Someone on Facebook posted a link to a created holiday, "Chalica," and I decided to give it a go. In honor of "Chalica" in which we light a chalice and honor our principles for seven days in December, I'm going to try to write about what each principle means to me each day this week.
Day One: The inherent worth and dignity of every person
The suggestions for honoring this principle included writing a letter of apology or inviting someone to dinner that you disagreed with. That would take more preparation than I've given this, so I thought about the groups of people who have been most devalued in our society: religious minorities, particularly Muslims and Atheists, both of whom are reviled by many but in very different ways; gays and lesbians, bisexuals, and transgender people; homeless people; imprisoned people; people with mental disabilities; people with psychological disorders; people with physical disabilities; and many, many more who find themselves outside of what has been declared normative for our society in one way or another.
LGBT issues are of great importance to me, and to our congregation, in particular. And Jackson saw a lot of flurry of interest in transgender people back when a certain person was fired by a local university for living the gender that she beleives God made her. That's all "water under the bridge" now, and you seldom see it in the letters to the editor of the local paper anymore, lost in the flurry of election issues. But for the LGBT people in our community, their issues are not "water under the bridge." They live with the inequalities in our community and struggle with them and with prejudice on a regular basis.
The focus has been on California a lot lately, with its overturning of same-sex marriage. It's easy to forget that we banned same-sex marriage "or any similar union" a few years ago here in Michigan, as have lots of other states, in the post-election coverage of California's protests and legal follow-up cases. But we have written discrimination into our constitution in this state, and it's so far been upheld. And it's a disgrace to our state.
But for me to live the first principle means more than fighting for the people that our society has been legislating against, more than fighting for the downtrodden or oppressed. It means, first and foremost, that I must honor the inherent worth and dignity of those that I disagree with most. I have to uphold the universal love of God/universe/interdependent web for all people, even whomever I disagree with most.
The hard part of living this principle is finding a way to demonstrate that without validating an opinion or position that I find abhorent. After all, I don't want to donate money, for example, to a cause that I believe is making the world a worse place.
In high school, one of the movies we watched in my Holocaust literature course I took was a movie about the Neo-Nazis marching in Skokie, IL and the ACLU defending their right to march. It's a heart-wrenching situation, where it's difficult to know who to root for. I thought about supporting the ACLU on this day, because of this. They do stand up for the rights of people they disagree with, such as the right of a Neo-Nazi to hold a march.
However, I have a feeling that the ACLU is going to come back up in the next few days. Instead, I turn to another organization that focuses on stopping hatred and promoting tolerance: the Southern Poverty Law Center. Today I'm making a donation to the SPLC in honor of my brother-in-law Gary, whom I often disagree with, but who also is a force for good in this world.