Friday, May 7, 2010

What does it mean to be a person of courage?

In the Rochester, NY area Rev. Scott Tayler at First Unitarian has started a monthly theme and small group ministry curriculum which is called Soul Matters. The theme for May is "What Does It Mean To Be A Person Of Courage?" My Soul Matters group met last night. Also, Rev. Peggy Meeker's sermons this month are based on the topic of courage. Some of the participating churches also tie in their children's religious ed with the theme.

I have been troubled by the idea of courage. It is like goodness, beauty, justice: everyone has a different idea of what it means.

I find it difficult to articulate my thoughts and feelings on what it means to be a person of courage because I think it means different things to different people depending on your level of consciousness.

Courage can be engaged at the egocentric level, the ethnocentric level, and the kosmocentric level.

Most of us instinctively will act to save ourselves, a loved one, and things which are threatened that are important to us. Is this courage or self preservation?

The jingoism and chauvinism flows when we praise people who go to battle to protect, preserve, and promote our group. Are suicide bombers courageous? Are young American boys and girls who join the military to kill Iraqis and Afghanis at the behest of an immoral and corrupt government courageous? I find more courageous the Winter Soldiers who have stood up against the immoral activity and gone to jail.

Was Jesus of Nazareth courageous when He ignored the pleas of His disciples to leave Jerusalem and He told them "get behind Me Satan" and "put away your swords."?

I think people show courage when they stand up for what they believe is right, true, just in the face of negative consequences. It takes guts to speak truth to power when you can be persecuted, mocked, arrested, tortured, even killed. Most people don't have the guts, they don't have the heart, they have too much to loose.

The rich young man asks Jesus, "What do I have to do to get to the kingdom?"

Jesus says simply, "Follow the commandments."

The young man says, "I already do that and there seems to be more."

Jesus says, "Sell everything you have, give the money to the poor, and come follow me."

There it is right there. The test of real courage.

The young man saddened and turned away.

So do we. We sell our soul to the devil every day because we are afraid. We have little faith. We lack the courage to be true to ourselves and to each other and to the faith which we so easily profess.

Would you give up every thing for your Unitarian Univeralist faith?

I didn't think so, and I am not sure that I would either.

Our faith is cheap faith. Few of us, put ourselves on the line for it. Few of us are clear about what it even is. It is hard to give up everything for something so fluffy, so saccharine, so psychobabbly. As Sarah Palin mockingly said, "How's that hopey changey thing workin for ya?"

Courage takes heart, and most Unitarian Universalists that I have met are nice people. They seem to want to be taken seriously, but it is hard to do so. They are in it for the feel good stuff, but it has no depth, it has no heart.

Until Unitarian Universalism finds its heart it will continue to be a very small denomination of very nice do-gooders. What it could use is a big dose of courage.

I, myself, am not sure if I am a person of courage, but I am not willing to sell my soul to the devil. Many times in my life I have followed Jesus' suggestion and given things up like jobs, houses, even a wife, two children, friendships, and material objects, money, etc. As Tracy Chapman sings, all that you have is your soul.

Like Diogenes who, with his lantern, roamed the countryside looking for an honest person, I, likewise, wander the countryside looking for a courageous UU. Do you know any you could point me toward?


  1. Hi David,

    I see that you posted a comment to Linda Laskowski's 'The Observer' blog post in response to my comment here. Here is how I responded to Linda's response to your comment -

    Well said Linda.

    I agree 100% that it should not take that much courage to act on the first principle of Unitarian Universalism, or indeed most of the other ones, although there are some special situations where some courage may well be needed to honor and uphold UU principles.

    I somewhat waggishly suggested to David you were a UU leader who had shown a modicum courage by "daring" to tell the truth about my participation as an observer at the April, 2010 Board meeting, especially in light of the harsh negative reaction that you received from *some* UU bloggers for doing so.

    end quote

    Usually if there is a smiley-wink emoticon following one of my comments it is an indication that it is not to be taken *too* seriously.