Five Smooth Stones
- "Religious liberalism depends on the principle that 'revelation' is continuous."
- "All relations between persons ought ideally to rest on mutual, free consent and not on coercion."
- "Religious liberalism affirms the moral obligation to direct one's effort toward the establishment of a just and loving community. It is this which makes the role of the prophet central and indispensable in liberalism."
- "[W]e deny the immaculate conception of virtue and affirm the necessity of social incarnation."
- "[L]iberalism holds that the resources (divine and human) that are available for the achievement of meaningful change justify an attitude of ultimate optimism."
The first smooth stone tells us that there is no one religious truth that has already been told and that is handed down in one particular sacred text. Revelation can happen at any time, and is still happening. The second talks about democratic principles and freedom -- particularly important as JLA wrote this in response to experiencing the rise of fascism in Europe. The third tells us that we have a prophetic faith and we are all prophets -- we must all be voices for the social good, for the betterment of society. Fourth, good is created by us here and now, not something that is done just by God. The third and fourth stones are very linked. And lastly, that we have the resources to affect change, and so therefore we should have hope.
I refer to the five smooth stones often and had actually used the 5 smooth stones in the sermon that I had already written that I'll be preaching this Sunday. I'd been thinking on the 5 smooth stones the past couple of weeks for no particular reason except that I've been working on our program for Ohio River Group next year on "The Future of Liberalism," and one of our reading items might be the 5 Smooth Stones. This got me thinking--If I were writing the 5 Smooth Stones now, what would the Smooth Stones be?
I don't have my answer yet, except that Tony is exactly right when he says what's missing from the five smooth stones is love. That would be my first smooth stone -- a radical universal love that embraces all people. I love all of JLA's smooth stones, and think they're all vital now, but maybe I would combine the third and fourth to make that space for love and call it a day. But there may be something I'm not thinking about right now that is more vital for us to talk about in what distinguishes liberal religion. I'm still thinking on it.
So I'm still working on my five smooth stones. Meanwhile, what are yours?