“It Isn’t (Always) Easy Being Green!”

Making tracks in nature

A few years ago, we made the decision that we were going to be more conscious about “greening” our home. We started replacing our cleaning supplies with natural alternatives, traded in our paper napkins for cloth, shopped second-hand when possible and vowed to drive the most fuel-efficient vehicles we could.

Then we had kids.

Our perfect vision of efficiently running a perfectly green home as two working parents with two kids under the age of four in the middle of a recession has been… well, a bit of a challenge. I’ll admit it; our food scraps are, at times, tossed into the trash rather than into our compost pile, and while we started our parenting careers with every intention of cloth diapering, scrubbing the soiled diapers of a toddler with multiple food allergies was quite enough for us, and we opted for disposable diapers instead.

When time is of the essence, it is really hard to make–and stick with– huge lifestyle changes. It pains me that it is our Earth that pays the price for our hectic lifestyles; from the way we tend our lawns to the way we eat, our lives almost require that we cut corners and take short-cuts. So how do conscientious Unitarian Universalists reconcile the difference between all the things we know we ought to do and the few things that we know are possible to do?

This is a constant struggle for me and, I suspect, many of you. It almost seems unfair that here we are, a family who would love to devote all our time and resources to sustaining our earth and yet, it seems impossible to do that and sustain ourselves as well.

We have often joked about “quitting” society, packing up and moving to an imaginary place where we would live off the land and completely off the grid; where our lives would not revolve around making money to pay the bills to keep the lights on. Of course, it would mean that our lives would completely revolve around other things; like, you know, the weather and the growing season…

But even if this imaginary world were absolutely perfect, “quitting” would fix the problem for no one else but us. We would be able to rest on our laurels knowing that we did something, but it doesn’t change our culture so that there is more room in everyone’s life to care for our planet. Because, let’s face it, if we don’t all start making changes to care for our earth, our earth is going to stop taking care of us.

So I think that the necessary question to ask ourselves about “going green” is not only “what can I do to honor the Earth?” but also, “How can we work to weave these changes into the fabric of our society?”

It is sustainability on a whole new level. Yes;we work to sustain our planet in everything we do and work to better ourselves. But a handful of individuals making these changes because they have the means to do so is not enough; we also must work to make these choices more accessible to everyone, everywhere. Being green can no longer be a privilege.

So where do we start?

(For more on this topic, check out this awesome blog post by Jo Paoletti)


Redefining “Faith”

Re-imagine faith

I have issues with Faith.

Not the concept, the word.

Let’s face it; there are real gaps in what we can know and prove, and sometimes we all have to make a leap or two so that we can actually make it through the day. If we are being totally honest, we admit that there is no possible way to know, beyond all doubt, that the sun will come up tomorrow. But most of us believe pretty strongly that it will nonetheless; and that is okay. The notion that we can, and sometimes have to, form a belief in the face of incomplete evidence does not trouble me; what I have a problem with is we have named this concept “faith” and made it the ideal.

I take issue with this because I hate that our religious and moral fiber is often determined in direct proportion to how many “leaps of faith” we are willing to make in the name of our religion of choice. Furthermore, it seems that those who maintain a belief, even in the face of a mountain of contrary evidence, are at times even more praise-worthy than those who choose to walk the paths of religious integrity, living their beliefs every day. Why does it seem that in the eyes of religion how little we question is valued more than how intentionally we act?

This means that if you value critical thinking, questioning, and examination, you may feel just a tad alienated by the whole “faith” thing. And it certainly puts us non-creedal, question-loving Unitarian Universalists in an interesting predicament. Are we a people of “faith” or not? If “faith” is defined as the willingness to accept beliefs in the face of lacking or even contrary evidence, then perhaps not. Do we reject “faith” and all that comes with it, or embrace it?

I propose we say “no” to both.

We have been stuck for far too long debating the use of religious language in our congregations (I am looking at you, UUs who refer to “faith” as the “f-word”). If we are going to move forward as a religious community, we need to look “faith” in the eye and re-claim it once and for all.

“We are the church of the open minds, loving hearts, and helping hands.”

If you have spent any time leading UU children in religious exploration, you know that what we teach our children does not involve telling them to accept ideas and entire moral codes on authority alone. We teach our children and youth that it is what we do that matters, and that we ought to try to do our best to live our Principles every day. This approach to “faith development” suddenly changes the simple act of picking up trash into a faithful one.

We work with our kids to help them ask questions and introduce tools as they explore their very own path. We tell them that it is okay to disagree with yourself and others after learning something new, and that old ideas can and should make way for new information. We let them know that wisdom can be found just about anywhere from anyone if you just leave yourself open to the possibility.

In short, for Unitarian Universalists “faith” should not be a noun; it should be a verb.

We develop our faith by learning to be powerful people of intention and integrity. Unitarian Universalism is a religion with a rich history of people who have acted in faith; not on faith. We are a religion that talks about walking a faithful path, not making leaps of blind faith. We become strong congregations when we gather to search for our paths and provide support to one another as we aspire to walk these paths faithfully.

So why is it in our current climate where more and more are rejecting the practice of blind religious faith in favor of scientific discovery and critical examination, that Unitarian Universalism is not growing? Perhaps it is because we are a people of faith who have not yet told the world “faith” is not about the blind trust of authority, but about building the trust of community by acting in line with reasoned beliefs. We have yet to tell the world that we are Unitarian Universalist and that WE Redefine Faith.

Welcome to UU@Home!

Welcome Home!
I had originally planned to use this space to provide simple, once-a-month ideas for Unitarian Universalists who are looking for easy ways to put our UU Principles into practice every day at home.  And since I am also of the optimistic sort, I hoped that this space would also be filled with contributions from UU families everywhere who are implementing these and other ideas in their own homes as well.

While these ideas still have an important place in my overall vision for this blog, it alone seemed a little incomplete.  So in true form of a lifelong UU, I have endeavored to turn a simple idea into something a little more complex than perhaps it ought to be.

Weaving UU principles into one’s home and life isn’t just as simple as starting a new tradition; blazing a new trail brings with it its own brand of baggage.  How do we explain new traditions to our non-UU family members and friends?  How do we confront a culture that doesn’t always recognize our Principles or even our religion?  How do you encourage your child to remain confident in the expression of her UU values despite the fact that her peers awarded her a not-so-flattering nickname, “petition girl,” after her latest effort to ensure that the authorities at her school would actually step in and defend those being bullied because of their looks?  Or something like that.  You know, just as a hypothetical example.  Ahem.

The point is that navigating through life as a UU can be challenging, messy, and, at times, let’s face it… it can be downright funny.

So while I will contribute a monthly suggestion to help you survive as a UU@Home, I will also share my insights from my own experiences as a lifelong UU who also happens to be a parent, young adult, and religious educator.

Welcome Home!