#291 | Scot Hull | Keep 7 Principles As-Is

Submission 291
Scot Hull
The Unitarian Universalist Society of Geneva, IL (Geneva, IL) 3316

What is your suggestion or idea?

Retain the First Principle as-is.

What is the reason for your amendment idea?

As it was explained to me, the Principles in general, are historical, aspirational, and definitional. The First places our tradition outside of, and in opposition to, traditions that center the doctrines of Human Depravity and Original Sin.Basically, the First Principle is us claiming out loud that God loves everyone, that all humans and not the few ““Elect”” are worthy of that love, and that this love is ours by right, and so is our relationship with Mystery, and that no one – no other person, no system, no fad, no law, no culture – can take that truth from us. Human lives matter in a fundamental and elemental way.

More, as a statement of Universalism, this is theologically true of all people, always, regardless of history, identity, culture, and oppression. It is a bold statement. And given that our society is very much wrestling with hateful policies springing from these two doctrines, the First is still very much current and very much relevant.
In the proposed changes, our bold statement becomes something broadly unobjectionable for most political liberals, but in contrast with the ““old language””, it is loses both our history and the fundamental ““why”” behind our opposition to systemic oppression.

More, dismissing it because there are many people across the world that are facing and suffering oppression is a non-sequitur. The historical fact of social inequality does not make the Principle, one which makes claims of theological universal equality, and our ultimate worth, false. At best, the gap just tell us where our next project lies. ““None of us are saved until all of us are saved”” would follow directly from the ““old”” First Principle – both theologically and socially. Good works flowing from good beliefs, as it were, but more – which good works, and why.

Have you discussed this idea with your congregation or other UUs?

Yes. Our congregation has discussed the proposed changes several times since they were announced in the Fall, and my comment above springs from my congregation’s concerns that we are trading broad and meaning-filled statements of aspirational orientation for ““political talking points””.

Regarding politics, we have been working through various ARAOMC programs, but we also talk a lot about the rise of authoritarianism at home and abroad, and meeting the challenges of ““Accelerationist Politics”” with not only protests, testifying, and voting, but also strong statements of identity and aspiration, statements that clearly and usefully separate us from other faith traditions, social movements, and political activist groups. And there is deep concern that the new words muddle the distinctions in ways that that harm and not help.

I too have always held on to the first principle as not only a crucial theological foundation, but a call to respect and find value in those we might consider dangerous, wrong or even sinful. It can be a struggle, but it underpins our right relations convenant–something I try to apply at work and other parts of my life. At the same time, the 4th principle as well as the 5th distinguish UU from most other faiths.

I’m not completely opposed to giving them up, but it would need to be replaced with something better: not this confusing, vague and uninspiring version that the Commission presented. To say nothing of the change in purposed which I believe should be voted on separately so we can all consider whether the shift in relationship is really beneficial. There hasn’t been time for broad ranging discussions. And because the process itself isn’t democratic, the UUA needs to put more time and effort into ensuring that if the proposal passes, it doesn’t lead to divisions and alienation by those on the losing side.

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