Sunday, October 01, 2006

Maybe I was born in the wrong century

Thomas Jefferson is said to have predicted, in 1822, that "there is not a young man now living in the US who will not die an Unitarian." He was wrong, of course.

This weekend my Unitarian Universalist church celebrated the 25th anniversary of our minister's ordination. Because he dislikes this sort of pomp and circumstance, he agreed to the festivities only on the condition that we use it as an impetus to dramatically ramp up our social justice commitment - specifically, the establishment of a Social Justice Fund and a staff person dedicated to social justice work. In one weekend, we raised $130,000, plus a challenge commitment from a single parishoner to fund a half-time staff position for four years.

I've only been a member of this church for about three years, but I'm proud to have joined a long line of illustrious Unitarians and Universalists who worked to make this country, and the world, a better and more just place. Including Thomas Jefferson, of course. But also:

  • U.S. Founding fathers and mothers such as John, Abigail and John Quincy Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and Thomas Paine.
  • A slew of abolitionists, women's suffragists and humanitarians, including Clara Barton, Susan B. Anthony, Lucy Stone, Jane Addams, Dorothea Dix, Margaret Fuller, Mary Wollstonecraft, Julia Ward Howe and Adlai Stevenson.
  • Famous scientists and healers such as Charles Darwin, Florence Nightengale, Buckminster Fuller, Linus Pauling and Albert Schweitzer
  • Innumerable great writers, philosophers and artists, not least Charles Dickens, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Louisa May Alcott, Herman Melville, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, Horatio Alger, e. e. cummings, T. S. Eliot, Carl Sandberg, Frank Lloyd Wright, and my distant Boston cousins, Amy and Robert Lowell.
I'm sure the world would be a better place if Jefferson had been right. I don't mean that to denigrate anyone's theology, just a comment on how this country might look if this list of people had left the strongest lasting impact on our political life and social conscience today. But as as sideways as things got, every now and then I have a glimmer of hope that it just might not be too late to get back on track.

No comments: