home / Issues / What in the World, Spring 2007
Awe, ethical eating, and parents' worries
Questions for spiritual reflection and adult group discussions.
UUA President William G. Sinkford writes about the upcoming review of the Unitarian Universalist Association’s Principles and Purposes. ("Our Calling," page 7; see sidebar for link)
How does the UUA impact your life? Your congregation’s life? Do its Principles have meaning for you? What purposes should it serve?
Awe and community.
Alice Blair Wesley quotes William Ellery Channing in describing experiences of the transcendent: "Most of us have known moments of overflowing love, 'when a new light has seemed to dawn, a new life to stir within' us." Wesley also says that people need a community to share these experiences with. ("What Membership Means," page 22; see sidebar for link)
Describe some of the transcendent moments in your life. How has a community helped you to understand these?
In her essay "From Fear to Eternity," Lyla D. Hamilton writes about some of the revelations she has during an "Outward Bound" program after being downsized from her job. During the process, she identifies the voice of her "inner critic." (page 24; see sidebar for link)
What are some of the messages that your inner critic has been giving you? If these messages have been holding you back, how can you counter them?
In "Ethical Eating," Amy Hassinger describes how important food is for her: "I am a live-to-eat sort of person. Good food feeds me, body and soul." (page 29; see sidebar for link)
What kind of relationship do you have with food? Does eating have a spiritual component for you?
Hassinger describes ways of acquiring food that is not only more nutritious but better for the environment. These include buying from local farmers and setting up food cooperatives. ("Ethical Eating," page 34; see sidebar for link)
Which food habits would you be willing to change to move towards a "food system that respects the complexity and fragility of the natural world"?
"Parenting in early-twenty-first-century America is fraught with fear and anxiety," Kimberly French writes in "Help for Anxious Parents" (page 36; see sidebar for link), "much of it understandable, much of it irrational."
If you are a parent, what are some of your fears? Even if you don't parent, what fears have you absorbed from the media and other sources?
In "The Heart of Our Faith," Galen Guengerich writes that gratitude is the proper religious response to the human condition because "the first principle of the universe is not independence, but its opposite: utter dependence." (page 43; see sidebar for link)
What are the things or people upon which you depend? How do you honor them? How is gratitude part of your spiritual discipline?
Awe and obligation.
Guengerich defines religion as "constituted by two distinct but related impulses: a sense of awe and a sense of obligation." (page 42; see sidebar for link)
Can you describe an experience of awe? Did it create in you a sense of obligation? To whom or to what?
Straight to Jesus.
Doug Muder reviews Straight to Jesus, a book that describes a program in which Evangelical gay men attempt to become heterosexual rather than leave their faith. "In place of a godless gay identity, New Hope gave them an ex-gay identity, in which they and Jesus together are struggling against their flawed sexuality." Muder can't relate, but appreciates the book's sympathetic look at Evangelicals. ("Bookshelf," page 56; see sidebar for link)
Have you ever felt torn between a need for personal and religious integrity? Does reading Muder's account give you greater insight into Evangelical points of view?
Kimberly French describes the first "garden" cemetery in the United States, which was created 175 years ago in Cambridge, Mass., under Unitarian leadership. "In contrast with the Calvinist idea of a terrible final reckoning, early Unitarians saw death as a natural life passage to be welcomed as a reunion with Nature." ("America's First Cemetery, Unitarian-Style," page 64; see sidebar for link)
With cremation's growing popularity, what will become of cemeteries? What does the treatment of bodies through burial or cremation say about our culture? Our religious outlook? Our own attitudes toward death?
See sidebar for links to related resources.