As I began thinking about this piece for the January newsletter, my first thought was to write about some New Year’s resolution. Of course, public mention of resolutions can too easily elevate one’s level of commitment. That is, people might actually watch to see if you to keep the resolution. So, as a disclaimer, let me say up front that mine is a hypothetical resolution or thought experiment that concerns our Unitarian Universalist principles. In addition, I am borrowing a tactic from Meg Barnhouse’s “Who says Unitarian Universalism’s Principles are easy?” Now that we have established how spineless my resolution will be, let’s proceed.
Anyone who has ever eaten a fortune cookie at a Chinese restaurant is probably familiar with the practice of appending the phrase “between the sheets" or "in bed" to the words of wisdom contained inside. For example, “A good reputation is something to prize and cherish [between the sheets].” To be sure, the seven principles are words of wisdom and we Unitarian Universalists take them seriously. Thus, I urge you to suppress your impulse to append the conventional phrase to any of the following principles:
We Unitarian Universalists affirm and promote:
1. The inherent worth and dignity of every person;
2. Justice, equity and compassion in human relations;
3. Acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations;
4. A free and responsible search for truth and meaning;
5. The right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large;
6. The goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all;
7. Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.
As an experiment, I do suggest you consider some alternative phrases. Begin with appending the phrase: “in conversation” to each principle. How does that sound – a little weak? OK, instead you might use the words, “in our everyday practice.” The Buddhist reference to practice notwithstanding, most of us regard the second phrase as more commendable. Meg Barnhouse imagines appending the phrase “beginning in our homes and congregations.” Think about the implications. I’ll let you decide whether the whole idea is asking too much. Perhaps one should merely begin with committing the principles to memory. Unfortunately, that sounds too much like a resolution.