Dear Ones- February’s theme here at UUFS will be our 6th Unitarian Universalist Principle, “The Goal of world community, with peace, justice, and liberty for all”. If ever there was an indication of our faith’s positive attitude, it is this Principle, enshrined in our covenant with one another. Talk about “UUtopia”!
I will admit, it is a completely unrealistic goal. We all recognize that peace, even for 1 day, throughout the world, is extremely unlikely to happen. There will always be “wars and rumors of wars”. As my colleague Rev Shaun Dennison puts it, “The world is full of genocide, abuse, terror, and war. What have we gotten ourselves into?”
Indeed, what have we gotten ourselves into?
How can we continue to support this Principle when it flies in the face of the grim reality we see daily?
Each day seems to bring news of an ever more dangerous, more unjust world. We are a far too greedy, tribal and territorial lot. There will, no doubt, be more and more violence as resources become ever more scarce. As racial, ethnic, economic and religious animosities continue to fester and boil over, violence seems unavoidable.
Not even within our own religious community can we seem to “get it right”. In 1968 the fabric of our denomination was torn apart by what came to be called the “Black Empowerment Controversy”. This terrible time in our history left a rift that has yet to be fully healed. While we have made great strides toward welcoming lesbian and gay individuals into our community, we still have a very far way to go toward inclusion of trans folks. Racial, ethnic, and economic diversity (with some truly notable exceptions) is still sorely lacking in our congregations.
We all understand that, if humans EVER achieved this goal, it would be nothing short of miraculous.
But here’s why I believe in this principle: because, like so many of our Principles, this isn’t about what IS. This Principle does not ignore current reality. Rather, it’s about what SHOULD BE. It’s about hope and a willingness to imagine a different reality. It’s about humility and boldness, about facing our own fears of the “other”.
This notion of “peace, justice, and liberty for all”, to my ear, at least, sounds much like our current “U.S. Pledge of Alliance”, written and adopted in response to white capitalist fears of racial, ethnic and political instability.
So while the genesis of the two statements may be the same things (“falling apart”), and while the words may be similar, the “Pledge of Allegiance” calls for standing firm AGAINST change. It is a pledge to preserve the status quo, in one united front (“One nation, indivisible”)
On the other hand, I believe our 6th Principle does exactly the opposite. It enjoins us to the dangerous idea of being AGENTS of change. It insists that we embrace the “other”; that we be willing to “get out of the way” of change; that we step back from being “right”, and embrace what is peaceful, equitable, and just. It calls us to act boldly to stand with the oppressed, the disenfranchised, the marginalized. It is, indeed, a lifetime’s work, never to be fully completed, never “done”.
So here’s a question: If we were truly to work for “the goal of world community, with peace, justice and liberty for all”, what might that look like? How might our lives be changed? How would our community, our world be changed? Can you imagine?
Yes, it is a hopelessly optimistic Principle, completely unrealistic. But just because it is hopelessly optimistic does not mean that it is unworthy of devoting our lives to it. In the words of Rev Edward Everett Hale, quoted in our hymnals, “I am only one, but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something. And, because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do the something that I can do.”
Wishing you peace and blessings,