Monday, June 10, 2013

Post-Humanist Religion

Andrew Sullivan, reporting on a 2007 interview with Barack Obama:



He was brought up in a nonreligious home and converted to Christianity as an adult. But—critically—he is not born-again. His faith—at once real and measured, hot and cool—lives at the center of the American religious experience. It is a modern, intellectual Christianity. “I didn’t have an epiphany,” he explained to me. “What I really did was to take a set of values and ideals that were first instilled in me from my mother, who was, as I have called her in my book, the last of the secular humanists—you know, belief in kindness and empathy and discipline, responsibility—those kinds of values. And I found in the Church a vessel or a repository for those values and a way to connect those values to a larger community and a belief in God and a belief in redemption and mercy and justice … I guess the point is, it continues to be both a spiritual, but also intellectual, journey for me, this issue of faith.”
For the post-humanist (and that includes everyone who has ever contemplated, even in passing, the fact that the Christian story cannot be factually true) "values and ideals" come first; they precede belief.

Not all "values and ideals" are the same. There are those that are liberal and liberating virtues and those that are conservative and promote submission to authority. But values and ideals come first.

And there are all through the human cultures, an endless variety stories, myths, art, music and poetry that teach and preserve the virtues of liberality.  For Barack Obama, the kind of Christianity that was proclaimed at Trinity UCC in Chicago was a vessel and a way to connect those values to a larger community.  That was particular to his time and place and mission in life.

I move to speculation now.  What I suspect that Trinity UCC appeared as the vessel for the Obama's because of the urgency and clarity with which it proclaimed the values and ideals they held.  It asked for a decision and a commitment and a change of heart.

Post-humanist religion does not turn on the story or the belief system.  It starts with values and virtues and succeeds because it clearly and urgently asks people to decide, and commit, to living them out.

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