Saturday, June 30, 2007

Revising... a work in progress.

(This is my most current version of what I have proposed the Principles--and Sources--become. Hat tip to Doug Muder'sDan Harper's (thanks, Jess!) associate personality, Mr Crankypants, whose work provided the kicking off point for this effort. I welcome relevant suggestions and criticisms--those that directly address what the content, wording and such should be.

Changes? It's been boiled down to five principles (or four... if you read the final affirmation as simply replacing the Sources), and some wording has been tweaked either because the Holy Spirit of Editing moved me to improve it or because of things I've heard in discussions about the principles review.)

Affirming our faith's rejection of creed, the member congregations of the Unitarian Universalist Association covenant to uphold these religious principles:

We shall responsibly love and care for the Earth and all living things; we are a part of nature, not apart from it. We shall treat each other, and all beings, with justice and dignity, guided by knowledge, and tempered with love and compassion;

We shall depend on love, reason, responsibility and liberty in governing our religious communities; offering an example to the world;

We shall promote openness, fairness, and honesty in in our congregations, and in all interactions; resisting authoritarianism and living out the highest democratic principles;

We remain religious seekers; we are finite beings with limited understanding, we must therefore remain open and responsive to the insights of others;

We affirm that ongoing revelation offers new insights to humanity. We acknowledge the beauty and wisdom present in all the world's religious traditions and in science; we recognize our roots in the Western religious traditions and the rich inspiration we find in other faiths, as well as in the human struggle for knowledge. We affirm the value and need for mystery, wonder and reason, and we recognize our responsibility to re-interpret religious traditions in light of the present.

As free and interdependent congregations we enter into this covenant; we promise to one another our mutual trust and support; should we break this covenant, we shall listen, accept guidance and appropriate discipline by other congregations within this covenanted association. This is our bond of union.


fausto said...

A nice effort.

If you're inviting nitpicky comments that are intended to be constructive, here are a few:

The sentence after "care for the earth" sounds to me more like a separate principle than an expansion of the first sentence.

If you're breaking up individual principles with periods (i.e., separate component sentences), you should also end the paragraphs with periods rather than semicolons.

I woulds say that "we recognize our roots in the Western religious tradition", not "traditions". Our historical roots lie in only one tradition -- liberal Protestant Christianity -- and a meaningful number of our congregations still hold to that tradition, whether srictly or loosely, as their defining religious identity. It is the liberalism of our heritage, not the plurality of a mixed heritage, that moves the rest of us today to look for truths beyond the confines of that original tradition.

I would beef up the last "ongoing revelation" section with a corresponding affirmation that we also inherit the apprehension of enduring truths from our forebears. We may not hold all ancient apprehensions as eternally valid; but by the same token, not all revelation is novel.

Jess said...

FYI, Mr. Crankypants lives at Dan Harper's blog. :-)

ogre said...

Fausto, yes, that's definitely within the range of comments I'd like. Thanks. (Note to self; grammatical errors increase when tired. If it's late, consider waiting to post!)

Jess, thanks. Duh. I only had to go back and look at my earlier hat tip to avoid error. (See note above about the effects of fatigue.) I'll go insert a correction.

ogre said...

Fausto, a bit of clarification? Are you suggesting that after "... apart from it." the next sentence should be an independent principle? If so, it may be a question of better wording that's needed. My intention was to take humanity--and the care we should take for each other--into the larger umbrella of treating the whole of creation in a kind, thoughtful, respectful... considerate... and appropriate manner.

Unitarianism (whether Socinianism or other) arose out of the Reformation, but the whole of Protestantism has to acknowledge its roots in Catholicism. People still refer to pre-Protestant (Catholic) thinkers, theologians and such. It's not clear to me that our roots are exclusively in liberal Protestant Christianity, given that our antecedent root-faiths arose in the movement that sought to reform Catholicism.

I'll also admit to trying to split some differences and nod to some other things. There's the influx (root or graft or?) from liberal Judaism that many of our congregations have had in the last century, and there's the arguably critical (if obscured) connection with Islam in Eastern Europe. The idea that Unitarian thought was profoundly affected by Islam's fervent emphasis on the mono- in monotheism and the fact that Francis David's perspective and King Sigismund's Edict of Torda come out of people and setting where the far more religiously tolerant Muslim Ottomans had ruled or had great influence shouldn't be ignored.

Excellent point that revelation isn't necessarily made dated by age. Noted. I'll make adjustments.

fausto said...

Well, I can see your point about humanity being an integral part of the larger world, but on the other hand I don't think the proposition necessarily holds up that Humanity is a specific component element included within a broader Nature. Usually when we speak of "nature", we mean it apart from and unpolluted by humanity. In our heritage religious tradition, too, it has commonly been understood that the Garden of Eden legend portrays an irreparable separation between humanity and nature. If you want to assert that humanity is in fact an integral element of Nature, (1) you probably should draw that out more explicitly, and (2) I'm not sure it would reflect a widely shared agreement.

I'll argue out of the other side of my mouth when it comes to religious tradition(s), however. I think liberal Protestantism is legitimately seen as a specific component element within a broader Christianity; and I think that to the extent Judaism and Islam have helped form our contemporary perceptions, they have done so through interaction from without, not organically from within. Our root tradition is a branch of Christianity, which is also the primary Western religious tradition; Judaism and Islam are external influences.

ogre said...


Current Seventh Principle, Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.

Does that not already affirm that we ARE a part of nature?

fausto said...

Nope, it says existence, not nature. The dilemma is that while we are dependent on nature for our existence (hence the current affirmation of an "interdependent web"), because of our sentient self-awareness and individual wills we're not generally in harmony with it, and so we're always doing things that threaten our existence by damaging nature and disrupting the web.

ogre said...

So how is that different from saying that my kids, who are arguably self-aware, and certainly willful... and endanger themselves, damage their home... aren't part of the family?

What I'm reading in your comment is that we're bad members, incompetent members, but I don't see how we're not part of nature. What is it that sunders us from it?

The Garden of Eden story doesn't, because few of us actually believe it. It's a story. Arguing that being self-aware makes you not part of nature any more seems very risky to me. The evidence strongly suggests that several other species, at least, are self-aware.... So at least there's a club (if we don't exterminate the other members) of those booted out of Harmony With Nature.

But that last is kind of a fantasy like Rousseau's Noble Savage. Most creatures are in harmony with nature only because the other parts of the web pull them back into harmony all the time. Overeat your food supply, and your species crashes back into harmony. In other words... it's only harmony when you get to cherry pick the time frame. Up close, it's full of peaks and valleys... and none of them are trying to stay in harmony. They simply--collectively--are.

We think we're not--and I do get the point--but in the end... we either return to something harmonious by choice (because we're self-aware and see it coming..) or we will be crashed by mechanisms that are too big for us to ignore. Like massive global climate changes.

Whereupon... whatever's left of us (assuming the environment will still sustain homo sapiens) will be in harmony, or else. There's no out, and harmony in the natural world turns out to have lots of dissonance.

kim said...

...but the whole of Protestantism has to acknowledge its roots in Catholicism.

If Protestantism acknowledges its roots in Catholicism, then doesn't Catholicism have roots in Judaism? Jesus would think so....

By the way, I liked your version as a whole.

fausto said...

As I say, ogre, I get your point. I just don't think it's commonly accepted as self-evident, because there's a lot of opinion, evidence and even our own religious tradition on the other side as well, and not just the old dusty stuff from Genesis. Much of Emerson's writing concerned repairing the breach between man and nature, for example.

Humanity is from nature and even in and dependent upon nature, but I'm not sure we're still part of nature.

Likewise, kim, Christianity is from Judaism, but is in no way still in or dependent upon or part of Judaism.

In contrast, liberal Protestantism is fully from, in, dependent upon, and part of Christianity.

Now that I frame it this way, I see some striking parallels between UUism's relationship to Christianity and humanity's relationship to nature, but maybe that's just me.