The first principle of Unitarian Universalism is recognizing the inherent dignity and worth of all people. Events of the last year (ish) have challenged that idea for me. I think your dignity comes from how you live your life. How you carry yourself, represent yourself. Your observable integrity is the source of your dignity. Something like that anyway.

And your worth is what you bring to the world, whatever size your world is. It may well just be you. What value do you bring yourself?

These are not inherent qualities. They’re derived, consequences of beliefs held and actions taken. This can’t be what UU means. This is my crisis of faith, and here is my first attempt at a partial solution. (It’s after midnight and I’m having terrible insomnia. Stream of consciousness follows.)

If you have in your inventory a Narcan spray, and you find someone who has had too much heroin, you do not consider how valuable the person is, for any definition of “value,” before giving them the Narcan and calling emergency services. There are no conditions attached; someone will die if you don’t intervene, so you intervene, and that’s that.

What is it about that person’s life that makes the choice for you? Whatever it is, that must be their “inherent worth”, or at least one part of it.

If someone is facing charges, no matter the crime, no matter the evidence, we give them a fair trial. (Well, we pretend to, anyway.) What is it about them that guarantees the right to a trial? Even if they enter the courtroom and there’s no question what they’ve done, all the procedure is still followed. Whatever it is, I’m calling it their “inherent dignity” (or at least one aspect of it). No disgrace takes it away. But what is it?

I believe the answer is diversity. There is no other human like that one, and for that reason alone, they’re worth saving. That’s the part of their worth and dignity that is inherent.

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