4 Essential Posts for Religious Progressives, Part Two

In yesterday’s post I quoted Rabbi Eric H. Yoffie, who wrote in The Huffington Post that for “liberal religion in America, this [the election of Trump] is our moment.” I also shared Yoffie’s belief that religious leaders need to “strengthen the ritual and liturgical elements of [their] congregation’s religious life.”

we-are-uusI think this is especially important in light of what Jim Wallis says in his article “10 Commitments of Resistance in the Trump Era,” published in Sojourners, the magazine Wallis founded in 1971. Wallis says that “the election revealed the deep racial divide in America with a majority of white voters—of all economic levels, genders, and even religions—going for Trump.”

He goes on to say that

America’s Original Sin clearly still lingers in America, and the repentance of that sin clearly calls upon us to replace white identity with faith identity—the reversal of what happened in this election among the majority of white voters who voted together as a tribe.

I’m guessing that the Unitarian Universalists who went for Trump also voted from a white identity (or from the white identity part of the Unitarian Universalist tradition) rather than a progressive faith identity.

What would it be like if liberal religious communities used “the ritual and liturgical elements” of their tradition—the “liturgy, hymns, holidays, and festivals”—to relentlessly reinforce the most progressive and compassionate values of their religion?

Imagine if we used ritual and liturgy to ceaselessly lift up the kind of commitments Wallis makes to the readers of Sojourners:

  1. We will go deeper in faith.
  2. We will lift up truth.
  3. We will reject White Nationalism.
  4. We will love our neighbors by protecting them from hate speech and attacks.
  5. We will welcome the stranger, as our Scriptures instruct.
  6. We will expose and oppose racial profiling in policing.
  7. We will defend religious liberty.
  8. We will work to end the misogyny that enables rape culture.
  9. We will protest with our best values.
  10. We will listen.

Imagine progressive congregations proclaiming these commitments in the context of their faith traditions. For Unitarian Universalists, that might mean using not only the language of our Principles and Purposes (e.g., we reject White Nationalism and embrace “the goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all”), but some of the UU brand identity language recently developed as well.

  • Boldness—From striving for social justice to radically embracing different beliefs, UUs have been a bold people of faith since the beginning.
  • Compassion—Our hearts call us to invest in the welfare of our fellow human beings, and our communities extend warmth and welcome no matter who you are, whom you love, or where you are on your journey.
  • Reverence—We unite in spirit through communities of meaning, grappling with the big questions and learning how to better live our values each day.

So rather than “We will welcome the stranger, as our Scriptures instruct,” we might say, “We will welcome you no matter who you are, whom you love, or where you are on your journey.”

Or rather than “We will go deeper into faith,” we say, “We will grapple with the big questions and learn how to live our values each day.”

By making a similar commitment to the progressive religious values Wallis proclaims, and by using a language that is authentically ours, we achieve two things: we let the world know who we are as a people of faith, and we build a bold, compassionate, reverent faith identity as Unitarian Universalists.

Next up, a post on Timothy Snyder’s “20 Lessons from the 20th Century on How to Survive in Trump’s America.”

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