Friday, July 05, 2013

Our 50 year mission

At the heart of all great struggles against oppression and exploitation are individual persons struggling to lay claim to themselves.

All religions are religions of revelation.  Each knows a particular truth, whether from its own experience, or from on high.  They have a core teaching that they embody and advance in the world.  

Liberal Religion started in skepticism; a core belief was in the right of every person to determine their own beliefs.  That has widened and blossomed into an affirmation that every person has the inalienable right to determine for themselves who they are on the most fundamental level: even in categories (sexuality and gender) that seemed iron-clad a century ago.

The 21st century will be a world of often violent competition for resources, ruthless exploitation, power centralizing to financial capital, and ever-changing patterns of oppression.  There will be great struggles against oppression and exploitation and powerlessness.

At the heart of all great struggles against oppression and exploitation are individual persons struggling to lay claim to themselves. 

Where ever there is struggle, there are persons who are sitting up at night, choosing who they will be in their moment in time, in their place.  As I write this, they are numerous persons doing so in Egypt, or Texas, or North Carolina.  By the time you read this, it will be other places.  People will be deciding who they are: are they a person who goes to Tahrir Square, or are they the person who stays home.  To be who you are supposed to be is to stay home, but to be who you really are is to go.

This is the point of contact between liberal theology and all of the movements to come.  This is our human connection as religious liberals with everybody else.  We are engaged in the same struggle to lay claim to ourselves.  Yes, the terrain in every life is different.  And Yes, the privileges we have  make it all the harder to see ourselves and the world we live in clearly.

Our 50 year mission is to carry the truths of our movement into the much more conflicted and dangerous world of the 21st century.  It is to create communities where individual persons can lay claim to themselves, become the subjects of their own lives, and choose to live by the virtues of liberality: honesty, humility, solidarity, openness, gratitude/generosity, and reverence.  It is to invite people into communities where they can Behave, Belong and Believe in some order or another, but first to Be Real or to Be Themselves.

Everything else flows from that.

e.e. cummings

To be nobody but yourself in a world which is 
doing its best, night and day, to make you 
everybody else means to fight the hardest battle 
which any human being can fight; and never 
stop fighting.


Mary Oliver

The Journey
 One day you finally knew 
what you had to do, and began, 
though the voices around you 
kept shouting 
their bad advice—
though the whole house 
began to tremble 
and you felt the old tug 
at your ankles. 
"Mend my life!" 
each voice cried. 
But you didn't stop. 
You knew what you had to do, 
though the wind pried 
with its stiff fingers 
at the very foundations, 
though their melancholy 
was terrible. 
It was already late 
enough, and a wild night, 
and the road full of fallen 
branches and stones. 
But little by little, 
as you left their voices behind, 
the stars began to burn 
through the sheets of clouds, 
and there was a new voice 
which you slowly 
recognized as your own, 
that kept you company 
as you strode deeper and deeper 
into the world 
determined to do 
the only thing you could do—
determined to save
the only life you could save.



Martin Luther King, Jr
“One night toward the end of January I settled into bed late, after a strenuous day. Coretta had already fallen asleep and just as I was about to doze off the telephone rang. An angry voice said, ‘Listen, nigger, we’ve taken all we want from you; before next week you’ll be sorry you ever came to Montgomery.’ I hung up, but I couldn’t sleep. It seemed that all of my fears had come down on me at once. I had reached the saturation point.
I got out of bed and began to walk the floor. I had heard these things before, but for some reason that night it got to me. I turned over and tried to go to sleep, but I couldn’t sleep. I was frustrated, bewildered, and then I got up. Finally I went to the kitchen and heated a pot of coffee. I was ready to give up. With my cup of coffee sitting untouched before me I tried to think of a way to move out of the picture without appearing a coward. I sat there and thought about a beautiful little daughter who had just been born. I’d come in night after night and see that little gentle smile. I started thinking about a dedicated and loyal wife, who was over there asleep. And she could be taken from me, or I could be taken from her. And I got the point that I couldn’t take it any longer. I was weak. Something said to me, ‘You can’t call on Daddy now, you can’t even call on Mama. You’ve got to call on that something in that person that your Daddy used to tell you about, that power that can make a way out of no way.’ With my head in my hands, I bowed over the kitchen table and prayed aloud. The words I spoke to God that midnight are still vivid in my memory: ‘Lord, I’m down here trying to do what’s right. I think I’m right. I am here taking a stand for what I believe is right. But Lord, I must confess that I’m weak right now, I’m faltering. I’m losing my courage. Now, I’m afraid. And I can’t let the people see me like this because if they see me weak and losing my courage, they will begin to get weak. The people are looking to me for leadership, and if I stand before them without strength and courage, they too will falter. I am at the end of my powers. I have nothing left. I’ve come to the point where I can’t face it alone.’
It seemed as though I could hear the quiet assurance of an inner voice saying: ‘Martin Luther, stand up for righteousness. Stand up for justice. Stand up for truth. And lo, I will be with you. Even until the end of the world.’

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