Tuesday, August 08, 2006

The UUA Principles

I'm writing a paper about how Unitarian Universalist narcissism and individualism (exemplified in our egotistical interpretation of our first principle) can all too easily lead us to shallow forms of worship.

For purposes of comparing a stronger, more explicitly religious Unitarian Universalism with today's blobby "Yew Yewism," I am posting a copy of the Principles that I believe preceded the current principles. They are found below, but I don't know their exact origins. A colleague thinks that they were written in the A. Powell Davies era, but I don't know. I could pull down a lot of books and look it up, but I honestly don't remember seeing these in either The Premise Or the Promise or any other UUA histories. Can someone enlighten me?

If you're wondering how I came upon these -- I found a beautifully framed and calligraphied version way in the back of my office closet at the church and it now hangs in the bathroom of the parsonage.

For what it's worth, I far prefer these principles to those written in the 1980's. If it had been up to me to revise them, I would have made the language gender-inclusive and called it a day. I obviously love that these principles make us a religious organization concerned with "love to God and love to man," and that they call us to strengthen liberal religion. They're broad without being so non-specific that they could serve any civic organization.

Drumroll, please...

In accordance with these corporate purposes, the members of the Unitarian Universalist Association, dedicated to the principles of a free faith, unite in seeking:

To strengthen one another in a free and disciplined search for truth as the foundation of our religious fellowship;

To cherish and spread the universal truths taught by the great prophets and teachers of humanity in every age and tradition, immemorially summarized in the Judeo-Christian heritage as love to God and love to man;

To affirm, defend and promote the supreme worth of every human personality, the dignity of man, and the use of the democratic method in human relationships;

To implement our vision of one world by striving for a world community founded on ideals of brotherhood, justice and peace;

To serve the needs of member churches and fellowships, to organize new churches and fellowships, and to extend and strengthen liberal religion.

To encourage cooperation with men of good will in every land.


Blogger boyinthebands said...

I think evoking A Powell Davies is incorrect. (He opposed consolidation.)

Plus, there's something grand, but vague and airy, about his preaching that I don't think holds up well.

Blogger Jess said...

These are fabulous. And no pulled punches - a firm call to action in each one, much more so than "we agree to affirm and promote..." Whose decision was it to remove "defend?"

I hope the Commission on Appraisal revisits these with some seriousness as they evaluate what we have now.

Blogger PeaceBang said...

But did he write those principles, is what I want to know.

The man greatly strengthened Unitarianism and helped get congregations started. Having so few men like this among us now, I have to praise his ministerial memory. But anyway, I don't want this to become a for-or-agin A. Powell Davies thread.

Blogger Clyde Grubbs said...

These are the original principles agreed to by the consolidation committee.


Blogger Peregrinato said...

free and disciplined search

...I can't imagine "disciplined" going over well today, but it is a sadly forgotten word in liberal religious practice.

Blogger Clyde Grubbs said...

The movement to change the old principles was part of a denomination wide anti sexism reform spearheaded by the UU Women's Federation. They organized to change the bylaws, not just the principles and all other decuments that had language that privileged masculine words....love to man and tehn again dignity of man

and God doomed the old language.


Blogger PeaceBang said...

Thanks, Clyde. I knew the story about the Women's Fed from reading several different and occasionally conflicting versions of it (Alice Blair Wesley, etc.) but I needed your second link. Merci!

Given that most UUs today think of the Principles as our great theological claim, many of us could be said to be practicing a religion created by a committee in 1985.

Blogger Chalicechick said...

((Given that most UUs today think of the Principles as our great theological claim, many of us could be said to be practicing a religion created by a committee in 1985.)))


You have NO IDEA the number of UUs whom I've tried to explain this to.

(Actually, I'm sure you have an excellent idea.)


Blogger powderblue said...

I'm not a religious scholar, but were not the Councils of Nicea and Constantinople essentially committees, too?

Blogger Jaume said...

Hi Peacebang. My comment on this is published in my new blog:


Blogger Steve Caldwell said...

What about the possibility of a shared implicit theology that may currently exist in our congregations in addition to the explicit statements in our Principles and Purposes?

For example, the P and P don't talk about theology of salvation, but I think we do have a theology of salvation that can be traced back to our Universalist roots.

Blogger Bill Baar said...

Sounds a lot like my Church's covenant for 1843,

Being desirous of promoting practical goodness in the world, and aiding each other in our moral and religious improvement, we have associated ourselves together: - not as agreeing in opinion, - not as having attained universal truth in belief or perfection in character, but as seekers after Truth & Goodness.

I say it just about every Sat night. Works well for me.

Blogger ogre said...

powderblue wrote:
[W]ere not the Councils of Nicea and Constantinople essentially committees, too?

That's a lovely parry and riposte.

The sneer at committees that's customary isn't without some justification. But... while a camel may be homely, it survives under conditions that horses expire in. I would submit that this is what a religion ought to be like.

Even if it is homely.

I'll admit I have trouble imagining how a faith that's fundamentally covenantal and hostile to creeds can be anything else but something which is fashioned, refashioned, honed, and reworked--by committee after committee, over generations. Individuals may be able to lead those committees here and there, but in the end, those led there have to be happy with where they are, or they move.

Blogger Chalicechick said...

I really liked that last comment, Ogre.


Blogger Jimmy said...

Hey, PB!

I'm not sure the 1961 principles quite made "us a religious organization concerned with love to God and love to man,'" as the post suggests. The language made us a religious organization devoted to the "universal truths taught by the great prophets and teachers of humanity," as exemplified by the Judeo-Christian emphasis on "love to God and love to man." In other words, you've generalized from an example, deemphasizing what's--for me, anyway--the meat of the principle .

Best wishes.


Blogger PeaceBang said...

Good point, Jimmy. I was just glad to see something about God in our principles. But my overall point isn't that any version of any Principles "make" us anything in particular, but just that they give us a public identity that's either explicitly religious or stolidly civic and secular.

As long as I'm here, let me also clarify that I'm not claiming that we AREN't practicing love intentionally -- sure some of us are. But if we're going around saying that Love and Kindness are our religion and that that's all we are, and nothing else is important (theologically), that's a little lame. We're not demonstrably more about love and kindness than any other mainstream Protestant denomination. In other words, if we're going to be the Love and Kindness religion, we're going to have to be out there as a loving and kind people in far more obvious and meaningful ways than we currently are.


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