The UU Principles

Hi, I am following up on my earlier threat. Don’t say you weren’t warned. They aren’t so bad, in fact I think they mesh very nicely with Christianity. And being respectful of others, which is pretty much what they boil down to.

Here they are, copied straight from the horses mouth:

  1. 1st Principle: The inherent worth and dignity of every person;
  2. 2nd Principle: Justice, equity and compassion in human relations;
  3. 3rd Principle: Acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations;
  4. 4th Principle: A free and responsible search for truth and meaning;
  5. 5th Principle: The right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large;
  6. 6th Principle: The goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all;
  7. 7th Principle: Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.

I’m not going to go in depth on each one right now, I’ll take each in a separate post. Each one deserves it’s own. While short, they contain a lot in those few words. So, right now, I will take them as a whole.

When you look at them, a pattern emerges. Like any good religious code, it seeks to show how people in a culture should behave. When you look at the rules in the Bible, you see the same thing. More in-depth and restrictive, but the same idea.

These Principles aren’t required for UUs. They aren’t enforced, nor are they ever required to be believed, espoused, or remembered. I’m not sure how I feel about that. It’s nice that it is that open, but there is no real commonality. I do have to say that the Principles were created from the consensus of what UUs believed at the time. A bit backwards to how it normally works.

Anyway, what do they mean, when taken together?  I take them to mean that you should be nice and respectful to others. That includes speaking up when you see something wrong. Making sure our organizations work for us, not the other way around. And that the planet as a whole needs to be protected and cared for. Mother Earth is a person too. Hey, if corporations can be people, so can our home.

Everyone is a person and deserving of respect and life. Life means more than simply the state of being alive, here. It includes being able to live comfortably. Getting your basic needs met. Being treated fairly and justly. What’s funny is that a lot of the same is in the Bible. It doesn’t matter where it comes from, Asatru has the Nine Noble Virtues. Guess what, in the end, they aren’t so different. The ADF, A Druid Fellowship, has a set of nine virtues. They are very similar to the Nine Noble Virtues. And have the same idea at the base, treat others, and yourself, well. Why?  Because how can a society function if you don’t?  A society is only as strong as it’s weakest member, that’s why you see so much focus on those who lack the ability to be as strong as most in society. Because if we don’t take care of our neighbors, who will?

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Mental Illness

I have talked a lot about being trans and Christian. Someday soon, I should talk about being a UU. Today, though, I want to talk about mental illness. Unfortunately, I cannot approach this as an outsider.

My family has a long history of mental illness. My father suffers from depression and self-medicated for quite some time. He seems to be doing better now, which is really good. His father had a mental break down at least once. One of my father’s uncles shot himself on the day he retired. There is nothing definite on my mother’s side, but I think there is a little there as well. My step-mother has a lot of insecurity and I had a step-brother who faced a lot of demons and sadly decided to not do what needed to be done to take care of them.

I wish that were all of my relationship with mental illness. I suffer from severe, recurrent depression and general anxiety disorder. And more, yay!  Depression is bad, very bad. I would not wish it on anyone. It saps your drive. It saps your will to live. If there is evil in the world, I am convinced that depression is one of the biggest evils out there. Not people who suffer from it, depression itself. Anxiety is pretty nasty too. It can drain all of your energy. It can make you stop dead in your tracks. It’s another thing that I think is evil and I would not wish on anyone.

Two years ago, I spent some time in a mental hospital because of my anxiety and depression. I hadn’t realized until I started taking Xanax just how bad my anxiety was. Until most of it was gone, I didn’t know that most of my life was being consumed by anxiety. My drive, my energy, and my ability to do many things were overwhelmed by it. Depression has been a companion of mine since my teens. I wonder how much I could have done if only I had been able to do something about it back then. There were a few times when I almost took my own life and then there were those terrible times when my mind kept pointing out that if I were to take a turn too fast, it would look like an accident. Honestly, that was the worst feeling ever. Never knowing when your brain will turn on you. Or when you will, once again, have to walk deep down in that dark valley and pain and suffering.

I have sought out help for my illnesses and have been doing pretty well since I started getting help. It’s not been perfect, I had a break down just last year. And I know that I will never be cured of either, all I can do is manage them the best I can. Therapy and meds are what it takes for me to keep being able to live a life worth living. Different things are needed for different people and different illnesses.

Now, that is my experience in a nutshell. Why did I bring this up?  Because I want to talk about the one thing that makes this so hard. How people like me are treated. We are treated as being less than other people. That we might be violent or you have to walk on eggshells around us. We are less likely to be violent than a so-called normal person. The stigma that is part of having a mental illness needs to go. All it is does is make people less likely to seek out help. It only serves to make suicide more likely. This helps no one. All I ask is that you think about that the next time you hear about someone with a mental illness. We don’t need another thing to make our lives hard, we have more than enough from our hells, please don’t add to them.

Time for everyone’s favorite Biblical book

Yes, that’s right, it’s time for a review of Leviticus. This is one of the most maligned books because some Christians pull out lines from it without looking at the context of those lines. All of the passages of the Bible require you to know who wrote them and when and where. What was going on?  Why were these passages written in the first place?  You can’t just pull out a line or two and base whole belief systems on that. Things aren’t that simple. In this world, then as now, everything is connected to everything else. If you want to know why something happened, you have to look beyond the immediate area, you must look into the surrounding areas. Large portions of Leviticus are about the Hebrews separating themselves from those around them. They were basing who they were on what the people around them are not.

 

This is why I like Quaker way of reading the Bible. They believe that you must read the Bible in the Light of the Holy Spirit. Context and history are so important when reading anything. Could you picture reading “Pride and Prejudice” as though it were written today?  It wouldn’t make a whole lot of sense, would it?  Yet, we do this a lot with religious texts, especially the Bible. Anyway, enough ranting about context, on with content!

 

There is a lot about reciprocity in Leviticus. Offerings are a form of reciprocity found all over. You give to God so that God can give to you. Or thank God for something received. You also see this all across the world, regardless of religion. There is also hospitality, you treat others nicely because that is how a society functions. I remember reciprocity and hospitality as being the main morality from when I was a druid. And let’s face it, the Bible is all about hospitality. Whether it’s towards God or others, it’s all over the place. When I was a pagan druid, you were to be hospitable to everyone and towards the gods. Amazing how different religions take different paths to the same goal, isn’t it?

 

One of my favorite parts is 5:1, “When any of you sin in that you have heard a public adjuration to testify and though able to testify as one who has seen or learned of the matter do not speak up, you are subject to punishment”. Not only do you have to speak the truth, you must speak up if you see wrong-doing. Think about that, tight knit community, you likely don’t want to make waves. Well, God says, make waves, damn it. Do what’s right and not only that which is convenient.

 

Chapter 19 is another of my favorites. There is more of the keeping separate laws, but there are large sections dealing with social justice. I am not going to quote the sections, as that would take up a lot of space. 19:9 to 11 tells the Hebrews to not strip everything bare when harvesting so the poor can glean the leftovers. Maybe not the most progressive, but given the time, very helpful to the poor. And 19:13 to 16 has a lot going on. Don’t defraud people, steal, or withhold wages. Be nice to the handicapped. 18:19 warns against taking vengeance. You shall love the foreigners who are in your country is 19:33 to 34. The chapter ends with saying that you shall not cheat anyone and have honest measuring equipment. Well, there go most business people and Republicans.

 

I have to say that the Bible is not quite the ‘Book of Evil’ it is made out to be. Sure, it has its problematic sections, but name me one book of religion or philosophy that doesn’t?  I don’t think there is one. I think it is more important to see the good that is there and promote than moan about the bad. Now, if others would get on board, we’d be golden.