Francis David, the founder of the first Unitarian church in the world (in Transylvania), said “we need not think alike to love alike.”
In 1568 this spirit of pluralism influenced the King of Transylvania to issue an edict of religious tolerance, one of the first attempts to ensure religious freedom in Europe.
Today’s Unitarian Universalists remain inspired by that spirit of religious tolerance and freedom.
We truly do not need to think alike to love alike, and that is demonstrated in our local community all the time as people of many faiths have come together to respond to issues ranging from local homeless to Occupy to the recent response to the Westboro rally.
People of all faith communities can work together to end poverty and homelessness, to care for the Earth we all call home, and to call for a more loving and just society.
All around the world faith groups and people of many faiths find common ground in that we “love alike,” and this is not a new thing – interfaith cooperation was present in the work of Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr.
And yet in recent years, the image of a person of great faith has not been one of interfaith cooperation or religious pluralism – it has been the religious fanatic and the face of intolerance.
It can seem at times that we cannot think alike or love alike – that in fact we cannot find a way to overcome the barriers of ignorance, intolerance, prejudice, and exclusivity.
Everyone will experience their faith and their spirituality differently, and the task of religious community and study could be to make the strange familiar, and the familiar strange.
In the faith community I serve as director of religious education, the Olympia Unitarian Universalist Congregation, we seek to teach our children and youth about all faith traditions and to promote religious pluralism and interfaith dialogue – in this way to understand the other, to make the strange familiar. We also seek to examine our own assumptions, to encourage each child and youth in their own search for what is true, and accept each person’s spiritual growth within community – in this way to be ever evolving rather than accept religion as handed to us and to make the familiar strange.
In this diverse world, we need more open minds and loving hearts – and definitely more helping hands. People of all faiths – including the atheist, the agnostic, the unsure, the unchurched – share common concerns of the heart and are all part of our shared community.
Through educating ourselves and our youth about each other, and through growing ourselves and unpacking the biases and assumptions and cultural norms that put up barriers we may not even be aware of, we can make that shared community more loving.
Religious pluralism is not a new idea.
It was almost 500 years ago that it was said “we need not think alike to love alike”, but it is more true today than ever before, and just as needed.Sarah Lewis is director of religious education at Olympia Unitarian Universalist Congregation. Perspective is coordinated by Interfaith Works in cooperation with The Olympian. The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily endorsed by Interfaith Works or The Olympian.