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Introduction, Workshop 6: The Story of Our Lives: Narrative Ethics

In "What We Choose: Ethics for Unitarian Universalists," a Tapestry of Faith program

In the holding environment of true community, people share experiences of meaning—they share storylines, which are more compelling than the barriers or boundaries that separate them. These common narratives prepare the way for reconciliation. — Rev. Jacqueline Lewis, The Power of Stories

This workshop presents narrative ethics, a framework for ethical decision making grounded not in abstract concepts but in the more subjective, emotionally powerful reality of life experience. Undoubtedly, our life stories shape our moral and ethical positions and actions. For example, if someone is gay or lesbian or has a friend or family member who is gay or lesbian, their personal experiences will undoubtedly shape their moral stance regarding homosexuality. Our life stories carry their own logic, creating an emotional imperative with the power to either trump or support the theoretical ideas and laudable intentions of any other ethical system.

The narrative ethics framework for making moral and ethical choices fits easily with Unitarian Universalist values and practices. Our faith is rooted not in common scriptures but instead in common values, and as we live these values together, we draw on life experiences to illuminate, illustrate, and justify our moral and ethical choices and actions. Narrative ethics leads us to share our own stories and to attend to those of other people as we consider ethical and moral choices. Further, narrative ethics invites us to consider "the words and deeds of prophetic women and men," one of our Unitarian Universalist Sources.

This workshop asks: How can narrative ethics lead to sound moral decision making? What limitations and shortcomings might narrative ethics have?

Before leading this workshop, review Accessibility Guidelines for Workshop Presenters found in the Introduction.

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Last updated on Thursday, January 19, 2012.

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