I am continuing my discussion and dissection of the UUA seven principles this week with the fifth principle which reads:
The right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large
In the United States this seems like a pretty easy principle to follow without too much to understand. But based on recent numbers this is one that people have decided to not utilize.
This was one of the hardest things to understand when I joined the UU church. In the Catholic church, the priest (sometimes head priest if you have more than one) and then up the hierarchy to the Pope are in charge. They make decisions and for the most part those decisions are final. Unitarian Universalist churches are, for the most part, autonomous. We belong to the UUA which is kind of like belonging to the UN. Each congregation can participate and take or leave whatever decisions the UUA makes but the congregations are allowed to make up their own “rules” for the most part, aside from adhering to the principles and sources of knowledge. Some UU churches don’t even call themselves churches, they are congregations, communities, or fellowships because they want to avoid the feelings that come associated with the word “church” for some individuals. The decision to be a church, congregation, or fellowship comes from the members itself through the democratic process.
In the US, voting was the “democratic experiment”. It hasn’t always been perfect, and there have definitely been some difficulties with the voting rights of people who aren’t white, land owning males but since voting is a founding core of our country it seems that everyone who can vote should vote. Many people have fought and died over the centuries to give us that right. People haven’t been taking advantage of that right, according to the census of the eligible voters only 53.4% turned out for the 2018 elections and according to the United States Election Project only 60% of the eligible voters turned out for the 2016 Presidential Election. That leaves almost 40% of the population not voting and instead of asking “why?” we just decide that is “good enough” even though almost half the country isn’t represented. Whether you’re a white landed male back in 1776 as we broke away from England or in the case of myself, the Suffragist movement of the early 20th century where females fought and were given the right to vote in 1920 with the 19th amendment. There are other negative marks on the history of voting rights but I’m not interested in turning this into a history lesson. I want you, yes you, to remember that this is a right that was given to us as a country and an experiment Without a king, or queen, to lead us we were supposed to have failed and imploded but we survived. We’ve survived but we are squandering the hard won victories in name of comfort or ease. Forty percent of us are not using the voice we have to make sure it is heard.
We have the ability to change the course of history sometimes we just have to show up and use that voice. Vote with your dollars, vote with your feet, and vote with your voice. We all are a part of making whatever groups we belong to run and be successful whether it’s your country or your church.