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

Alternate Activity 1: Are Freedom, Reason, and Tolerance Enough?

Activity time: 20 minutes

Preparation for Activity

  • Read the Earl Morse Wilbur words quoted in the activity description. Discuss with your co-facilitator the ways you find these values are-and are not-the dominant values in our faith tradition.

Description of Activity

Read aloud these words of the historian Earl Morse Wilbur, from A History of Unitarianism; Socinianism and its Antecedents (Boston: Beacon Press, 1945, 1972):

It is intended here, therefore, to present not so much the history of a particular sect or form of Christian doctrine, as to consider broadly the development of a movement fundamentally characterized instead by its steadfast and increasing devotion to these three leading principles: first, complete mental freedom in religion rather than bondage to creeds or confessions; second, the unrestricted use of reason in religion, rather than reliance upon external authority or past tradition; third, generous tolerance of differing religious views and usages rather than insistence upon uniformity in doctrine, worship or polity.

Explain that Wilbur held that the values of freedom, reason, and tolerance are the unifying values of the Unitarian tradition. Wilbur claimed that the adherence to these shared values placed both the American Unitarians and the Polish Socinians in the same movement. Lead a conversation using these questions:

  • Do freedom, reason, and tolerance sufficiently describe the core values of Unitarian Universalism? If so, why? If not, why not?
  • Are there other values you think of as inherent in the Unitarian Universalist tradition? If so, what are they?
  • Are common values enough to make American and Polish Unitarians part of the same religious movement? Or is something more needed?