In chapters 7 and 8 in The Green Boat author Mary Pipher discusses the power of working with others towards a goal to overcome one’s own individual demoralization and to raise consciousness and functioning to achieve a higher quality of life for everyone on the planet and enhance the well being of Mother Nature. Pipher writes, “Healthy people build healthy communities, which create healthy cultures.” p. 140. This statement at first reading struck me as trite, and somewhat of a cliché, but then I wondered if our culture is healthy? As much as I would like to be positive and optimistic, I think American culture is not especially healthy if the norms and the mores of our American culture are compared to our Unitarian Universalist principles. The more I have tried to apply the principles in my daily life, the more it strikes me how counter cultural UU principles (sometimes I think of them as values) are.
Pipher writes “Margaret Mead wrote, ‘The ideal culture is one that finds a place for every human gift.’ I would paraphrase her and say the ideal group finds a place for every member’s gifts.” p. 156
Unitarian Universalists practice inclusivity and abhor exclusivity. The Universalist in us believes that everyone has inherent worth and dignity and will be saved. By “saved” I mean become, eventually, one with the all, a part of the At-one-ment. The path to the At-one-ment is forgiveness. Piper writes, “Out best stories were about our own inconsistencies and failings or about our emotional struggles…” p.162. Forgiveness begins with ourselves first and then we can extend it to others.
The question to be considered here is how to build a better culture? A culture is made up of values, beliefs, practices, history, traditions, preferences, and vision for a future. American culture is in rapid change and flux brought about by the digital age, the changing economy, the growing planetary population, and climate change. As human beings we have seen significant changes in the 20th century, and they will be even greater in the 21st century. The greatest need for change is not necessarily for new scientific knowledge and technology, but for an ethical imperative guiding us in the use of that scientific knowledge and technology for the benefit of all living things and the planet, not just for the privileged few. Pipher uses a quote from Star Trek: “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.” At an age of ever increasing income and wealth inequality we see this negative dynamic expanding until it will collapse probably in some kind of revolution which just began to stir with the Occupy movement after the 2008 financial crisis.
Whether American culture will collapse or slowly evolve remains to be seen. I not only have faith but certainty that Unitarian Universalist principles will provide the basis for the ethical imperative not only for UUs but for our society in the coming decades. Much work needs to be done to mine the principles for their meaning, application, and benefit as human beings and life on earth continue to evolve. You, dear reader, are an important part of that evolution. Please help spread the good words and join the effort to encourage the spiritual growth of yourself, your family, congregation, community, nation, and the world. Where to start? Forgive and love the persons who cross our path today.