Chalica Day 3: Acceptance and Encouragement

Welcome to Chalica 2012, day 3. Today, I have to finally say that I really dislike the way the Principles are written. I will make a note to go into it further next week, because I am doing my best, this week, to celebrate the ideals they represent. Still I have to say that the language used by the Unitarian Universalist Association in laying out the Principles is, in places, pretentious, regulatory, (they are part of our by-laws), and overtly intellectual, as well as poorly organized as ideas or ideals. I do recognize the irony of this point being made in this blog, but I believe that we need a message that is accessible, and while the 7 Principles are the only unified mission we can present (which, I am aware, is still too much for some), I think it needs to be a message that is easy to digest.

In this case, they attempt to capture a would-be covenant within our congregations without dictating it, and it stretches to encompass two concepts that don’t fit neatly together given the wording used. The idea is that our Congregations are accepting of who you are, but that we hope attendees and members are transformed, positively, by participation. The way it is said is clumsy,  in my opinion:

“Acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations”

What I take from this is “Come as you are, but don’t expect to leave the same person”. We take the inherent worth of the person as a given, and so we don’t condemn them for the choices they’ve made or the life they’ve lived, but we hope that being a part of our community influences them to be better in some way, or at least to let us amplify the good they have already created. We will all have set backs, but it is part of being a community and a religious movement to encourage people, and especially members, to be better people.

This is what turns us from a philosophy of humanism, as outlined in the first and second Principles, and into an honest religious movement. It is what engages us in the internal community and creates a covenant that we can expect to be held in with both rights and responsibilities. This is the first of the Principles to speak to how we do religion, as opposed to just testing the hypothesis that people aren’t born broken or evil. This is where the UUA says that Unitarian Universalist congregations will be welcoming and loving, but that we can set boundaries and expectations and we will push our members to embrace our Principles and make a difference in the world. Again, I know that this dictate upsets people, and that so many will claim that the 7 Principles were not meant to be expectations for individuals, but congregations are simply groups of people until they accept a covenant and take responsibility for one another. This is where we find the bedrock for each congregation to build its mission.

I cannot celebrate the true meaning of this Principle as it applies to your life or congregation; I cannot comment on the value of your covenant except to judge how I feel it embodies the Principles of the UUA, and whether or not it is one I could commit to. But I must speak, again, on the importance of it. It is what makes a Unitarian Universalist congregation a church, rather than just a social justice fraternity. We must accept people, as they are, in recognition of their inherent dignity, but we must also encourage them to be their best in order to honor their inherent worth.

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One Response

  1. […] I fully recognize that we Unitarian Universalists have a commitment to “encourage spiritual growth” and to help each other in our “responsible search for truth and meaning“. I […]

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