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Metamorphosis of the ‘Day by Day Girl’

I came across a compelling letter written by Norm Phelps to his fellow Unitarian-Universalists (UU) regarding their long history of being in the vanguard of social progress (see link below). Phelps scolds the leaders of UU for having lost the spirit of “moving the boundaries” of compassion forward to include animals. He points to the religious liberal community’s support of abolition, civil rights, feminism, immigrant rights and LGBTQ rights, but now sees that fight for social justice frozen in time.

The letter prompted regret that I was not aware of the plight of animals in my early days as an actress. As the vocalist on the iconic song “Day by Day” from the musical Godspell (original cast album and film cast album), I had a “platform,” of sorts. I was certainly no rock star when I performed in the show, but there were many opportunities to have brought the notion of moral equality for nonhuman animals to the fore. There were TV and radio talk show appearances, media interviews, and more importantly, a keen interest in Godspell from religious groups. I think of all the fan letters I received from young Christians (which I rarely responded to) and the opportunities (which I could have taken and which would have been welcomed) to speak to youth groups. These lost chances make me sad. I wish I had known.Godspellphotos2002

Forty years later, however, the world has changed. With a burgeoning awareness of animal exploitation, social media, undercover videos, and the work of animal advocates, it is near impossible to avoid confronting inhumane treatment of animals. And the failure in the Christian community – or any community that speaks of compassion and espouses social justice – to enter into the discussion is a travesty. It is not an easy topic, but neither is slavery, racism, or gender prejudice. As Phelps so eloquently writes:

Suffice it to say that animal exploitation is the most universal, most deeply entrenched form of oppression that has ever existed, both in our society and in our individual psyches. Moral equality for animals challenges our pride in ourselves as the crown of creation (or the acme of evolution, if you prefer), in a way that no other social justice movement ever has. It would deny nearly the entire human population pleasures of appetite that are among the most primitive and powerful that we experience. And the animal liberation movement is working to drive out of business an industry that takes in trillions of dollars every year and provides hundreds of thousands of jobs. We all enter the discussion with a strong bias against animal liberation that can only be overcome by drawing upon the deepest wells of our compassion.

So I will continue to “enter into the discussion” in my work as a writer and animal advocate. But from here on, anyone who wants to communicate with me about how uplifting “Day by Day” was for them (and I still get a few on occasion), will get more than a thank you. I missed my chance then, but will not miss it in the future.




  1. Thank you. Very inspiring and uplifting.

  2. Hi Robin: So glad I found you and your book “The Chain” via an email from Animal Legal Defense Fund recommending the book.
    The exact reason why I left the Unitarian-Universalist church is so effectively written by Norm Phelps; thanks for the introduction to Norm.
    Those of us who now know “The Truth” about animal exploitation wish we would have behaved differently in our past but should be grateful we have now seen the light.
    Cheers, Susan V

  3. Thanks so much for your performance in the musical “Godspell”. It had much to do in my coming to the Lord Jesus Christ almost 40 years ago. As a street performer, I ALWAYS open up my act with, “Day by Day”. Thanks Robin!

  4. There’s “metamorphosis,” and then there’s “omigosh!”

    I wish you wouldn’t blame yourself for what you didn’t know all those years ago. At least now there’s greater awareness of the puppy mill issue, though clearly there’s still work to be done.

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