Thursday, October 16, 2008

A letter to my conservative friend

Regarding your accusation that I'm merely reiterating the liberal media; let me assure you, I've never been to nor do I give much credence to the talking heads on cable TV. All of my substantial information is derived first and foremost from CSPAN (I'm an avid fan). It's true that CSPAN is not 'news' in the traditional sense, and also one must imbibe for years as the effect is cumulative. I use it for cues and references, which I direct to further (careful) research on the internet and of course, old fashioned books.

Now the issues that you only slightly less than eloquently harped on are quite reminiscent of Libertarian hype. I have many Libertarian friends in my church and have read many of their tracts and treatises -- which I find somewhat narrow in scope. Be that as it may, I am certain that you shouldn't find any solace in today's version of the Republican party. That, my friend, is a dangerous recourse. For this I would direct you to the well received and respected work "The Conservative Ascendancy" by Donald T. Critchlow. a historian of impeccable credentials. It is a fast read and pretty well lays out the story in non-partisan terms. If you'd like to compare that to a more liberal leaning account of the same history from another tremendously respected historian try Paul Krugman's "The Conscience of a Liberal."

I couch what I'm about to say with the assertion that I have deep respect for the Republican platform (indeed, I've read it), and the party that freed the slaves. But it is not the machine we see backing McCain (whom I love, and am fond of saying is the _only_ good thing about today's Republican party). What we see today are those who truly "spend so much time doing well that they've forgotten how to do good." So if it's a question of issues for you, then we must first agree upon what the issues are. This I would argue, but not now.

But, my good and old friend, you must know that I'm a liberal in every since of the word. Always have been. And I'm not afraid of the word Socialism either, so don't try the scare tactics on guys like me. Here's the thing, and this is subtle so read carefully: The Republican platform is founded on a bed rock belief in the inherent goodness of the human species. It's why the dollar vote works, it's why supply side economics works, it's why Christianity is righteous, it's why there is a universal way to interpret right and wrong, and above all it's why we can have faith in our leaders! Now the Democratic platform is pretty much exactly opposite, one could say: founded on the disbelief in the goodness of individuals; but I prefer to say it is the party of confidence in the community. That's why it's so easy to attack the platform on the grounds that it is Socialist leaning, because frankly, it is. But don't over emotionalize the concept, hell it's just a philosophy.

I don't believe in big government! But I do want a government that is strong enough to defend me in a world of global markets and international corporations (which, by the way, are good things). Now the neo-cons talk about small government, but they mean 'weak' government. You know where that goes so I'll leave it there. I believe in a middle class, one that includes much more than half the population, even dare I say, 8 in 10. I believe in taxes to support the agencies and effort it takes to make all that happen -- and I don't mind paying them. I believe that society's responsibilities should include providing universal access to education and healthcare, but I don't want to argue about implementation details at this point. For I am trying to communicate something deeper.

(Example follows) I went to an interfaith picnic the other day. You can probably imagine how that looked where I live in northern VA (we're as cosmopolitan as NYC here). There were religious representatives from every corner of the world: Protestant, Catholic, Reform Jew, Muslim, Bahai, Sekh, Hindu, Buddhist, and, of course, me (Unitarian Universalist). Now the thing that changed me, the thing that really made a difference in my understanding of our world was the opening speech from a Methodist minister. "We are _not_ here to learn how to accept each other's differences, we are here to learn how to respect our differences; in fact, celebrate our differences!"

This is important stuff. I believe it is part of something that is happening at the 'movement' level -- globally. We need to re-learn something that our predecessors had subconsciously. Something about community, but in a new and larger way. The Democratic party, with all it's foibles and deviants, is learning how to tap that -- mark my words.

I've left much unsaid. But I hope to have given you enough to understand where I'm coming from. One final remark must be made: why did I include you in that mailing list? Well, the fact is, Obama may not win -- this is far from won. You made a remark about all the idiots in our country, and you are right. Pandering to populist and divisive issues is why we are where we are today, and the neo-cons are dangerously close to pulling it off again! Fear mongering and slander are powerful tools among the uneducated masses! Please, please, please vote democratic!

Monday, July 14, 2008

elevator speech

i support Unitarian Universalism with time and money because i believe in liberal religion. that’s the simple way to put it, yet the spirit that underlies my simple statement has so much more meaning for me.

liberal religion holds many implications for our civilization, way too many to allow for justice on the topic in a single sitting. yet i would like to highlight three important tenets of liberal religion: no single source of revelation or inspiration can lay an exclusive claim on truth, every person should be free to act upon their conscience without fear of retribution, and finally every person must accept responsibility for their actions.

at risk of seeming harsh, i must say it appears to me that the current state of religion in our culture is unequivocally opposed to such wisdom. it seems like standard, garden variety religion in our country teaches exactly the opposite! it is taught with a veneer of supreme authority that there is, in fact, a single source of truth; that the conscience has been scarred and, short of divine redemption, is incapable of goodness; and finally, that no individual is ultimately responsible for their actions, other than an act of acquiescence to the truth as presented in the King James bible.

now i’m quite certain that any of us could stand up a case for argument. and, to be sure, these themes have been debated for time out of mind. to discover this, one need only make a cursory reading of the history of the colonies in the 17th century new world. but ever the spirit of free peoples is envied and despised by minds in bondage; today, no less than those of our forebears. and now it seems the malady is as insidious as ever being woven with the threads of patriotism and fear of despotism.

as for me, today, i will stand on the side of liberal religion. i support the international causes of personal integrity and human dignity, and i support our denominational unity, the Association of UU congregations. but mostly, i believe our little church, right down the road, provides a voice of sanity and hands of healing in our community, our home. i can imagine no more rewarding endeavor, and no greater honor than to contribute to the life and growth of the congregation.