Faith Matters: Finding space for each other on our lonely planet

  • Lay speaker Barry Deitz at the Bernardston Unitarian Church. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz

  • Lay speaker Barry Deitz at the Bernardston Unitarian Church. February 19, 2018. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz

  • Earthrise. NASA image

Lay speaker, Bernardston Unitarian Universalist Church
Published: 3/2/2018 10:44:46 AM

(Each Saturday, a faith leader in Franklin County offers a personal perspective in this space. To become part of this series, email or call 413-772-0261, ext. 265.)

The most famous photograph in history was taken by Bill Anders on Dec. 24, 1968. You’ve seen it. You may have had a poster of it in your dorm room at college. It is the most requested photograph from the Library of Congress. It is credited with starting the Green movement and environmentalism. It is a view of our planet taken from Apollo 8. It’s called Earthrise.

There we are, a beautiful swirling blue world, floating in space. It shows us how extraordinarily unique we are and yet how delicate the balance is that keeps us alive on this slowly revolving world in that vast ocean of night.

What a stark and powerful reminder of the need to get along that photograph is! I believe the floating planet in that photo has many lessons to teach us, but the most important is: We are in this together. Short of a teleporting device coming online in the near future, we’ve got nowhere to go. We cannot escape each other.

I am a lay speaker at the Bernardston Unitarian Universalist Church and on every third Sunday over the past several months I have been presenting a series on the Seven Principles of Unitarian Universalism. These principles were adopted by the UUs in 1960, though they brought together ideas and beliefs the Unitarians and Universalists had been evolving since the mid-1800s. The principles outline a journey of spiritual growth and enlightenment, a journey of ever-widening connection and interaction. The first of these looks at the individual, affirming the inherent worth and dignity of every person. Then the principles move outward, establishing openness and encouraging growth in our relations to each other, to our congregations, our communities, our society at large, the protection and preservation of our planet and finally in our quest for peace, liberty and justice for all human beings.

It’s a big agenda, but hey, in the quest for global spiritual and cultural awareness and equality, go big or go home. And now we are seeing every day a narrowing of the concept of liberty this nation was founded upon in 1776. The definition of freedom and equality in a democracy must keep expanding, must be increasingly encompassing and inclusive, or that democracy is failing. You can define your freedom by the freedom of those around you, or you can define it by whom you enslave.

Let me tell you what I love most about the Earthrise photograph. As our planet wheeled into the light on that Christmas Eve in 1968, what the light revealed was the continent of Africa. Astronaut Bill Anders could look down and see through the windows of his spacecraft the Great Rift Valley, where our first ancestors evolved millions of years ago. How marvelous, that the first view of our home planet from space is looking through a spray of clouds at where we all began. I find that beautiful and inspiring.

A deep-hearted understanding that we are in this together and that seeing each other as brothers and sisters on the only home we will every know is our greatest hope of survival. We are living in a time when peace, liberty and justice are fighting for their lives and only an understanding of each other’s right to our own beliefs, loves and dreams can keep those things alive. Joining hands, and lifting each other up, we can thread ourselves into a wall of humanity that takes everyone in and finds a place for every one. Supporting each other. Lifting each other. Earth Rise.

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