To Affirm and Promote

The By-laws of the Unitarian Universalist Association include a section on the Principles and Purposes of the association. I would like to talk about those principles, as they are the guideline by which all UUs covenant with the greater movement and the closest thing to a dogma that our religion preaches.

The principles are introduced to the by-laws with the statement, “We, the member congregations of the Unitarian Universalist Association, covenant to affirm and promote…” I think this is a brilliant statement, because these principles aren’t intended to bind us into a belief in the supernatural or dictate entry into a theoretical afterlife; they are the way we hope to improve the world in which we live, here and now, letting each of us come to action in our own way and for our own reasons. They are ideas that each of us, as members of a UUA congregation, agree to affirm and promote in our lives.

To affirm is to vocally state agreement and ascribe value to an idea; to promote is to act in a way that demonstrates the value f these thoughts.  Affirmation of these ideas leads us to state them regularly and to hold them up as ideals. These principles have value and are worthy of consideration in every situation. They don’t dictate behavior, specifically, but a way of thinking about the world. We believe that these ideas matter and that they can make the world better for all of us. Promotion of these ideas means that we act, according to our hearts, on them. We work to bring them to life and share them, actively, with others.

These are active verbs, and intentionally so. We build our covenant on the promise held within these principles to make the world we share better. We work not to save the world from some unexplainable evil, or to lead all people to our form of enlightenment, but to make the world we share better and to support each person on their own quest for a better, more fulfilling life.

I will spend the next two weeks here on my blog affirming these seven principles and talking about ways in which I and my friends in the UUA work to promote them in the world. These are not revolutionary ideas; many of them are the goals of whole societies across the globe. We have gathered those we find to be the most important and the root of positive action. If we can spread these ideas of freedom of choice and expression; personal responsibility and individual dignity; mutual respect and support for our fellow man; and a balance of justice and compassion in human relations, then we believe we will be contributing to a better world.


5 Responses

  1. I’ve heard an interesting point recently about the seven principles– and when read, I suppose it’s a true point as well; that the principles were only written in intention for congregational action regarding other UU groups and the world around us, not to suggest or define the actions of any individual person. I wrote something similar about a year ago (about how I personally live the seven principles) and got my virtual hand slapped by another UU who pointed out that the principles were never intended to guide the behavior or choices of individuals, but to guide the actions of a congregation. I believe in the years since, the line has blurred a bit, and many UUs now take the seven principles much more personally.

    Anyway, having said all that, I still think the seven principles outline a decent way for an individual to take UU into his/her own life and out into the world, no matter the original intention, and I look forward to reading and responding to your thoughts!

    • I was writing a response to this, and it turned into an entire post. I’d like your permission to publish it that way. I ask, because I’m going to need to quote you to give it proper context. I’d love to actually have this conversation, and I think putting it under its own heading makes more sense.

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  3. […] the fact that most of these people are Unitarian Universalists. Most of my close friends and family understand and try to live the Principles of the UUA and the 5 Smooth Stones (at least on an instinctual level). That means […]

  4. […] to breakdown the 7 Principles of the UUA, and to write about the meaning I draw from them and how I apply it to my world view. It feel apart after “a free and responsible search“, but I feel that I have covered […]

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