Remember the 8th Principle? We Still Really Need to Adopt This!

Dear Friends at UUFP,

The following is the 8th Principle, which [our church] affirms and promotes:

Journeying toward spiritual wholeness by working to build a diverse, multicultural Beloved Community by our actions that accountably dismantle racism and other oppressions in ourselves and our institutions.

Last winter, I wrote an article for the eFlame entitled “It’s Time for the UUFP to Adopt the 8th Principle.” In the article, I made what I think was a pretty cogent argument for why we were ready to do this. Basically, I said we are ready to adopt this principle because:

  • We white UUs are listening to the voices of our fellow UUs and community leaders who are Black, Indigenous and people of color, and we are learning about the struggle for justice.
  • We white UUs have started examining ourselves.
  • Further, UUFPers have started taking action in our church and community to redress the wrongs of systemic racism.

In other words, the adoption of the 8th Principle in our church would not be done casually, but it would be done while knowing and acknowledging the importance and the extent of the work ahead, by:

  • listening to those who have been marginalized
  • examining ourselves and our society for ways we can undo systemic racism and other oppressions and create Beloved Community
  • getting to work.

It’s not too late to act. We must acknowledge the harms done and work to undo all the wrongs both within ourselves and in our community.

We have learned not just in the past year but over many years—and one could argue that we have always known it—how skewed our systems are to favor white citizens over citizens who are Black, Indigenous and people of color.  How many systems should I bring up as examples? I could bring all of them up, but I will name the school system, the criminal justice system, the system of policing, our health system, our housing system, our financial system and our electoral system, as examples. Most grievously, perhaps, I could name the so-called entertainment industry and all the harm it has done by often portraying Americans who are Black, Indigenous and people of color in a poor light. As one UUFP member has put it, racism has fallen on us like rain all our lives. Yes, we are wet. But we are not melting. It’s not too late to act. We must acknowledge the harms done and work to undo all the wrongs both within ourselves and in our community.

When I first became a UU, Robert Fulghum, UU minister in the Pacific Northwest, had just published his book: All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten. It was a bestseller not just amongst UUs but in the country, and it was quoted often in UU sermons and talks. He got lots of laughs and nods of agreement in the UUFP when he was quoted as saying that one of kindergarten’s main lessons is that when you do something wrong, you need to say you’re sorry. And if you’ve made a mess you need to clean it up. Indeed, we all agreed that this is basic decency. Adopting the 8th Principle is part of saying we are sorry for the harm we’ve done as white UUs and white Americans. Adopting the 8th Principle is also a promise that we will help to clean up the mess that we have made. It isn’t always easy to say I’m sorry. (Ask a kindergartner!) You have to acknowledge that you hurt your friend, and you have to listen to their reply and wait until they say it’s okay. But it feels good when you have done it. Once you’ve said you’re sorry (and you mean it), you have a lightness of heart. You’ve won your friend back. Kindergartners who do so then gladly and happily throw themselves into cleaning up the mess. (The Racial Justice Team that has formed this summer, by the way, is a great way to pitch in. Come join us! Contact racialjustice@uufp.com.)

Some have been curious about the phrase “and other oppressions” in the 8th Principle. Although acknowledging that the harms done to our citizens who are Black, Indigenous and people of color have been the greatest and should be centered, the 8th Principle does not stop there. It reminds us that there are many groups who have been ignored or maligned in our culture that has for so long given primacy to the cisgender, able-bodied white male protestant. Deeply listening to our LGBTQ community, to our community of people with disabilities and to others who are feeling marginalized is an authentic form of being welcoming and building Beloved Community and is another beautiful and important part of the 8th Principle.

Last winter, the Anti-Racism Task Force did a straw poll of our congregation. You may have taken it. We had 76 respondents—well over half of our total membership and so a valid number to reflect our feelings. The questions asked were twofold: 1) Have you heard of the 8th Principle?  and, 2) Would you support adopting the 8th Principle in our church? Sixty-two percent of this large group of UUFP respondents already knew about the 8th Principle and were ready to adopt it. That was wonderful to know. About 20% had not heard of the 8th Principle at that time. And about the same number said they would like to learn more before deciding. This is a reasonable request, and so our Policy Board has formed the 8th Principle Task Force, whose primary purpose is to give everyone time and space to learn more about it. (Our second purpose is to bring the adoption of the 8th Principle in our congregation up for a real vote in the spring.)  So watch this space! We will be putting out a Frequently Asked Questions sheet in October in the eFlame and on the UUFP Facebook Community Page. We will be speaking about the 8th Principle at a Sunday Forum in December, and we’ll be hosting a town hall in January. Other events are planned as well. In short, there will be lots of opportunity to learn more about this very important Principle and to share our feelings with each other.

We hope to see you there.

Lucy van Tine
Coordinator of the Racial Justice Team

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