With Principle and Purpose

Our Unitarian Universalist faith embraces a pluralism that can baffle a visitor. On occasion, it can even befuddle long-time members of our community. You can be an atheist or an agnostic? Yes. A seeker or a finder of meaning in any of the world’s great faith traditions? Yes. You can name the holy in the way that speaks most authentically to you? Yes.

At the first session of my annual “Our Chosen Faith” class, we discussed the “big theological tent” we pitch. One participant asked, “What about the UU Principles? Don’t the Principles help define who we are?”
Yes…and No. Yes, the Seven Principles articulate an ethical framework that we covenant to “affirm and promote.” But they hardly provide a religious identity. Try this test. Show the Principles to some of your friends or co-workers who are not members of a UU church. My bet (and my experience) is that almost everyone is in agreement with them.
Here is another test. Read the Principles yourself. Ask whether they describe a religious community…or simply a community of well-meaning people. The latter is not a bad thing, don’t get me wrong. But even the minister who chaired the committee that wrote the Principles questioned whether anyone would ask them to be read for comfort as they were dying.
We need a strong ethical and moral framework to guide our lives, there is no doubt. But as a religious community, we need more than ethics. We also need some of the language from the “Sources” that our faith claims:
“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.” And that is just the first source that we name.
If you haven’t read the Principles and the Sources in a while, or if you somehow have never been asked to read them, you may do so by clicking here.  It was adopted as the covenant that binds the UU congregations together at the General Assembly in 1985. Taken together it does present both who we are, religiously, and who we aspire to be.