In her sermon on Sunday, Rev. Charlotte Arsenault made this powerful observation: that when Unitarian Universalists covenant ourselves to our seven Principles, we are covenanting ourselves to dangerous things. Standing together for our Principles has meant throughout our history individuals giving their lives for what they mean.
We covenant. What does that mean? To covenant means to come together, to gather ourselves around something, to form community and relationships around and because of something (from Latin, convenire = to come together).
We come together and create community around justice, equity and compassion in human relations.
I just listened to an interview with Sen. Ben Sasse (R) from Nebraska. He’s written a book, The Vanishing American Adult: Our Coming-of-Age Crisis and How to Rebuild a Culture of Self-Reliance. While he is currently standing out among his colleagues for his refusal to support President Trump, he also seems to suffer from a certain ability to see only what he wants to see. He complained in the interview that our young people today do not know the pain of real work, and that they are stuck in perpetual adolescence where they never learn the resilience that they have.
I am pleased that he believes that there is an inherent resilience in every person. That’s a step toward the inherent worth and dignity of all people. But I am also aware of young people who go to school all day and then work jobs until 11 PM each night. They put in 20 or 30 or 40 hours of work each week and come to school barely able to keep their eyes open. A young man told me recently of how he fell asleep at the wheel driving home at midnight and how badly that frightened him. These are most often young people who are helping pay the bills in their family’s lives. I’m pretty sure that these young people understand the pain of work AND that they are in touch with their resilience, that they have dreams, that they want something more from their lives.
The real danger of this principle of ours is that it calls us to see more than we want to see, and when we begin to really see people, all people we risk losing the view of the world that we could control. We risk having to stand with people suffering through things we don’t have answers for. We feel the imperative to engage new kinds of work that will make a better way for all kinds of people. I write this on the day after the Supreme Court refused to consider the voter repression laws of North Carolina. Lower courts have already ruled that they are unconstitutional, and I am feeling grateful for those in North Carolina who felt the imperative to work for the reversal of those laws aimed, as the court said, with laser precision at African Americans and keeping them out of the voting booth.
Our second principle calls us to the burden of full vision, real seeing and the danger of having our self-made worlds turned upside down.