Monday, February 8, 2010

Can Atticus Finch be an honorary Unitarian Universalist?

"Well, most folks seem to think they're right and you're wrong..."

"They're certainly entitled to think that, and they're entitled to full respect for their opinions," said Atticus, "but before I can live with other folks I've got to live with myself. The one thing that doesn't abide by majority rule is a person's conscience."

To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee, p.139-140.

On the 50th anniversary of Harper Lee's Pulitzer Prize winning novel, To Kill A Mockingbird, the Brockport Unitarian Universalist Fellowship has chosen this book to discuss in February. The BUUF interfaith book discussion group will be meeting tomorrow night, Tuesday, 02/09/10, at the Lift Bridge Book Shop on Main Street in Brockport, NY at 6:30 PM.

I have enjoyed my re-read of To Kill A Mockingbird very much. Atticus Finch is a modern day saint as are some of the other characters like the housekeeper, Calpurnia, and the children, Jem, Scout, and Dill.

"The one thing that doesn't abide by majority rule is a person's conscience" is a great line.

It is one of the seven principles of Unitarian Universalism, "the right of conscience and the use of democratic process within our congregations and in society at large." Atticus, though, points out the rub which is when the individual conscience is in conflict with the democratic process. Atticus struggles with this mightily in Maycomb County in the 30s when an all white jury convicts an innocent man based on their democratic prejudice.

What happens when democracy is wrong? What happens when good people group together and do bad things? How does one lone individual stand up to a mob mentality? It is the perennial question as when just about the whole congress except for one, Barabara Lee, voted to support the United States entering into a pre-emptive, immoral, and unfounded war in Iraq. These are disturbing and frightening observations to watch your country, your state, your community, your family, your spouse go off half cocked.

The need to be right especially when supported by a group is primitive herd behavior or circling the wagons and protecting one's own. Might makes right! Love it or leave it! My Country Right Or Wrong! Are You With Us or Against Us?!

You've heard all the defensive slogans. There is no person or group that is as dangerous as people who are trying to protect themselves from shame. Shame, along side fear, is the most destructive and malignant emotion that humans can experience. It makes humans dangerous, unreasonable, and destructive. Atticus Finch knew this and worked hard to avoid shaming people. It takes a big person. Would that I could be as good a person as Atticus Finch.

I am proud that my daughter, Maureen, and her husband, Rodney, named their first born, a son, Atticus. He just turned 4. Would that he live up to his namesake.

I am not sure what religion Atticus Finch subscribed to or would subscribe to if he were alive today, but I would be very proud if he would be a Unitarian Universalist because he "gets it" and walks the talk.

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