Friday, February 22, 2013

The mission of liberal religion is .....

to save the world from disaster by making more people liberal.

It's that simple.

Some definitions are in order:  What I call liberal religion could also be called human-centered spirituality, or religious humanism or humanistic theism.

It is one of the world's great religions, although it shies away from calling itself a religion.  (In that way, it is like Buddhism.)  It is a way of conceptualizing how human beings are in the world, and draws moral and ethical implications from that to daily life.  It is a way of reverence.

It accepts science as its metaphysics.  It understands the purpose of life to be human well-being.  It is universalistic in that understands the entire human race as the scope of its mission.

It has been subverting other religions from within and without for centuries now.

It's virtues are reverence, self-possession, the gemini of gratitude and generosity, honesty, humility, fairness, openness.



It is clear that the well-being of every human on the planet depends on all of us making these values the bedrocks of our lives.  Everyone must understand that these are the ethical implications of our understanding of the world.  It is the moral challenge of our day.

Look everywhere and what you see is disaster in the making because ideologies institutionalize indifference to human suffering as a necessary evil for others to prosper.  Our mission as religious liberals is to confront that thinking in a thousand ways, within ourselves and in the wider world.

Our mission is to remake ourselves, and challenge others to such remaking, and thus save the world.

It's that simple.

And that hard.

Unitarian Universalists are one group of people who have adopted this mission.  We started as liberal reinterpretations of Christian systematic theology.but have moved on in ways that we could do well to study in depth.

The primary way that Unitarian Universalist fulfill the mission of liberal religion is through our worship.  Liberal religion nurtures within itself a powerful sense of reverence at the sheer amazingness of the given world.  It is expressed in the poets we recite, in the art we marvel at, in the novels we read with intensity, in the music we listen to and in the television shows we follow.  Art holds life at arm's length, so that we can marvel at it, and bow before its immensity.  But art  is individual expression of reverence.

But liberal religion does not make collective rituals of reverence as well as the old religions, which point us to something beyond human life altogether.  But UU's try.  Week after week, we try to create community rituals of reverence, and invoke the challenges implicit in that reverence.   We know that there are times when we fail.  But there are times that we succeed.  And we know that our efforts ultimately fail to meet the world's needs, for a whole slew of reasons, not least of which are our culturally specific biases.

And we also try to fulfill the mission of liberal religion by building communities that live in right relations with each other, and with those beyond.

And we try to fulfill the mission of liberal religion by speaking up for fairness and justice in the larger world.

And we try to fulfill the mission of liberal religion by acts of service and commitment to others.

And we try to fulfill the mission of liberal religion by developing our humility and seeing our mission as unfinished business, which we, on our own, will be unable to fulfill.

We try and we try, and it is one of our particular quirks that we are very hard on ourselves for our shortcomings.  It comes from our DNA, as we are a human-centered reinterpretation of Puritanism.

Mission comes from the discovery of what your religion requires you to do to serve others.

We fall short because think of our religion as too small: Unitarian Universalism instead of Liberal Religion, or Human-Centered Spirituality, or however we chose to label it.  So we fail by being sectarian.

We fall short because we define service too narrowly.  We think of charity, or mobilization, or welcoming.  We think of service in terms of that which we don't do, but do not think of what we do (congregational worship) as service, because we think that is for us, and we are different, which is the root of all our shortcomings.   And so we fail by not knowing ourselves.

And we fall short because we define others too narrowly.  We think that what we have to offer as service is only for people like ourselves.  And so we fail by being elitist.

Let us think anew.  




2 comments:

Clyde Grubbs said...

Good post,

but it begs the question, whose science?

A nature centered ontology that sees the divine creativity at work in our world and our wholeness?

or a mechanistic pretension that treats the thing and enshrines enligtenment alientation by positing the individual as prior to community?

Clyde

Tom Schade said...

Once you leave behind scholastic theology which seeks to understand the world through logical deduction from scripture and enter into enlightenment science which knows the world through observation and participation, you cannot go back. We can move forward to post-enlightenment ways of knowing