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This week is the final week of this year's 30 Days of Love, a project sponsored by the Unitarian Universalist Association that aims to "harness love’s power to stop oppression" through a combination of community activism and outreach. The annual effort is an outgrowth of Standing on the Side of Love, a movement that began in the aftermath of a tragedy: In 2008, two Unitarian Universalists were killed and several more seriously injured in a church shooting in Knoxville, Tennessee. Targeted because of their "liberal" values of acceptance, the congregation was flooded with support and messages of love from the greater Knoxville community, cementing the movement's core idea that love is the key to overpowering oppression.


Spanning from roughly Martin Luther King, Jr. Day to Valentine's Day, the 30 Days of Love campaign invites the community to take part during this "period of intentional action, service, education, and reflection" on themes of social justice, faith, and unification. This week's theme is "Pause, Reflect, Celebrate." In that spirit, and in the spirit of using love to conquer the ills of society, we present a few books that we hope will inspire you to pause, reflect, and celebrate the idea of using love as a force for greater good.

1444Gather at the Table: The Healing Journey of a Daughter of Slavery and a Son of the Slave Tradeby Thomas Norman DeWolf and Sharon Leslie Morgan

Sharon Leslie Morgan, a black woman from Chicago's South Side, is a descendent of slaves on both sides of her family. She began a journey toward racial reconciliation with Thomas Norman DeWolf, a white man from rural Oregon who descends from the largest slave-trading dynasty in US history. Over a three-year period, the pair traveled thousands of miles, both overseas and through twenty-seven states, visiting ancestral towns, courthouses, cemeteries, plantations, antebellum mansions, and historic sites. Gather at the Table is the chronicle of their journey. 

As DeWolf and Morgan demonstrate, before we can overcome racism we must first acknowledge and understand the damage inherited from the past-which involves confronting painful truths such as the unhealed wounds of racism. This book is a revelatory testament to the possibilities that emerge when people commit to truth, justice, and reconciliation. 

7975Salaam, Love: American Muslim Men on Love, Sex, and Intimacy, edited by Ayesha Mattu and Nura Maznavi
In Salaam, Love, Ayesha Mattu and Nura Maznavi provide a space for American Muslim men to speak openly about their romantic lives, offering frank, funny, and insightful glimpses into their hearts-and bedrooms. The twenty-two writers come from a broad spectrum of ethnic, racial, and religious perspectives-including orthodox, cultural, and secular Muslims-reflecting the strength and diversity of their faith community and of America. 

By raising their voices to share stories of love and heartbreak, loyalty and betrayal, intimacy and insecurity, these Muslim men are leading the way for all men to recognize that being open and honest about their feelings is not only okay-it's intimately connected to their lives and critical to their happiness and well-being.
In Faitheist, Chris Stedman makes a passionate argument that atheists should engage religious diversity respectfully. Becoming aware of injustice, and craving community, Stedman became a "born-again" Christian only to encounter staunch homophobia at a time when he was slowly coming to realize that he was gay. The great suffering he experienced might have turned Stedman into a lifelong "New Atheist." But over time he came to know more open-minded Christians and found that his disdain and hostility toward religion was holding him back from engaging in meaningful work with people of faith. And it was keeping him from full relationships with them-the kinds of relationships that break down intolerance and improve the world. As someone who has stood on both sides of the divide, Stedman is uniquely positioned to present a way for atheists and the religious to find common ground and work together to make this world-the one world we can all agree on-a better place.

0066A Gift of Love: Sermons from Strength to Love and Other Preachings, by The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
As Rev. King prepared for the Birmingham campaign in early 1963, he drafted the final sermons for Strength to Love, a volume of his best-known homilies. King had begun working on the sermons during a fortnight in jail in July 1962. Having been arrested for holding a prayer vigil outside Albany City Hall, King and Ralph Abernathy shared a jail cell for fifteen days that was, according to King, ''dirty, filthy, and ill-equipped'' and "the worse I have ever seen." While behind bars, he spent uninterrupted time preparing the drafts for classic sermons such as "Loving Your Enemies," "Love in Action," and "Shattered Dreams," and continued to work on the volume after his release. 

A Gift of Love includes these classic sermons, along with two new preachings. Collectively they present King's fusion of Christian teachings and social consciousness, and promote his prescient vision of love as a social and political force for change. 
This year's 30 Days of Love campaign culminates on February 16 with Share the Love Sunday, when congregations and communities across the country are asked to celebrate the previous month's demonstrations of social justice, and remind themselves that, though this year's Month of Love may be nearly over, the gift of love has the power to transcend throughout the year. Read more about the 30 Days of Love campaign on their website, and find out what more you can do to stand on the side of love.