Interdependent Web: Expanding circles of compassion

Interdependent Web: Expanding circles of compassion

A weekly roundup of blogs and other user-generated web content about Unitarian Universalism

Heather Christensen


This week, several Unitarian Universalists addressed themes of identity, belonging, inclusion, and welcome.

Doug Muder sorts through “a liberal view of intervention.”

When we do decide to pull out of a country, we need a withdrawal plan rather than just a tweet announcing our departure. First, we need a plan to get our own people out of the country safely. And second, we need to do right by the people who have helped us, and who will likely be targeted for death after we leave. If nothing else, that means doing something Trump hates to do: welcoming refugees to the United States. (The Weekly Sift, October 21)

Celebrating the recent historic spacewalk by two female astronauts, Erika Hewitt points to previous delays as an example of “diversity” falling short of true inclusion.

Remember (especially if you identify as male) that wherever you go, systems and structures were built with ONE kind of person in mind, and often the obstacles don’t appear until it’s too late. This is also true of white supremacy culture, ableism culture, and all of the other invisible snares of oppression. Let’s keep snipping those snares, one cord at a time. (Facebook, October 18)

James Ford reflects on what it means to claim a Buddhist identity.

I believe the only appropriate way of understanding the precepts regarding sexuality turn on respect and care and mutuality. . . . I assert these positions I hold are Buddhist, if a liberal Buddhist.

Others, I know, think this means I am not a Buddhist. Or, at best, a marginal Buddhist.

But then many Buddhists think the same about Zen Buddhists in general.

The upshot is probably, while quite important, the question of who and who is not a Buddhist is going to remain ambiguous. The deal, as I see it, in a sort of bottom line way is not Buddhism, but Buddhisms…

And, me, I’m comfortable with that. (Monkey Mind, October 24)

Dan Harper writes that “you don’t need to be affiliated with a congregation to be a UU.”

What is permanent about Unitarian Universalism? That you live an ethical life. That you challenge yourself to use your reason to engage with religion. That you allow yourself to doubt. That you allow your religious attitudes to change and evolve. That you value the Western religious tradition of which anglophone Unitarian Universalism is a part, while remaining open to insights from non-Western religious traditions. That you are in conversation with other UUs.

That last point deserves elaboration: How can non-affiliated UUs stay in conversation with other UUS? Through “sudden villages,” conferences and gatherings of a few days or a week where you get to meet other UUs face-to-face. Through reading UU writers, and listening to UU podcasts. Through online contacts: social media, blogs, email, whatever. (Yet Another Unitarian Universalist, October 23)

John Beckett answers the question of how a polytheist can be a “Unitarian.”

The first thing to understand is that contemporary Unitarian Universalism is not the Unitarian Christianity of Channing, the Universalism of Murray and Ballou, or the Transcendentalism of Emerson. Nor for that matter is it the Humanism of the mid-20th century. It is the direct descendant of all those traditions and it contains elements of them, but it has evolved into something quite different.

Contemporary Unitarian Universalism is based not on common creeds or theologies, but rather on shared values, beginning with “the inherent worth and dignity of every person.” Those shared values are why monotheists, polytheists, and non-theists can gather together . . . and worship together. UU worship does not affirm the primacy of any deities or beliefs about deities. Rather, it affirms the primacy of living together in a way that is respectful, sustainable, and mutually supportive. (Under the Ancient Oaks, October 24)

David Breeden describes the concentric circles of human connection first imagined by the Greek stoic philosopher Hierocles.

A decolonized, cosmopolitan Humanism calls us to widen our circles.

Yet, herein lies a problem: What if the concentric circles don’t keep expanding because of national policy? If you happen to live in the United States, for example, many of your fellow citizens see no need to expand the circles to include other animals, the citizens of other nations, or the planet. Many Americans wish only to be a circle of Americans.

In this way, from a practical viewpoint, the building out of Heirocles’ circles breaks down.

How do we live an ethical life of expanding circles of compassion when a majority of our fellow citizens don’t wish to draw the circle wider?

That’s the question that contemporary Humanists are working hard to answer. (Medium, October 24)