Tapestry of Faith: Resistance and Transformation: An Adult Program on Unitarian Universalist Social Justice History

Handout 4: Taft and Holmes

You will present a mock debate between two great Unitarian figures from the 20th century, William Howard Taft and John Haynes Holmes. Both men were passionate orators and spoke eloquently for their positions. Review their arguments, read the online materials on Taft and Holmes, and get ready to stage your debate. Remember, this is an imaginary debate, not a historical re-enactment, so do not feel pressured to get it "right." Instead, try to portray Taft or Holmes as a principled, well-intentioned man making his best case for the betterment of society.

John Haynes Holmes

  • Our association should tolerate a diversity of opinions in regards to war. I have identified at four positions among Unitarians.
  • I adhere to one of these positions, pacifism, and admit that it is a minority position.
  • My pacifist position calls me to reject supporting not just this war, but all wars. Peace can never be brought about through violent means.
  • The church should help to promote peace instead of advocating war. The church can help reshape the morals of our society and teach people that war is both wrong and avoidable.

William Howard Taft

  • In a time of war it is our duty to support our government.
  • Failing to do so will undermine the war effort abroad and demoralize our troops.
  • Therefore, Unitarians must unequivocally support the war effort.
  • We cannot tolerate pacifists within our ranks. Doing so will send the wrong message to our government and our troops.