I want to talk about the 8th principle, but not in the way you might expect. When someone asks you what you think about the 8th principle, up for a congregational vote on May 15, usually what comes to mind is race, ethnicity, maybe sexual orientation or gender identity. And you’d be right that these are very important aspects of this principle we are discussing as a new addition to our seven current principles. If we vote to adopt the 8th principle, we will be saying yes to working to eliminate oppression in our congregation and in the larger UU community.
What I’d like to focus on are the words other oppressions. When you enter the bustling space that is our sanctuary, or attend the Worship Cafe or social hour, you are surrounded by fellow congregants who fight oppression every day. You may look around and say, “But I don’t see anyone here who is oppressed.” That is exactly why we must be made aware of the many kinds of oppression within our community. These often hidden types of diversity that may lead to being oppressed in unseen ways are counter to the assumptions of many that we have a fairly homogeneous congregation. Yes, we celebrate some diverse identities and work hard on committees to banish others.
But what about invisible ways in which we differ? Living in public housing, economic status, hidden mental health and physical health issues, neuro-diversity, hearing and sight, low energy that prevents us from taking part in activities and committees are all represented. Environmental sensitivity, not being included because one is not part of a couple, history of abuse, lack of solar accessibility all exist. Immigration status may be a struggle. Not being able to climb the steps to the chancel because of being in a wheelchair or other physical limitation, including age, keeps quite a few people from signing up to do the welcome or other part of the service.
As you move about our wonderfully loving and seemingly supportive congregation, please keep all of this diversity in mind, try to limit comments that exclude a subset of people, and spend some time thinking about and educating yourself about these seemingly minor areas of life. Keep your mind open to the fact that any one of us may be dealing with one or more of these struggles and that you may not be aware of that reality.
We always want to be growing and evolving, so as we look toward the 8th Principle vote on May 15, please try to fully embrace its meaning and the diversities it encompasses.
The 8th Principle states:
“We, the member congregations of the Unitarian Universalist Association, covenant to affirm and promote: journeying toward spiritual wholeness by working to build a diverse multicultural Beloved Community by our actions that accountably dismantle racism and other oppressions in ourselves and our institutions.”