Interdependence, our April theme

If you ask a handful of Unitarian Universalists about the seven principles that have guided our Association of Congregations since 1985, I suspect many wouldn’t be able to list all of them.  But I’m certain that you’d hear these two:

1st Principle
We affirm and promote the inherent worth and dignity of every person.

7th Principle
We affirm and promote respect for interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.

My wife tells me there are some psychological reasons why it’s easier to remember the items at the beginning and end of a list than the items in the middle. But I would argue there are also spiritual reasons why these two principles resonate so deeply and are brought up so frequently – and why some of my colleagues even refer to themselves as “First and Seventh Principle preachers.”

These two principles speak to our countercultural message as Unitarian Universalists, and they bracket our commitments for how we will live within this faith tradition together. The first is a statement about how we view and treat individuals. Each person has inherent worth and dignity. It’s not something they have to earn. Their worth and dignity are not up for debate. Yes, that means even THAT person. And even you. And even me. As I mentioned in my sermon last week, this stands in contrast to the message we hear from many advertisers, politicians, and even some other religious traditions – that we must prove our worth, that some people are more deserving of dignity than others.

And then we have the seventh principle to remind us that, as individuals of inherent worth and dignity, we need one another. We honor individuals as part of an interdependent web, each with something to offer and something to receive. Again, this message is countercultural. Every day, I hear hyperindividualistic messages telling me to focus on what I want, to do what makes me happy, to disconnect from others – especially those who are different from me.

Of course, Unitarian Universalism promotes several other values, not just those mentioned in our first and seventh principles. (Our tendency to forget the middle of a list might be one reason the commission examining our Article 2 document has recommended displaying our values as petals of a flower surrounding a center of love rather than as a numbered list.) But I still think it is beautiful how our current statement of principles begins and ends with two challenging statements that remind us we – and all people – are valued as individuals existing together within this interdependent web.

I look forward to exploring the theme of “Interdependence” with you further in April!


Rev. Jenn