Sometimes I cringe when I turn on the news. I find myself wanting to cover my eyes when I click on news article headlines, afraid of what I might read. My heart aches, some days literally, over the slow erosion of all moral decency since November of 2016. I struggle to keep up with the status of attacks on the various vulnerable groups in our society. There is the ongoing rolling back of protections for transgender persons (the latest scapegoat of hate-mongering evangelicals), the constant demonizing of non-white immigrants (especially Latinx and Muslim immigrants), the abandoning of refugees, the rise of anti-Semitism, the systemic attacks on science and evidence (especially regarding climate change), attacks on women’s rights to make decisions over their own medical care…. who am I leaving out? Probably a lot. Just this past week Congress voted to gut the Americans with Disabilities Act of provisions empowering disabled persons to sue for equal access. And then there’s the latest mass shooting, this time in a high school, and we hear the President call for greater attention to mental illness even as he seeks to slash funding for mental health care and after he signed a law making it easier for those with mental illness to buy weapons. It’s all too much.
This is why now, more than ever, we need liberal religion, and liberal religious communities. To invoke the language of my Appalachian roots, we need to “get religion,” but not just any religion. We need to get the religion that makes a difference.
“Liberal religion” refers to religion that is focused less on “right beliefs” and more on being the right kind of person. Less on going to the preferred afterlife and more about the life we live right now. Less on speculations about apocalyptic futures and prayers for divine intervention and more about what we can do right now to create the best possible world for everyone. Liberal religion knows the potential for evil is in everyone, but it also knows we are more than capable of doing better if we want to. It empowers. Liberal religion sees the worth and dignity of *all*, not just those like me. It sees the liberation of the vulnerable not as a burden or inconvenience, but as a moral imperative. And liberal religion values science and reason over blind faith and partisan loyalty. Liberal religion says that if there is a God that God is all-inclusive unconditional radical love.
Doesn’t this sound like an antidote for our nation?
Here at UUFF we strive to be the home for liberal religion on the Upper Cape. We live that out through our Social Action Committee, partnering with local nonprofits to make a positive difference in our local communities. We do so through our Green Sanctuary Task Force, which strives to help all of us live in better relationship with the natural world even as we advocate for more environmentally responsible laws and policies. We do this through our Welcoming Committee, which seeks to deepen our understanding of and inclusion of LGBTQ persons, with a focus right now on transgender persons. We do this through our Faith Formation programs, forming the next generation to be people of open-minds, large hearts, and just actions. We do this through so many of our committees and task forces. This is because liberal religion isn’t a “belief,” it’s a way of life.
When I feel myself tempted to despair, I look to how many people all over this country are fighting back, resisting, trying their best to not normalize this toxic trend in our national life. If you feel yourself losing heart, turn your attention towards all this liberal religious effort, all this strong vibrant work, to be better than the hate we see. Remember that liberal religion is alive and active, not just at UUFF, but in Unitarian Universalist congregations throughout the country. And remember that liberal religion isn’t just us; liberal religion can be found in other faith communities as well, alive and active in our local Jewish, Episcopal, and Congregational communities, as well as others, including in many secular organizations. We have many allies.
So don’t lose heart, my friends. The road is long and hard. We can’t do this alone; we need each other.
So come to Sunday services. Drink deep of spiritual practices that nurture your soul. Reach out to others for support. Take care of yourself (for you deserve kindness and healing). Be kind and compassionate to all you meet, even if they get on your nerves, because they too might be fighting the same discouragement. Don’t give up in speaking up and acting out for what is right, both to your government representatives and to anyone else you can. To paraphrase the New Testament, “let us run with endurance the race set before us, because in due time we will succeed if we don’t tire out.” Believe in yourself. Believe in what is right. Don’t give up.
The race isn’t over yet.
It’s time to get religion.