What Is Religious Enlightenment?
Envisioning a world “empowered by reason, compassion, justice, and love,” the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Door County, Wisconsin, is a shining example of religious enlightenment. They are helping to bring unity to the world through purposeful activities, guided by this enlightened vision. Because we’ve seen so many religious/spiritual groups truly exemplifying religious enlightenment, we’re starting an irregular series that spotlights and introduces them all.
Practicing conscientious stewardship of the Earth is one of the unifying goals shared by religious believers. However, teaching us how to do this in unity can only be accomplished through religious enlightenment. Working collectively for the good of all requires an expanded consciousness — a panorama view of reality. Most of us aren’t born with the selfless ability to see and appreciate the needs of the entire, diverse community around us, and even fewer are born with the ability to serve those needs.
However, religious believers in God as Earth’s Creator do have an ability that can help. We can use our imagination to consider the world as our Creator sees it — in essence, seeing the world through the “eyes” of God. This is a path to a religious enlightenment that increases our ability to see beyond our man-made divisions, boundaries, and prejudices.
Toward a More Noble Existence of Religious Enlightenment
The world is a better place when faith and integrity are used to encourage us toward a more noble existence of religious enlightenment. Stepping beyond the boundary of self for the purpose of collective community advantage is not necessarily as easy as learning to walk. We need guides to show us the way. We need examples to follow. We need to appreciate those examples when we find them.
I have found a very good example at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Door County (UUFDC). Representing a liberal religious presence in Door County, Wisconsin, their website welcomes and encourages a wide range of theological and secular beliefs and orientations. They count the many world faiths and various belief systems among their members and friends.
Encouraging Collective Thought and Action
What drew me to UUFDC is their Movies That Matter series, held on the third Tuesday of every month. The Movies That Matter series examines a wide range of topics and issues reflecting social justice. Admission is free, donations are appreciated, the public is welcome, and a lively discussion follows the movie.
This week’s movie is “Bidder 70,” a documentary of a young man who protested oil exploration near national parks, and went to extraordinary lengths to literally “make his case.”
“Bidder 70:” A Movie That Matters
Tim DeChristopher entered a Bureau of Land Management (BLM) auction of hundreds of thousands of pristine acres surrounding national parks in Utah for oil and gas exploitation. “Bidder 70” follows the young man, a University of Utah student, as he stepped beyond his boundaries of “self,” and entered a strange, new world.
In December 2008, DeChristopher was given bidder’s paddle No. 70 upon entering the auction. When the bidding ended, he had won 22,000 acres of land for $1.8 million, with no intention to pay or drill. In February 2009, the entire auction was invalidated by Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, because of the land’s “proximity to landscapes of national significance.”
Nevertheless, two months later, DeChristopher was indicted on two federal felony charges with penalties of up to 10 years in prison and fines up to $750,000. “Bidder 70” follows DeChristopher through more than two years of legal maneuvers, and nine trial postponements. Within this time frame, the young man becomes an icon of climate justice activism, with the threat of prison looming over him daily.
As Tim’s trial began in February 2011, hundreds of supporters paraded through the streets of Salt Lake City. After five days, the court found him guilty on both felony counts. Sentenced to two years incarceration, DeChristopher served his time in several different federal prisons. Tim is currently finishing up his parole while attending Harvard Divinity School to become a Unitarian Universalist minister. This is being paid for by Unitarian Universalists from all over the country wanting to support him, especially those from Salt Lake City.
The Seven Principles of Unitarian Universalism
The UUFDC lists their guiding principles on their website “mission” page. These principles are an excellent resource to turn to for religious enlightenment on the path to collective stewardship of the Earth:
Guided by the Seven Principles of Unitarian Universalism, our Door County Fellowship:
● Celebrates diverse beliefs
● Invites spiritual growth, intellectual inquiry, and creative expression
● Cares actively for the well-being of its fellowship family and the larger community
● Practices conscientious stewardship of the earth upon which all life depends
● Pursues equality and justice for all people
It is interesting to note that at UUFDC, Sunday services are as admirable and thought-provoking as their Movies that Matter. Services may be delivered by Unitarian Universalist clergy or laypersons, clergy from other denominations, and members and friends may present original works on a variety of topics. Members of the community, songwriters, and authors may also speak on many issues, and from many viewpoints. Even academic professionals from various colleges and universities, as well as Wisconsin Humanities Council speakers are welcome to deliver Sunday sermons.
Please Share Your Source of Enlightenment
We want to continue exploring many more examples of religious enlightenment. You can help by leaving a comment below if you’d like your favorite group or house of worship introduced in this series. Religious enlightenment comes in every shade of humankind, and can be found in any form of worship. This series is interested in sharing the guiding principles and motivating activities of religious/spiritual groups lighting the path to unity on, and in interfaith stewardship of, the Earth.
Remember the rainbow, a miraculous display of light provided by God. Appearing in a unified display of every color in the spectrum of light, we are reminded that our Creator’s love and mercy encompasses every color of diversity, too. Please join our effort by sharing your source of enlightenment!
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