2013-06-14

Yay for Our Team

We Unitarian Universalists have a reputation for being logically minded. There was a Unitarian Universalist who was on death row. On the eve before his execution, the Warden asked, “It’s customary for the condemned to have time with a priest or chaplain. Would you like me to get you a priest? A chaplain?"

The man said, “I’m a Unitarian Universalist.”

The Warden said, “In that case, would you like to talk to a math professor?”

I’ve got this part of me that says, “Now that’s not fair!” Then I’ve got this other part of me that says, actually, I think, before I die, I would like some help making my peace with transfinite cardinal numbers. (Neither infinite nor finite? What kind of Zen math is that?)

We of liberal religion do have a reputation for being logically minded. We’re also quick thinkers. There was a Unitarian Universalist youth, working her first job in grocery store. A man comes up and asks for half a head of lettuce. She says, “Hold on.” She goes back to talk to the manager. She’s telling the manager, “There's a jerk out there who wants to buy half a head of lettuce.” Just then she notices that the man has followed her and is standing behind her, so she says,“and this fine gentleman wants to buy the other half." Quick thinking!

For all that, we have learned that it isn’t thinking that saves us. It’s each other. Thinking can be glorious, but it can also be dreary when we’re by ourselves. I heard about a highway sign along a desert stretch of highway: "Your Own Tedious Thoughts, next 200 miles." Together with others we are lifted out of the constant tedium of our own thoughts.

It’s said that Jews don’t recognize Jesus as the Messiah, that Muslims don’t recognize Jews as God’s chosen people, that Protestants don’t recognize the Pope as the leader of the Christian world, that some Episcopalians don’t recognize their own bishop (if said bishop happens to be gay), that Baptists don’t recognize each other in the liquor store, and that UUs don’t recognize each other in Wal-Mart. We do, however, love to recognize the famous people in our history. Three of the first six presidents were Unitarian: John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and John Quincy Adams. The 13th president, Millard Fillmore, and the 27th president, William Howard Taft, were also Unitarian, as was the Democratic Party's nominee in 1952 and 1956, Adlai Stevenson. Back in the 16th century, there was a Unitarian King: King John Sigismund of Transylvania, reigned 1560-1570.

Other political figures include:
Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790), scientist, writer, statesman, printer.
Paul Revere (1735–1818).
Abigail Adams (1744–1818) women's rights advocate and first Second Lady and the second First Lady of the United States
John Marshall (1755-1835), Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court.
John C. Calhoun (1782–1850) U.S Senator, Co-founder, All Souls Church, Unitarian (Washington, D.C.)
Daniel Webster (1782-1852), orator, U.S. Senator, Secretary of State, presidential candidate.
Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. (1841-1935), lawyer and member of the U.S. Supreme Court, 1902-32.
Harold Hitz Burton (1888–1964) U.S. Supreme Court Justice 1945-1958
Elliot Richardson, former Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare, and Attorney General (1973).

Unitarians or Universalists in the arts and entertainment include:
Nathaniel Hawthorne (1804-1864), 19th century American novelist, author of "The Scarlet Letter."
Margaret Fuller (1810–1850) Journalist.
P. T. Barnum (1810–1891) American showman and Circus Owner.
Charles Dickens (1812–1870) English novelist.
Herman Melville (1819-1891), writer, author of Moby Dick.
Julia Ward Howe (1819–1910) author of "The Battle Hymn of the Republic".
Louisa May Alcott (1832–1888)Author of Little Women.
Beatrix Potter (1866-1943), author of Peter Rabbit and other children's stories.
Carl Sandberg (1878-1967), American poet, won Pulitzer Prize for his biography of Abraham Lincoln.
Béla Bartók (1881–1945) Composer.
e. e. cummings (1894–1962) Poet and painter
May Sarton (1912-1995) Poet.
Ray Bradbury (1920–2012) Author.
Kurt Vonnegut (1922–2007), writer.
Rod Serling (1924–1975) Writer; Creator of "The Twilight Zone" television series.
Paul Newman (1925–2008) Actor, film director.
Christopher Reeve (1952–2004) Actor.

Our activists, organizers, and humanitarians include:
Horace Mann (1796-1859), leader in the public school movement, founder of the first public school in America, U.S. Congressman.
Dorothea Dix (1802-1887), crusader for the reform of institutions for the mentally ill.
William Lloyd Garrison (1805-1879), abolitionist, editor of The Liberator.
Horace Greeley (1811-1872), journalist, politician, editor and owner of the New York Tribune, champion of labor unions and cooperatives.
Susan B. Anthony (1820–1906).
Florence Nightingale (1820-1910), British nurse and hospital reformer.
Clara Barton (1821–1912) organizer of American Red Cross, Universalist.
Albert Schweitzer (1875–1965) Nobel Peace Laureate 1953.
Whitney M. Young (1921–1971) Social work administrator, head of the Urban League.
Morris Dees (b. 1936) Attorney, cofounder, chief legal counsel of Southern Poverty Law Center.

Inventors, innovators, and scientists who were Unitarian or Universalist or Unitarian Universalist:
Joseph Priestley (1733–1804) discoverer of oxygen and Unitarian minister.
Charles Darwin (1809-1882), scientist and evolutionist, author of Origin of the Species.
Alexander Graham Bell (1847-1922), inventor of the telephone; founder of Bell Telephone Company.
Buckminster Fuller (1895–1983) inventor, engineer.
Linus Pauling (1901–1994) Nobel Laureate for Peace and for Chemistry.
Tim Berners-Lee (1955-) inventor of the World Wide Web.

Best known Unitarian or Universalist clergy include:
Ferenc Dávid (often rendered Francis David) (1510–1579) Hungarian-Transylvanian priest, minister and bishop, first to use the word "Unitarian" to describe his faith.
Hosea Ballou (1771–1852) American Universalist leader. (Universalist minister and a unitarian in theology)
William Ellery Channing (1780–1842), Unitarian minister whose "Unitarian Christianity" was the manifesto of the new Unitarian denomination.
Adin Ballou (1803–1890) Abolitionist and former Baptist who became a Universalist minister, then a Unitarian minister.
Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803–1882) Transcendentalist, essayist.
Theodore Parker (1810–1860) Transcendentalist and abolitionist.
Edmund Hamilton Sears (1810-1876) Author of the first social gospel Christmas Carol, "It Came Upon a Midnight Clear."
Olympia Brown (1835–1926) suffragist, Universalist minister.
John H. Dietrich (1878–1957), primary intellectual force in the development of religious humanism.
James Haynes Holmes (1879-1964), co-founder of the American Civil Liberties Union, anti-war activist.
Robert Fulghum (1937-) Essayist.

As much as we love and honor our past, our eyes are ever cast to the future. We work to build a world of peace and of justice – a heaven right here on this earth. Many of us share this prayer with Diane Ackerman:

School Prayer

In the name of the daybreak
and the eyelids of morning
and the wayfaring moon
and the night when it departs,

I swear I will not dishonor
my soul with hatred,
but offer myself humbly
as a guardian of nature,
as a healer of misery,
as a messenger of wonder,
as an architect of peace.

In the name of the sun and its mirrors
and the day that embraces it
and the cloud veils drawn over it
and the uttermost night
and the male and the female
and the plants bursting with seed
and the crowning seasons
of the firefly and the apple,

I will honor all life
—wherever and in whatever form
it may dwell—on Earth my home,
and in the mansions of the stars.
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This is part 3 of 3 of "Yay For Our Team"
Previous: Part 2: "UU By The Chuckle"
Beginning: Part 1: "When the Spirit Says UU"