Does Mardi Gras Invalidate Lent?
Although the Universal Life Church is not a Christian or a Catholic organization, we share many of the same basic beliefs that constitute the foundations of these religions. For instance, our interfaith ministers agree with the Christian message that actions as well as thoughts play a significant part in mortality. Those who knowingly commit acts that they believe are wrong sometimes depend on their religion to offer them ablution simply because they’ve asked for forgiveness after the fact. A great example of this is those who celebrate Mardi Gras in ways that are against the teachings of their religion before repenting during Lent to make up for their transgressions. This can be compared to intentionally living a life outside the boundaries of personal belief systems and asking for redemption on the deathbed.
The term Mardi Gras is actually French for Fat Tuesday, which is the last night before Lent when believers can enjoy dining on foods rich in calories, fat and taste. Over the years, revelers have incorporated other behavior into Mardi Gras festivities. Most people who celebrate Mardi Gras consider it to be great fun and often go all-out in their activities, similar to how some people spend Saturday nights engaging in behavior that is considered a sin by their church before appearing at services on Sunday morning.
The interfaith ministers who have become ordained through the Universal Life Church do not necessarily believe that the behavior of Mardi Gras revelers constitutes sin. However, we do feel as if spiritual beliefs should be given more than just lip service. Its a complex issue because even though most people probably consider such behavior to be gaming the system, common interpretations of certain parables in Christianity validate the idea that those who reach spiritual enlightenment late in life are entitled to the same rewards as those who have been pious from an early age. The Biblical Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard portrays a situation in which workers were paid the same whether they had worked for one hour in the vineyard or for an entire day. This parable stresses the belief that God loves all people equally and that does not grant favoritism based on the length of time that a person has been a believer.
Conflicts such as these are excellent opportunities for discussion about spiritual matters. Is it really morally right to use the act of asking for forgiveness after engaging in behavior that is against one’s moral code as a sort of spiritual “get out of jail free” card, and is it possible for a person to abuse the notion of forgiveness so many times that they run out of free passes?
Those who become ordained in the Universal Life Church don’t follow a set of beliefs decided on by others. We believe that every individual, including our interfaith ministers, has to find and follow his or her own spiritual path. Part of the process of developing an individual moral code is exploring questions such as this one thoughtfully and in-depth.
ULC Celebrates World Religion Day
Many religions share goals of strengthening love, hope, and faith both within individuals and amongst a community
Since 1950, the third Sunday of January has been the official day of celebration of World Religion Day. This day of recognition of the commonalities between all world religions was originally started by the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of the United States. It has also been adopted as a day of celebration by the Universal Life Church since their inception in 1959.
The ULC was founded with the basic doctrine to, “Do only that which is right.” Anyone may become ordained as an interfaith minister by the church free of charge.
This year, World Religion Day will be celebrated on Sunday, January 20th with activities all around the globe. The purpose of the celebration is opening doors of communication between people of all faiths, and even those without expressed faith, to identify common values and goal that promote world harmony.
Celebration of World Religion Day does not require being a member of Baha’is or the ULC. While interfaith ministers will preside over ceremonies in many places, all people are encouraged to participate by doing something that recognizes the fundamental affinity of all world religions. Such activities include:
• Attending the religious services of another faith.
• Initiating a conversation with someone of another faith about the commonalities between religions.
• Attending a celebration of World Religion Day sponsored by the Universal Life Church or Baha’is organizations.
• Personal contemplation of the common goals of all world religions in their aspiration to work as a motivating force for harmony in the world.
The goals of all religions include a desire for peace and an expression of universal love for all humankind. Some may want to become ordained as an interfaith minister in the ULC as a way of assisting others who seek religious recognition or want to perform a wedding, baptism or passing away, but who do not feel comfortable within the structures of more traditional churches and centers of faith.
All religions and faiths have a common core of belief that can become obscured by doctrinal differences and differing rituals and practices. World Religion Day is a moment to recall and celebrate what unites us all beyond and above our diverse ways of expressing our desire for universal love, harmony and peace.
Interfaith Ministers Celebrate Stewardship of Planet
Though created by a Christian church, Earth Sabbath is an interfaith opportunity of people of all faiths to join the conversation on helping the planet
As stewards of this planet that has been provided by the Creator, it is a duty of utmost importance to all those who have become ordained in the Universal Life Church and have taken upon the calling that the Creator has bestowed upon them to lead people from all walks of life in works of faith, healing and love. Never before has it been so apparent that the actions of this generation will have and are already having a profound effect on the sustainability of the Earth and on its precious natural resources that are too often taken for granted. The current changes in the Earth’s weather patterns, the effects of which can be seen daily, speak of the urgency of the Earth’s condition. The theory of climate change can no longer be denied. These changes are rapidly becoming reality, and the time for people of faith to take action is now.
An interfaith holiday with the purpose of bringing spirituality into the environmental issues that are at the forefront of modern society, the “Earth Sabbath” celebration was established by a Raleigh, North Carolina Community United Church of Christ. This celebration is a time for interfaith ministers who have become ordained in the Universal Life Church to reach out to their congregations, friends and neighbors, touching the hearts and minds of people from all walks of life, and offer guidance and direction to those who need to express their grief over the condition of the planet, to express their love for the remarkable home the Creator has provided and to energize people into action. The insight that comes from merging spirituality and environmentalism is necessary to facilitate the changes that are vital to the longevity of the Earth and the resources it provides. People who have embraced their spirituality cannot deny the importance that interfaith organizations must place on the environmental concerns that plague this planet. Spirituality is the very core of environmentalism and love for the planet. The “Earth Sabbath” is a holiday that will allow people of all faiths to come together to harmoniously express their feelings, voice their concerns and bring about action with a peaceful, loving attitude of respect that can only be achieved through acts of faith, love and kindness.
It is vital in these difficult times that people of faith do not fail to head the messages that the Earth is sending about the importance of dealing proactively with the impending and already occurring changes in the climate. For those who are already an interfaith minister or those who feel led to become ordained, it is the time for action and for sharing information and ideas to preserve this planet with those who seek the leadership and guidance of the Universal Life Church.
Interfaith Ministers and Overlapping Consensus
“We are all children of the same Universe.”
That is the main tenet behind the philosophy of the Universal Life Church. When you get ordained, you become an interfaith minister in the truest sense of the word; you serve those who believe in their creator, regardless of race, religion, nationality, or sexual orientation.
The idea that we all share common beliefs and values, no matter by what means we arrive at or express those beliefs and values, is paramount to the core philosophy of the Universal Life Church and, ideally, to all of those who get ordained as an interfaith minister in our Church.
However, this is not a new concept. The notion was first put forth by John Rawls, who coined the term “overlapping consensus,” in his “Theory of Justice.” It was used as the basis of Charles Taylor’s nominal work “Conditions of an Unforced Consensus on Human Rights” as the foundation for true peace and equality in a modern and enlightened society.
Overlapping consensus is the idea that society functions best when persons agree on certain norms that govern human behavior, while agreeing to keep in check differences in why these are the proper norms. This applies to political, national, and religious beliefs.
He uses as an illustration the fundamental differences between the Eastern idea that all members of society should act in concert for the common good as opposed the more individualist nature of Western thought, while reaching the same conclusions concerning the nature of the implied rights of society in general.
These norms can be described as Universal rights; basic rights that we all share as the essence of our humanity. While there is no universal agreement on the full extent of these rights or an exact enumeration of what they are, Taylor believes that is essential to the future of modern civilization the we come to a general understanding of certain basic fundamentals that we can all agree on as necessary for peaceful coexistence without the need to justify why they are right.
In other words, there are certain things that we instinctively ‘know’ as an enlightened species. Taylor refers to them as subjective rights, differentiated by natural rights that we are all born with and those rights that are conferred by law.
I think we can all agree on the following:
– People have a right to dignity as human beings.
– People have the right to live.
– People have a right to freedom in their associations and beliefs, free from prejudice.
The Dalai Lama recently reiterated this sentiment when he stated that we should teach and reinforce core moral values; the ideas of peace, justice, equality, and love for our fellow beings. However, since the main source of conflict and division in and between organized religions and differing faiths is in matters of dogma and not ideology, it is best to focus on non-religious teaching to impart these ideals.
Simply put, don’t clutter the essential message with insignificant details that don’t matter in the long run. It is only when we agree put aside our differences and focus on our common beliefs and goals that there can be true peace and equality in the world.
Interfaith Ministers Reject Bitterness
Religious author Joanna Weaver once said, “Bitterness is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die.” Figuratively, this illustrates the point that a bitter person is usually focused on the person with whom they are angry, not recognizing the damage that is being done to their selves in the process. In the Universal Life Church we urge all of our interfaith ministers to not only think about the figurative implications of this statement, but the literal significance as well.
Whether Ms. Weaver was aware of it or not when she wrote these words, recent studies have shown that bitterness and anger can actually have negative physical effects on the human body, particularly on the heart. According to Katherine Kam, a regular contributor to WebMD, anger may cause a person’s “fight or flight” response to trigger within the body. One of the many results of this response is a sudden increase in blood pressure and stress hormones, including cortisol and adrenaline. People who are bitter or angry on a regular basis simply raise their chances of having a negative reaction to this physiological response, even including the chance of a heart attack.
More than just physiological, though, bitterness drives wedges of separation into relationships. The Universal Life Church invites all faith backgrounds and traditions to worship freely. This concept of spiritual freedom has the potential the lead to disagreements, which sometimes result in anger and bitterness. However, by affirming the right of each individual to choose freely and allowing people from all backgrounds to become interfaith ministers, we strive to bridge these differences by centering on the concept, “Do only that which is right.”
We believe that judgment leads to bitterness in the heart. Unlike some churches and religions that come across as very exclusive and condemnatory, the Universal Life Church leads with acceptance of all. Not only does this mantra lead to better relationships with people around the world, but according to these recent medical studies, it also keeps our interfaith ministers in good health as they continue the work of our church.
Relationally, physiologically, mentally and spiritually, there are numerous reasons for avoiding bitterness. As a minister, people follow your lead. Congregants recognize your strengths and weaknesses more effectively than you recognize them yourself. Sometimes ministers can feel like they have their own bitterness under control, hiding their anger under a façade of kindness. However, those with whom a minister comes into regular contact are able to see through the veil and recognize the anger in a minister’s heart nonetheless. For the good of yourself, your family, and for those whom you serve, avoid the ill effects of bitterness at all costs. You do not want to be the bad apple that spoils the bunch; especially when people are looking to you to their spiritual guide and leader.
So next time you feel bitterness creeping up in your heart, remember to lead with acceptance instead of judgment, for the good of the relationship at hand and for the good of your own health.