Why Get Involved in Social Responsibility
The goal for many Unitarians and Universalists is simply living a principled life. It’s possible to define that very narrowly: I will treat my family and friends well and perhaps my co-workers. Most U*Us find they can’t stop there. When you have a faith that affirms the worth and dignity of ever person, a faith that affirms justice and equity and compassion for all, and a faith that affirms our responsibility to the interdependent web of all existence, then it is difficult to define a principled life so narrowly.
Indeed our religious principles call us out of ourselves, out of our insularity. By implication we are urged to become true citizens of the world, involved at many levels in making the world a better place.
I remember when my wife and I participated in a service of Naming and Dedication for our infant daughter. In that service we did not dedicate her to anyone or anything. Instead the act of dedication involved everyone but her. We all committed to make the world a better place in which she can grow up.
Now, no one person can make the whole world better. No one person can even take part in all the good causes that come our way. It’s alright to be selective. When U*Us engage in social responsibility, part of that responsibility is to ourselves and our families to not get so lost in the work that we destroy our own lives. We do not advocate martyrdom.
But we do believe that everyone can get involved in some issue some way. It is our responsibility to participate as we can. It is our task to not only live principled lives in our own sphere, but to strive to encourage principled living in our social and political institutions as well.
Rev. Brian J. Kiely
Unitarian Church of Edmonton
We get involved, not because we are particularly noble, but because we recognize that our way of life has everything to do with the lives of others. A world in which some ten-year-olds go to Girl Guides or hockey practice, and other children labour in factories or beg in the streets is a world that leaves us all wanting for peace. We get involved because we recognize that principles articulated but not embodied mean nothing. And we get involved as a way of upholding a religious tradition which began by establishing religious tolerance and insisting upon the worth and dignity of all. Finally perhaps, we act in the larger world as agents of social, economic, and environmental justice, because Unitarians and Universalists love to dialogue, and we’d hate for injustice to have the last word.
Throughout our religious history, we have drawn on a rich tradition of prophecy—from the Hebrew prophet Amos who wrote, “Hate evil and love good, and establish justice,” to the prophetic words of James in the New Testament, “Faith without works is dead.” As Unitarian*Universalists we recognize that prophecy is not a luxury. Early Unitarians championed religious freedom in the midst of rigid intolerance and our Universalist forebears insisted upon the inherent worth of all. Our experience through the centuries has made it clear:
There is no vacation day from seeking justice. What allows us to continue our efforts is the understanding that the prophetic becomes pastoral by transforming our brokenness into an opportunity to reconcile, restore, and mend.
Contemporary Latin American Liberation Theologians invite us to lift up a Biblical tradition that places social and economic justice at the center. Leonardo Boff, writes, “Religion is authentic only when it expresses the reality of justice, the reality of love characterized by solidarity, and the reality of mercy, all lived and experienced and not merely proclaimed or symbolized in ritual….” Religion, as expressed by Unitarian* Universalists, is not the opiate of the masses; it is a galvanizing force for liberation and change.
Rev. Leaf Seligman
Unitarian Fellowship of London