Saturday, July 26, 2014
How can Unitarian Universalists save the world?
Even today, before the Atonement, in relationships which are Holy, and based on Unconditional Love sometimes between spouses or a parent and a child, such concepts of justice, equity, and compassion have little, if any, meaning. The existence of Unconditional love may be very rare because most human relationships are "special" and they involve the principle of "give to get." Egos are easily offended and hurt leading to resentments, grievances, recrimination, and counter attack. Often when we review our arguments, discord, and mutual recrimination, we recognize that what upset us was silly if not insane. Psychologist, Richard Carlson, wrote a whole series of books back in the late 90s and early 2000s on the theme "Don't Sweat The Small Stuff...And It's All Small Stuff."
While we continue to work towards the At-One-Ment, and Unconditional Love is still a rare occurrence, justice, equity, and compassion are necessary virtues which need to be practiced individually and in our institutions and organizations. The key to achieving justice, equity, and compassion is the awareness of incentives that motivate human behavior.
Plato taught that a person will always do what he or she thinks is good at the time. It is easy to rationalize how the end (which we think is good for us) justifies the means. It has been debated for millennia whether a good end can every be achieved by bad means.
As DNA evidence is now showing regularly through the work of organizations like the Innocence Project, many innocent people have been found guilty by our criminal justice system that all too often behaves criminally itself, incarcerating and even executing innocent people to further some District Attorney's career. Justice is more often about winning or losing than it is about truth, and equity (fairness).
There is a perversity in human nature that would rather be right than be honest, truthful, and when pride is at stake, compassion goes out the window. This perversity in the minds of people with power leads to tragedy that is endemic in people's lives in our culture and around the world. Unitarian Universalism has little to say about this perversity, this pride and egotism, which trumps the principles that UUs say they hold dear.
In the face of this perversity born out of pride, egotism, and desire for advantage what does Unitarian Universalism have to offer? Not much that is well known or practiced. My suggestion is forgiveness while Rev. Guengerich suggests gratitude. Rev. James Ford, Senior Pastor of the First Unitarian Church of Providence, Rhode Island describes himself as a "first and seventh principles preacher". Ford seems to assert that the first principle, the inherent worth and dignity of every person, and the seventh principle, respect for the interdependent web, encompasses the basis for the ethical imperative of Unitarian Universalism. I agree with Rev. Guengerich and Rev. Ford but remain puzzled about how to practice these in my daily life?
My daily practice has devolved into just being mindful of when I am irritated, annoyed, distressed, resentful, nasty, and forgiving myself with the promise of correction, and forgiving others their stupidities and hurtful behavior. It is in forgiveness that I experience peace, comfort, a realignment with the universe. It is also in forgiveness that I experience a rectification of injustice, a re-balancing of what's fair and equitable, and it certainly motivates a compassionate attitude towards others and the world.
More than any other ingredient and factor, the At-One-Ment takes forgiveness which requires a humble, self-effacing heart. There are multiple opportunities to practice forgiveness every day and I believe that it is the ethical imperative upon which Unitarian Universalists can base their faith and save the world.