Dan Harper, in the guise of Mr. Crankypants, has some first rate suggestions for how the Seven Principles should be rewritten. His language lacks some of the thunder of the first incarnation, but has a pleasant clarity to it.
(e.g. "The inherent worth and dignity of every person" seems to confuse a lot of people. Harper's version "That every person is worthy of love; and therefore we shall treat each other, and all human beings, with justice tempered by love and compassion," has less of a ring to it, but is more straightforward and puts up front the answer to the "Does Hitler have inherent dignity?" question that UUs get all the time. At least I feel like I do.)
I'm not a seven principles fan at all. I rarely see the Seven Principles used well. I far more often see them used as a creed various ways. "You violated the first principle, you're not a good UU" or "here, read these, they're what we believe."
One thing I like about the "elevator speech" concept is that it encourages people not to use the seven principles as "what we believe." This is appropriate as they do very little to define us.
If anybody halfway liberal believes in your creed, you're not really defining who you are with it.
I'm pretty far down the anti-Creed road. I don't like seeing the seven principles posted and it irks me when kids learn to recite them in RE. So my preference would be no statement of principles at all. But that battle has been fought and my side has lost.
Bearing that in mind, I'd say Harper's principles are pretty good.
If there weren't any principles then what would define us?
I see the principles as an important part of our faith because that's how the religion merged. The principles were the compromise. And thats important. Not only that, but they really aren't a creed.
My theory is that we shouldn't be defining ourselves with statements of belief, rather a method of arriving at belief.
to me they do not seem a creed, even though I agree they do get used that way. Just as Dan implies they are a covenant we make with ourselves and one another and should be thought of as such.
Two more points on that one:
1. If our religion existed for a couple of hundred years before we had the seven principles,(They've only existed since the 1980s) then we don't need them necessarily.
2. They are way to loose to properly define us. If most liberal christians, liberal jews, etc, would agree with them, then they don't really differentiate us.
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