Showing posts from 2012

Someone has to say it out loud

Today's political conservatism is inconsistent with religious liberalism, and in particular, with Unitarian Universalism.

That's the first thing that must be said out loud.

It is not because Unitarian Universalism has become intolerant; it is because today's political conservatism, as embodied by the Republican Party, opposes the core value of religious liberalism: the reverence that is due to each person and the seamless reality of the universe.

Religious liberalism and political conservatism have diverged only recently. There used to be many Unitarian Republicans who were "socially liberal, fiscally conservative."  Such a stance is no longer possible in the real world.  The present Republican Party is whole-heartedly committed to reactionary social policy, especially patriarchy, white nationalism, and heterosexual privilege.  Social liberalism is being systematically purged from the Republican Party.

And fiscal conservatism? Today's political conservatism …

Institutionalized Love

Elie Wiesel says “the opposite of Love is not hate, but indifference.”
This statement is the key to understanding the public and social theology of Love.
Human beings know love.  Most have experienced it.  Most can tell when it is present and when it is absent.  Because of its universality, we can use love as a transcendent point of judgement in creating a common understanding of the social good.  What enacts, embodies and encourages love is what is good.  What impedes it is not good.  This does not answer every question; there is room for serious discussion of what encourages and what discourages love, but it gives us a commonly understood premise, because we all know what love is.  
“God’s Will” and “Justice” are not commonly understood experiences, in that each requires training into a tradition to access their meaning.
Our social task is to “institutionalize Love.” To create the human institutions of government, economics and civil society that operate routinely on the principles of l…

Barack Obama: Liberal Theologian

President Obama’s statement at the Newtown Prayer Vigil made some theological assertions that are of interest.  
He begins by quoting “Scripture” -- his quote is from 2 Corinthians 4:16-5:1, a passage of consolation, in which Paul contrasts his own earthly suffering with the ultimate prospect of being raised with Jesus.  Paul’s second letter is haunted by his unnamed affliction and his sense that his life has been threatened by it.  Disease?  But the image is compelling:  our earthly tent is being destroyed, but we have a building from God, a house not made by human hands, eternal in heaven. 
Obama's choice of text suggests a metaphorical approach to these mass shootings: they are a disease, an affliction, even a sign of wasting away. 
He then tells his audience that they are not alone; the nation grieves with them.  He tells them that the courage of the school staff and the students at Sandy Hook have inspired the nation.
And then, he establishes a basic contradiction: “In the face o…

Pushed, Fallen or Flown Away?

Pushed, Fallen or Flown Away? December 2, 2012
First Unitarian Church, Worcester
Tom Schade

The Birth of Jesus Foretold
26 In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, 27 to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 And he came to her and said, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.” 29 But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. 30 The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. 32 He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. 33 He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” 34 Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” 35 The angel said to her, “T…

"Lincoln": The Films that Get Made and the Films that Should be Made

The criticism of the Spielberg/Kushner film "Lincoln" is that it continues to distort the history of the end of the Civil War, by focusing so much on Lincoln and events in Washington.  The untold historical movement of the times was the self-liberation of slaves who presented themselves to the Union army and demanded to fight.  This story is only partially told in popular film (I am thinking of "Glory"), and never from a point of view inside the slave community.  Imagine that movie, for a moment:  the disintegrating plantation life, the panic among whites, the enslaved calculating the risks of staying or going, the flight, the encounter with the resistant Union army which disdains their willingness to fight.  It is an inspiring and dramatic story and would make a great movie.

The scene at the beginning of "Lincoln" in which two African American soldiers talk to Lincoln hints at some of this drama.  One is more awed by the President, but proud to tell of …

Two Thanksgiving Prayers 2012

We prayed with these words on November 18th.

A Prayer of Individual Gratitude for the Church....

O Spirit of Life and Love,
God of many Names and Forms

We give thanks for the changes you are working in us, turning us from delusion to truth, from pride to humility, from cynicism to reverence,  from conformity to freedom, from indifference to compassion,  from disdain and judgment to openness and curiosity, from isolation to solidarity.  Each day, you call us beyond our selves,  and even if we do not answer,  we are grateful that you call.
We give thanks, this day, for this church and our fellow congregants, for all that they share:  words, stories, music,  working hands and creative minds,  and their kind witness of our changes.
We give thanks for those who came before us,  for this beautiful room, and a stable institution,  and the traditions that have sustained a beacon of the free spirit.  We are grateful that long before we were here,  here was here,  waiting for us.
And we give thanks to you, O restles…

The Always Answered Prayer -- 11/18/2012

It never seems that I have been grateful enough.  Thanksgiving rolls around and I am asked for what I am grateful, and to whom am I grateful, and the questions seem to catch me flat-footed, and by surprise.  Well, I am grateful to everybody for everything, of course.  But somehow, when you asked me, I wasn’t thinking of it right then.  I seems to me that I should have been more aware of it, more consciously thankful.  
Of course, gratitude is not always on one’s mind.  We live mostly in the present and in the future, but gratitude is a type of memory.  If one lived in the present all the time, without a thought to the past or the future, you wouldn’t feel grateful very much.  It is said to be a second pleasure.  Gratitude is the memory of a something pleasurable, a favor, a friend, a moment of grace.  And so, gratitude comes to us when are reminded, and so it can come as a surprise. 
Gratitude is a way of remembering the world, a way of remembering life. It is a way of making sense of e…

How Religious Liberalism does: (1)

What does a Religious Liberal do, or not do?

A Religious liberal doesn't demonize...

When a big storm comes along and governmental officials tell people evacuate a neighborhood or a community, some people won't go.  Maybe they had a good reason, maybe not.  Maybe they had no other choice, or no way to get anywhere else, or nowhere to go.  Or no cash to get there.  Maybe they screwed up.  Maybe they were screwed up at the time when they should have been thinking straight.

They may end up needing help, or rescue, or assistance, any of which cost money, and may place others in danger.

Public officials will need to point the objective and necessary actions over and over again.  The media will need to reinforce this message.

But a religious liberal doesn't demonize people who need help, even if they are not blameless.  They don't call them "jerks" or "stupid" or "ignorant" or "show-offs" or any of the other things that are thrown ar…

The Imaginative Leap -- Sermon October 14th

Oh My Gosh!  Last week was Columbus Day weekend, and I didn’t say anything about Columbus Day.  
By the time you get through the traditional Christian holidays-- Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Palm Sunday, Easter and Pentecost -- and you add in the National Holidays -- Columbus Day, Veterans Day, Thanksgiving, Martin Luther King;s Birthday, Abraham Lincoln and/or George Washington’s Birthday, Memorial Day, Flag Day, 4th of July and Labor Day, and then throw in Mother and Father’s Day -- you got a lot of the church year blocked out for you.  And don’t forget some of the newer days of observation that folks promote:  National Coming Out Day, Day of Transgender Remembrance, the Association Sunday, and don’t forget Pledge Sunday.  There are people emotionally attached to every one of these.
But do not fear, I will get to Columbus day today, which actually fell on October 12th -- Friday.  It is also the National Day of Solidarity with Indigenous Peoples.   A counter holiday.  You have pe…

Sting Like a Bee


Reawakenings (Sermon October 7, 2012)

Scripture:  Psalm 100 1Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth. 2Worship the Lord with gladness; come into his presence with singing. 3Know that the Lord is God. It is he that made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. 4Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise. Give thanks to him, bless his name. 5For the Lord is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations.
Modern Reading:
Pure Beauty, benediction: you are all I gathered From a life that was bitter and confused, In which I learned about evil, my own and not my own. Wonder kept seizing me, and I recall only wonder, Risings of the sun over endless green, a universe Of grasses, and flowers opening to the first light, Blue outlines of the mountains and a hosanna shout. I asked, how many times, is this the truth of the earth? How can laments and curses be turned into hymns? What makes you need to pretend, when you know better? But the lips praised on their own, …