I posted a link to Twitter yesterday from a Unitarian Universalist who asked, jokingly, if he ought to feel bad for not knowing the 7 Principles, comparing it to the 10 Commandments, which relatively few Christians can recite.
Now, of course, I don’t expect most UUs to recite the almost-litigious wording of the by-laws, and I won’t fault anyone for not getting them in the right order, but don’t we as UUs need to know what the Principles are?
(Yes, the first 2 paragraphs are each just an obnoxiously long sentence)
The thing is that there are UUs who don’t think the Principles mean anything to them. The wording of the by-laws makes it a covenant of congregations, and they feel that this means members of those congregations need not give the Principles much thought. If they sponsor the congregation, and the congregation Affirms and Promotes the Principles, then that’s job done.
This logical leap, for me, barely glosses over the biggest flaw in the argument: if you are supporting the work of the congregation, as an active member, then You have to be Affirming and Promoting the Principles at various times. When you help Hearts and Hammers build a house, or man a table at the local Pride event, or you help educate people on important issues for an upcoming election, you are living the Principles.
Still, it warrants discussion: If we do not embrace the Principles of the UUA as individuals, then what makes a UU? Is there any theology that we won’t welcome? Are we just a social club? Are we so concerned with numbers and funds that we’ll gladly act as a duck-blind for miscreants who want to claim a church for social reasons?
If we have no creed, no superstitions, and no Prophet to dictate the Word of God, then what, other than the Principles, do we have to stand as the core of what it means to be a UU? If it means nothing at all to say I am a UU, then I think I would rather not say it anymore.
**Edited to Add**
My personal take is that the Principles provide a wide border for UU theologies. We are free to roam that boundary, but leaving it “invokes” the “free and responsible” clause, requiring our fellow UUs to “encourage” us towards more positive growth. We are free to explore the depths of that spiritual territory as we feel drawn. There are limits to what UUs can believe about the world, and they are outlined in the 7 Principles.