The piece “The ‘it’ Church” in the Spring 2010 UU World led me to think about a dear friend and neighbor. The article, by Peter Morales, UUA president, focuses on the role of having ‘religion’ in a church versus the not having it, his description of friendship brought my thoughts away from my church and closer to home to my neighbor and friend.
I’m blessed with a number of friends I can call on when in tears of sorrow or joy. Without these people, I’m not sure how I’d have weathered a failing marriage and subsequent divorce. Most of those friends developed from my La Leche League leadership, church, and homeschooling. With most, I share similar political and religious values. Our lawn signs (Democrats)and radio station (NPR) are the same. We can discuss politics, social issues, and spiritual issues without contention (not too much, anyway).
And then there’s my dear neighbor friend. We share quite a bit in common. We homeschool our kids, and our children are friends. We borrow needed ingredients from each other, care for each other’s pets and flowers when the other leaves town, and watch each other’s children on occasion. We count on each other as an ear for concerns and joys. I can cry in her presence without shame and with assurance of support. However, our politics and religious affiliation differ greatly. Once, when borrowing a conservative Catholic publication from her to read an article on breastfeeding, her husband declared the magazine might burst into flames upon reaching my property. I laughed, and the article survived the trip to our liberal, Unitarian Universalist home without so much as a scorch mark. He and I exchange similar friendly barbs, often about media choices and the like.
But his wife and I don’t go there. Not, I believe, because of fear of conflict. As many of my friends can attest, I’m often a fan of informal debate. While I can’t speak for her, I know I avoid those topics because they don’t enhance our friendship or our understanding of each other. Beyond the names of our respective religious affiliations, beneath the different politics, we share the same religion, at least according the Peter Morales’ description.
Religion, our religion, is what we truly care about, what we want to preserve, embrace, and create. . . . when we ask one another what we truly love, what we truly value, what we care about more than anything else in life, something amazing happens. We don’t argue. We listen. We connect. We discover that we love and want the same things. We care about one another. We want honesty, depth, and intimacy in our relationships. We want enduring friendships. We also discover that we realize that we are all in this life together. We want to help heal the world. We want compassion, understanding, and justice to guide our actions and our governments. We want to work together, hand in hand, to build a world beyond exploitation and violence. (Morales )
We share love for our children and families along with a desire to preserve our children’s hearts and spirits, allowing them time to be young. We believe in holding our small ones close, meeting their needs day and night, respecting the voice they bring to our families. We share values of kindness, love, and peace in our lives. While we call it by different names and nurture it in different ways, we share a belief in a force greater than ourselves, something that calls us to go beyond our immediate desires and concerns. Morales says, ‘”Religion is much more about what we love than about what we think” (Morales). I like that definition and its emphasis on the heart rather than the head (and I’m a thinker to the end), and as a seeker of connection, I appreciate it’s focus on our shared loves.
I shared the Morales piece with my friend, along with a rather awkward bit about what I felt we shared and why I appreciated her in my life. In part, this post is a somewhat more elegant statement to her. It’s also an invitation to broaden your definition of religion and connect to one another. As always, feedback and thoughts are appreciated.
Morales, Peter. “The ‘it’ Church.” UU World. N. p., 15 Feb. 2010. Web.