Unitarian Universalism

New to UU?

New to UU?

Been a UU for a while (and maybe still have questions)?

UUs on the Interdependent Web

There are too many UU blogs to list here. For a comprehensive list of UU blogs, we suggest Philocrites' list and the UUWiki.

UU Acronym Decoder

SSL, CUUPS, YRUU... what? And you mean OWL doesn't refer to a bird? Confused by the UU (that's Unitarian Universalist) penchant for acronymns? Feel like we're speaking a secret language? Not to worry. Just look it up in our UU Acronym Decoder and you too can be part of the "in" crowd.

UU 201 FAQ

Q: What is the UUA and what does it do?

Q: What is General Assembly?

Q; I heard the UUA say something that I'm not sure I agree with. Are UUs expected to agree with everything the UUA says?

A: Our Fifth Principle affirms and promotes the right of conscience and the use of the democratic process. Many people only see the democratic process part of that and skip over the right of conscience. But right of conscience is there for a reason. Basically, any and all stances that the UUA takes on a particular issue is determined by the democratic process - delegates from congregations having voted on the issue at General Assembly. BUT, just because the majority has decided one way does not mean that you have to agree... because of the right of conscience. You would, however, have accept that the majority of UUs have decided otherwise and that the association as a whole will act based on that decision. In other words, we all have to agree to disagree.

Q: What is the difference between the UUA and the UUSC?

Q: I have more questions that aren't covered in this FAQ. How do I get answers?

A: Feel free to ask in our discussion forums.

 

Jonah, or What Makes a Prophet?

by Kat Liu (2005.04.13)
based on the book of Jonah

There was once a great city called Ninevah. Because of its greatness its people had become prideful and lazy. They squandered their natural resources, diverted rivers for their own use without thought for the lands downstream, built factories that belched dark soot into the skies, dumped their waste into the oceans, chopped down whole forests and dug away whole mountain tops. They took advantage of people less powerful than them to do the work that they did not want to do. All so that they could have what they wanted cheaper and faster.

 

And the Lord came to a man named Jonah and said, "Jonah, somebody's got to convince these people that they can't go on like this. The earth and waters and skies are polluted. My other creatures are disappearing. At this rate, the world will be ruined and death will rain down on everyone like acid rain. Somebody's got to stop this and it might as well start with you."

 

But Jonah thought to himself, "This is such a hard task to undertake. The world is so big and the problems are so great. No one else seems to care, why me? What can one man do anyway? Let me sleep on it and perhaps tomorrow I will act." Tomorrow became today and Jonah said, "Let me sleep on it and perhaps tomorrow I will act."

 

Meanwhile, the problems in Ninevah had gotten so bad that Jonah had to leave the great city to move to a safer, cleaner, nicer suburb called Tarshish. Tarshish had nice Spanish architecture, tree-lined streets and neat green lawns and for a while it seemed like Jonah could forget his troubles.

 

But the people continued with their ways, and soon Tarshish too became polluted and crime-ridden. As the problems in Tarshish became more apparent, Jonah's neighbors cried in distress, "Why is this happening to our nice community?" And each one of them sought to lessen their fears in their own ways, buying guns and fences and security systems, air purifiers and water filters. They bought more and more things and still the problems got worse and worse. Each day Jonah said, "Let me sleep on it and perhaps tomorrow I will act." Then one day the community leader asked Jonah, "Jonah, why aren't you buying bottled water and gas masks like everybody else? Is there something that you know that we don't?"

 

Roused from his apathy and looking around the ruin that he could not escape, Jonah got very depressed. And he said, "I do not want to live in this world that has so much violence and greed! Where people act without caring how they affect others!" Concerned by his outburst, his neighbors checked Jonah into the mental ward of Moby Dick hospital and Jonah stayed there for three days and three nights.

 

Deep within the bowels of the hospital, in a windowless room, Jonah reflected on how God had called him to act and he had not, how his world was getting worse and there was no place to hide from it, and how he would never know what life could be like unless he tried to do something about it. And he vowed to God and to himself that he would do what he could to save the world.

 

So Jonah went back to the great city of Ninevah, and he started to work. He taught others about the ecological diversity, global economics, and class and race disparity. And he found others who shared his views. And they worked together, educating, protesting, lobbying. Slowly, the laws and practices of the people of Ninevah started to change. They recycled. They took public transportation. They looked for locally grown organic foods. Slowly, even their elected officials started to take notice...occasionally. The minimum wage and funding to public schools were increased, and social security was saved. It was still not a perfect world by far. Many people still paid no attention, making it all that much harder for those who did. Jonah saw this and grumbled to himself about it.

 

One day, a man drove up in a gas-guzzling sports car and threw some trash out of his window, right in front of Jonah. "Young man!" Jonah sputtered in disbelief, "don't you realize that everything you polute comes back to haunt you? We are all interconnected in this world and..." The young man interrupted Jonah saying, "Oh please old man, that's just a fish story that you over-reacting alarmist liberals tell us in order to get us to pay higher taxes. You've been saying these things for years and yet there is no crisis. Ninevah is still here." And Jonah said, "Ninevah is still here because some of us have worked to prevent its demise. You too must work with us and..." The young man snorted, "whatever" and zoomed away, leaving skid-marks and a fog of acrid exhaust.

 

Then Jonah became very angry. He said, "Lord, is this not what I said in the beginning?! After all this work, there are still stupid, selfish people who don't understand! They pollute the environment and cause misery to others and yet still they prosper! And they won't even acknowledge what we're doing for them by our sacrifices! Why, oh Lord, should I have to work so hard while they laugh? Why did you create people who would destroy your creation? There is no justice! If you were just, these people would not exist and the spotted owls and us good guys could live in peace! I'm telling you, I don't want to live in this world that has so much violence and greed! Where people act without caring how they affect others!"

 

And Jonah's anger made him very hot and uncomfortable, even more uncomfortable than the heat from the global warming. So God caused a bush to grow up in front of Jonah and shade him from the sun. As its flowers burst forth, the blossoms were so beautiful and fragrant and pleasing that Jonah temporarily forgot his self-righteous anger and was very happy. But the next day God caused a worm to attack the bush and the flowers withered and Jonah was once again displeased and hot with anger.

 

God said, "Why are you so angry that I killed the bush?" And Jonah said, "Because it was beautiful and pleasing! You are simply unfair Lord. The good perish while the wicked are rewarded and I don't want to live in this world with your injustice." Then God said, "You are this concerned about a bush, for which you did not labor and which you did not grow and which lived only one day. Should I not have at least the same concern for my people whom I created and for whom I have labored for so long? Don't they deserve the same opportunity to bloom? Would you only love that which is pleasing to you?"

 

UU Principles Through History

UU Purposes & Principles (adopted 1986 and modified 1995)
We, the member congregations of the Unitarian Universalist association, covenant to affirm and promote:
1. The inherent worth and dignity of every person.
2. Justice, equity, and compassion in human relations.
3. Acceptance of on another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations.
4. A free and responsible search for truth and meaning.
5. The rights 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.
7. Respect for the interdependent web of all existence, of which we are all a part.

 
Six sources of our faith
1. Direct experience of that transcending mystery and wonder, affirmed in all cultures, which moves us to a renewal of the spirit and an openness to the forces that create and uphold life.
2. Words and deed of prophetic women and men, which challenge us to confront powers and structures of evil with justice, compassion, and the transforming power of love.
3. Wisdom from the world’s religions, which inspires us in our ethical and spiritual life.
4. Jewish and Christian teachings, which call us to respond to God’s love by loving our neighbors as ourselves.
5. Humanist teachings, which counsel us to heed the guidance of reason and the results of science, and warn us against idolatries of the mind and spirit.
6. Spiritual teachings of Earth-centered traditions, which celebrate the sacred circle of life and instruct us to live in harmony with the rhythms of nature. (added 1995).

 
1974-Unitarian Universalist
The Association, dedicated to the principles of a free faith shall:
(a) Support the free and disciplined search for truth as the foundation of religious fellowship.
(b) 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 humankind.
(c) Affirm, defend, and promote the supreme worth and dignity of every human personality, and the use of the democratic method in human relationships.
(d) Implement the vision of one world by striving for a world community founded on ideals of brotherhood, justice, and peace.
(e) Serve the needs of member societies.
(f) Organize new churches and fellowships and otherwise extend and strengthen liberal religion.
(g) Encourage cooperation among people of good will in every land
(Unitarian Universalist Pocket Guide, 1974, p.78)

 Material Below taken From This We Believe Pamphlet: Historic Unitarian & Universalist Affirmations of Faith UU Christian Fellowship Pamphlet (7/88)

1985-Unitarian Universalist
We, the member congregations of the Unitarian Universalist association, covenant to affirm and promote:
1. The inherent worth and dignity of every person.
2. Justice, equity, and compassion in human relations.
3. Acceptance of on another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations.
4. A free and responsible search for truth and meaning.
5. The rights 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.
7. Respect for the interdependent web of all existence, of which we are all a part.

 The living tradition which we share draws from many sources: (Five sources of our faith)
1. Direct experience of that transcending mystery and wonder, affirmed in all cultures, which moves us to a renewal of the spirit and an openness to the forces that create and uphold life.
2. Words and deed of prophetic women and men, which challenge us to confront powers and structures of evil with justice, compassion, and the transforming power of love.
3. Wisdom from the world’s religions, which inspires us in our ethical and spiritual life.
4. Jewish and Christian teachings, which call us to respond to God’s love by loving our neighbors as ourselves.
5. Humanist teachings, which counsel us to heed the guidance of reason and the results of science, and warn us against idolatries of the mind and spirit.
(Article II, Section C2.1 of the Bylaws of the Unitarian Universalist Association)

1961-Unitarian Universalist
The members of the Unitarian Universalist Association, dedicated to the principles of a free faith, unite in seeking:
1. To strengthen one another in a free and disciplined search for truth as the foundation of religious fellowship;
2. To cherish and spread the universal truths taught by the great prophets and teachers of humanity in every age and tradition, immemorially summarized in their essence as love to God and love to man;
3. 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;
4. To implement our vision of one world by striving for a world community founded on ideals of brotherhood, justice, and peace;
5. To serve the needs of member churches and fellowships, to organize new churches and fellowships, and to extend and strengthen liberal religion;
6. To encourage cooperation with men of good will of all faiths in every land.

(Article II, Section 2, of the Constitution of the Unitarian Universalist Association, in 1961.)

 
1935-Universalist
The bond of fellowship in the Universalist Church shall be a common purpose to do the will of God as Jesus revealed it, and to cooperate in establishing the Kingdom for which He lived and died.
To that end, we avow our faith in God as Eternal and All-conquering Love, in the spiritual leadership of Jesus, in the supreme worth of every human personality, in the authority ot truth known or to be known, and in the power of men of good-will and sacrificial spirit to overcome all evil and progressively establish the Kingdom of God.
(The Bond of Fellowship of the Universalist Church; adopted in Washington, DC, 1935; to which were appended the Winchester Profession of 1803 and the Five Principles of 1899; The larger Hope, Vol. II, p.114.)

1899-Universalist
The essential principles of the Universalist faith: The Universal Fatherhood of God; the spiritual authority and leadership of His Son Jesus Christ; the trustworthiness of the Bible as containing a revelation from God; the certainty of just retribution for sin; the final harmony of all souls with God.
(“The Boston Declaration” of “the Five Principles” was adopted by the General Convention in 1899 as an addition to the Winchester Profession; The Larger Hope, Vol. II, p.89.)

 
1880-Unitarian
In the freedom of truth, and in the spirit of Jesus Christ, we unite for the worship of God and the service of man.
(“The Ames Covenant,” written by Charles Gordon Ames for the Spring Garden Unitarian Society in Philadelphia, in 1880, and later adopted by many Unitarian churches.)

 
1865-Unitarian
Whereas, the great opportunities and demands for Christian labor and consecration at this time increase our sense of the obligations of all disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ to prove their faith by self-denial and by the devotion of their lives and possessions to the service of God and the building up of the Kingdom of his Son –
Therefore, the Christian churches of the Unitarian faith here assembles unite themselves in a common body, to be known as the National Conference of Unitarian Churches, to the end of reorganizing and stimulating the denomination with which they are connected to the largest exertions in the cause of Christian faith and work.
(Preamble and Article I, National Conference of Unitarian Churches: The Epic of Unitarianism, p.121.)

 
1853-Unitarian
We desire openly to declare our belief as a denomination, so far as it can be officially represented by the American Unitarian Association, that God, moved by his own love, did raise up Jesus to aid in our redemption from sin, did by him pour a fresh flood of purifying life through the withered veins of humanity and along the corrupted channels of the world, and is, by his religion, forever sweeping the nations with
regenerating gales from heaven, and visiting the hearts of men with celestial solicitations. We receive the teachings of Christ, separated from all foreign admixtures and later accretions, as infallible truth from God.
(American Unitarian Association, 1853, Twenty-eighth Annual Report, pp. 22-23.)

 

1825-Unitarian
The objects of this Association shall be to diffuse the knowledge and promote the interest of pure Christianity throughout our country.
(Article 2 of the Constitution of the American Unitarian Association.)

 


1803-Universalist
Article I. We believe that the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments contain a revelation of the character of God, and of the duty, interest and final destination of mankind.
Article II. We believe that there is one God, whose nature is Love, revealed in one Lord Jesus Christ, by one Holy Spirit of Grace, who will finally restore the whole family of mankind to holiness and happiness.
Article III. We believe that holiness and true happiness are inseparably connected, and that believers ought to be careful to maintain order and practice good works, for these things are good and profitable unto men.
(Universalist “Profession of Faith” adopted in Winchester, New Hampshire, 1803; Universalism in America: A Documentary History, p.110.)

 


1790-Universalist
Section 1. OF THE HOLY SCRIPTURES.
We believe the scriptures of the Old and New Testaments to contain a revelation of the perfections and will of God, and the rule of faith and practice.
Section 2. OF THE SUPREME BEING.
We believe in one God, infinite in all his perfections, and that these perfections are all modifications of infinite, adorable, incomprehensible and unchangeable love.
Section 3. OF THE MEDIATOR.
We believe that there is one Mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus, in whom dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily, who by giving himself a ransom for all, hath redeemed them to God by his blood; and who, by the merit of his death and the efficacy of his Spirit, will finally restore the whole human race to happiness.
Section 4. OF THE HOLY GHOST.
We believe in the holy ghost, whose office it is to make known to sinners the truth of this salvation, through the medium of the Holy Scriptures, and to reconcile the hearts of the children of men to God, and thereby dispose them to genuine holiness.
Section 5. OF GOOD WORK.
We believe in the obligation of the moral law as to the rule of life; and we hold that the love of God manifested to man in a Redeemer, is the best means of producing obedience to that law and promoting a holy, active and useful life.
(Articles of Faith adopted by the Philadelphia Convention; The Larger Hope, Vol. II, p.46.)

UUs in the Public Eye

Kent Conrad - democratic Senator of North Dakota.

 

Mike Gravel - democratic presidential candidate for 2008, former democratic Senator of Alaska.

Nancy Johnson - former republican Representative of Connecticut, longest serving house member from CT.

 

Pete Stark - democratic Representative of the 13th district of California, highest ranking publicly elected non-theist.

UU History

Q: What is the difference between a Unitarian and a Universalist? A: A Universalist believes that God is too good to condemn anyone to hell, whereas a Unitarian believes that humans are too good for God to condemn anyone to hell.


Both Unitarianism and Universalism trace their roots back to liberal Christianity.

Some UUs like to say that we go all the way back to the Arian controversy in the third century C.E. After all, those Christians who did not believe that Jesus was God were essentially unitarians (anti-trinitarians). Some UUs say that Unitarianism can be traced back to Michael Servetus, who, because of his criticism of the doctrine of the trinity and of original sin, was burned at the stake in Geneva on October 27, 1553.

Servetus was not really a Unitarian, but the example of his views while he was alive and the horror of his death led to a backlash against Calvinism and a movement towards greater religious tolerance. His theology did influence the decidedly unitarian (anti-trinitarian) churches that later developed in Poland and Transylvania. When the first (and only) Unitarian king, John Sigismund of Romania, declared an edict of religious toleration in 1568, it was the first such edict in history.

How old one believes Unitarianism is depends partly on what one believes Unitarianism is, what defines it. If unitarianism is a rejection of the doctrine of the trinity, then one can argue that it's as old as Christianity itself. If unitarianism is a stand in favor of religious toleration, then it dates at least as far back as the 16th century.

Unitarianism within America was not directly imported from Europe, although it was definitely influenced by European thought. American Unitarianism arose out of a theological split within Congregationalism in New England. Congregationalists were traditionally Calvinists, and when the more liberal Congregationalists started to question Calvinist doctrine, they were pejoratively labeled "unitarians." Instead of being insulted, they embraced the label.

In 1819, William Ellery Channing preached a sermon called Unitarian Christianity, which made official the rift between Unitarians and Congregationalists. Six years later (1825) the American Unitarian Association was established in Boston, Massachusetts. American Unitarianism rejected the Calvinist doctrine of total depravity, and declared that humans are inherently good, made in the likeness of God. From this belief in our inherent goodness come ideas of religious toleration and the use of reason.

When Channing rejected the trinity, he focused Unitarian attention on God the Father. Less than one generation later, Ralph Waldo Emerson changed our focus to the Spirit, to the immanent divinity within humanity. It is Emerson's human-centered view of divinity that transformed Unitarianism from a liberal Christianity to a more pluralistic tradition that is open to different spiritual paths, from atheism to paganism, etc.

Like unitarianism, universalism is a doctrine that can be traced back to the early Christian church. Both Origen and St. Gregory of Nyssa espoused universal salvation.

Universalism as a coherent movement started in 18th century England, by a Methodist minister, James Relly, who rejected Calvin's doctrine of limited atonement. Arguing that a God who is all-powerful and all-loving would not have it any other way, Universalism says that salvation is open to all. One of Relly's followers, John Murray, emigrated to America in 1770 and began preaching universal salvation along the eastern seaboard. The first general Universalist Convention was held at Oxford, Massachusetts in 1785. While Murray brought Universalism to America, it was Hosea Ballou that made it what it is today. Ballou ultimately rejected the trinity and lifted up the used of reason in religion.

While American Unitarianism has always been an elite, highly educated, urban movement, American Universalism in contrast was more rural, poorer, and more egalitarian. True to its name, its focus has always been to reach out to and truly embrace those who are marginalized by mainstream society. While both Unitarians and Universalists (and other liberal denominations) fought to abolish slavery and promote women's suffrage, it was a Universalist congregation that included a freed slave among its charter members. The first ordained female minister (1863), Olympia Brown, was a Universalist.

In 1961, the American Unitarian Association and the Universalist Church in America decided to join forces to create the Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations.

Some Relevant Links:

UU Origins: Our Historic Faith Dictionary of Unitarian and Universalist Biography Famous UUs Notable American Unitarians

UU Seven Principles & Six Sources

We, the member congregations of the Unitarian Universalist Association, covenant to affirm and promote:

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

See: Unitarian, Universalist and UU principles through history.

Unitarian Universalism draws from many sources:

  • Direct experience of that transcending mystery and wonder, affirmed in all cultures, which moves us to a renewal of the spirit and an openness to the forces which create and uphold life;
  • Words and deeds of prophetic women and men which challenge us to confront powers and structures of evil with justice, compassion, and the transforming power of love;
  • Wisdom from the world's religions which inspires us in our ethical and spiritual life;
  • Jewish and Christian teachings which call us to respond to God's love by loving our neighbors as ourselves;
  • Humanist teachings which counsel us to heed the guidance of reason and the results of science, and warn us against idolatries of the mind and spirit.
  • Spiritual teachings of earth-centered traditions which celebrate the sacred circle of life and instruct us to live in harmony with the rhythms of nature.

 

Pages

Subscribe to Unitarian Universalism

Forum Activity

Fri, 10/31/2014 - 08:11
Mon, 06/16/2014 - 07:09
Tue, 10/01/2013 - 22:01

Acknowledgments

wizdUUm.net is made possible in part by generous support from the Fahs Collaborative