The Trouble with Our First Principle

“The inherent worth and dignity of every person” is the first principle of Unitarian Universalism.  So yes, I have to say it, though I am personally wrestling with this myself: we UUs are asked affirm the inherent worth and dignity of Donald Trump.  We need to affirm the worth and dignity of those who voted for Trump (just about 50% of Stanislaus County voters).  But affirming the worth and dignity does not mean supporting, normalizing, or glossing over the real and violent impact Trump’s election and his leadership has already had or will have. It is possible to both love and resist.  That is what I believed we UUs are called to do in the days ahead.

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UUFSCers at Standing Rock Solidarity Event 11/15/16

I turned to Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King’s 1957 sermon “Loving Your Enemies,” where he writes: “You should love your enemies because hate distorts the personality of the hater…the way to be integrated with yourself is be sure that you meet every situation of life with an abounding love. Never hate, because it ends up in tragic, neurotic responses…  I’m foolish enough to believe that through the power of this love somewhere, men of the most recalcitrant bent will be transformed….”

Thinking about these words in the context of the actions of King may help us remember that the kind of love King was talking about was not mushy, gushy, sentimental, and submissive. The kind of love which King speaks fueled powerful resistance.  And loving our enemy does not mean prioritizing the enemy over those most victimized by the enemy.

The local liberal clergy group has extended an invitation to the larger, more conservative clergy group in Modesto to have a “big tent” meeting, just to try and build relationships.  This election has made clear how distant we have become from one another. Like our broader country, there is a great divide here in Modesto.  Almost 50% of voters supported Trump and almost 50% supported Clinton.  And while I wholeheartedly support such a meeting, I will attend it knowing that many of the more conservative clergy do not believe that women should be ordained.  That many of these clergy likely believe I live in sin or am going to hell because I am gay.  The crux of our spiritual struggle is this:  humanizing “the other” even when they dehumanize you; humanizing “the other” even as we fiercely resist the behaviors and systems that oppress and marginalize too many of us.   The first principle should not be construed to dampen our resolve or resistance, but rather to humanize all people even in the midst of struggle.

So yes Mr. Trump, I affirm your inherent worth and dignity.  And because I also affirm the inherent worth and dignity of immigrants, Muslims, women, Brown folks, and Black folks, I will work on loving you (not liking you) and resisting your oppressive policies at every turn.

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Photo by C.L. Everett, Standing Rock Solidarity Event at Knight’s Ferry Tuesday 11/15/16

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