Pastor Freed used this quote today – “Those are my principles, and if you don’t like them…well, I have others,” (Groucho Marx)
Freed when on to write about having principles – things that you stand for and which drive your behavior in life. Principles are things that matter. Just this morning I again placed on my front lawn a sign with a quote from Martin Luther King – “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”
Interestingly when I looked that quote up there is some controversy about whether he actually ever said those exact words. It is credited as coming from his I Have A Dream speech, but it actually a paraphrasing of a sermon in Selma, Alabama, on 8 March 1965, the day after “Bloody Sunday,” on which civil rights protesters were attacked and beaten by police on the Edmund Pettus Bridge:
A man dies when he refuses to stand up for that which is right. A man dies when he refuses to stand up for justice. A man dies when he refuses to take a stand for that which is true.
King was talking about principles and what we stand for. He was saying that it is not OK to look away when we see injustice or to accept unacceptable behavior towards others. One cannot selectively choose which principles we will apply that day or in that instance. We cannot say, as Groucho said, if you don’t like my principles, I have others. If you do not stand on your principles, you step onto a slippery slope and fall. There is no half-way with principles. It’s like what Bob Dylan said about religion, “You either got it or you ain’t.” So, you either got principles or you ain’t.
A scary aspect of modern life is that too many people are taking a stand for things that just aren’t true. That is what drove the invasion of the Capitol…people actually believed the big lie that was being circulated about the election. Now, misinformation and conspiracy theories are driving the resistance to what should be a “no-brainer” decision to get vaccinated against a deadly pandemic. How many death-bed regrets must we see on TV from non-vaccers before people change their minds and do the right thing?
So maybe we should be saying to ourselves and others, “These are my principles, and if you don’t like them…well, sorry but that’s how I’m going to live my life.” However, even that is not enough. We must continue to try to convince others to do the right things, too. Standing passively by and watching others commit injustices or doing the wrong things makes us accessories to their actions. In that inaction we die a little because we have not stood up for our principles.
Take time to think about that for a moment…what principles are you willing to stand for? What ae you doing about that?