Faith CoLab: Tapestry of Faith: The Wi$dom Path: An Adult Program on Money, Spirit, and Life

Handout 4: Prophetic, Parallel, and Institutional

Part of The Wi$dom Path

Adapted from a handout originally published in Workshop 2 of Resistance and Transformation: Unitarian Universalist Social Justice History.

[N]ot all change is effected in the same way…There is more than one way to resist injustice, and more than one way to work for the transformation of our world.

…[There are] three strategies commonly found in social justice leadership and organization: the prophetic, parallel, and institutional voices that have shaped our history.

  • The prophetic voices speak out against the conventions of the era, and are often marginalized or considered ahead of their time, with a strong vision of a better future [examples: divestiture from fossil fuel investments with public statement, demonstrations for better working conditions].
  • The parallel voices advocate for an alternative to the established structure, a new system to replace that which is deemed broken [examples: microcredit, cooperatives].
  • The institutional voices seek to work within established power structures to change them from within [examples: socially responsible investing, shareholder advocacy].

Each of the three approaches may be voiced by an individual, a group, or a movement, and individuals, groups, and movements may employ different approaches at different times. All three strategic approaches are grounded in the shared Unitarian and Universalist conviction that a free faith demands critical engagement with the world.