Thursday, June 19, 2014

Core Statements of Liberal Public Theology

Four key learnings that guide liberal public theology
Unitarian Universalist public theology is now expressed in our aspiration that we should "stand on the side of love." That hope expresses the first principle we affirm: that we promote the worth and dignity of each person. That principle restates our historic Universalism. For if God intends the salvation of all, then doesn't it behoove us to treat each person, whom God holds redeemable, as worthy and possessed of dignity?  After all, if God holds them worthy, who are we to be choosier?

We rarely fail to love because we hate. Yes, there are people who do terrible things, arouse us to great anger and are difficult to love. We test ourselves against our Universalism by trying to imagine those we could not love. But Adolph Hitler and Ted Bundy are not the real test of our Universalism. Our failure is that we regard so many with indifference. We just don't know their story.

Respect for a person's dignity, loving them, is not abstract and general. It is specific and particular. Once we know a person's story, we cannot still remain indifferent or hate them. Why? Because we then see them as a person, like ourselves, trying to do their best for themselves and those they love, in their circumstances, with their history, with their material conditions, with their family history, with their brain chemistry, with their culture. It is humbling.

Our first principle, the worth and dignity of every individual, is not just linked to our seventh principle, the interdependence of all life. It is its dialectical twin. To love somebody is to hear their whole story, to see them whole against the wider sky. And then we see them, the individual, as one node in a network of interdependence, part of the systems and structure of our social life and history together. Everything causes everything else.

Finally, our public theology follows from our embrace of Darwin and the principle of evolution. Just as God did not create all the species of plants and animals at one time, fixing them forever, God did not create human society and its hierarchies of power. Just as important, human society was not created by a 'social contract' voluntarily created by free and equal human beings during some unknowable pre-history.

Most human social institutions were created by the imposition of power by the strong over the weak. But they are changing and evolving. There was no golden age in the past. There was no original or natural intention for human society. There is no going back, and the future has not happened yet.

Humanity could move toward greater equality, greater justice, greater love. It could also end in disaster, war and misery. But liberal public theology is based on hope, and a faith in human agency to make a better future.






2 comments:

Clyde Grubbs said...

Hobbsian Assumption:

'Human society was created by the imposition of power by the strong over the weak.'

Historical evidence does support that non heirarchal and non patriarcal human societies were inducted into empire and control by coercive methods, but human beings do have experience in creating relationships without coerciion.

The struggle against imposed coercion has ancient roots, therefore imposed power over relationship also has ancient roots. No Golden Age, but no to Hobbes as well.

Steve LaBonne said...

I agree with Clyde, and I think we need to remember that in order to maintain our faith that a social structure not based on exploitation is possible, because it's something humans HAVE achieved in the (admittedly distant) past. But that's a quibble about an excellent post- words to live by, in every sense. I understand so much better now than when I first discovered UUism that we need the moral force of liberal religion to underwrite and sustain this vision of human possibility.