Revised YMCA Mission Statement

ymca_logoI love the YMCA. I love supporting them and their commitments to fitness, healthy living and social responsibility.They do great work. I used to enroll my kids in many of their programs. It is a Christian organization and yet it is inclusive with regard to sexual orientation and also actively cultivates diversity. I travel often and I almost always grab a temporary membership wherever I go so I don’t have to interrupt my workout routine. I am working out at the Y just outside of Portland, Oregon this week and they have little posters all around the place that put forth their vision and mission statements

Igniting the Passion for Excellence: Spirit, Mind and Body
To put the Christian principles of love, respect, honesty, responsibility and service into practice through programs that build a healthy spirit, mind and body for all.

When it caught my eye of course I immediately realized that it is factually incorrect and needs a re-write. I am happy to offer them a more accurate version that focuses on and corrects two things – use of the word “Spirit,” and what they say are “Christian principles.”

The Spirit
The word “spirit” could be interpreted a number of ways. It could be more an attitude than a physical property. I could for example, think of the spirit of excellence, or something along the lines of “that’s the spirit!” But in both uses of the word here in their statements, it’s coupled with “mind and body,” an assumption of Dualism. There is no real peer-reviewed or empirical evidence whatsoever that there is such a thing as a spirit separate from the mind or body, and there’s also no consensus on what is even proffered by use of the word (those who believe in a spirit cannot agree on what it is, its mechanisms or properties). The confusion and complete lack of evidence and consensus renders the term nearly meaningless and the term must be deleted.

Christian Principles
Love, respect, honesty, responsibility and service did not show up when Jesus did, or Moses, and had been widely written about centuries before the first books in the Bible appeared. They are human principles, not Christian principles. One need not be Christian or have any faith at all to position and embrace these principles as their life’s central driving forces. I can appreciate the YMCA wanting to adopt and extol these virtuous aspects of humankind but to call them “Christian principles” is just factually wrong and exclusive.

Is this really that big a deal? Can’t I just let this slide? Well, on the one hand, yes, I could simply ignore it as I do so many other religious encroachments and co-opting of non-religious constructs for its own purposes. It does no great harm to anyone except in the perpetuation of the false idea that religion in general or any religion specifically is necessary to live a complete, full, and virtuous, human life. If these are Christian principles in any sense, it is because they are co-opted, borrowed from the larger umbrella of the universal human condition, not the other way around.

I therefor humbly submit the following revision to the YMCA Vision and Mission statements:

Igniting the Passion for Excellence: Mind and Body
To put the human principles of love, respect, honesty, responsibility and service into practice through programs that build a healthy mind and body for all.

8 thoughts on “Revised YMCA Mission Statement

  1. Hi Ojo,

    Although I agree you do not need “religion” to lead a moral and virtuous life, I disagree on your premise. I can see how your faith in Human Secularisim has led you to this conclusion, even though false. Yes, I am wholly aware of cultures that had laws in place way before Moses. What you fail to understand is that Christ is the Author of life. He put these Moral laws in place (as well as physical laws). Laws have to have an ultimate authority, otherwise they are subjective. What you may consider wrong, I may not. Arguing that we agree on certain “laws” for the betterment of society will only take you so far. You and I are well aware of what wrong or right is (not to bring up political hot potatoes) but let me use something totally disgusting like pedophile. We know this is wrong. Whether or not society says it is…we know it is disgusting. There is a great book titled “parallel teachings of Buddha/Christ”. Buddha was 700 years before the physical Christ, but Christ was at the beginning. He has the authority to give us a moral compass (our conscience)…we have certain rights given to us by our Creator (as our constitution states) not man. You can actually read some very good “peer reviewed” scholarly papers that will help you understand this subject better, if you want me to point you in the right direction. Thanks for reading. :).

    • “What you fail to understand is that Christ is the Author of life.”

      I don’t fail to understand that at all. I hear it all the time. I understand in fact that any religion could make that claim about their god, and they do all the time. There is nothing at all to back up the claim other than some kind of authoritative statement of faith.

      Also, laws do NOT have to have an ultimate authority. The well-being of sentient creatures is more than enough, and Jefferson and so many others recognized this when drafting our own laws (society’s moral code).

      “The legitimate powers of government extend to such acts only as are injurious to others. But it does me no injury for my neighbour to say there are twenty gods, or no god. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg. … Reason and free enquiry are the only effectual agents against error.” Thomas Jefferson.

      I’d actually love to see your “peer-reviewed” scholarly papers alleging and somehow supporting the idea that all morals across time and geography come from Christianity. In the meantime, I will also leave you with this:

      If God Is Dead, Is Everything Permitted? – by Elizabeth Anderson

      • “What you fail to understand is that Christ is the Author of life”
        If you did understand this, we wouldn’t be having this conversation. Maybe I should have used different wording? I also disagree that it is just a statement of Faith (blind faith anyway)…
        Your argument is illogical. Who decides what is right? Who decides what a sentient human being is? Are sentient Creatures sufficient to set rules in which we measure compassion, Love, Altruisim, ethics?? Are they capable of creating mans high moral character? What is moral character anyway!? Why is ones person’s opinion of what is right or good any more relevant than another’s? If there is no objective standard by which to measure what is ‘good’ everything becomes a matter of ones opinion…unless there is an absolute source to appeal to. Hitler convinced the majority to extinguish the Jews, does that make it right?? What if he wasn’t stopped?

  2. In one of my many YMCA trainings as an employee about 10 years ago, I encountered christian bigotry that I now wish I had directly confronted. The woman leading our training went on and on about the song “YMCA” and how the real “christian” YMCA has nothing to do with the sin of homosexuality. At the time I was too shocked and speechless to say anything. I lived in a conservative suburb of Texas and suspect most of my classmates were totally on board with her comments. I was horrified but didn’t say anything or even report her. I now wish I had.

    My experience with the YMCA, otherwise, was very positive. I agree with your YMCA Mission statement revisions above. No one needs religion to be kind. Religion often causes people who might otherwise be kind to say and do really offensive things (like the woman I mentioned above).

  3. Seriously, you’re just attacking Christianity here. I think it’s interesting that you “humbly” submit your revisions when the whole idea that they need revising is not a humble idea, not even in the slightest. Just be honest about what your goal is. You were hurt by the church, which happens, and it’s sad, because the church, and its members are flawed. I wholeheartedly understand that and sympathize with you. However, let’s call a spade a spade. You are not looking to do anything but talk down about Christianity probably because you were hurt by it. It’s your right to do so, but don’t mistake it for anything other than speaking out of pure emotion. The YMCA claiming that their mission includes Christian principles, when they are in fact principles of the faith, whether they first started with Christianity or not, is in no way saying that religion is necessary to lead a virtuous life. It is just saying that that is one of the values found in that religion. It’s no different than if you say that your family’s values are kindness and love. No one is going to picket outside your house because “you weren’t the first family to have a kind, loving home” and to say “that’s not your family’s values, you didn’t start them; you don’t own them, etc.” and to use this claim is utterly ridiculous. Nothing about this mission statement is in any way attacking you or any other belief system, and making this post shows very clearly that you are looking to start a fight from your own wounds, which may very well be valid, but are clouding your judgment. Excuse my many errors, I’m typing this from my phone. I respect you as a musician, but as a word of advice, if you’re going to fight for something, make sure it’s worthwhile. Choose your battles. Ofherwise, you end up fighting almost everything in an effort to be heard, and whatever message you have is lost.

  4. So I have a few thoughts here. First of all, let’s be very clear. Let’s call a spade a spade. You were hurt by the church. And that absolutely sucks. However, attacking anything and everything Christian is evident of bitterness.

    I’ll break down this post. You have an issue with the idea that the YMCA calls their values of love, honesty, and responsibility Christian values. I hate to say it, but whether Christians were the first to come up with them or not, those values are a part of Christianity. No, not everyone follows them, but the same can be said for all humans. I doubt very seriously that if you claimed that those same values were your family’s values that someone would come up picketing outside your door and says that you can’t claim those values because while your family cares about love and respect, they didn’t come up with them. The YMCA isn’t claiming these values because they are saying that you must believe to have them, it is saying that the belief teaches those values which is true. Christianity isn’t the only place where you can hear messages about love and respect. And I think you have to truly be honest with yourself, because even you said that you could have just let it go. But you did not, and after reading your posts, and frankly, I think that the reason that you didn’t let it go was because of bitterness towards the church as evidenced by your many posts that hold anger towards Jesus and his followers, which is totally fair and completely your right to do so. But if that’s the case, let’s not lie and make this about a wonderful organization that doesn’t exclude anyone, even in their mission and values statements. Even though you were saying this post “humbly”, that’s not the case at all, because it’s not humble to say that an organization who has done nothing wrong to you should change their verbiage because you’re bitter about anything Christian.

    • Yes, let’s call a spade a spade. You don’t know me at all or my situation or history and your claim about me being hurt by the church and being bitter is simply false. It’s convenient for the religious to say that though because it lets the religion’s objective claims off the hook and for me that’s what this is all about. Religions’ claims do not and cannot stand the test of scrutiny that we would require of any other such serious claims.
      Second, I’m glad we agree that Christianity is not the author of the virtues in the article. On that we agree, and that was the whole point of the post.
      Third though, since you mis-attribute my motivations, your whole last few sentences are moot. Hope you’ve enjoyed your Christmas holidays.

  5. I just received a comment to this blog from “John” at “” I’d have been happy to approve the comment if the person had included a legitimate name and email address. I do not approve or allow anonymous comments on the blog. Have the courage to own your opinion, like I do. If you don’t want a public comment posted, then send me an email. In either case, no anonymous communications will be entertained. Thanks.

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