I'm about to talk about one of the things you're never supposed to talk about in polite conversation. Hopefully you'll stick around at the table.
I had the occasion, at a party the other day, to mention that I'm Unitarian Universalist (UU). When I tell people this, they usually look at me like I'm Satan spawn, or at least like I'm a little less credible in the realm of spirituality.
It's sort of funny that I ended up a UU; my husband and I were married by a UU minister, simply because my husband was raised without religion, I was raised Catholic (and had long since left the church because it just wasn't a good fit for me), and we wanted something more than just a civil ceremony, but I never in a million years thought that I'd be a member of a UU fellowship. I remember sitting in the parking lot of the church where the minister who married us was going to meet us, watching people come out, and thinking "hm, so that's what Unitarians look like. They're sort of ... weird." My father, old-world Catholic that he was, almost had a heart attack when we told him what we were doing for our wedding, saying that UU's didn't believe in anything, begging me to reconsider. Luckily for him, I guess, he didn't live long enough to see me sign the book in our church. (Though in all seriousness, he probably would be glad that I at least go to a church.)
After a long hiatus from organized religion, when I was pregnant with my son, about five years ago, we started to look for a spiritual home. It was less that I felt like I needed one, and more that we both wanted a community of somewhat like-minded people to help us raise our child with the kinds of values we espoused. And though we happened upon this particular community by chance (it was a potluck picnic day when we arrived ... how ironic is that, given what you know about me?), it's really come to fit us. Our fellowship is full of young families like ours (though there are plenty of older members, too, and single people, and divorcees, and every other kind of family configuration you can imagine), and the people really do live their values: they're people I find myself looking up to, and wanting to be when I grow up.
So what's a UU? There are seven principles which Unitarian Universalist congregations affirm and promote:
- The inherent worth and dignity of every person;
- Justice, equity and compassion in human relations;
- Acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations;
- A free and responsible search for truth and meaning;
- The right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large;
- The goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all;
- Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part (more on this, and muffins, in a minute).
Sources of wisdom include
- Words and deeds of prophetic women and men which challenge us to confront powers and structures of evil with justice, compassion, and love;
- Wisdom from the world's religions which inspires us in our ethical and spiritual life;
- Jewish and Christian teachings which call us to love our neighbors as ourselves;
- Humanist teachings which counsel us to heed the guidance of reason and the results of science, and warn us against idolatries of the mind and spirit;
- Spiritual teachings of earth-centered traditions which celebrate the sacred circle of life and instruct us to live in harmony with the rhythms of nature.
And it's funny ... I really do find myself thinking twice about my actions, sometimes, because of the community I belong to, and the way that it's required me to articulate my values.
The other day, I interviewed with an office, back at my previous employer, that seeks to recruit and retain women faculty members in the sciences ... to diversify the field. I think I nailed the interview, though unfortunately, it would probably mean a drop in both salary and in title, if I were offered the job (not that I'm jumping the gun here). Thing is, I may be offered the opportunity to live my values. To do something important for a change, besides cater mostly to people who would do just fine without me. It's not often that such an opportunity falls into our laps, is it? Do you get to live your values in your line of work? (SAHMs are definitely included in that question!) Should I can this whole return to higher education, and just open a bakery already, or an online mail-order baked goods supply company (K, from Pull Up Your Potty Seat, says I should ... and even sent me a lovely gift toward my startup supplies ... thank you, K!)
These muffins are another way I get to live my values. They're vegan (so they affirm the 7th principle of recognizing/appreciating the interdependent web of existence, and our role in tending that delicate web), and incredibly delicious. This recipe is modified from one that was developed by one of our fellowship members; I promised not to reveal his secret, but I think I can share my version with you.
7th Principle Fruit and Nut Muffins
1/2 c. raisins
1 c. dried apricots, chopped
1 c. prunes, chopped
1 c. chopped walnuts, lightly toasted
1 c. chopped almonds, lightly toasted
4 T. flax seed neal mixed in 3/4 c. water, set aside to thicken 2-3 minutes
2/3 c. canola oil
2 t. vanilla
1/4 c. orange juice
2 c. white whole wheat flour
1 c. evaporated cane juice (fair trade, please)
2 t. baking soda
4 t. cinnamon
1/2 t. ginger
1/2 t. salt
Place dried fruit in a small saucepan and add enough water to cover. Bring to a boil, remove from heat and let sit 15 minutes to plump fruit. Drain.
Preheat oven to 400. In a large bowl, blend dry ingredients with a whisk. In a small bowl, blend flax mixture, oil, vanilla, juice; pour into a well in the middle of the dry ingredients and mix until just blended. Fold in nuts and fruit.
Line 12 muffin tins with large liners, and fill each cup with a generous helping of batter. Bake at 400 for 20-25 minutes, until lightly brown and springs back to touch.