james luther adams

5 Smooth Stones in One Hand

Another way to approach James Luther Adams’ five smooth stones of liberal religion is the whole hand method.  Here are several different examples. Adams’ original essay uses more complex language, which is how we can have such a diversity of ways of understanding and applying the five smooth stones in our lives.

1: Wonder

2: Community

3: Love

4: Justice

5: Hope

1: Change

2: Interdependence

3: Stewardship

4: Justice

5: Hope

1: Truth

2: Relationship

3: Responsibility

4: Change-Agent

5: Optimism

1: We’re always learning.

2: Being together matters.

3: How we are together matters.

4: We do good to be good. Doing good feels right.

5: We always hope.

1: Revelation and truth are continuously revealed

2: We choose relationship with one another

3: We have a moral obligation to create a just and loving community.

4: Good must be consciously given form and power in history.

5. Meaningful change directs us toward an outlook of ultimate optimism.

Almost every assassination has a slew of accompanying conspiracy theories to go along with it. What makes Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination different is that even King’s family thought there might be some truth to the story that James Earl Ray was framed. In fact, they believed it enough to hold a joint press conference with the accused killer to publicly state their belief that he was innocent.

Two years later, they were in court, suing the federal government and alleged real killer Loyd Jowers, a restaurant owner in Memphis, for conspiracy to commit murder. The trial lasted four weeks. The jury deliberated for just one hour before deciding that the government was indeed liable.

5 Details That Make Famous Conspiracy Theories Seem Legit

5 Smooth Stones of Liberal Religion (for children) (revised)

I revised these to address the translation of Adams’ fourth stone, which is very much part of the Unitarian tradition. I’ve incorporated historic Universalist teaching into the fourth stone.

I appreciate James Luther Adams’ complex and rewarding essay on the five smooth stones of liberal religion. I translated it into a simplified form for use in adult programming, but then that still didn’t pass the five-year-old-test.

I’d like us to be able to use the five smooth stones in our classrooms and at home, as part of living this Unitarian Universalist faith. Adams was thinking about the tradition of five stones David needed to slay Goliath - mythologically, bringing down our own towering monsters of (1) ignorance, (2) individualism, (3) selfishness, (4) apathy and (5) cynicism.

1. We’re always learning.

2. Being together matters.

3. How we are together matters.

4. We  do good to be good & feel good.

5. We always hope.

With these stones we build cities of refuge, houses of love, and gardens of peace

James Luther Adams was a Unitarian theologian who said people come to congregations seeking Intimacy and Ultimacy. I think of these as two kinds of belonging. Intimacy is the belonging of being known and loved for who we are.  Ultimacy is the belonging of being part of something larger – something that will make a difference not only in our lives but in the world. Adams asserted that human beings need both kinds of belonging. Where do you find Intimate belonging? Where do you feel connected to the Ultimate? Who can you talk to about these things?
—  Rev Gail Lindsay Marriner, Minister, Unitarian Universalist Santa Fe
To participate, however, is more than responsibility. It is the way in which the tie that binds, the bonds of love, brings us together in a community seeking and engendering justice and mercy for all, including those Jesus called ‘the least of these.’
—  James Luther Adams, “Roger Baldwin: By Their Groups You Shall Know Them”, An Examined Faith (ed. G. K. Beach) Boston: Beacon Press, 1991: 66. (Unitarian Universalist, educator, author, minister, theologian, ethicist)
5 Smooth Stones of Liberal Religion (for children)

I appreciate James Luther Adams’ complex and rewarding essay on the five smooth stones of liberal religion. I translated it into a simplified form for use in adult programming, but then that still didn’t pass the five-year-old-test.

I’d like us to be able to use the five smooth stones in our classrooms and at home, as part of living this Unitarian Universalist faith. Adams was thinking about the tradition of five stones David needed to slay Goliath - mythologically, bringing down our own towering monsters of (1) ignorance, (2) individualism, (3) selfishness, (4) apathy and (5) cynicism.

1. We’re always learning.

2. Being together matters.

3. How we are together matters.

4. We have to do good to be good.

5. We always hope.

With these stones we build cities of refuge, houses of love, and gardens of peace.

I call that church free which in covenant with that divine community-forming power brings the individual, even the unacceptable, into a caring, trusting fellowship that protects and nourishes his or her integrity and spiritual freedom. Its goal is the prophethood and priesthood of all believers – the one for the liberty of prophesying, the other for the ministry of healing.
—  James Luther Adams, The Essential James Luther Adams (1988) ed. by George Kimmich Beach, Skinner House, p. 17 (Unitarian Universalist, minister, ethicist, theologian)
There is in human nature a deep-seated and universal tendency…to ignore the demands of mutuality and thus to waste freedom or abuse it by devotion to idols…We may call these tendencies by any name we wish, but we do not escape their destructive influence by a conspiracy of silence concerning them.
—  James Luther Adams (Unitarian Universalist, ethicist, theologian, clergy) “The Changing Reputation of Human Nature”
…this is a basic element in faith – in the face of despair regarding our own accomplishments or that which is going on around us, we can hear the plea, ‘Come back: there are always new beginnings.
—  James Luther Adams, “The Latest Word,” An Examined Faith (ed. G.K. Beach) Boston: Beacon Press (1991), p. 56. (Unitarian Universalist, educator, minister, theologian, ethicist)
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Revelation is Not Sealed - A Unitarian Universalist introduction to James Luther Adams’ first smooth stone of liberal religion.