Let this be our house
A house of our creation
Where all our sacred differences
Here shall not divide us.
Our sacred differences. Let that sink in for a moment. Differences are by definition those things that bear us apart, carry us away from each other. We might tend to hear this phrase in our theme song and think of those special gifts that individuals have that we so appreciate in one another, but that’s a euphemistic take on “differences.” The word “difference” is of Latin origin–de, meaning down from, and fer meaning to bear or carry. A difference is something that carries us apart from each other.
Can I look at and listen to you and the things about which you differ with me and call them sacred? Can you look and listen to me and the things about which I differ with you and call them sacred? I suspect that this is a real challenge for us. Community is easiest with people who are like me, who agree with me, who have similar perspectives on the world. We get together and call the things we celebrate in common “sacred,” and that feels good and affirming and consoling.
When one or more in my community present ideas or actions that seem to carry them away from me, I think my first response is certainly an interior troubling. It might also be fear or anger. It doesn’t feel good, and it certainly does not rank as “sacred” in my realm of experience. Yet, in our Unitarian Universalist community, I affirm along with others
“Acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations”
“A free and responsible search for truth and meaning”
These two principles of our Association do something that is almost unheard of in modern American culture except perhaps among our current generation of teens and twenty-somethings–they call for a radical acceptance of one another and the pledge of support for the individual who is seeking his/her path–even when that path carries one away from me.
Affirming and supporting sacred differences may even go farther. I think that when a fellow among us is seeking out her/his own path, and it begins to take them away from us, we are required to remind them that we support them, love them and consider their work sacred work. This is counter-intuitive, and the person on that path that seems to diverge away from us at the time may him/herself feel isolated and alienated. They may, themselves, be tempted to give up on the community which seems to them to be carried away. In these moments, we have been given the gift of this song and these words: we are witnessing sacred differences.
This is really sort of crazy, isn’t it? Who does this sort of thing?
We do. We are building a house of peace.