The Common Read for Our Collective Dreams: Sharing Stories as an Act of Faith
Nicolas Cable is a Unitarian Universalist student at Chicago Theological Seminary pursuing a career in UU ministry. He has been actively involved in his church and district over the past several years, serving on several committees and work forces. Please follow him on Twitter or check out his blog to keep up with his writing and commitment to service, justice, and Unitarian Unviersalism.
The concept of a UUA Common Read should be viewed as a wonderful resource for Unitarian Universalists in this country. Our chosen faith tradition advocates an unequivocal commitment to our individual freedom in spiritual and ethical discernment in life. As we progress along our personal life journeys, it is intriguing to consider what a shared text could mean for our collective spiritual movement. I believe it can and will be a powerful experience for those who choose to participate in the Common Read because after we read it we can come together and share our thoughts and feelings about the book in relation to our unfolding lives and our progressive faith tradition.
This year’s Common Read is Eboo Patel’s book, Acts of Faith: The Story of an American Muslim, the Struggle for the Soul of a Generation. Eboo Patel is a young man who is the President and Founder of the Interfaith Youth Core, one of the most successful interfaith organizations in the country dedicated to training young leaders to help foster interfaith cooperation. I have worked with Patel and the IFYC, and what is more powerful than the work they do today is the amazing journey the visionary took to arrive where he leads today.
Patel’s book is an embodiment of the universal struggle we face of coming of age, reconciling our diverse understandings of identity, and living a life of union between our beliefs and our actions. Dr. Patel shares his story of not fitting in growing up, his self-hatred of his “otherness”, and reconnection to his origins of faith, culture, and family. The issues raised in this book are not just relevant to the teenager or young adult. While they are a large target audience for the book, people of all ages can understand our common longing for understanding and learning to love our diverse identities. Unitarian Universalism promotes a freedom and responsibility in our search for truth and meaning, which includes self-understanding and locating one’s “place” in the web of life.
Acts of Faith, however, is not just about coming of age as a minority in a diverse country. Patel also seeks to find a way to leverage the diversity of religious and culture demographics to be a means of social cohesion and change. He longs, as many Unitarian Universalists do, for a world where we can view religious and spiritual traditions as a part of the solution rather than the problem. Countless people, especially young people, are eager to respond to the pressing concerns facing our world. Patel believes, as I do, that if we can come together, uniting around our shared beliefs in service, stewardship, hospitality, and peace, we can truly make a powerful impact in the world. The fact is that we do this everyday in the workplace, the PTA, our neighborhood organizations, etc.
But, it is time for greater intentionality in the social justice work we do in society. We must ask: In the midst of rapid social change and globalization, how can we live our Unitarian Universalist call for greater justice and peace in the world most effectively and extensively? Sharing stories is a powerful way of processing life’s greatest mysteries. My hope is that Acts of Faith invites all of us to enter into a time of reflection and introspection, as individuals and as a religious movement, in order that we might stand ever more squarely on the side of love, united in diversity and driven by our shared acts of faith.