What is our gospel?

OK: I’ve asked before and I’ll surely ask again, but what is the “saving gospel” that I hear some Unitarian Universalists talk about? You know: the one “the world needs to hear.”

There’s something rather Rorschach test-like about it, in that the discussion of a gospel is in relation to the desirability for one. Still, I trust that it exists, but I’m not so sure that there’s a consensus of what it may be. Or perhaps, even more likely, there are multiple gospels and vagueness is our way of holding them together. (I know what I believe as a Christian, and it’s not belief or a Unitarian Universalist version of the gospel that keeps me attracted.)

So what is it, or are they? I’m not asking for anything prescriptive, merely some detail that would help me distinguish Unitarian Universalism from cultural endowments of goodwill, self-esteem or beauty.

By Scott Wells

Scott Wells, 46, is a Universalist Christian minister doing Universalist theology and church administration hacks in Washington, D.C.


  1. I do, I really, really do, believe that the UU Good News, that certainly was and is salvific to me, is that we can, at our best, be a home for the lost and alone.

    That one needs nothing more than what is in their heart and mind, whether whole or broken, trained or confused, to enter into this community.

    It seems so wishy-washy and undefined, and this good news is certainly not an expression of all we are or could be, but it is so rare to be unheard of. I have never, ever in my life experienced a community that has allowed such an ability. That says “come in, share your heart and voice, we only expect your best – whatever that is for you today, or tomorrow, just come in”

    and for me the ability to share this Gospel is directly related to our ability to live up to it in our hearts and congregations. For it is there we shall ever fall short, as do all good people in the face of their own respective gospels.

  2. Or perhaps, even more likely, there are multiple gospels and vagueness is our way of holding them together.

    Maybe as many as there our people.

    I agree very much with Dubhlainn above on “UU Good News” as home for the lost and alone. I don’t think UUism has a future as mass movement but it’s always been a place for folks estranged. The “salvific” lieing in “doing church” more than message.

    If that makes sense….

  3. I believe that the quality of consciousness that holds us together and keeps us as UUs is voiced by a single sentence by the psychologist James Hollis: “Livine with doubt, being willing to dump one’s hypothesis, being open to contradiction, lies at the heart of both science and mature religious faith.” Carl Jung said, “Thinking people welcome doubt: It serves them as a valueble steppingstone to better knowledge.”

    If you compare our Seven Principles with the Apostles Creed, for example, you will see that one of them is not open to interpretation.

    Fearful people don’t make good UUs. What they are looking for is fire insurance.

  4. @Nathan. Thanks for your contribution. I think you will find, however, the history of interpretation of the Apostles’ Creed to be extraordinarily rich. To the extent that you’ll commonly find it footnoted with alternate readings in worship books.

  5. Scott,

    On the whiteboard in my office are four statements which are my interpretations of our U and U legacy messages.

    – You are loved (All are loved)
    – You are worth of your place in creation (All are worthy)
    – Our fates are bound together
    – As God (Spirit, universe, life, whatever) has not given up on us, so we must not give up on one another.

    This is what I read each morning and what I meditate on as I prepare to preach.

  6. I agree that UUs need to discern a clear answer to “what the world needs to hear” from us. I just wonder if “the world” is being listened at, or only a small sociological slice of the American society is involved in the process. Perhaps the answer will be obtained when many voices from “the world” are heard, and when people are willing to listen.

  7. …and when people are willing to listen.

    Whatever our gospel, near as I can tell it’s mostly proclaimed in English and a little Spanish.

    So let’s not dump on the world as unwilling till we proclaim in translation; or maybe revive the esperantoists once among us.

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