If It’s Not A Creed, Don’t Treat It Like One

Steve Caldwell says that the problem with those of us who say the Ps-and-Ps are, in practice, a creed are talking about the use of by-laws in liturgy.

I plead guilty.

Liturgy/ritual is how most people receive their religion. If the Ps-and-Ps are just by-laws, don’t give them a place of prominence in church liturgy. Stop printing them in the place where the creeds would be placed in the hymnal. Don’t recite them as you would a church covenant. Stop treating them as if they are creed.

If the Ps-and-Ps are just by-laws, keep them that way. Especially since they are about churches association with each other, not an individual’s association with a particular church.

If the Ps-and-Ps are not a creed, don’t use them in practice as if they are.

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16 thoughts on “If It’s Not A Creed, Don’t Treat It Like One

  1. Yeah, I like this a lot. I would far rather not have the seven principles than have them as a creed, and I think we’re on our way to treating them as a creed if we aren’t completely doing so.

  2. I have a better idea. U*Us should simply stop pretending that the Seven Principles of U*Uism, to say nothing of various other formal statements of principles and ideals, are not a creed. Likewise U*Uism should stop pretending to be a “creedless” religion. I am not even sure when this concept first arose since Unitarians, if not Universalists, did adhere to certain creeds in the not so distant past. . .

    “Especially since they are about churches association with each other, not an individual’s association with a particular church.”

    This is another common misconception or misrepresentation of the Seven Principles. They are not about U*U churches association with each other nor are U*U congregations abstract entities unto themselves apart from the individual human beings who belong to U*U congregations. A congregation is “a group of people who adhere to a common faith and habitually attend a given church” or more broadly “an assemblage of people or animals or things collected together.” If a congregation as a whole “covenants” to “affirm and promote”, or indeed “honor and uphold”. . . certain principles and ideals each individual member of the congregation should be expected to do so, otherwise they compromise and betray the “covenants” of the congregation that they form a part of. Why is it that so many U*Us cannot understand this straightforward logic aka good old Unitarian *reason*?

  3. Steve says that in practice it’s more of a “dogma” than a “creed”. In the finest, most precise shades of definition, he’s probably right about that, since creeds are formal, collective affirmations of dogma rather than the premises of dogma per se. Nevertheless, in practice I think it’s a distinction without a difference. Both dogmas and creeds serve as fundamental truth propositions to which assent is required as a necessary condition of membership in a faith community. Certainly, when collective recital of the P&P’s is used as an element of worship, it functions as a creed even it it does not contain the words, “we believe”.

  4. In other words, just to make it very clear to anyone who does not quite get what I am saying here, any individual human being who belongs to any U*U congregation that “covenants” to “affirm and promote” or, if the U*Us actually adopt the revision of the language of the Seven Principles that I have suggested to U*Us in the past. . . “honor and uphold” –

    * The inherent worth and dignity of every person;

    * Justice, equity and compassion in human relations;

    * Acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations;

    * A free and responsible search for truth and meaning;

    * The right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large;

    * The goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all;

    * Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.

    They as individuals a party to those “covenants” and should be expected to “honor and uphold” them. I personally will be more than a little bit gratified if the UUA actually obtains the 66% vote necessary to change the words “affirm and promote” to “honor and uphold” since I have not so subtly suggested that U*Us should do this years ago. I am not however favorably impressed with some of the other revisions, or more properly, explanations of the Seven Principles which may compromise some of them.

  5. “Steve says that in practice it’s more of a “dogma” than a “creed”. In the finest, most precise shades of definition, he’s probably right about that, since creeds are formal, collective affirmations of dogma rather than the premises of dogma per se.”

    Don’t U*Us just love it when my karma runs over U*U “dogma”? 😉

    Steve and Fausto are splitting hairs where there are none to be split. . . Let’s look at the um *bald* facts.

    Yes, each individual principle of the Seven Principles of U*Uism can be considered to be dogma, as can the Seven Principles as a collectivity. However, when U*U congregations (and thus AFAIAC U*U individuals) “covenant” to “affirm and promote” or indeed “honor and uphold” these seven elements of dogma they become “formal, collective affirmations” of U*U dogma. N’est-ce pas?

    http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/covenant

    +

    http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/dogma

    =

    http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/creed

  6. On this Robin, we will have to disagree. The Ps-and-Ps are specifically about congregations relationships to each other, and specifically not about an individual’s relationship to a particular church.

    Church covenants are different. A member, upon becoming a member, would subscribe to the covenant of the church. But becoming a member of a congregation does not necessarily mean that one subscribes to the Ps-and-Ps. Nor does every church ask that.

    That is how I see the difference between a covenant and the Ps-and-Ps.

  7. “The Ps-and-Ps are specifically about congregations relationships to each other, and specifically not about an individual’s relationship to a particular church.”

    The P Ps-and-Ps* are by no means “specifically about congregations relationships to each other” nor are they “specifically not about an individual’s relationship to a particular church.” Kim. I challenge you or any other like-minded U*U to back up those assertions with facts and evidence that support them. I suggest that you and other U*Us who may believe this to be true should enter into a genuinely free and genuinely *responsible* search for the truth and meaning of the P Ps-and-Ps by rereading them and using some good old Unitarian reason to properly interpret what they actually say.

    Allow me to help you and other U*Us out with that –

    There are seven principles which Unitarian Universalist congregations affirm and promote:

    * The inherent worth and dignity of every *person*;

    The first principle is specifically about U*U congregations’ relationships with “every person” not simply other U*U congregations.

    * Justice, equity and compassion in human relations;

    The second principle is specifically about U*U congregations affirming and promoting justice, equity and compassion in *human relations* in a very general and broad sense. It is by no means “specifically about congregations relationships to each other.” Au contraire, most people of intelligence and conscience will agree that it effectively means that if U*U congregations “covenant” to “affirm and promote” “justice, equity and compassion human relations” in general they should set an example by striving to affirm and promote justice, equity and compassion in *their own* human relations with *individuals* to say nothing of other groups.

    * Acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations;

    I am very confident that “one another” in this context refers to individual people, not other U*U congregations. This third principle is very much about U*U congregations’ (i.e. a particular U*U church’s) relationship with the individual people who are members of the congregation. It is about U*U congregations practicing acceptance of individual people, and actively encouraging their spiritual growth within the congregation, as opposed to being unaccepting of “others” and actively or passively discouraging their spiritual growth, as some U*U churches are wont to do. . .

    * A free and responsible search for truth and meaning;

    It is almost inconceivable that this fourth principle of U*Uism applies only to U*U congregations as abstract collective entities rather than the individual U*Us who comprise U*U congregations. In fact this principle is more properly interpreted as being applicable outside of individual U*U congregations and outside the U*U World as it were. I expect that most people would interpret this fourth principle as meaning that U*U congregations, and U*Us more generally, affirm and promote the idea(l) that ALL human beings should engage in “a free and responsible search for truth and meaning” not just U*Us themselves. All the more reason for U*U congregations and individual U*Us to set an example for others by striving to engage in a free and genuinely *responsible* search for truth and meaning themselves. Quite regrettably too many U*Us abjectly fail, and even obstinately refuse. . . to live up to the letter and the spirit of this important fourth principle of U*Uism.

    * The right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large;

    The right of conscience is an individual human right, it would be very nice if U*U congregations had a “right of conscience” to say nothing of a conscience but they can only do so insofar as individual members of the congregation exercise their “right of conscience” or consciences. The phrase “the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large” clearly refers to the use of the democratic process outside of individual U*U congregations and even the U*U World. This principle is obviously about U*U congregations’ relationships with other people outside of the U*U World.

    * The goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all;

    Please note the use of the word *all* Kim. I am pretty sure that it refers to *all* individual humans beings. . . This sixth principle of U*Uism is all about U*U congregations’ relationships with *all* other individual humans beings. Individual U*Us, and U*U congregations, would be very well advised to strive towards the goal of peace, liberty, and justice for *all* within the “world community” of the so-called U*U World if they want to have any credibility in terms of the real world as it were. Again this sixth purported principle of U*Uism is very much about U*U congregations’ relationships with individual human beings both within the so-called U*U World and the vastly larger real world. When individual U*Us and U*U congregations abjectly fail, and even obstinately refuse, to do what is necessary to genuinely work towards the goal of peace, liberty, and justice for *all* individual citizens of the U*U World (or those they have unjustly thrown out of it. . .) they make a mockery of this purported principle of U*Uism and lack credibility regarding their ability to genuinely affirm and promote peace, liberty, and justice for all in the real world.

    * Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.

    All individual human beings are a *part* of the interdependent web of all existence Kim. How can U*U congregations affirm and promote respect for “the interdependent web of all existence” of which all U*U congregations, and all individual U*Us, are a part without demonstrating some respect for the other human beings who are a part of that web?

    :Church covenants are different. A member, upon becoming a member, would subscribe to the covenant of the church.

    If you are talking about the “mission statements” of individual U*U “churches” they may indeed be somewhat different than the Seven Principles but the fact remains that the Seven Principles are themselves a “church covenant” for all those U*U congregations that “covenant” to affirm and promote the Seven Principles. Ergo a member, upon becoming a member of a U*U congregation that “covenants” to affirm and promote the Seven Principles, would subscribe to those U*U “covenants” aka that U*U creed. . .

    :But becoming a member of a congregation does not necessarily mean that one subscribes to the Ps-and-Ps.

    I disagree. Becoming a member of a U*U congregation that “covenants” to “affirm and promote” the Seven Purported Principles of U*Uism does *necessarily* mean that one subscribes to those Seven Principles.

    :Nor does every church ask that.

    Not every U*U “church” honors and upholds the purported Seven Principles of U*Uism that it ostensibly “covenants” to “affirm and promote”. Likewise not every U*U “church” honors and upholds its own self-determined “mission statement”. As you and other U*Us know, I know of at least one U*U “church” that has repeatedly made a total mockery of not only virtually every one of the Seven Principles that it fraudulently “covenants” to “affirm and promote” but its own self-determined mission statements and other U*U policies and ideals. I am sure that it is not alone and that many if not most U*U “churches” fail or refuse to practice what they preach on an ongoing basis.

    :That is how I see the difference between a covenant and the Ps-and-Ps.

    But the Ps-and_Ps are a “covenant” Kim. They are a generalized “covenant” that most if not all U*U congregations ostensibly subscribe to. That does not mean that there cannot be other U*U covenants that U*U congregations or indeed individual U*Us can also subscribe to, as a search for the word “covenant” on the UUA’s webbsite will quickly prove, but a “covenant” is a “covenant” is a “covenant”. . .

    To paraphrase the title of your post here –

    If It’s Not A Covenant, Don’t Pretend It Is One. . .

    * Purported Principles and Purposes

  8. Kim wrote:
    -snip-
    “Liturgy/ritual is how most people receive their religion. If the Ps-and-Ps are just by-laws, don’t give them a place of prominence in church liturgy.”

    It may be true that most UU adults receive their religion through liturgy and other worship elements.

    However, this may not be true for UU youth and children.

    Their experience with UU religion (and to the UU principles) happens in the religious education classroom and youth group — this may be significantly different from the adult experience in Sunday worship.

    One example of the use of the UU principles with RE curricula is with the Our Whole Lives lifespan sexuality education curricula. The materials that make explicit reference to our principles are contained in a separate UU supplemental book.

  9. Thanks for reminding me of the children’s version(s) of the Seven Principles Steve which serve very well to validate and reinforce the arguments that I just presented.

    As Unitarian*Universalists, we believe:

    1. That *each and every person* is unique and to be respected
    2. That *all people* should be treated equally
    3. That our churches are places where *everyone* is accepted and where *we* learn together
    4. That *every person* is free to search for truth and meaning
    5. That *all people* have the right to think for themselves and vote on issues that concern them
    6. That *we* must work for a world in which there is peace, fairness and freedom
    7. That *we* should respect and care for all parts of our planet Earth

    http://www.uuhaverhill.org/religed/uukids.html

    1. *Each person* is important.
    2. Be kind in all *you* do.
    3. *We’re* free to learn together.
    4. *We* search for what is true.
    5. *All people* need a voice.
    6. Build a fair and peaceful world.
    7. *We* care for Earth’s lifeboat.

    http://www.uuabookstore.org/productdetails.cfm?PC=708

    There is no question that both of these children’s versions of the Seven Principles speak about individual Unitarian*Universalists (definitely not congregations as abstract entities) and their relationships which other people, either *unique* individuals or “all people” aka “every person”.

  10. I think you’ve proven my point Robin. I said they are a creed because, in practice, they have become “I believe” statements. The example of the children’s version just re-enforces my sentiments.

  11. What do you mean *your* point Kim? 😉

    Or perhaps I should ask which pint you are referring to here. . .

    I have been making the point that the Seven Principles are effectively, and indeed actually, a creed for years now. For the record, it is not just a case of the Ps-and-Ps being a creed “in practice” as a result of having “become “I believe” statements” as one of your points argues. The Ps-and-Ps were “I believe” statements, aka a “creed”, from Day One just in terms of the terminology used to express them. The last time I checked the word “affirm” is a very strong form of “I believe” statement.

    N’est-ce pas?

    http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/affirm

    “to state or assert positively; maintain as true”

    “to declare positively or firmly; maintain to be true”

    “to assert positively; to tell with confidence; to aver; to maintain as true”

    “The example of the children’s version just re-enforces my sentiments.”

    Well they certainly very handily allow me to *affirm* my point that the Seven Principles are indeed a creed. They do not however prove your point that, “The Ps-and-Ps are specifically about congregations relationships to each other, and specifically not about an individual’s relationship to a particular church.” I would say that point remains not only unproven but proven to be untrue by the arguments that I have presented here. Do you wish to concede that point or present arguments supporting your unproven if not dis-proven assertion?

  12. Hi Robin.

    Let’s remember what my original argument was. That the Ps-and-Ps are a creed. Then someone said, and I agreed, that they are part of the by-laws.

    My argument was that, as part of the by-laws of the Association, then they are about a congregation’s relationships to other congregations not about an individual’s relationship to a particular congregation. I still hold to that.

    You and I aren’t that far apart on this. I’m sorry if I haven’t been as clear as I should have been.

  13. I am well aware that we are not all that far apart Kim but I would have thought that I had more than successfully proven that the Seven Principles are quite evidently not about “a congregation’s relationships to other congregations” as you asserted and inexplicably still “hold to”. In fact not one of the Seven Principles can be reasonably interpreted in that way. The first principle is clearly about U*U congregations’ relationship to “every person”, i.e. U*U congregations’ relationships with *individuals*, not other congregations. The third principle is about relationships between “one another” and is best interpreted if not *properly* interpreted, as being about “acceptance” of individual people *within* U*U congregations rather than relationships between U*U congregations. This is supported by the children’s version that says “our churches are places where *everyone* is accepted and where *we* learn together.” The other principles are about “human relations” in a very general and global sense that goes well beyond relationships between U*U congregations.Phrases like “human relations”, “society at large”, “world community” and “the interdependent web of all existence”, are clearly speaking about the relationships of U*U congregations (and thus by extension the individual U*Us who are members of those congregations) with the world at large.

    The children’s versions make this abundantly clear. The phrase “As Unitarian*Universalists” means just that, as *individual* Unitarian*Universalists, not as Unitarian*Universalist congregations. The children’s versions are quite evidently all about the relationships between *individual* Unitarian*Universalists and *each and every (unique) person* or more generally with *all people* or *everyone*. . . Would that more U*Us finally responsibly acknowledged this reality and then made a serious and sincere effort to actually honor and uphold those purported principles and purposes of their “chosen faith”.

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