"The Inherent Worth and Dignity of Every Person" - Monday Moment - August 1, 2022

Happy Monday, Friends! Today I begin a series of Monday Moments based on the Seven Principles of Unitarian Universalism (UU). Growing out of two movements within Christianity primarily during the 19th century, Unitarian Universalism is, by its own definition, a liberal religion with strong ties to Christianity and Judaism. While some UUs would consider themselves Christians or Jews, others would name their faith and spirituality using other words. UU congregations are therefore beautiful tapestries of faith, practice, philosophy, and ideology. Though known as archliberals, UUs are just as ideologically diverse as other people of faith. What binds UUs together is their collective agreement to seven principles which, rather than doctrine or a shared sacred text, guides their practice of community.


The first principle reads: the inherent worth and dignity of every person. Many of us were taught that the worth of each person is derived from being created in the image and likeness of God. However, it’s even more profound than that: we each have dignity because we possess the essence of God within ourselves. George Fox, one of the founders of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) stated that “there is that of God” in each person. An even more radical concept is found in the Jewish Kabbalah where God is infinite becoming, infinite potentiality and without the participation of humans cannot fully become what God is intended to be.


Statements regarding the inherent worth and dignity of humans have become fodder for debates for and against abortion, particularly in response to the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization ruling. On the day that ruling came out I happened to look at Instagram and posts from liberal friends discussing how the ruling denied the worth of women and other people capable of pregnancy. Other (conservative) friends extolled the ruling as a triumph in the protection of the dignity of human life. I’d be willing to let that dichotomy (and the fact that my friends have very different ideas) hang in the air, but, friends, you know where arguments about the worth and dignity of human beings are absent from conservative lips? When gun violence takes more lives. Six Supreme Court justices have taken away the right to abortion on the basis the worth and dignity of human life, yet in the 72 hours before I wrote this Monday Moment, 108 people were killed by gun violence and another 236 were injured. That’s 344 people killed or injured by guns in the United States in just 72 hours. That’s not a statistic, those are actual people killed or injured as reported by the Gun Violence Archive (www.gunviolencearchive.org). So far in 2022 there have been 25,433 gun-related deaths including homicides, suicides, and unintentional deaths. There have been 372 mass shootings in 2022. Do we truly care about the worth and dignity of each person?


For Unitarian Universalists the agreement to care for the worth and dignity of every person is not only external, but also self-referential. The call is not to just love your neighbor as yourself, but to love yourself. The UUs recognize that it is impossible to love other people if we don’t first love ourselves. It is impossible to love God if we don’t first love ourselves. If God truly dwells within us and we do not love ourselves then we do not love God. We must love ourselves with the same grace we receive from God.


Do you love yourself? How do you love yourself? How do you love others?


Let us pray: God who is becoming and has become; who is love and needs to be loved, guide us to truly respect and uphold the worth and dignity of each person. Walk with us on the path to loving ourselves fully. Be with us when we doubt our worth. Show us how precious we are to you. Amen.


Blessings on your weeks, my friends! Please let me know if there is anything I can do for you.


Faithfully,


Ben