We UUs refer to ourselves as a “liberal religion.” What is the distinction between a liberal and a conservative religion? At the risk of painting with an overly simplistic broad brush, I’d say that religious conservatives are primarily interested in maintaining certain traditions, while religious liberals are primarily interested in change.
Throughout our history, we UU’s have pushed for theological change: ethics instead of belief, reason instead of superstition, the facts of science instead of the wishful thinking of faith, the potential for human good instead of original sin, human responsibility instead of divine intervention, life in the here-and-now instead life in the hereafter, and respect for the wisdom of all spiritual paths instead of the arrogance of a my-way-or-the-highway, one, true religion.
We have pushed for political change: the abolition of slavery, the abolition of the death penalty, suffrage for women and civil rights for African Americans, LGBT persons, and all people, public education, the autonomy of women over their own bodies, the preservation of our natural environment, the end of war and the waging of peace, a democracy of, by, and for all the people.
We have pushed for economic change: the right to organize, safe working conditions, the eight-hour workday and the five-day workweek, livable wages, a universal retirement pension and universal health care, regulation of the greed of the powerful and protection of the well-being of the vulnerable, a social safety net that catches you when you fall, and a helping hand to lift you up again.
Many people go to church to feel comfortable and complacent, to be reassured that what has always been will always be, to be “saved,” which means that one has arrived at one’s spiritual destination. We religious liberals come to church to be challenged to stretch and grow, not to save our souls but to grow a soul, to be transformed and to transform our world, to embark on a lifetime adventure of exploration and discovery, a journey that never ends. We religious liberals believe in and are dedicated to change.
Making changes, whether minor or profound, is much easier said than done. The average person makes the same New Year’s resolution 10 years in a row, each year rationalizing their past failures to convince themselves to try, try again. Of the people who make New Year’s resolutions, only half are able to sustain the resolution for 2 weeks, and the number is down to 19% after 2 years.
During the first three Sundays of March, I plan to preach a series of sermons about the practicalities of how to change:
March 1: “Letting Life Be Your Teacher”
March 8: “Turning to Others to Turn Yourself Around”
March 15: “Getting over the Rocks”
I can’t promise you that discussing the topic of change will make it any easier, but the first step of making a change is to begin thinking about it.
Looking forward to thinking about change with you,