UU Church Today, Practice & Voice

Are UU Values Religious or Secular?

By An All Souls Member –

I am often frustrated by religious conservatives’ efforts to impose their values by co-opting government. Recent and continuing struggles include marriage equality, public school curricula, religious displays on public property, and women’s reproductive autonomy.

But given that at some level, we all want government to promote our values, and that our deepest convictions might often be called religious ones, are we not all subject to the same criticism?

I’ve been thinking about the alignment of religious values and political action. In fact, I recently registered as a member of the Green Party of Oklahoma, prompted in part by the striking resonance of the Ten Key Values of the Green Party with the Seven Principles of the Unitarian Universalist Association. What I might have sacrificed in political efficacy by shifting to a third-party position in a two-party state, I have gained in consistency of principles.

Even so, church-state separation remains a hot-button issue for me. I make no apologies for wanting the Ten Commandments banished from government grounds. I do not want churches serving “Jesus Pizza” in our public schools. I resent the religiously motivated agenda to strip women of their reproductive autonomy.

What I’m less sure about is whether my own preferences are simply a liberal version of the religious activism I condemn, or whether there is something defensibly different about my politics. Perhaps I could argue that my values are not conventionally sectarian as much as they are broadly humanist. Ideals like social justice, ecological responsibility, participatory democracy, and individual dignity seem universal enough as to be free of the taints of dogma.

Or am I letting myself off the hook? Insofar as certain principles are expressly endorsed by the Unitarian Universalist Association, are they not “religious” values? Or does the non-dogmatic nature of the UU tradition cast a special secular status on the principles it espouses – a status that allows us to carry those principles into the public sphere without becoming guilty of the religious activism we might condemn in others? Or, still again, is the burden of such unilateral self-scrutiny unnecessary when so much is at stake?


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *