Thirty Days of Love, Day 14: Discuss
Date: January 29 – Hold a Discussion on the Theological Reflection Guide
Staff Member: Director of the Office of Youth and Young Adult Ministries Carey McDonald
Description: Gather after services, or plan another time, when your congregation can discuss your story of us and story of now. Consider inviting interfaith partners to engage in this process together. Click here to download the guide.
I spent this weekend in a two-day training on life entrepreneurship for progressives, an approach that combines aggressive goal setting with intentionality about all the facets of one’s life (personal, spiritual, professional, public service, etc.). At one point, we engaged in a pretty lively discussion about “what is progressivism,” with views ranging from defining “progressivism” as a process or approach to those who thought of it as simply another name for a set of social and political values. In many ways this reminded me of the discussions that try to articulate a single theology of Unitarian Universalism: are we defined by the structures of our faith, or do we need to stake our ground on a true set of beliefs and kick out the apostates?
In both of these discussions trying to create a once-and-for-all definition seems impossible, and indeed perhaps thought-provoking engagement with the questions is as much as we can hope for. This gets closer to what I feel is missing from the conversation, which is the quality of our commitment to being together organized around these questions and values. In the progressive sense, this means being accountable to one another for the impacts of our actions and ideologies and genuinely trying to understand one another and work together on policy solutions (even though it’s fun to be righteous, rarely have I found that to be effective). For our churches, I’ve always felt that the practical nature of our theology is in the covenant of belonging, affirming our individual journeys and protecting the rare space of being present with one another from the arrogance, distraction and self-absorption that characterizes so much of contemporary American culture.
The theological reflection guide for today’s Thirty Days of Love assignment talks quite a bit about the Occupy movement, and I have to say I believe the true strength of Occupy is its emotional authenticity. Rather than getting bogged down in a specific political analysis which could be argued about, Occupy simply says “we’re hurting, we’re all hurting, and what are we going to do about it?” That’s powerful, it cuts through the media melee. But Occupy hasn’t managed to translate these worthy questions into concrete solutions, and my hunch is that this is because it has failed to translate the first spark of mutual recognition among the great 99% into a basic relationship in which people feel able and obligated to impact our collective well-being.
So how do you do that? How does Occupy take it from the streets to the hearts? No idea. It’s much trickier to stop pernicious and pervasive cycles of poverty and racism – in which most of us are simultaneously victims and perpetrators – than to fight authoritative exercises of power like union busting or Jim Crow segregation. But I do think that church, and what our church communities are capable of, has got to hold a big clue.