The 2014-2015 UUA Common Read
Showing that religious liberals are more numerous than many realize, he calls on them to embrace their prophetic heritage and bring their religious convictions to bear on the issues of our time. Reclaiming Prophetic Witness will lift your spirit, while inspiring you to lift your voice and reclaim a place in the public square.
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Foreword by 2011 Frederic G. Melcher Book Award winner Dan McKanan.
Foreword by Dan McKanan
Religious Liberalism: Alive and Well
Prophetic Tensions in Liberal Religion
Liberal Religion and Public Discourse
What Does It Mean to Speak Religiously?
Religious Liberalism and Religious Freedom
Liberal Religion, Democracy, and Empire
Epilogue: Liberal Religious Identity
(from the Foreword)
This is a time for prophets. In the United States, economic inequality-at its highest level since the Gilded Age-is tearing our communities apart, depriving young people of hope in the future. Across the world, the unsustainable use of fossil fuels has poisoned the soil and the air, turning African farms into desert and threatening island nations with destruction. Great liberation struggles of past generations remain incomplete. All too often, churches close their doors to queer families, schools close their doors to immigrant children, and hospitals close their doors to the most vulnerable. The earth and her people cry out in anguish, in indignation, and, yet still, in hope..
We need prophets with hands strong enough to smash the golden calves of plutocracy, hearts big enough to declare "jubilee" to all who are burdened with debts they can never repay, and voices loud enough to be heard in the halls of Congress and the boardrooms of business. And yet, it is not easy to find one's prophetic voice. When Moses encountered the divine in the burning bush, he protested that he was "slow of speech and tongue," unable to command the attention of the Israelites (Exodus 4:10). Frederick Douglass, the great abolitionist orator, described his first speech to a white audience as a "severe cross" because he "still felt myself a slave."
We who are called to prophetic witness today face our own set of obstacles. Religious liberals, in particular, have so often been offended and appalled by the prophets of conservative Christianity that we silence ourselves rather than risk sounding like them. Because we cherish the American experiment in religious freedom, we may worry that public witness in the name of faith could violate the separation of church and state. Our respect for the personal convictions of others may cause us to recoil from the harsh and denunciatory language favored by the biblical prophets. Drawing on a long tradition of openness to culture, we may find it hard to adopt the critical stance of the prophets, even as we see glaring injustices right in front of us.
This book is a handbook for prophets like us. Speaking directly to religious liberals, Paul Rasor lays out our shortcomings in sometimes painful detail. Too often, we cede the public square to religious conservatives. Too often, we speak out in neutral language that does not convey our deepest values and hopes. We imagine that we are too few to make a difference, failing to see that liberal ideals are held by at least a fifth of the American population.
Rasor calls us to do better-and provides us with the tools for the task. Drawing on sources as varied as political philosophy, demographic surveys, and biblical studies, he shows that it is possible for religious liberals to speak out without compromising our convictions or our sensibilities. By urging us to reclaim prophetic witness, he calls us to strengthen our identity as religious liberals. When we know deeply that all of humanity-indeed, all life-is connected, and that each of us has inherent worth and dignity, we will not hesitate to challenge attacks on that dignity or the ways we are held together. And in so doing, we will help to heal the world.