Golden Rule Applied to Social Issues

The congregation spent many weeks in early 2019 reflecting on the Golden Rule as it related to several important social issues.  Here are the notes that were posted on the Parish Hall walls as part of that project.

Climate Change and Environmental Degradation

  1. What might it look like to apply the Golden Rule to this issue? (thinking society-wide)
  • Treating earth, animals, plants right. Treating them as beings, being grateful and generous, not just taking, not just seeing as commodities.
  • Being aware of all our impact as individuals and a civilization for seven generations.
  • Golden rule: taking care of peoples and earth
  • Be thinking
  • Every decision about impact of fuel
  • Reciprocity of consequences
  • Working with other nations
  • Bite size to avoid overwhelming
  • Joining back into climate change accord
  • Better support for environmental work and organizations
  • Supporting action groups financially and morally
  • Being stewards of our own space and events like green up day
  • We act as if we live in the most vulnerable ecosystem, as if we live on the tiny Pacific island nation, or next to the oilfield, etc.
  • We don’t let our privilege protect us from having to make difficult daily choices
  • Human exceptionalism is flawed
  • Built-in incentive systems (local, regional, national) so that it is in people’s interest to protect the environment
  • Public signage declaring awareness of and commitment to working toward resolution
  1. What feels positive to me about applying the Golden Rule to our actions on this issue?
  • Helping human life and biological diversity to survive.
  • Feeling its ok to have children, not feel like it’s bad to procreate which is a right.
  • Being more of nature / animals, more ‘in love with them’ and showing it
  • Future generations have a better planet
  • Can feel good and affirmative
  • Work toward common good
  • Non-toxic resources
  • Locally, we feel better supporting energy efficiency and supportive measures
  • Security of knowing that we’re all in this together and we are all working together to solve the problem.
  • Knowing how to actually live.
  • Good goal: preserve planet for future generations
  • We know from history that positive incentives work
  • org representatives come to our church to inform what we might do
  • VPIRG – Vermont public interest group – access information for action
  1. What makes it feel difficult or complicated to apply the Golden Rule?
  • Government action needed. How to get them to.
  • We need to change our ways.
  • We need to accept limits.
  • We need to innovate QUICKLY.
  • We need to stay HOPEFUL in face of very scary stuff.
  • Huge need for change in consciousness, how to do it.
  • We are comfortable where we are and it is hard to change
  • Political climate makes hard
  • Potential to be overwhelmed
  • We don’t see true impacts
  • Intersection and complexity of all of these issues and not knowing that what you’re contributing to is actually effective
  • Prioritizing issues / distinguishing between local and global importance
  • It is complicated and hard to know EXACTLY what to change in our daily life, how to spend our time, how to prioritize action
  • Inertia that comes from fear and feeling overwhelmed
  • Everyone might not participate and work toward the solution
  • Genuinely competing needs – complex problem

Economic Inequity and Poverty

  1. What might it look like to apply the Golden Rule to this issue? (thinking society-wide)
  • Macro / Micro answer – Town vs global thinking
  • Contributions from church locally
  • Open borders, globally sharing resources
  • Choosing to work or volunteer in these areas
  • Different mindset
  • Share equally in resources
  • Limit wealth and distribute extra
  • Public signage declaring work against systems that perpetuate and support of those living in poverty
  • Recognizing the starting line is different for everyone – minimizing stigmas
  • People feel equality
  • People would feel secure across the economic spectrum
  • Low income housing –
  • Not letting food stamp program disappear or be weakened
  • Medical care 
  1. What feels positive to me about applying the Golden Rule to our actions on this issue?
  • “I’m a force for change and not perpetuating inequity”
  • Sense of connection with others
  • Realization that privilege can change rapidly
  • So many organizations already out there supporting
  • Spending more caretaking than on war
  • Foster communication and simpler living leads to well-being
  • The golden rule allows for feeling good and minimizing grief
  • Maybe get out of poverty
  • Everyone has equal chance
  • More security in general
  • These are universally agreed on needs – need to be better articulated
  1. What makes it feel difficult or complicated to apply the Golden Rule?
  • It’s human to think about self and prioritizing your family and safety.
  • Nationalism
  • Borders (mental and geographic)
  • Trust and tragedy of the commons
  • Defensiveness of beneficiaries
  • Lack of power to change systemic issues
  • Education
  • Babies born to single, uneducated women
  • Security is not zero sum game
  • Greed
  • Lack of recognition that people aren’t poor because of a character flaw

Racism and Bigotry


  1. What might it look like to apply the Golden Rule to this issue? (thinking society-wide)
  • All people are equal
  • Not see color / ethnicity (as defining or meaningful)
  • All of rights and opportunities of whites are available to all people
  • Devastating history needs to be dealt with by system
  • Equal protection under the law, critiquing criminal justice norms
  • Acknowledge long-term structural racism and its impact
  • Add the important stories and history to curriculum
  • Self-awareness
  • Problems of integrating (safety issues)
  • Treating everyone equally, kindly
  • Public signage declaring support / work against systems that benefit
  • This wouldn’t exist if golden rule was applied
  1. What feels positive to me about applying the Golden Rule to our actions on this issue?
  • I see the beauty in everyone.
  • We all / each bring our own gifts, cultural treasures, languages
  • Exciting to live in a mixed world
  • Natural world: diversity is a strength (evolutionally)
  • Realize personal role
  • Better knowing, understanding more of our people in our country, undoing segregation of cultures
  • More enjoyment of diversity
  • Safety in one’s own family
  • Healing wounds in our society feels good
  • Acknowledging and ‘paying back for’ white privilege
  • We all know that this is right
  • It’s the right thing to do = equality is equality
  1. What makes it feel difficult or complicated to apply the Golden Rule?
  • History of seeing ourselves as different
  • Deep cultural assumptions, fear of others
  • Resentfulness
  • Learn about whiteness
  • Our history; institutional racism, often blind to our own racism
  • Acknowledging one’s own racism, bigotry
  • Lack of comfort with the language, fear of saying something offensive or betraying ignorance
  • So much segregation in our society
  • Fostering opportunities for friendships that feel not forced, that feel authentic – we are so segregated
  • Lack of faith that we’ll ever be free of the racist past and its attitude
  • Fear of stepping out and standing out for trying to do the right thing or be active in an issue

Refugees and Immigration

  1. What might it look like to apply the Golden Rule to this issue? (thinking society-wide)
  • Welcome
  • Invite to come to church as a sanctuary
  • Ask about where they came from but don’t be pushy
  • Embrace and support and protect the importance of sanctuary
  • Honesty about the immigrant origins of our country
  • Really envision/find out about the dangers people face
  • Acceptance of all refugees—stop categorizing
  • Articulation of human needs that immigrants have (not fear)
  • Articulation of overwhelmingly positive contributions historically of immigrants
  • Accept everyone
  • Knowing/believing that there is abundance and we can share and enough for all
  • Believing that people emigrate under duress or bring something to offer
  • A much more diverse population
  • Value others’ status
  • No wall.
  • No global passport
  • No people are “illegal”
  • Work to solve problems (war and poverty and racism and climate change etc.) that drive refugees to leave home
  • Public signage declaring welcome and support.
  1. What feels positive to me about applying the Golden Rule to our actions on this issue?
  • Makes you feel good
  • Enriching your own life
  • Welcome refugees here in Strafford
  • Simple fairness—accuracy
  • Cultural diversity
  • Generosity and love extended to all
  • Lessening others’ suffering
  • Learning from others who are different from us
  • Embracing the world’s younger generation
  • Contribution
  • We benefit (and they) benefit from newcomers.
  • Enrich our society/diversity.
  • It’s what this country was founded on.
  • Refresh our sense of citizenship.
  • Sharing cultures
  • Helping where help is needed
  • Sharing what we have
  • The opportunity to live in a safe, secure place for everyone 
  1. What makes it feel difficult or complicated to apply the Golden Rule?
  • How do we identify needs? Fear of being taken advantage of.
  • Fear of “the other” so easy to apply
  • Trump/Mitch McConnell
  • Fear
  • Selfishness
  • Demonizing immigrants—all one thing (gang members, murderers)
  • History
  • Unfamiliarity with others’ cultures
  • Fear that we will be hurt or lose something
  • Fear of unknown
  • Dealing with flood of immigrants caused by terrible situations back home, eg Syria
  • Fear of “our” place changing, too much change in too short at time
  • Cost, tax support
  • Stress on social services
  • Fear of lack of abundance—have to change fear of scarcity

Injustice, Inequality or Abuse Related to Gender or Sexuality (including Women and L.G.B.T.Q.I.A.+ People)

  1. What might it look like to apply the Golden Rule to this issue? (thinking society-wide)
  • Treat all people with love and acceptance, ask for policies
  • Equal pay, embracing people’s choice in love.
  • Let people be in charge of their own bodies.
  • Value and accept regardless of differences.
  • Stop thinking in terms of stereotypes.
  • Public signage declaring welcome and support.
  • Overcoming hostility to the issues—ignorance and unwillingness to address
  • Everyone decides for themselves how to define/describe their identity. The rest respect that.
  • We don’t see gender in either/or terms. (Gender fluid)
  • Golden rule requires us to open up perspective and see all as one
  • Being aware of struggles with these facets of identity
  • No gender biases.
  • Public institutions (including Cabinet and Congress) would look like the country.
  1. What feels positive to me about applying the Golden Rule to our actions on this issue?
  • Makes people feel safer.
  • Letting people be their authentic selves.
  • The children we love can be who they truly are when they grow up.
  • Allows wider vision of what family is.
  • Nobody is denied emotional support.
  • Open discussion of sex and sexuality of all ages, not hidden.
  • Make more positive and loving society.
  • Basic fairness.
  • We’re talking about it and many are trying to be respectful.
  • That everyone can live, love and be themselves.
  • Wisdom that comes from that awareness
  • Perspectives then gain equal weight
  • With different perspectives our decisions and policies would be more honest and clear and equitable. 
  1. What makes it feel difficult or complicated to apply the Golden Rule?
  • Norms and attitudes have changed rapidly
  • Need to feel safe in expressing ignorance and questions, not condemned for it
  • Prejudice (blindness to…)
  • prejudice, stereotypes
  • gender bias has a long history, hard to undo
  • American bandwagonism—we go for popular issues even when we don’t know enough to have opinions
  • Lack of acceptance and fear of negative repercussion
  • Fear of beneficiaries of change
  • Difference is not most important quality
  • change in our understanding of reality can be emotionally and intellectually difficult.
  • It can be hard to crack open our minds and hearts to new understanding of reality.
  • Old norms/prejudices
  • Discomfort with Change

Additional Issues to Consider

  • War and Militarism
  • Weakening Democracy
  • Overripe Capitalism and Greed
  • Fear—Insecurity
  • Religious Conflict
  • Government Accountability and Corruption
  • Lack of Education
  • Opioid Crisis!
  • Listening Respectfully to People with Other Views
  • Positive: Already Know This Is Basic Good Manners
  • Complicated: Sometimes We Can Be Rude; Poor Public Modeling
  • Civil Discourse: Being able and not afraid to face disagreement, and finding a way to live peacefully with our differences.


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