Skip to main content

Using Your Universal Theological Translator

For years, many UUs have talked about something found on Star Trek, that is a useful metaphor for us. See, in the Star Trek universe, there is a device available called a "Universal Translator." With it, you can land on any planet and because of the device you can understand the natives, and the natives of the planet can understand you.

Handy!

Not everyone has that device. But you, as a UU,  do. By virtue of being a Unitarian Universalist, you have the universal theological translator. You are equipped with the openness to ask questions, and the commitment to religious pluralism to swap some of their language for words that make more sense to you. When they say, Allah, or God, your brain subs in “Spirit of Life.” And each one of us has our own translator. Maybe yours subs in Goddess, or Universe; when they talk about Jesus saving them, you can hear the underlying message of someone feeling adrift and alone, but finding a bigger message to believe in.

It is a gift to have this device, and the more you use it, the better it works. It means we can often have really good conversations with people seemingly very different from us. We can create relationships. And in doing so, we can model what it is to be in relationship with people with whom we may have very different understandings about religion.

There is a Zen Buddhist metaphor, "finger pointing at moon." The lesson it it, is that if someone points at the moon, don't look at their finger and think it the moon. It's simply pointing to it.

In religion, we can get caught up in discussing the finger, e.g. the metaphors or the words themselves, and miss the richer discussion of what we are trying to point to.

Lucky UUs, to have such a marvelous invention!


Comments

Popular posts from this blog

900 Days: A White Texan Contemplates Juneteenth

Today is "Juneteenth." Being a Texan, albeit a white one, it is an anniversary I've known about my entire life. I grew up in Houston, where there were special Juneteenth concerts at Miller Outdoor Theater, there would be a celebration at Emancipation Park, there were neighborhood parades, I think I even remember Astroworld doing something. And the full history was known - this was the day when the news finally got to Galveston about the Emancipation Proclamation.

As our Black friends celebrate the day, I hope that white Texans will think about how Texas continues to delay justice. I (cynically? Or is it just realistically?) wonder how much the lesson that was absorbed in Texas was that "hey, but the slave owners snuck in one last harvest."

It is now common practice for our state legislature to passlaws that they know are unconstitutional. But it buys them time to destroy businesses and lives. It buys them time to disenfranchise voters.

How does Texas continue t…

Moving from Crisis to the New Normal

With coronavirus, most of us have been in crisis mode since the second week of March. We burned the candle at both ends, and relit another from its flame right before it sputtered out. We figured out how to do our jobs from home, help our kids do school from home, and how to take care of ourselves and each other as best we could.

I mean, it really is sort of amazing. I know our church was up and online in 7 days. People who had never ordered groceries swiftly learned how to do curbside or delivery. People who hated computers and wanted nothing to do with them took a deep breath, downloaded Zoom, and have been getting on regularly, cheering the spirits of their friends and family members. Bravo, us!

Now, we're facing the idea that this is probably going to go on for a while, and we're going to need to find sustainable ways to live in this way. We're experimenting with expanding our protective bubbles,  moving our furniture around, throwing out the sourdough starter if we do…

Balancing data and processing

I'm a fan of sci-fi for its ability to envision different worlds and ways of being. Since coronavirus began, I've been rewatching Star Trek Voyager, a space show about a team stranded a long way from home. There've been some interesting parallels with what's happening in current events. Including a pandemic. Dontcha kinda wish you could shoot coronavirus like this?


In an episode titled "The Voyager Conspiracy," there is a character called Seven of Nine who has the ability to download information straight into her brain. She engineers the system to download months of information at a time, but her ability to process the information can't be sped up. In trying to make sense of the data, she begins formulating conspiracy theories. Over and over, she adds 2 + 2 and winds up with 5. Too much data, and not enough time to absorb and process it.

So, how are you in this balance right now?

It feels to me like new information, new data, is coming at us at lightning …