Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Seven Principles and Shakers?


I've always struggled with the idea of organized religion, even though I identify with a religion now. I am a Unitarian Universalist (or UU). Unitarian Universalism is centered around 7 core principles which are extremely loose guidelines for how to interpret one's faith (the perfect kind of religion for someone like me, yet very un-Shaker). I know that my UU church draws a lot from world religions/cultures and their values...helping to shape our views...Naturally, in learning about the Shakers through the readings and presentation I found myself comparing the sentiment and values of Shakers and UUs. I thought for my write-up this week I'd display my findings.

1st Principle: The inherent worth and dignity of every person
2nd Principle: Justice, equity and compassion in human relations
      These principles are especially close to my heart because they help fuel my passion for advocacy regarding social justice, diversity and equity. As far as the Shakers, I believe their religion must have had a similar principle because of the ease with which newcomers were accepted and the aspect of gender equality prevalent in their communities. I honestly always find it interesting when there's fundamental gender equality anywhere because of how rare it is in our contemporary society. In order for gender equality to persist, a baseline of respect has to precede (and exist unwavering). Somehow the Shakers were able to build their religious community onto a foundation of mutual respect and appreciation and that allowed their religion to function so for so long.

3rd Principle: Acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations
4th Principle: A free and responsible search for truth and meaning
      Mrs. Gold mentioned in her talk that Shakers allowed (within reason) people to do what they enjoyed and to indulge in their talents/gifts. I identify with that idea strongly because of how easily it connects to UU principle. I believe people should do what they love, and clearly the Shakers agreed with that idea to some extent. It's part of human nature to want to find our purpose, and both UUism and Shakerism encourage and assist that process.

5th Principle: The right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large
      I don't have much to say about this other than I imagine Shakers had to come together and communicate in some form, as all people do. Also, their beliefs and conscience obviously had a large effect on their views and actions.

6th Principle: The goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all
7th Principle: Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.
      Although the Shakers distinctly performed and worked well because they were displaying their love for/appreciation of God, I think it also connects to God's work. Assuming God created Earth, humans and beauty, it only makes sense to honor each thing in the community and surrounding it. I also think these principles to connect to Shaker pacifism, and yet again freedom.

Now, I am in no means suggesting that Shakers and UUs are the same (we most definitely are not), but I do think that the similarity in values reveals something about the success and appeal of both religions. UUism has stuck with me because it's non-binding, I can leave and return as I please, I can choose not to acknowledge a god...I am not forced into any ideology, or clothing, for that matter. I do not have to close my eyes or bow my head if or when I pray (not ever). Being a Shaker has a similar appeal. Yes...you are required to publicly confess and be celibate, but your community still loves you, accepts you, honors you and helps you grow mentally and spiritually. Both religions evoke a feeling of liberation and independence, two things we strive for societally, but struggle to achieve. What exactly is stopping us?

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