#24 | Martin Walker | Change Love to Another Word

"Submission 24
Martin Walker
Unitarian Society of Ridgewood

What is your suggestion or idea?

I support the overall design of the proposal for the way in which it represents the various facets of UU values and participation in a unified way.

There are three reasons why I strongly OPPOSE the use of the word “Love” as a signifier for how all the facets are connected to each other. In its place would be “Connection,” or something similar.

  1. “God is Love” is a notion strongly identified with Christianity and headlining of that word blurs the boundary between UU and that majority faith, privileging Christianity over other religions and alienating believers in atheism and agnostics.

  2. “Love” has deeply emotional connotations for many people, which creates a schism amongst our membership between those for whom this is the case and those for whom it is not. This can be avoided by pointing to the purpose that the new Article II is trying to achiev e in a more neutral fashion.

  3. “Love” has a colloquial association with eroticism which is inherently retraumatizing to survivors of child and adult sexual abuse. As a survivor myself, I want this to be heard and understood. Fully 15 to 25% of our membership almost certainly fall into this group which is seldom heard from.

What is the reason for your amendment idea?

I would like UU to increase its universal application to ALL faith and NON faith communities that make up the human family. We should be as EXPANSIVE as possible and avoid signifiers that have the potentially to divide, no matter how GOOD OUR INTENTIONS are.

Have you discussed this idea with your congregation or other UUs?

Yes, USR held a hybrid meeting in this to discuss Article II attended by approx 10 members. I found significar agreement with this perspective, with no one actively dissenting from it."


I did a Search and you are the only one so far that wants to change LOVE to another word. I agree with your points and like your idea of ‘Connection’ instead AND I don’t know what word really denotes what I want the Core of UUism to be. Have you heard of Braver Angels as a non-profit advocating for depolarization in the USA. One of their staff members, Monica Guzman, wrote a book that I want to incorporate into the UU world to help us all learn how to ‘bridge conversations’. It is called “I Never Thought of It That Way” I think the UU faith is the perfect religion to promote depolarization or anti-polarization. Polarization is really the enegy behind many if not all of the forms of oppression we are against. LOVE is one way to indicate ‘moving toward’ as opposed to ‘moving against’, but as you say the personal experience of LOVE is not always positive. So ‘connection’ may not be strong enough. I think ‘bridging’ is a good word and image to use, but it is not clear as a core value or belief. Bridges do connect, so maybe connection is the best term.

This is Paula Linn from Channing Memorial Church, UU in Maryland. I hope to submit my own revision before 4/30.


I agree with this amendment. I find centering everything on Love crypto-Christian and hence borderline offensive for some (most?) atheists.

The term “Beloved Community” also used in the revisions is taken directly from MLK whose program was in part explicitly Christian.

Also, apart from its religious overtones, I think that “Love” is too intimate a term to use for what is essentially a political program. We can only truly love those people with whom we have a personal relationship and we obviously can’t have a personal relationship with 8 billion people (“transforming the world through liberating Love.)


Our fellowship has also expressed concern about love at the center for seveal of the reasons expressed. We’d prefer “beloved community” or “caring community” surrounding the chalice.

Personally, I find calling us the “love people” somewhat offensive since it suggests that we are somehow more about love than other religions or denominations.


Some members from the group I’ve been working with from our congregation on amendment language would prefer that “Compassion” be substituted for “Love” and that it be delineated and defined as central to our values.


How about SPIRITUAL GROWTH being the center of our faith?

I am not in favour of a vague, undefined “love” at the center of UU. I also think that is could be problematic for not having any evaluation criteria to measure the results. I am concerned that priviledged members feeling that they put love at the center may not be being felt by marginalized members as love. I agree that some other concept should be chosen. I would vote for the idea of the “tree of life being sacred” at the center.


Atheists aren’t concerned with “spiritual growth”

I’m an atheist, and I’m in a church because I am seeking spiritual growth. Feel free to say if you personally are or are not identifying as atheist here and whether or not you are seeking spiritual growth, but otherwise it’s not right to make such a blanket statement.


I am definitely an atheist. I am not looking for spiritual growth. I am not necessarily looking for “growth” of any kind. If I am doing anything, I am trying to be more aware and more mindful. That might include “growth.” But it might not. I don’t consider myself to be on any kind of “sacred” quest, because I do not believe in cordoning off part of life as “sacred” and the rest of life as “non-sacred.” Also, I don’t truly understand what is meant by “everything is sacred.” Everything is. It just is. It isn’t special. It just is.

That is how I think and feel about things.

I think I understand where you are coming from as I used to be a spiritual atheist. Now I am just an atheist being open to life.

My partner, a survivor of multiple childhood and adulthood sexual abuse incidents, is just as shocked by this statement as I am. Surely the word ‘love’ isn’t inherently retraumatizing to all survivors. It may be retraumatizing to you, but it’s a far reach to say it’s inherently retraumatizing.


I disagree. Love is powerful and we do not need to cede it to other religions.


There is no need to follow other religions either. It is important that we seek out what is unique in UUism and promote that instead of just being “Christianity lite.”


Why do we need any word at the center? How about just the Chalice? No word at all. I don’t even know what this “Love” means. And saying “Justice is what love looks like in public” (Cornel West) is again, too politicizing, in my book. While Social Justice is a core component of UU it is not the entirety of it…

Bek Wheeler, UU Fellowship of the Peninsula (Newport News, VA)


I agree that the overuse of “Love” in the amendment is problematic, especially capitalized, as this is such a Christian usage. Love is also such a broad concept it is hard to know how the word is being used. I prefer to use terms such as respect, compassion, good will.


Didn’t the chalice, when it was originally chosen by the Unitarian Service Committee, represent service?

The concept of love here is a selfless and sometimes sacrificial love, agape, from the Greeks but often used by Christians. (I found this in a Q&A, linked below, scroll down the page .)

Rev. Rebecca Parker writes about the dangers of this concept and salvation theology- what I can find immediately: Suffering does not redeem us | UU World Magazine

I think it’s dangerous to put forth selfless love as a central value to which we all aspire, given how this concept can get twisted and misused. Also, we ask our kids to learn our central faith tenets and I am not sure that kids will have the capacity to correctly understand Love here and what we don’t want them to take away from this.

In abusive relationships, the message is often that the relationship is love. Then as someone raised with Christian salvation theology, it’s very tempting to think that sacrificing oneself, without appropriate boundaries or limits, to another is what God wants. Healthy adult relationships have some level of reciprocity, not limitless giving of self, selflessly, without any expectations of others (with kids, it’s different as kids can’t and shouldn’t be taking care of adults). Even with “selfless” loving our neighbors, we might offer food without immediate conditions, but we aren’t endless and boundary-less in giving. We still have enough food for ourselves, and we expect the neighbors to behave as good humans and not, say, just raid our gardens without permission.

I question how well kids can cognitively navigate the concept of Love being put forth here, which we would be telling kids is the ideal of our faith, without thinking that they must sacrifice themselves for others without limits.

Our original seven principles, at least, can be simplified to the kids’ version which works pretty well. Those aren’t hard for them to understand.

I understand the article II framers are trying to find some overall underlying concept. It seems easy enough to find in historical Unitarian and Universalism, reinterpreted: belief in the goodness of people and that we share in a common fate.

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I have to add that I had NOT understood the Section C-2.2 Values and Covenant beginning to give the context for the word LOVE in the center of the image. The second paragraph states “Love is the power that holds us together and is at the center of our shared values. We are accountable to one another for doing the work of living our shared values through the spiritual disipline of Love.” So I realize that my reaction was about the general use of the word Love, not the concept of “spiritual love” I don’t see anyone else referring to “spiritual love” in their comments. I am comfortable with “spiritual love” and like any other language, it is difficult to define in a way everyone would agree on :slight_smile:

Not according to this account: The Flaming Chalice

which says,

Originally, the flaming chalice was a two-dimensional image stamped on documents created by the Unitarian Service Committee (USC) to help Jewish refugees escape Nazi persecution on the eve of World War II. The design had been hastily put together by the artist Hans Deutsch, himself a refugee. Deutsch was working at the direction of the USC’s director, Rev. Charles Joy, who believed that such a logo would make their paperwork look more official. Rev. Joy would later claim that the design was reminiscent of the lamps of holy oil used by the ancient Greeks and Romans on their altars, and that the flame itself represented a spirit of helpfulness and sacrifice. There has always been a lack of clarity regarding Deutsch’s original intentions, which were quite possibly not highly developed.

You hit the nail on the head. That’s the whole point. This is a religion trying to say explicitly that you should try to have intimate, personal relationships with every person you meet. That is the point! I love how close we are to embodying a true religion of care and compassion, because I only feel really UU when I know my community (church, neighborhood, etc.) loves me for who I am. Anything less is borderline tolerance.

I’m sorry you have such religious trama that the word love brings idea of pain. Outside of the UU world, love is really the only thing holding communities making real change together.