Monday, September 01, 2008

Hipshot on the new Seven Principles

Scott Wells is his usual on-the-ball self about letting us know that the new draft of the principles is out.

Now, I don't know nothin' 'bout birthin' no principles, so this is entirely me the lay person who doesn't like the principles much in the first place.

That having been said:

1. It's really weird that at a time when the UUA is doing a lot of obnoxious things in the name of "Strengthening the congregations" that the new edit of the principles bumps all references to congregations into the explanation parts beneath them.

2. There's a lot of excess verbiage there. The UUA principles always struck me as halfway between a corporate mission statement and the UDHR, so in a sense verbose is ok. But do we really need "Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part" explained to us in such dull language. If the poetry of the 7 principles is doomed anyway, then we might as well go with Dan's version.

3. Can we go back to putting "Nothing herein shall be deemed to infringe upon the individual freedom of belief which is inherent in the Universalist and Unitarian heritages or to conflict with any statement of purpose, covenant or bond of union used by any society unless such is used as a creedal test" at the bottom everytime we write the principles? Katy-the-Wise did an awesome sermon once about how the disclaimer defined us better than the principles do.

4. I really like the "Identity" section

The Unitarian Universalist Association is composed of congregations rooted in the heritage of two religious faiths: the Unitarian heritage ever questioning and ever seeking the unity in all things, and the Universalist heritage ever affirming the power of hope and God’s infinite love. Both traditions have been shaped by heretics, choice-makers who in every age have summoned individuals and communities to maintain their beliefs in spite of persecution and to struggle for religious freedom.

OK, that's my initial take.



Steve Caldwell said...

CC wrote:
"Can we go back to putting "Nothing herein shall be deemed to infringe upon the individual freedom of belief which is inherent in the Universalist and Unitarian heritages ... "

I thought this was pretty much was "Section C-2.6 Freedom of Belief" said in the new draft revision.

From a religious educator standpoint, there are so many UU curricula that reference the UU principles it would be very hard to discard the "The inherent worth and dignity of every person" and other language that is often quoted from the current principles with many UU curricula.

Anonymous said...

I hate the use of the word "heretics" here. And the simplification, again, of the 7th principle to environmentalism. But I haven't had time to really digest it all yet.

ogre said...

Caveat: I just read about this and have only skimmed the proposal...

That said, I've got two comments;

1. My immediate reaction is that I'm sorely disappointed. This is only a polishing of the existing Principles--adding explanatory text. Yet that's entirely contrary to what I've been hearing was coming. Without being told anything specific, I was told by a member of the CoA--and comments in public UU settings supported this--that significant changes were in the works. This, as a result, looks like a massive retreat from anything that is prophetic or responsive to critiques.

2. Steve, if the accumulative mass of curricula, artisans' work, etc., means that we just can't change the language... then we might as well just adopt the existing text as a creed and stop proclaiming we don't have one.

I don't think that argument's very impressive--and all the more, since "inherent" has come under extremely harsh criticism from a number of people, including Rev. Bill Schulz, the former president of the UUA and former head of Amnesty International. The text was not altered, and the explication utterly fails to address the critiques.

Bill Baar said...

At the core of Unitarian Universalism is recognition of the sanctity of every human being across the lifespan.

What's our alpha and omega on the lifespan, or are we going to kick that one to a higher authority as above our grade-level?

Chalicechick said...

(((I thought this was pretty much was "Section C-2.6 Freedom of Belief" said in the new draft revision)))

Technically it's also a part of the old seven principles as well. But nobody ever uses it.

What's the issue with "inherhent"?


ogre said...

CC, I wrote a longer answer--a much longer answer which I'll go refine and post to my blog.

Short form: Inherent is a cop-out.

Inherent doesn't actually encourage us to act, it discourages us. You're being abused? That's terrible; but hey, you've got your i-m-m-or-t-a-l-s-o-u-l inherent worth and dignity, baby, and no one can take that away or even dust it off. It's inherent!

[Aside: what's this crap that blogger won't accept "s" for strikethrough type?]

It also asserts something that's theologically questionable (at least to UUism as a movement). Inherent means something. It's not just a superlative like very, or great. How many UUs can you point to who would have serious reservations about an assertion that UUs believe that people have souls? (Not might; not that some of us think so and some don't and many have doubts and reservations and caveats.) Inherent says that we have something. It's there. And it's worthful. Gold has no inherent worth. But we do. WHAT is it, and WHY is it inherent? (Worth is an attribute of something, it's an abstraction. Hell, it's an opinion. To whom?)

There's a whole pile of theology or philosophy... um... inherent in the assertion of inherency.

Steve Caldwell said...

CC wrote:
"Technically it's also a part of the old seven principles as well. But nobody ever uses it."


Actually, the existing freedom of belief language in the current bylaws is the only exception to congregational polity that I know of in the UUA bylaws ("Section C-2.4. Freedom of Belief" in the current bylaws).

It's the place in our bylaws where we formally and officially say we're non-creedal and our congregations can't have a creedal test for membership.

Many folks use the non-creedal label to describe us to others. That's why it's pretty important language in the current bylaws and the proposed revisions.

If we have congregations that are ignoring our formal requirement to be non-creedal in the de jure sense, I'd be interested in hearing about it. If you know of any examples of this, please tell us more.