Reverence, an ancient, forgotten, cardinal virtue

By Jean Strahlendorf
Special to The PREVIEW

On Sunday, Nov. 24, Jean Strahlendorf will present a talk at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship on reverence as a virtue receding in our current society.

Although we have the word “reverence” in our language, we scarcely know how to use it. It can be associated with both the secular and religious practices.

Reverence begins with a deep understanding of human limitations; from this grows the capacity to be in awe or wonder of whatever we believe lies outside of our control. The capacity for awe, as it grows, brings with it the capacity for respecting fellow human beings, flaws and all. This in turn fosters the ability to be ashamed when we show moral flaws exceeding the normal human allotment.

Reverence has its roots in ancient Greece and with followers of Confucius in China. Both cultures believed that reverence maintains social order and harmony, minimizing the risk of civil war. Examples of irreverent thought are beliefs that trespass on divine ground, such as belief that one is supreme in any way, or belief that anyone knows the mind of their God.

Reverence as a virtue, so important to the ancients, has fallen beneath the horizons of our intellectual vision. And yet reverence is all around us, even in the most ordinary ceremonies of our lives.

Since all of us are trying to live good lives, and since reverence is a cardinal virtue, like courage and justice, it makes sense to closely examine it in our lives and religious practices. Reverence fosters leadership and education, kindles warmth in friendship and family life, and without reverence things fall apart.

Jean Strahlendorf is a professor emeritus at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center in the Department of Cell Physiology and Molecular Biophysics. She was engaged in scientific research and taught integrated neuroscience and neuropharmacology to medical students. She currently serves on the UU Worship Committee and is involved in programs that promote social justice.

The Fellowship has a children’s spiritual educational program and encourage families with children to please join us for our Sunday service. Our children’s religious programs teach our Unitarian Universalist heritage, ethical living, moral precepts to love your neighbor, work for a better world, and to search for truth with an open mind. Arts and crafts projects are utilized to illustrate these principles.

The service begins at 10:30 a.m. in the Pagosa Unitarian Universalist Fellowship Hall. The address is Unit B-15, Greenbriar Plaza. Turn east on Greenbriar Drive off of North Pagosa Boulevard by the fire station, then left into the back parking lot and look for the big sign. All are welcome.

This story was posted on November 21, 2013.