Liberal Religion: THIS Is the Difference
In introducing the special offering this week for the Haiti earthquake relief funds, I made the following remarks:
It was hard for me not to drop my entire sermon that I had planned this week and preach on the situation in
. There’s much to be said about the religious response to sorrow and suffering, and what our theology has to tell us in times like this. And so, since I can’t help myself, really, I wanted to say a little bit about it here, because I am doing the sermon later on the previously announced subject. Haiti
We often refer to Unitarian Universalism as a liberal religion. And that’s different from what liberal means in a political sense. But it’s often hard to articulate what that difference is, and what being a liberal religion means. Not so this week. Our liberal faith becomes clear, in sharp contrast to the conservative faith we hear from the televangelists in response to natural devastating catastrophes. In the wake of 9/11 we heard Jerry Fallwell say, “I really believe that the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People for the American Way -- all of them who have tried to secularize America -- I point the finger in their face and say 'you helped this happen.” And in the wake of Hurricane Katrina Fred Phelps said things so disgusting that I’m not going to repeat them here. And now, of course, we have Pat Robertson saying, “They were under the heel of the French, Napoleon the third or whatever, and they got together and swore a pact to the devil. They said we will serve you if you will get us free from the French. True story… But ever since they have been cursed by one thing after the other, desperately poor…”
Here’s the difference between conservative religion and liberal religion. Conservative religion looks at success, and thanks God for it, and believes it’s God’s will that they have success and riches and health. Conservative religion looks at tragedy and says, really, that it is God’s will, or God’s curse, that this is what God has chosen, and usually for a reason. Now, our liberal faith, if you believe in God, looks at success, looks at the good that comes into people’s lives, and says, what God would want is for me to share this luck with others. And liberal religion looks at tragedy and says, God is with those who suffer, and God will be with me if I do whatever I can to alleviate the suffering. Because God is love, and love is a verb. God is in the ways we reach out to the hurting world. There is God. God is in the doing the work of justice and the work of restoration and the work of feeding the hungry and healing the sick. There is God.