Quaker Universalist Conversations

Freedom and the Spiritual Life

By Leland Stuart

Leland Stuart, one of the leaders of the interfaith community here in Los Angeles, shares some his spiritual  reflections on the democratic revolutions taking place in the Middle East.

We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all people are create equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with inalienable rights, and that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

                 Thomas Jefferson, Science and Spirituality, pages 162-163

       Young people are capable, when aroused, of bringing down the  towers of oppression and raising the banners of freedom.

                  Nelson Mandela, Science and Spirituality, page 164

 The recent actions in Tunisia, Egypt, Bahrain, Libya, and other countries, as well as in Wisconsin and Ohio in this country, show the powerful time of change in which we are now living.  There was a time when freedom and democracy were most thought of as being the possession of the United States of America alone.  Since then it spread to most of Europe, and now it is becoming necessary for the health and well-being of increasing numbers of countries throughout the world.  What was thought of as being far away for the more authoritarian countries is now being realized as the rightful possession of all peoples and all nations.

 Now is therefore a time of revolution in these parts of the world.  Revolution simply means a rapid time of change, culminating from a long and usually painful time of evolution to something better but not fully possible previously.  Now, all of a sudden, that period of incubation has exploded into reality, or at least potential reality.  This time of change is fraught with uncertainty and temporary unsettledness.  Will things improve, or will they get worse?  What we are told is that people generally will not return to what they no longer want and have fought so long to transcend.  Something much better is likely to emerge, but it will take time and patience, as well as perseverance.

 Revolutions often seem to be negative.  Something that was oppressive is being rejected, and the result can leave some people feeling hopeless and full of anxiety.  On the other hand, the positive side is that something much better is likely to happen once the door has been opened.  The rapid development of the USA is a major case in point.  The role of faith is very important here.  Our faith is what can keep us pursuing our dreams and helping to make life better.

 Our spirituality is what gives us the sense of the ultimate nature of life and keeps us looking up and trusting that life does have meaning.  At the same time, our ethics are what help us to relate to other people, to other forms of life, and to the world as a whole.  Even if we do not consciously have an awareness of God (called by any name or no name), we still need to live by ethical principles.  Everyone needs to keep to a high ethical standard in order for society to function well.  The Golden Rule can help us in that direction: TREAT OTHERS AS YOU WOULD OTHERS TREAT YOU.  Others today applies to all forms of life and to all aspects of life.

 The world has reached a crossroads.  We are at a very crucial time for practicing our ethics in relation to our own life, to our neighbors near and far, to ridding the world of nuclear weapons, to resolving our challenges of global climate change, and the like.  It is time for all of us to step to our responsibilities and be the courageous and informed person we can be.  The price of freedom is eternal vigilance!

 In the Spirit of Unity-and-Diversity!!!

 Leland Stuart, director the Unity-and-Diversity World Council, received a degree from Harvard, was ordained a Unitaritarian Universalist minister, and hs been active in interfaith work since the 1950s. He has written and edited books, including Science and Spirituality and World Scriptures . For more information, contact UDC at P.O. Box 661401, Los Angeles, CA 90066-9201; Phone: 310-391-5735; Email: udcworld1@yahoo.com; Website: www.udcworld.org

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