When I preached last Sunday in Manhattan, Kansas, I added something to my evolving sermon on the need to take our Principles and Purposes more seriously. It’s a quote from the cover story of the latest issue of Tikkun, an article called “Science and Spirit.” The article’s a recap of a round table conversation among some noted scientists (including George Lakoff) and some of the Tikkun staff, including Michael Lerner. The author, David Belden, is the managing editor of the magazine. Here’s the part that really struck me:

In my denomination, the Unitarian Universalists, we have seven guiding principles. The two that I think underlay the others are:

1) The inherent worth and dignity of every person.
7) Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.

I wholeheartedly espouse those principles. Where do they come from? Not simply from a rational argument: rational arguments can be made for and against them and there is no proof. Some people appear to have no worth and dignity and I find good reasons every day for trashing the web of life for my personal gain (e.g., I don’t bother to approve or even know where much of my food comes from). Those principles come from a collective process of spiritual intuition and exchange engaged in by a whole denomination drawing on centuries of uninterrupted spiritual practice and development. They are among the most important things I know in my life and I hold them in common with many other people. I have spent years in a community that cohered around them, and around the daily practices of learning to live them together. They are provisional, in the sense that the process of drawing in more people, more experience, more honest sharing of spiritual intuition, in response to historical developments, may lead the denomination to change the wording or add another principle. How these principles are enacted in daily life is also subject to trial and error, group learning, prayer, meditation, heart–to–heart exchanges, small group process, exchanges with outsiders, and so on. Thus we build our spiritual knowledge.

Rarely have I seen the importance of the Principles and Purposes presented so powerfully in a non-UU publication. It’s rare to see them defended so well in a UU publication for that matter. Belden really gives voice to the way I’d like to see our Principles and Purposes used in our congregations!

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