In his early memoir, Dreams from My Father, Barack Obama traces his uneasy
journey to focus his activism on something other than despair and outrage. He looked for something more abiding, something that would leave him feeling less alone. As a community organizer on the South Side of Chicago, Obama struggled with a lack of spiritual grounding.
In many ways, Obama’s struggle is the postmodern struggle to regain some of the spiritual roots that our modern world has disrupted through higher mobility, increased technology, and the critical analysis of myth and sacred text. This disruption has led to an intense backlash among the religious, so much so that in the last several decades, America’s religious life has become dominated by religious
conservatism. We often forget that religious does not necessarily mean conservative.
In fact, religion in America has more often that not been liberal in its spirit and
progressive in its social impact. While it’s important to continue our critique of
religion as having favored white heterosexual men of a certain class and position, it
is still the case that the United States was born in an era of Enlightenment religion,
noted for an increasing concern for human rights.
Much of the theology, spiritual practices, and ideas about religious community that
have shaped our nation are still there, waiting for us as religious liberals, to take up
again. It has never been more important than now to continue the progressivism
that is our national heritage.
For the last six weeks of my ministry here at UUCH, my Sunday morning messages
will focus on what I believe is needed to renew progressive religion in our time. Among other sources, I will be using a book by the Revs. Rebecca Ann Parker and John A. Buehrens called, A House of Hope. Some of you may remember a class I facilitated a few years ago using this book. The authors’ approach, which I completely agree with, counters the common notion among liberals that every person must build his or her own theology from scratch. The fact is there have been centuries of Unitarians and Universalists who have lived, labored, and loved before us, and who have in fact built a solid foundation for a hopeful future.
House of Hope uses six dimensions of a house to frame the classic questions that give our lives shape and meaning and therefore help define religious community. These six dimensions will be the focus of these six sermons. This coming Sunday we focus on the Garden – the natural environment we inherited. I look forward to sharing this time with you during our last six Sundays together.