Friday, July 20, 2007

And Then There Were Three... (work in progress)

Having mulled over criticism from Fausto (many thanks!), and after a discussion with a philosopher friend, I've attempted another pass at UU principles. In the process... I've tried to get it down to three. Or maybe that's four... if it was five before.

I probably need to go back and look at my initial objectives, to be sure that I haven't lost sight of something. But it's a work in progress, so I'm showing my work. Criticism is of course, sought.

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; treating all beings and each other with justice and dignity, guided by knowledge tempered with love and compassion; understanding that we are a part of nature, not apart from it.

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

We shall promote openness, liberty, and honesty in all interactions, depending on love, reason, and responsibility in governing our religious communities; offering an example to the world by resisting authoritarianism and living out the highest democratic principles.

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.


ScottMGS said...

Okay, maybe I'm jaded but I think I need a little more clarity about what "highest democratic principles" means. People I work with have said that majority rule is what democracy means. To me, majority rule (50% + 1) is minority dis-empowerment and yet it is how so much of our decision-making takes place. (I won't even go into "mandates" from 28% of the eligible population.)

ogre said...

Democracy means nothing more (or less) than that the people rule. I interpret that to mean that we, collectively, make the decisions. The rules... will and do vary. Our democracy isn't the same as Britain's or Canada's or France's or....

Is it democracy if the majority (scant) makes the decisions? Yes. Is it acceptable? Ah... no. That's the lesson that's firmly embedded in all those Constitutional provisions that protect minority rights--to be heard, for starters, but extending to the idea that not everything is up for grabs; that some things don't require merely a majority, but a supermajority. And some don't just require that, they require a supermajority of at least three bodies (House and Senate at 2/3, plus 3/4 of all the state legislatures).

Is it disempowerment when 68% of the people agree? 85%? 90%? 95%?

We use those incredibly high numbers for congregations to call ministers--but there's still an acceptance that there's a minority who will not/may not agree.

The problem, for me, isn't in the final voting process. It's in the discussion and working stages. If every one's been heard, and listened to, and things have been worked on to honestly try to address and heed issues raised, then... yes, at some point, a majority rules decision--within the sorts of limits pointed to above--seems reasonable.

I've seen absolute consensus models fail dismally. That doesn't mean that there's no use for them; there is. But they're not a panacea.

I watched our board work on an issue last month, present the matter for a vote, and shoot it down 3:2. New board, majority of new members; awkward moment.... It then took the matter back up to understand why it died, and redressed it, and found a solution that passed 5:0. That's an example of "highest democratic principles."

Actually, I'd say that the highest democratic principles start with statements like "the greatest common good consistent with the basic and universal rights of all parties."

As to the 28%... I've got my solution (what's yours?). I'd go with election day being a national holiday (keep it mid-week), mandate time off to permit voting to be done, and require eligible voters to vote (that works in Australia -- feel free to come and spoil your ballot, if you please; but everyone comes and participates).

kim said...

Ogre's post made me think that the idea of consensus is antithetical to our seeking diversity. The more diversity we have, the less likely a consensus, therefore, a lack of consensus might be a positive indicator of diversity. Make sense?

ogre said...

kim, it depends on what one means by consensus. The purist version means that everyone is satisfied before you move forward. That's a fine model... but it becomes increasingly awkward as a group, community or organization becomes larger... and larger.

Seeking consensus is thus, for me, a moral objective akin to harming none. It's an ideal which is unreachable, and one has to be pragmatic. It's a way of remembering that one needs to keep one eye on the process we live with, and the other on the distant objective. Fetishize either, and you're lost.

I think this allows me (us) to avoid the diversity/consensus trap you're pointing to.