Tuesday, June 27, 2017

The 8th Principle

An Eighth Principle has been proposed.

“We, the member congregations of the Unitarian Universalist Association, covenant to affirm and promote: journeying toward spiritual wholeness by working to build a diverse multicultural Beloved Community by our actions that accountably dismantle racism and other oppressions in ourselves and our institutions.”

The Eighth Principle brings to the level of our Principles the commitment to anti-racism, anti-oppression, and multiculturalism that we first declared in a Resolution of Immediate Witness in 1994, and further as a Business Resolution in 1997.

The Principles are the statement of our common theology, which, by our many previous commitments, is necessarily a public theology. (As soon as the UU's began to say "Deeds, not Creeds" to describe our theological approach, we withdrew, as a body, from a common approach to the categories of traditional systematic theology.) Unitarian Universalist hold many diverse theological perspectives; what unites us is our public theology: our mission in the world, our ways of doing things, and our journey toward wholeness. Our Principles are our public theology, as of 1985.

The Seven Principles, as written, do not describe what opposes them. They are sunny and utopian. Their shadow side, though, is our self-righteousness, which follows directly from the Principles one-sidedness. They do not name why they are not universally practiced and why we ourselves fail them so often. After all, if we have such high ideals, then we must the good ones. And those who don't agree must, therefore, be the bad ones.

To bring anti-oppression to the Principles identifies what opposes our sunny view. We are stepping beyond the "We Good; They must be Bad" world of the Principles. We say that Oppressive Systems are what opposes the Principles, and we acknowledge, because we are talking about systems, that we are implicated in them as well. We are all implicated in the oppressive systems that rule our world, different only in angle and degree.

Anti-oppression is not a political, or sociological, assertion. Implicit in its generality (not listing certain oppressions and struggles) is a statement correcting our too optimistic view of human nature, Human beings establish relationships of domination and subordination. Human beings oppress and exploit one another. Human beings organize themselves to oppress one another. Human beings build oppressive structures. Human beings are guilty bystanders in those systems. At the root of what we have called sin is the participation as the dominant side in those oppressive relationships.

What can save us from "this body of sin," to use the words of Paul?

The proposed Principle says that Beloved Community is possible on the other side of "dismantling racism and other oppressions in ourselves and in our institutions." There is a interesting ambiguity in the word "our" here. I think that "our" must refer to the global humanity community; our goal must be more than the creation of Unitarian Universalism itself, as the Beloved Community.

I support the adoption of the eighth principle as a positive step in our theological development as a faith community.

4 comments:

Steve LaBonne said...

I'm 100% for the content but would like someone to rewrite it in a language at least vaguely resembling English. Holy tortured syntax, Batman!

Conrad said...

I am concerned that the proposed principle is the only one that seems to contain bullet points about how it would be carried out, and those bullet points are primarily anti instead of pro. Dismantling, etc., is the language of this is what we don't do. What about the language of what we are trying to accomplish. The 7th principle does not talk about littering nor polluting, the 1st principle does not talk about hatred, the 5th principle does not talk about the suppression of free press, censorship, or propaganda. Why should a principle about building a community where people will be able to live and relate to their full potential need to talk about the things that are holding them back? Those are things you talk about when trying to figure out how to operationalize the principle. No other principle tells you how to operationalize it, which should this one?

Jennifer Dyster said...


I think the first principle says it and you dont need another. You may need lots of action and a plan to put the principle of inherent dignity into action re different groups but no point in dealling with it on an abstract level.

Anonymous said...

Maybe instead of an Eighth Principle we need our own Seven Deadly Sins - obstacles to achieving the Principles that we work to dismantle both within and without.