Compassion is a core value for us. In our second principle, we affirm and promote justice, equity, and compassion in human relations. We begin with the inherent worth and dignity of every person and immediately bring compassion into the equation. The words in the second principle articulate the gold standard necessary to maximize what is possible in human relationships.
We affirm that justice must prevail in human relations; that justice is the basis for the world we would create. We begin with justice because, based on the rule of law, it establishes the common ground upon which we all stand. Through the application of justice, we submit to laws that govern our behavior. We are, we say, a nation of laws, which affirms that no one is above the law. With regard to people, we say that justice is blind, but justice must often go beyond the law, especially with unjust laws. Theologian Joseph Sittler wrote, “Justice is love operating at a distance.” Such love is a tough love, a love practiced in detachment. Because of this, justice is significant, but not sufficient.
We then add equity to our principled equation of right action. The application of justice is modified by equity, which allows Lady Justice to lift the blindfold to look at individuals and their circumstances, to see the individual and respond contextually rather than impartially. In words of condemnation, Rafael Sabatini said, “With you it is always the law, never equity.” The reality is that we need both. Equity takes into account mitigating factors. It takes the long view, which includes the possibility of redemption and transformation and attempts to make justice more just by going beyond the law, by seeking a restorative justice that views punishment as a terribly blunt and often ineffective remedy.
We promise equity not equality. Rather than saying that we must treat everyone equally, we affirm that, through equity, we will take into account the needs, aspirations, idiosyncrasies, gifts, and challenges of each individual. Through equity we level the playing field as we respond to individual uniqueness. In place of stones, we give this person bread, but to another, because we are mindful of equity, we give wine, and yet to another our gift is salt. Parents understand that fairness in terms of their children is not treating them equally, but with equity, and this principle applies to all others. As Rick Riordan writes, “Fairness does not mean everyone gets the same. Fairness means everyone gets what they need.”
Still, in human relations, justice and equity are significant, but not sufficient. Compassion informs and modifies both of them. Compassion comes last in this list, but in reality, it anchors the other two. Without compassion we will struggle to act consistently in ways that embody equity and justice. Compassion comes from two Latin roots: com meaning “together” and pati meaning “to suffer.” Through compassion we suffer with others. Unitarian Universalist minister Charlotte Cowtan writes, “Compassion is an act of human will; it is born of the recognition, acceptance, and celebration of the essential kinship of all humanity. When we choose to recognize that each human being is imbued with innate worth and dignity [our first principle], to accept with humility the fact that each one of us is both mortal and less than perfect, and to express our sincere gratitude for the gift of each and every human life, human hearts become joined in compassion.”
Compassion is relational. It is part of a continuum that begins with sympathy—feeling pity for—and moves to empathy—feeling with. We are born with a disposition toward compassion, with what Ram Dass has called “natural compassion.” For most of us, this disposition must be cultivated and deepened.
Compassion first tends to occur interpersonally. We witness another’s pain and suffering and are moved to feel, to care, to act. The difference between pity and compassion is vast. Pity is hierarchical. We are moved, but it is from a position of superiority. Compassion is a response among equals, and true compassion affirms that we are all fundamentally equal based on the our inherent worth and dignity. Through compassion, we respond to the other as if he or she is us, because in fundamental ways, given the unity that makes us one, the other is us.
Ultimately, compassion asks more of us. This more is articulated in our second source: Words and deeds of prophetic women and men which challenge us to confront powers and structures of evil with justice, compassion, and the transforming power of love. In every age they arise, some known to history and revered as exemplars—people for us to emulate in word, deed, and spirit. The vast majority of these prophetic women and men, however, became anonymous with the passage of time, but their legacy of compassion and courage endures. They were not trying to become famous. They simply used the life they were given doing the work that they believed would help bend the moral arc of the universe toward justice. They were armed with imagination, compassion, conviction, and hope. Some did truly great things using the transforming power of love; others did small things with great love. May our compassion embrace the oppressed, the downtrodden, the marginalized, the poor, and more. May our compassion inform our action as we circle round to the work of justice: justice, equity, compassion—and so it goes.
sThere is a considerable difference between the ideal of democracy and its reality, especially in America, but in other countries as well. Of course, America is vaunted as the first democracy in the modern era, but this accolade requires that we ask, “What kind of democracy?” Ironically, the Declaration of Independence, which Americans tend to revere, involved more than a little misdirection in its assertion, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” The word “men” was neither generic nor symbolic. Women were excluded from this ideal. Blacks were excluded from this ideal. Native Americans were also excluded, as were white men who did not own property. In the colonial period, the right to vote was often based on property qualifications and/or a religious test.
The U.S. Constitution did not originally define who was eligible to vote, allowing each state to determine who was eligible. It was not until 1856 that white men were allowed to vote regardless of property ownership, although requirements for paying a tax remained in five states, three in the South and two in the North.
Since the U.S. Civil War, the ongoing battle has been between those seeking to expand the franchise to vote and those seeking to restrict it. While the 15th amendment (1870) extended the franchise to black men, Jim Crow laws in the South passed between 1889 and 1910 introduced literacy tests and poll taxes to deny blacks, poor whites, Native Americans, and newly naturalized citizens the right to vote. They also disqualified convicted felons from voting. The primary objective of these laws was to suppress Black voter registration and turnout, and they were spectacularly successful. While the 19th amendment (1920) extended the vote to women, it did not offer protections to non-white women.
While Unitarians and Universalists were active in the movements to extend suffrage to black men and women, there were pockets of friction between these two goals. As an example, famous suffragette Elizabeth Cady Stanton was opposed to the 15th amendment saying, “We educated, virtuous white women are more worthy of the vote.”
The U.S. Supreme court upheld poll taxes in both 1937 (Breedlove v. Suttles) and in 1951 (Butler v. Thompson). It was not until the 24th Amendment was ratified in 1964 that the use of poll taxes in federal elections was abolished. To appease state rights’ advocates, it did not apply to state or local elections. The Supreme Court, however, ruled in 1966 (Harper v. Virginia Board of Elections) that poll taxes in all state and local elections were prohibited under the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment.
While the U.S. Congress passed Civil Rights Acts in 1957, 1960, and 1964, none where strong enough to prevent voting discrimination at the local level. Finally, with the U.S. Voting Rights Act of 1965, a direct response to “Bloody Sunday” in Selma, Alabama, literacy tests were outlawed and jurisdictions with a history of voting discrimination could not change voting practices or procedures without “preclearance” from either the U.S. Attorney General or the District Court for Washington, D.C.
Unfortunately, the U.S. Supreme Court gutted the Voting Acts Right in 2013 (Shelby County v. Holder). Prior to that, Section 5 of the act required federal review of new voting rules in 15 states, most of them in the South. The result has been a dramatic and largely successful increase in voter suppression in communities of color up to and through the 2018 mid-term elections.
An earlier attack by the court on democracy was decided in 2010 (Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission) when corporations were made citizens, acknowledging that political spending is protected speech under the First Amendment. This means that the government may not keep corporations or unions from spending money to support or denounce individual candidates in elections. Then, the court in 2014 (McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission) overruled the 2002 Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act, which established two sets of limits to campaign contributions in a two-year-period. Most notably, in the presidential election in 2000, a divided Supreme Court ruled 7-2 (Bush v. Gore) that the state of Florida’s court-ordered manual recount of vote ballots was unconstitutional, despite the fact that Gore had won the popular vote nationally. Many legal scholars have determined that the decision was politically motivated, especially given that the Supreme Court reversed the Florida Supreme Court’s order calling for are count.
These are all examples of what Harvard University Professor Mark Tushnet calls “constitutional hardball” in which court decisions appear to be within the bounds of existing constitutional doctrine and practice (e.g., originalism), but they trample conventional understandings of how the law is supposed to work. Increases in the number of conservative judges and justices will embolden judicial hardball.
In this, American democracy is being undermined by the wealthy, special interests, lobbying, and key decisions by the courts, most notably the U.S. Supreme Court. Since the adoption of the U.S. Constitution, conservatives have undermined democracy through the practice of identity politics that favors wealthy, white men by passing laws that suppress the vote of minorities.
The intelligence unit of the Economist Magazine compiled its first Democracy Index in 2006. The five factors that were assessed were
(1) Electoral process and pluralism,
(2) Functioning of government,
(3) Political participation,
(4) Political culture, and
(5) Civil Liberties.
Each of these five categories is evaluated using an average of 12 indicators. In 2006, the U.S. was listed in 17th place and judged to be a “full democracy” along with 27 other countries. In 2018, the U.S. fell to25th place and dropped to the category of a “flawed democracy.” While American democracy scored higher on Electoral process and pluralism and Political participation, it scored lower on Functioning of government, Political culture, and Civil liberties. By comparison, Canada was ranked 9th in 2006. By 2018, it had moved up to 6th place.…..While we may think that the decline in democracy and democratic values is recent, some suggest that the decline began in 2005.
In one poll taken in 2005, a majority of Americans said that the U.S. should play a role in promoting democracy throughout the world. By 2007, only 37% thought the U.S. should play this role. The Freedom in the World 2019 report listed the following as reasons why democracy in the United States is being undermined: assailing the rule of law, demonizing the press, self-dealing and conflicts of interest, attacking the legitimacy of elections, and undermining American ideals abroad.
There are consequences to this. As an example, in one recent study, only about 30% of Americans born in the 1980s thought that it was “essential” to live in a democracy. That compared to 75% of Americans born in the 1930s. Democracy seems to be far more vulnerable than we imagined, especially in the face of a growing preference for nationalism and authoritarianism.
A covenant is a promise freely made and entered into. It outlines expectations and guides behavior. It also contributes to individual and collective identity. While we can fail to live up to the covenant from time to time, the expectation is that we will renew it as required again and again.
While the concept of covenant goes back to the ancient Israelites, its relevance to Unitarian Universalist churches is rooted in two events. The first was the founding of Unitarianism in 16th century Transylvania. Words attributed to Francis David were, “We do not need to think alike, to love alike.” While he did not say these precise words, the sentiment in these words was based on the words of Jesus and his call for a radical and transforming love as the basis for the kingdom of God. This sentiment, when extended, suggests that we will gather as religious communities based on love, not intellectual propositions; on covenant, not creed; on orthopraxy or right practice, not orthodoxy or right belief. The second event was the arrival of the Puritans in America in the 1630s, who organized their free churches around covenant.
Although it is not apparent given the early history of Unitarianism in Europe, American Unitarianism was directly descended from the Puritans in America and not from European Unitarianism. As Unitarianism emerged in the late 1700s and early 1800s, the concept of covenant, as articulated in the Puritan Cambridge Platform of 1648, remained important, but, as the Rev. Alice Blair Wesley explained in her 2000-2001 Minns Lectures, its influence began to decline until its meaning and practice became nonexistent. The title of her third lecture is, How We Came to Forget Covenant for a Long Time.
The recovery of covenant occurred as part of the process that led up to the development of new Purposes and Principles, which were adopted in 1985. Prior to that, as Rev.Robert Latham wrote, “We have forgotten that covenant is the keystone of our religious experience. This has resulted in diminishment of meaning in membership, confusion of identity, and distortion in gauging ministry effectiveness.” Since 1985, the concept of covenant has slowly grown in our understanding.
In the fall of 2015, the UUA Board of Trustees appointed the Task Force on Covenanting to facilitate a reimagining of how Unitarian Universalist congregations relate to each other and to the UUA. During the winter of 2019, there was a telephone survey of selected UU congregations to determine the role that covenant plays in the life of those congregations. At the 2019 General Assembly in Spokane the UUA Commission on Appraisal held a workshop entitled, Power in Covenants—Redeeming Our Time Together?, which asked “How do we honor and make real our own covenants? How do our congregational covenants guide our governance and UU identity?” (This workshop title recalled the 1999 book, Redeeming Time, edited by Walter Herz and published by Skinner House Books, which explored the role of covenant in Unitarian Universalism. This was followed by Rev. Alice Blair Wesley’s 2000-2001 Minns Lectures, The Lay and Liberal Doctrine of the Church: The Spirit and the Promise of Our Covenant.)
In 2002, the Rev. Roy Phillips presented a paper to the Prairie Group, a study group of UU ministers formed in 1951. Phillips articulated five ways in which we are covenanted together. They are:
Rev. Alice Blair Wesley adapted the covenant of the Pilgrims to match Unitarian Universalist sensibilities of today. Her version is as follows: We pledge to walk together in the ways of truth and affection, as best we know them now or may learn them in days to come that we and our children may be fulfilled and that we may speak to the world in words and actions of peace and goodwill.
During R.E. on Sunday we dug deeper into Judaism. We looked briefly at the history of Judaism reform and how that led to the different secs of Judaism we see today. We watched this video:
We talked about how holidays and traditions are central to Jewish life. We read Sammy Spiders First Shabbat.
It is available on Hoopla through the Pueblo Library if you would like to check it out. We also watched this video:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vjmjZWHXKFY
We talked about Rosh Hashanah and watched this video as well https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1AuMXq5sHDw
We ended discussing that like many other religions, Jews have special ceremonies to celebrate when children become adults. Jews celebrate the passage of boys becoming men usually the first Shabbat after their thirteenth birthday when they become Bar Mitzvah. When girls turn 12 they become Bat Mitzvah. Emily and Ben are going to tell you about their experiences becoming Bat and Bar Mitzvah. We watched this video, and then talked about how some non-binary individuals have a B'nei Mitzvah and have gender neutral ceremonies.
In October we will be taking a look into Hinduism. Hope to see you at our family service on October 6th at 10:30 AM!
I am so excited for the new R.E. format for the 2019-2020 year. I wanted to take a few moments to explain how the system is going to work. I want to apologize for the low audio quality during the video, but hopefully it works for this purpose.
Members of the Pikes Peak Community College Chamber Orchestra performed for us on the 25th and it was lovely. Here is a snippet:
Our youngest congregants had their first concert experience. One was bribed with cookies to keep quiet. (He was quite proud of his cookie.)
(He was quite proud of his cookie. We were standing under the skylight...)
The musicians of the PPCC String Quartet include Rebekah Emory, 1st violin; Eli Makaiwi, 2nd violin, Lilly Adams, viola; and Bonnie Bowman, cello. It was a beautiful performance, and I know that I would love to have them come play for us again!
By Carol Meadows
On Sunday August 18, First Unitarian Society of Pueblo had a booth at Pride. We had a great time. I know that I enjoyed meeting so many new people! Mineral Palace Park was awash with color and you could just feel the energy.
Lyntha and her husband Bob, Steve, Ron and I laughed through setting up our tent and our booth.
A picture of Paul and Gary at our booth.
After the parade there were speakers, music, and performers. Ron's dog Spike was lavished in attention from the many Pride attendees. The ice cold bottles of water we had available for $1 were greatly appreciated by many, and the candy we offered quickly disappeared.
While there was focus on the milestones that have been made, and the victories won, there was also caution to keep fighting, that the rights that have been fought for are also in danger of being taken away.
Later in the day Paul, Louise, Gary, and Shawn came to join the festivities. Though the afternoon got warm, it wasn't that bad. Between the shade, the bottled water, and the mini generator and fan Paul brought, it was fine.
Overall it was a wonderful day, and I am already excited for Pride in 2020!