by Byron Tyler Coles
As a millennial growing up in what many consider a secular nation, religion has always fascinated me. Beyond the beautiful prayers, elaborate rituals, and humbling acts of devotion and care. An individual’s faith or philosophy plays a significant role in their lives; it impacts how they relate to the world, to their families, to their friends, and to the communities that surround them.
While growing up in the mountains of southwestern Virginia, I was never overly exposed to varying religious thought or practice outside of my own loosely Christian household. Never did I make the overarching assumption that all people believed as my family or I did, but never did I realize there existed such plethora of religious ideologies.
Yet after leaving the faith tradition that I was raised in and discovered Paganism and Unitarian Universalism, I also realized that faith could have a revolutionary effect on changing a person’s outlook on life.
For many, it is hard to understand how two traditions such as Paganism and Unitarian Universalism can go hand in hand. But upon truly looking at both traditions, one quickly notices several overlapping similarities. Of such are the ideas that all life is interconnected and all people deserve respect for they hold inherent worth and dignity. This was a radical notion that changed not only my way of thinking but also how I related to others.
As it is often stated within my Unitarian Universalist congregation in Roanoke, Virginia, “the arc of the universe truly does bend towards justice.” And I have faith in that! Not just blind faith that relies on hope, but a faith that comes from the experience of knowing and seeing so many others who are dedicated to a multitude of causes. And it is in seeing those individuals and communities do such work that I am inspired to continue forward with the good fight.
As an active Unitarian Universalist-Pagan, my faith and how I live out my ideologies are central to my work as an activist within many communities. No matter the cause, ultimately, my work towards a more just and loving world is unwaveringly centered in the humanity of all people. In so much that all people are just that, people: sisters and brothers. Siblings. A beautifully complex and reach family of different colors, shades, sizes, and ways to express love. Yet at the same time, my siblings have been challenged by a multitude of injustices including racism, sexism, transphobia and host of other atrocities. And it is because of my faith, because of my UU-Pagan values that I must stand tall to these sinful systems and progress towards a way of being that values all life upon this green earth.
If you have heard the call for justice and yet not answered to it, now is the time. Join your many siblings around the world who have started this work of change making. Remember, a single person can make a world of difference.
Tyler Coles is your average millennial who hopes to make a difference in the world through one conversation at a time. Over the past four years Tyler has devoted his time to creating a more radically inclusive society through his work concerning interfaith cooperation, advocating for the LGBTQ community, and leading conversations concerning race in the United States. His future plans are to become a college chaplain focusing on multicultural advocacy and interreligious engagement.