I identify myself as an atheist, but I find a lot of value in the ideas of Unitarian Univeralism, and I've been active in my local congregation in Fremont, CA for nearly five years now. I've recently begun an initiative to address the lack of racial diversity in my congregation, and as part of my research and networking process I visited the San Jose church last Sunday, which is unique in offering a ministry entirely in the Spanish language. The sermon I attended was entitled "Diversidad Y Prejuicio" (Diversity and Prejudice) and it was interesting and encouraging to discover that the nearly 100% Latino population that attends the Spanish-speaking services also feels a need for increased outreach.
Unitarian Universalists "covenant to affirm and promote" seven guiding principles. In my work to improve awareness of racial issues, I most frequently quote the third and sixth principles, which include phrases such as "acceptance of one another" and "the goal of world community". Last Sunday's sermon, however, focused on the seventh principle, which reads "Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part". It was surprising because to me and most other UUs I've encountered, this particular principle evokes images of nature---the "web of life"---and is most frequently employed when encouraging UUs to speak out and act on behalf of environmental concerns.
Here's the thing: The Spanish version of the principle is "El respeto por el tejido interdependiente de toda la existencia de la cual somos parte"; the word "web" is translated not as tela (used, for example, in tela de araña, "spider web") or even red ("net"), but as tejido, which has more the connotation of "fabric". In fact, the speaker used as a visual aid a brightly-colored weaving with a Native American design on it. When I thought about the Spanish words, I thought not of insects and animals and trees, but of a tapestry made rich by the number of different-colored threads running through it, working together to form a beautiful work of art. From there, the analogy to the value in having a racially diverse congregation was apparent.
I'm constantly amazed by how much our thoughts can be influenced by language, particularly with regard to interpretations of religious material. I'm only half kidding when I claim that fundamentalist Christians should all learn Greek and Hebrew if they want to adhere so closely to the words of the Bible. Divinely inspired or not, everything changes at least a little in translation.