REsources for Living

 

BY LYNN UNGAR, MINISTER FOR LIFESPAN LEARNING, CHURCH OF THE LARGER FELLOWSHIP

Lynn UngarA few years ago, Unitarian Universalists got a new nickname. In 2010 lots of UUs went to Arizona to protest the way immigrants were being treated.

Many of us showed up in bright yellow “Standing on the Side of Love” t-shirts and stood behind bright yellow “Standing on the Side of Love” banners, marching and chanting and working with organizations from Arizona, and even getting arrested for civil disobedience. There were so many UUs in yellow that other folks started referring to us as The Love People.

I like that. The Love People. If you want to find a way around the difficult problem of defining who Unitarian Universalists are, you can call us The Love People. It’s written into our history, and it’s written into our Principles statement, the closest thing we have to an explanation of who and what we are as UUs.

We affirm “the worth and dignity of every person,” which is to say that we think every person—whoever they are and whatever they might have done—deserves to be loved. Our Universalist roots say that God loves each and every person, and wants them to be happy. Our commitment is that while we know that people don’t always make good choices, and some actions need to be stopped or even punished, every single person is still worthy of love.

We affirm “justice, equity and compassion in human relations,” which means that we are dedicated to making love the foundation of how people treat one another. Sometimes love is a one-on-one feeling of caring about someone or wanting to give them a hug. But sometimes love needs to apply to people we don’t even know. When we work for a world in which all people are treated fairly and with compassion we are working for a world where we operate from the foundation of love.

We affirm “acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth.” We recognize that love pulls us in two directions at the same time. It asks us to take people exactly as they are, without needing them to change to make us happy. But love also hopes that people can be their best, most whole, most complete selves, which pretty much always involves some kind of growing. And so love holds us in that impossible and necessary place of loving people just as they are while also making a place for them to grow.

We affirm a “free and responsible search for truth and meaning,” which is to say that we don’t just love people, we also love possibilities. We love connecting to ideas, exploring new ways of seeing the world. We believe in keeping our minds as well as our hearts open, because love isn’t just something you feel, it’s something you choose.

We affirm “the right of conscience and the use of the democratic process,” which means we believe that people make better decisions when they choose based on love, rather than on what the outside world tells them. And we know that even when people are choosing from their own sense of what is loving, they don’t always make the same choice. We believe that everyone should get a vote, so that we can make group decisions in a way that allows each person to express what seems right to them.

We affirm “the goal of world community with peace, liberty and justice for all.” We are committed to loving not just the people around us, or the people of our own race or ethnicity or country, but all people around the world. We want everyone to treat one another in the ways that love demands. Love that doesn’t include peace, freedom and justice is a pretty flimsy kind of love.

Finally, we affirm “respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.” Our love doesn’t just go out to all the people of the world; it goes out to all the beings of the world. We know that only when we treat the natural world as a planet-wide community deserving of love and respect do we act to preserve life for all of us. We realize that love is about seeing the connections between us, and our seventh principle reminds us that all of life is connected at the very deepest level.

standing-on-the-side-of-loveIt isn’t necessarily easy being The Love People. It can be hard enough to treat your family and friends in a loving way all of the time; to expect to extend love and respect to every last person, animal and plant on the planet seems pretty much impossible. And maybe it is impossible to act with love all the time, let alone to feel loving at every moment.

But being The Love People doesn’t mean we’re perfect. It means we have a goal, and some principles that set out the various ways that we might work toward that goal. It means that we have a question to ask ourselves whenever we have a choice to make: How do I stand on the side of love?

What Would The Love People Do? It might not go so well on a bracelet, but it’s a pretty good way to live.

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