The Affirmation of Social Principles (1943)

There was only one Universalist national meeting during the Second War War. They were biennial, and the 1941 and 1945 meetings just book-ended the United States participation in the war. I’ve not been able to read the Christian Leader, the denominational newspaper from that period and so much of what I have been able to discern has been from the record of that one meeting, in New York, held at the Church of the Divine Paternity, now known as Fourth Universalist. It was thinly attended — 117 delegates; there was a war on, after all — but plenty occurred. The denomination formally adopted new bylaws as the Universalist Church of America for one. The delegates approved the following Affirmation of Social Principles for another, which I’ve attached below. It’s worth noting how they were already looking past the war years to a new age, and a spirit which surely persisted into consolidation with the Unitarians.

At some point I’ll get this on one of my documents sites, but since those could use a cleanup, I’ll post it here first.

Read more: The Affirmation of Social Principles (1943)




Adopted at New York City October, 1943

We Universalists avow our faith in the supreme worth of every human personality, and in the power of men of good will and sacrificial spirit to overcome all evil and progressively establish the Kingdom of God. This faith is being challenged on every side. We therefore re-affirm our historic stand and call upon our people to think through and act upon that faith.

Now is the time for greatness. There have been few if any periods in the entire history of the human race when men have had such an opportunity to mold the future. We stand at the great divide. On one side lies a land of promise, an unprecedented opportunity to build a better world than has ever been known. On the other side lies a return to the old order with its greed, poverty and war.

The hour for decision is at hand. We must move backward toward the old or forward toward the new. It is a fateful decision to make, for destiny will be determined by it; but we cannot and would not escape the responsibility.

Partialism cannot solve the problems of today and tomorrow. Partialism limits, divides and excludes. It emphasizes nationalism, racism, classism, sectarianism, caste and privilege, and it inevitably issues in conflict. Partialism is the underlying philosophy of an old order which was founded on a technological and sociological isolationism which no longer exists. It is discredited and impotent, It cannot construct, a unified and universalized civilization, but will lead us backward to the past. That way lies disaster.

The peoples of the world have built an interdependent and integrated culture. Nations, races, classes share a common heritage of science. Airplanes have abolished boundaries. Radios have brought the voice of every people into our homes. Industry has distributed far and wide the commodities of inventive genius. Music, art and education speak a common language.

The only possible philosophy for a better world is universalism. It alone is realistic and creative. In it lies the hope of mankind; without it we are doomed.

This faith means that, the whole is greater than the parts. It is the philosophy and the religion of the all-inclusive. It interprets life in terms of the universals and the unities. It levels barriers, abjures prejudice, and renounces all that sets man against his fellow man. It endeavors to integrate humanity into one harmonious co-operating unity.

This faith demands that the common humanity of all races be recognized.

This faith demands that all men of all classes, races, creeds, shall abjure war as a method of solving international disputes and shall affirm their faith in the possibility of progressively building a lasting peace.

This faith demands that we must build an international order in which the sovereign power to settle international disputes resides in a league or assembly of all peoples.

This faith demands that the physical resources of the earth be so used that all men everywhere shall have the essentials of a good life.

This faith demands that we must build an economic order based on the abundant life for all rather than upon the acquisitive power of the few.

This faith demands that the human resources of society, such as education, culture, the arts, be made progressively available to all.

We here and now call upon all fellow Universalists to unite in a great and consecrated movement to make these things come to pass.

In the field of social welfare:

  1. We must acquaint ourselves with the faith and practice of other religionists that we may help to overcome the destructive force of religious prejudice.
  2. We must recognize that today Americans of Negro, Indian and Oriental descent, and many not yet citizens, are suffering from unjust forms of discrimination. We must combat every such form of race prejudice by practical steps which shall achieve a just status for these, our brethren.
  3. We must work for such forms of social betterment and security as will enable the American family to provide conditions of housing, food, education and recreation consistent with constructive religious living.
  4. We must work for the strengthening of the spiritual foundations of the American home that all members of the family may be growing Christian persons.
  5. We must engage in sacrificial and informed community activity which will produce wholesome and progressive results in the areas of planning, relief, reconstruction and recreation.
  6. We must study the complex problems of labor, management and capital so that we can intelligently bring the insights of Christian ethics to bear on the problems of economic justice for all members of society.
  7. We must recognize the importance of a strong, independent, land-owning farm folk to the future health and well-being of a growing democracy. To this end we recommend support of such legislation and other organized activities as help to increase the number of family-sized and family-owned farms.
  8. We must welcome and encourage the growth of the co-operative movement as a check on unwholesome economic practices vice to producers and consumers alike.
  9. We must work for improved educational opportunities for young and old, and for a freedom in teaching which puts no restriction upon the authority of truth known or to be known.
  10. We must condemn as destructive to the best interests of society all forms of gambling and small games of chance which are an attempt to get something for nothing, and we must work for more stringent laws governing such practices.
  11. We must advance the cause of temperance through wise legislation pertaining to the manufacture, distribution, advertising and sale of alcoholic beverages and we must promote a sustained and scientific educational program dealing with the personal and social effects of intemperance.
  12. We must avoid both sentimentality and vindictiveness in our attitudes toward criminals. To this end we must give enlightened support to penologists, jurists and trained social workers who seek to develop scientific, humane and ethical treatment of actual and potential criminals and so promote the cause of corrective penology.
  13. We must commit ourselves and encourage others to consistent obedience to law lest we and our society suffer the consequences of disorder and unrestraint.
  14. We must recognize the fact that there is no common judgment among Christians as to one’s personal duty when called for military service and we call our people to be true in policy and action to a basic law of our church, Article XII of the Laws of Fellowship, which grants full fellowship to conscientious objectors in time of war.
  15. We must increase our participation in government as individuals and as representatives of groups of citizens, and must as a denomination and as local churches know and speak our mind on significant public questions.

In the field of international relations:

  1. We must inform ourselves concerning the problems of today’s world.
  2. We must co-operate in establishing an international organization which shall be truly democratic and all-inclusive. In this world organization there must be some internationally organized power to restrain those who threaten the peace of mankind; there must be provision for peaceful change, for the regulation of currencies, tariffs and other economic concerns by international agreement, and for equal opportunity for all to share the natural resources of the earth.
  3. We must be prepared to continue in a spirit of self-sacrifice after the fighting ends to provide food, medical care, and the materials and leadership for reconstruction in all devastated lands.

In the field of international church extension:

  1. We must evaluate the work which we have done in Japan and Korea and decide whether or not to re-establish any or all of it, and we must study opportunities offered in the post-war period for new approaches to the Japanese through educational and social work.
  2. We must consider new opportunities in world mission, and take our share in the responsibility of Christians for relief, reconstruction and education.

We, therefore consecrate ourselves to the task of building, under God, a universal brotherhood.

2 Replies to “The Affirmation of Social Principles (1943)”

  1. Thanks for posting this history. Rev Charles Lyttle was Minister of the Geneva Illinois Unitarian Church during the War, and he was a pacifist throughout it. The local Church Historian presented pacifism as an outlier belief in the community but I’m not certain that was the case. I’m always interested in how Unitarians and Universalists felt about that War.

  2. Scanning the Unitarian annual meeting minutes of the same era, I note them having a much more “patriotic” tone. Between the two, I think a pacifist would have an easier time as a Universalist.

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