Friday, January 18, 2013

The argument in Brief

Present day conservative politics and libertarian economics are systems of institutionalized indifference. Their common feature across the board is that they ask us to not think about the consequences of our policies on certain people, usually the poor, the unsuccessful, the inept, the disabled, the elderly, the sick, the unemployed, the marginalized.

Indifference is the opposite of Love, and Unitarian Univeralists try to Stand on the Side of Love.

"Standing on the Side of Love" is a slogan that distills for this time the social theology summarized in the UUA' s Seven Principles statement, especially the commitment to the worth and dignity of each person, the right to free search for meaning, the promotion of the democratic process, justice, equity, compassion.

Those Seven Principles do not arise out of thin air.  They are the late 20th century interpretations of our 19th century and 20th century theological propositions:  the rights of a free conscience, universal salvation, humanist pragmatism.

And those particular Unitarian and Universalist theological suppositions are derived directly from the distinctive beliefs of Enlightenment liberal Christianity, especially the human likeness to God and the human capacity for good.  All of which are rooted in the doctrines and disputes that go back to the earliest days of the Christian church, emerging as it did out of the Jewish religious and ethical disputes surrounding the Jewish rebellion of the first century.

And of course, the commitment to love as the opposite of indifference can also be traced through many other religious and philosophical traditions.

None of this is whimsical, or faddish, or novel.  Just because we don't often think about the history of our ideas, doesn't mean they are original to us, or that they have no history.


1 comment:

Tim Bartik said...

Rev. Schade:

I certainly think it is important for religious leaders, and in particular liberal religious leaders such as UU religious leaders, to call for society to focus its attention on promoting greater worth and dignity for the disadvantaged. And this call becomes more than a societal call in that it is also a call for individuals to be true to their faith in how they act in society.

I also agree that there are many within the conservative movement who in words or actions express resentment towards one or more disadvantaged groups.

However, I also believe that there are those of a libertarian or conservative bent who are interested in helping the disadvantaged, but believe a society with a fuller free market and limited government is the best way to achieve that goal.

My personal position is that that belief in less regulation of the market and less government is in many cases empirically false because of the many market failures in the private market, and the evidence for the efficacy of various government interventions to help the disadvantaged. But others disagree with this interpretation of the evidence.

So liberal religious leaders should certainly call us to our social duties that are necessitated by our faith. They should demand that we not be deluded or rationalize indifference. But they should admit the complexity of society, and that religion does not have some special knowledge about the best means to achieve the goals that are advocated by our faith.

Furthermore, I believe that we all are "sinners" in that liberals as well as conservatives sometimes rationalize indifference to those in need behind political ideology.

So, we need an aggressive advocacy of helping all achieve worth and dignity, and a call for us to avoid evasion, rationalization, and illusion. But we should be humble about our knowledge about the best means to achieve our religious goals.