Saturday, June 27, 2009

Article II Revision Voted Down... an observation

I will note here that I did not attend the mini-assembly (four reasons: I'm not a delegate, I already got my input into the process starting nearly a year ago, I was satisfied with the language (not enthralled, but this is bylaw language, in the bylaws, not poetry), I knew that the bylaws-established process did not permit sumstantive amendment at this stage, and I fully expected that there would be amendments--in the future--to the painstakingly drafted language).

So I was rather shocked to find that there was a coalition of people hostile to the change. I'll have to explore (please, feel free to explain your part if you're part of it) those reasons.

Two I've heard that I'll admit that I dismiss is that "they're not broken" (one doesn't only address things that need to be "repaired") and that changing them would create chaos for various R.E. people and somehow violate the wonderful Sources Cantata (which was performed at the PSWD D.A. and is wonderful). Those are crappy reasons for embracing creedalism. If that's where we're going, fine--that should be argued for in public.

One of the arguments I'd put forth for a serious change is that the Principles themselves have started to be treated like a creed by some--hurling some principle at another, citing it as being violated, and accusing the violator of being a bad UU because of it. If that's not creedal thought and behavior, I'm not sure what is.

The words aren't the essence. The essence is what we're about, and to my mind, ought to be expressed and re-expressed regularly so that we avoid mistaking the container for the contents.

The support of nearly half of the voting delegates (tangent: where were the others on such a major issue?) for the change makes clear to me that a change is coming, and soon. Of course, the bylaws forbid it being brought back up for two years. But I suspect that will sorely test our beloved moderator's insight, grace, and good will. Would a proposal to amend only one section of Article II qualify as bringing the same issue up? Given the fervent call (supported by the Youth and Young Adults) for the statement of inclusion in place of the statement on non-discrimination, I would hope to see that change sooner, rather than later.

12 comments:

Robin Edgar said...

If you want to know why many delegates were hostile to *the* change, not necessarily change in and of itself, why not view the pertinent streaming video like I did earlier today. Personally I think the right decision was made and that the Principles will eventually be revised in way that preserves the best elements of the current version while adding the best elements of the proposed changes. From what I could see the process was quite flawed which did not help. . .

ogre said...

Robin, I may find time to watch it--but I doubt I'd find something new. I wasn't in the mini-assembly, but I was in the plenary (which I'm pretty certain is what was streamed).

The principles were barely altered. The rest of Article II was.

And yes, the process was flawed... because the bylaws were amended (it appears) to correct a past abuse, and the correction over-corrected, leaving us unable to modify this proposal in the assembly.

Even so--acknowledging that the proposal was imperfect (I do, and doubt that a perfect one will be--in the view of a future assembly--offered)--I think it would have been better to pass it and agree to start (and support) specific ex post facto amendments to the document.

By the time that the process can be altered, and those bylaws passed to permit that process, and the new-new version of Article II put to a vote, it's going to be... three or four years, at least.

I heard one delegate speak to the coalition, citing three badges... and I have no truck with the one saying "if it ain't broke...". The testimony of other delegates and the youth/young adults make it clear that they feel that it is broken--around inclusion, at least. I have no sympathy for those who seem to want to keep things as they are, simply because this is "how it's always been" (because it has not). Too many seem concerned that changes will affect existing books or RE curricula or the like.

That's not a very profound reason for objecting to change that many feel is important, and significant.

Robin Edgar said...

I did not get the impression that people "want to keep things as they are" in the sense of being against any changes to the principles and purposes. I could be mistaken but I got the overall impression that people wanted to "keep what is good" from the current P&Ps and have a more open and democratic process for revising them. What is three or four more years when it comes to revising the P&Ps if that is what it takes to get them right?

Anonymous said...

The changes seem, to me, designed to reassert that Unitarianism (i.e.Christianity minus the trinity) is truly Christian, against Humanists(HUUmanists)(nontheistic),Buddhists(BUUddhists)(nontheistic) , Wiccans/pagans(CUUPs)(polytheistic),and Native Americans(polytheistic).
"Unitarian Universalism is rooted in two religious heritages. Both are grounded on thousands of years of Jewish and Christian teachings"

"The Unitarian heritage has affirmed that we need not think alike to love alike and that God is one.

It takes out explicit thanks/mention of women. "Words and deeds of prophetic women and men"(original)

"Grateful for the traditions that have strengthened our own," Is an assertion against the pluralism of the original.

Plus the change of respect for the interdependant web of life to reverence for, which makes it seem that the web of life is an "other".

Anonymous said...

The changes seem, to me, designed to reassert that Unitarianism (i.e.Christianity minus the trinity) is truly Christian, against Humanists(HUUmanists)(nontheistic),Buddhists(BUUddhists)(nontheistic) , Wiccans/pagans(CUUPs)(polytheistic),and Native Americans(polytheistic).
"Unitarian Universalism is rooted in two religious heritages. Both are grounded on thousands of years of Jewish and Christian teachings"

"The Unitarian heritage has affirmed that we need not think alike to love alike and that God is one.

It takes out explicit thanks/mention of women. "Words and deeds of prophetic women and men"(original)

"Grateful for the traditions that have strengthened our own," Is an assertion against the pluralism of the original.

ogre said...

Anonymous,

Unitarianism and Universalism are/were both Christian traditions. Those are the roots of those traditions, though both eventually opened up to extra-Christian religious understandings.

One of the criticisms of the current version is that it doesn't claim our own roots, our historical traditions as sources of Unitarian Universalism. The first lines of the proposal's "Sources" section is clearly to claim our immediate roots as sources that are as meaningful and valid and important as anything else.

(Given the Commission's work in recent years looking at our theological diversity, the idea that it tried to make us more--and explicitly--Christian is simply not plausible.)

It's claiming our faith as a tradition--it's old enough now that it is one (and while we may not be able to see it as one, or experience it as one, those outside the water we swim in see it very clearly). Our plurality is a fine-grained distinction, even if it seems like a Very Big Deal to us. We don't include all other religious traditions within ours, even if we're open to them.

So, UUism rests on the twin roots of Unitarianism and Universalism, and draws on--and is greatly enriched by--many other sources and traditions, among which are.... The problem here is that the Commission was then faced with the charming task of what to include, and what not to. Option A creates a laundry list, which the vast majority will criticize for including traditions that have had no discernible or appreciable influence or effect on UUism. In addition, it will look silly to claim that we draw on traditions that almost none of us can begin to place or explain, much less explain how they influence us. Option A ensures that the criticism (already existing) that the language isn't poetic is moved front and center. Lists aren't. Option B creates a list that excludes many--and you can imagine the furor, as well as the challenge of deciding what criteria to use. Buddhism and Hinduism have been having some influence since the days of the Transcendentalists, at least; Buddhism more than Hinduism... but that may be changing. Do both get listed? Do we list Christianity? Do we if it's already called out in the references to Unitarianism and Universalism? Do we lump all Christianity under that term, or acknowledge that claiming influence from Catholicism and Orthodoxy (etc...) becomes less and less supportable? Do we list the things that are influences today, only? Etc. Option C -- which appears to have been taken -- is to seek to claim the widest range of influences, in a manner that leaves room to be inclusive, without being absurd....

The word *men* was removed as much as *women*--and yet in the second paragraph (emphasis added);
As an evolving religion, it draws from the teachings, practices, and wisdom of the world’s religions. Humanism, earth-centered spiritual traditions, and Eastern religions have served as vital sources. Unitarian Universalism has been influenced by mysticism, theism, skepticism, naturalism, and process thought as well as feminist and liberation theologies.

Humanism did get called out (hard not to, given its 20th century influence, in particular), so did earth-centered spirituality, and so did feminist theology.

I'm confused how the change from "respect for" to "reverence for" others the interdependent web. "... [O]f which we are a part" remains. I'd be happy to hear you explain that further.

dmiley said...

ogre writes "Given the Commission's work in recent years looking at our theological diversity, the idea that it tried to make us more--and explicitly--Christian is simply not plausible.)
"
Actually, I would say that the effort was to make us seem more judeochristianlite. If the intent were to truly highlight our Unitarian and Universalist heritage, why are we talking about "Jewish" teachings? And, look at what is emphasized for Unitarian - one God. Heck ogre, until recently, the average Unitarian church hadn't preached about God for 50 years. As for hell, I am a member of a historically Universalist congregation and have yet to hear a sermon on the lack of hell.
Taken together, this first paragraph is clearly meant to appeal to folks loosely attached to a Jewish or Christian identity. Our current sources wait till dot point 4 to mention the Jewish and Christian.
Meanwhile, more challenging and less convenient sources are now buried that might as well be the fine print on an appliance warranty. And in the past tense, no less.
My take on the sources is this - they are not past tense because members are the living embodiment of their power. And, they challenge us to respect and love each other - to support our diverse truths.
We dodged a bullet.

ogre said...

dmiley,

(grin) "Dodged a bullet"? Ok, that strikes me as a bit overly dramatic.

I can't speak to your experience or your church, but our roots *are* Christian, and the root of Christianity is Judaism. Jesus--and Paul--were Jews and... well, Jesus preaches out of Jewish tradition and the Torah--radically, but still.... Unitarianism is--and was--a form of Christianity (much as it gags the self-professed orthodox to say so). So is--and was--Universalism.

The fact that most UUs don't assert their identity as Christian doesn't change our roots--nor erase the deep and wide Christian heritage of UUism and UU thought. Our services are almost always Protestant in form. Sure, we claim a wider view of scripture than the Bible. My late '50s origin fellowship--diehard atheist/agnostic humanist for decades, and for a time rather hostile to any hint of Christianity... has about 20-25% of its members claiming some sort of Christian identity (conjoined with other things, frequently). Many of the others come out of explicitly Christian traditions and even though they don't claim to *be* Christians, they carry and appreciate Christian-origin views and values.

Heck, I've preached both Sin and Salvation--and gotten very appreciative remarks from old Atheists and Humanists as well as younger Pagans.

That you've not heard one sermon on the lack of hell isn't really a surprise--that stopped being a topic of any real debate or interest in our circles quite a while ago. Go to a Catholic service and you won't hear the priest trying to persuade people that there's a trinity. Besides, the Universalists more or less won that argument... which is part of why they were going out of business; a supermajority of Americans believe that more than one belief system (or any) can lead to heaven. That's not tidy Universalism, but it is Universalist... and when the mainline traditions stopped fighting that battle and even unofficially, and grudgingly, accepting that... yeah, God might save people who didn't belong to the "right" church, Universalism lost a lot of its unique--and previously very powerful--draw. It wasn't about hell, it was about God's Love for All.

You can hear that all over America now. Even off the lips of people who are pretty big on hate. God is love. But that's not good old Calvinist doctrine.

The "fact" that God wasn't a central topic in UU sermons reflects social trends of the time. But that's not a good argument about today, where the most common thread of interest in newcoming UUs is spirituality, and trying to get a handle on their ideas of the divine. Which may... or may not... fit much with more traditional forms of Christianity. Some do, some don't.

"Lite"? Nah.

Look, I'm not arguing that the new Sources were perfect--nor that they were a thing of beauty. But they weren't some sort of conspiracy hostile to one group, or several groups, nor trying to suppress something.

One thing I will grant is that the use of language that can be read as past tense (meaning that it was, it's over, and is no longer) is probably an error.

But it's talking about *sources*--which seems to me to talk about what was... well, upstream. What we drew on. We did. What we'll be drawing on in the future... well, in some cases, we can guess with a high level of certainty. But it can't be a predictive list.

Speaking as someone who was never Christian (and isn't), it makes sense to me to call out *our* particular roots; those that belong especially to us--Unitarianism and Universalism--and to acknowledge what they are and were, first. Everything else is everything else and if we start playing the game of getting sweaty about priority of place and attaching import to the order, we'll *never* be able to amend Article II. Not because it doesn't need it, but because you can't possibly achieve the supermajority to agree on the order.

There's a *reason* that the Principles are never discussed as having a precedential order.

kim said...

I don't have the text in front of me now so I can't be specific, but I remember when we analyzed it at our District Assembly, it sounded like it wasn't just saying that we had Judeo-Christian roots, but that only prophets from that tradition informed us or were wise. That was our objection.
and if we could have amended it at GA, it might have passed.

ogre said...

Thanks, kim. That's specific. I will take a look and see if I can see that now that it's been identified that way. Pity; I know that wasn't the intent.

I suppose the process really ought to permit a review cycle that takes in critique/amendment at G.A. Then a year of review and consideration. Then a vote...

kim said...

I am also partial to the source about individual revelation, though I don't have Robin's attitude about sharing it. That source seemed downplayed more than seemed necessary.
My comments really pertain to the version we saw at District Assembly in April/May, and I don't know if anything changed between then and GA. It didn't look like it did. Certainly no major changes happened.(But then, we aren't talking about major changes, are we? -- little changes in wording make big changes in meaning in English.)

ogre said...

Hmmm. I thought it had been here--must have been someone commenting on another blog about this. Someone objected to "reverence" in place of "respect" in the (proposed) seventh principle, suggesting that it turned nature into something worshiped (if I recall correctly).

So reading Rev. Dr. William Murry, one of the foremost Humanists of the UU movement, this evening, I came across this;

"... it is only reverence, understood as feelings of respect and awe, that can save us from the hubris that would destroy all the good we have accomplished. As Paul Woodruff writes in his elegant little book, Reverence: Renewing a Forgotten Virtue: 'Reverence begins in a deep understanding of human limitations.' And it is reverence that keeps human beings from acting like gods."

This is specifically talking about reverence for nature--for the universe--in his essay in Religious Humanism, Spring 2008, "Reason and Reverence," which is itself based on his book by the same title.