Rewriting the Principles & Sources. By Dawn Cooley

I am grateful for all the deep thoughts that Paul Rasor has compiled into Reclaiming Prophetic Witness: Liberal Religion in the Public Square, which is currently the UUA Common Read. I wrote previously about what our Stinky Pads might be – what proof might there be that we, as liberal religionists, are putting in an effort to get our message out there.

More recently, I have been mulling over the chapter entitled "What Does It Mean to Speak Religiously?" In this section, Rasor points out that, amidst all the religiously conservative voices in the public media, religious liberals "make a huge mistake if we fail to challenge these sorts of public religious voices by offering an alternative religious perspective."

Rasor entreats us to be intentional about saying that we have religious reasons for believing what we do in the public and secular realm, and that these reasons matter. He points out that when we straightforwardly link secular policies with religious justifications, we give depth to our arguments and have the capacity to reach more people than we do when we leave out our liberal religious justifications.

I have said it before, but it bears repeating: I believe that our mission as Unitarian Universalists is to love the hell out the world. But how do we do that? People often turn to our Unitarian Universalist Association Principles and Sources as a compass, but more and more I find the language in the sources dry. As inspiring as they can be, they are lacking specifically religious heft. So many different groups, religious or not, could claim them as inspirational.

Inspired by Rasor, and thinking about our mission, I present a rewrite of our Principles, Purposes and Sources, using the language that so many of us love, but reframing it. By doing so, I hope to infuse what (to me) feels like 1950s jargon with more urgent, contemporary theology and direction.

As Unitarian Universalists, we are called to love the hell out of the world.

We are called by 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;

We are called through the 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;

We are called by wisdom from the world's religions which inspires us in our ethical and spiritual life;

We are called by Jewish and Christian teachings which call us to respond to God's love by loving our neighbors as ourselves;

We are called by 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;

And we are called through the 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.

We live our our calling to love the hell out of the world by:

affirming and promoting the inherent worth and dignity of every person;

striving for justice, equity and compassion in human relations;

accepting one another and encouraging each other to spiritual growth;

engaging in a free and responsible search for truth and meaning;

honoring the right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large;

working for the goal of world community with peace, liberty and justice for all;

respecting the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.

As free congregations, covenanted communities, and as individuals, we affirm and promote this mission and endeavor to live it in our lives together.

What do you think about this rewrite?  Are you reading Reclaiming Prophetic Witness? Is it causing you to rethink some things? How do you see ways to address Rasor's points within the Unitarian Universalist sphere? Or is this one of those books we read and think "Oh, good points" but that doesn't actually change how we do things?


  1. I like the more active voice, Dawn. I have read the Rasor book--twice.

  2. KathyP12:46 PM

    I like it. It stirs up something in me that is left untouched by the original language. I'm going to pass it on to others - hope to stir up some discussion!

  3. This is an excellent statement of our call as individual members. The Principles in our ByLaws describe our actions as a group. "The member congregations of the Unitarian Universalist Association, covenant to affirm and promote:"

    Two versions add clarity.


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