Do UUs need a new principle?

I’ve been a Unitarian Universalist almost all my adult life.  For me, it is a moral community to which I can look for inspiration and help, and a safe space where I can express my thoughts freely.

UUs are often caricatured as eccentrics who like endless discussion.  Since I myself am an eccentric who likes discussion, I am right at home.

The Unitarian Universalist Association was formed in 1961 from the merger of the American Unitarian Association and the Universalist Church in America, two religious sects whose distinguishing feature was that they never could agree on a binding creed.

In lieu of a creed, the UUA adopted six principles to live by, which pretty much express what I believe in.  In 1985, a seventh principle was adopted. 

Now an eighth principle is being proposed, with which I disagree.

Here are the first six principles.

1.  The inherent worth and dignity of every person.

2.  Justice, equity and compassion in human relations.

3.  Acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations.

4.  A free and responsible search for truth and meaning.

5.  The right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large.

6.  The goal of world community with peace, liberty and justice for all.

And the seventh.

7.  Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.

Here’s the proposed eighth.

8.  Journeying toward spiritual wholeness by working to build a diverse multicultural Beloved Community by our actions that accountably dismantle racism and other oppressions in ourselves and our institutions.

The eighth one is not like the others.  It is a program, not a principle to live by.  Unlike the others, it contains jargon words that have different meanings for insiders than for the general public.

These include “journeying toward … wholeness,” “accountably,” “dismantle,” “racism” and “oppressions.”

For example, I see oppression mainly in the USA’s forever wars, its big brother state and its hunger games economy.  Others see it mainly in Whiteness, masculinity and heteronormativity.

Racism, to me, is an ideology that says humanity can be subdivided into groups based on skin color and ranked as superior or inferior.  For others, being colorblind as to race is a form of racism.

Of course I could be wrong.  If I am, make the case.

The new principle is part of a movement within the UUA, going back decades, arising from the fact that many black and other minority ministers, staff and members don’t feel at home in a denomination whose history is largely the history of white native-born Protestants.

This is not my top priority concern, but it is indeed a problem, which needs to be solved through give-and-take, but not necessarily by redefining Unitarian Universalism and casting out those who disagree.

I expect the new principle will be adopted.  It has a lot of momentum.  As one who has never participated in denominational affairs, I don’t intend to shift gears and devote myself to any kind of resistance movement. 

I accept majority rule, provided I can freely express my own opinion.  But I don’t want to be part of an institution where minority views are driven out.

Another point:  I don’t see the UUA as primarily a social justice organization.  The purpose of religion is to help people lead better lives.  Politics and social movements are part of life, so they can’t be ignored.  But they aren’t the whole of life nor, for most people, the most important thing in life.

Principles such as the right of conscience and the democratic process are cumbersome and can be frustrating to activists who want quick and decisive action.  But there are many social action organizations to join that do act quickly and decisively without taking time for reflection. 

The UUA doesn’t have to be one of them.  It has its own unique purpose.


The EIghth Principle of Unitarian Universalism.

Letter Concerning the Proposed Eighth Principle.

3 Responses to “Do UUs need a new principle?”

  1. davidgmarkham Says:

    Hi Phil:

    I agree with you. The eighth principle is already implied in the previous seven, especially the first and second, the inherent worth and dignity of every person, and justice, equity, and compassion in human relations.

    The proposed eighth principle, as you point out, is not a principle but a social justice policy and is fine as such but shouldn’t be enshrined as a principle because of its political agenda.

    I understand your not wanting to get involved in denominational politics but questions such as yours need to be heard for the common good.

    Keep the faith as we move forward.

    David Markham

    Liked by 1 person

  2. dlgl33 Says:

    I’m not a Unitarian Universalist but I agree with your opinion.


  3. Word from the Dark Side – No Rain, nonsense news, nasty waves and some nice birds | SovietMen Says:

    […] is coming for the Unitarian Universalists. I’d have thought they would be the first to fall but there you go – they held out […]


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