With humor and humanity, Nancy McDonald Ladd calls religious progressives to greater authenticity and truth-telling rather than mere optimism.

Product Code: 6855
ISBN: 9781558968288
Publisher: Skinner House Books
Pages: 184
Size: 8.5 x 5.5
Published Date: 01/22/2019
Availability:In stock
Price: $16.00

Progressive faith is at a crossroads. Liberal pulpits ring with grand sermons about the arc that bends toward justice, and about progress “onward and upward forever.” Meanwhile, the people in the pews struggle to attend to the suffering of their souls and the tragic aspects of life. In this engaging polemic, using stories and metaphor, Nancy McDonald Ladd issues a call for change. Speaking from a rising generation of clergy and lay leaders who formed their commitments to liberal religion at the end of the optimistic modernist age, she shows how the religious life is not characterized by endless human advancement, but by lurching movement, crisis-management, and pain.

With humor and humanity, Ladd calls religious progressives to greater authenticity and truth-telling rather than mere optimism. She charts a course forward that includes reclaiming rituals of atonement and lament, and becoming more vulnerable and accountable in our relationships. She shows how, together, we might build a necessary and greater resilience among ourselves and for the generations to come.

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Introduction: A Realist Spy among the Optimists

One: The Shadow of the Dead Utopias

Two: Twentieth-Century Modernists in the Twenty-First Century Church

Three: The Myth of Inevitable Progress

Four: Respectable Church People and the Kingdom of Godb

Five: The Will to Power and the Power of Mutuality

Six: We Are Not Going to Get This Right

Seven: Access to Atonement

Eight: Liturgies of Lament

Nine: Fundamentally Estranged, Inextricably Interconnected

Appendix A: On Prayers of Confession or Atonement

Appendix B: On Liturgies of Lament


“This project arises from my own discomfort at the certitude of the good liberal people I have come to love, to lead, and to serve alongside. It is also inspired by the faithfulness and courage many in my own Unitarian Universalist tradition are currently bringing to the work of dismantling of white supremacy and decentering whiteness in our institutions.

This effort to build a new way of worshipping and proclaiming hope in the liberal church does not depend on triumphal self-assurance. It is fueled daily by the resilience, truth-telling, and humble courage of the people who weep and laugh alongside me during daily parish life.

The people I serve tell the truth. There is a reason I can never seem to locate any tissue boxes in my office—those tissue boxes move all around the spaces we have made sacred, flowing as freely as the tears. As a minister, the invitation offered to me, day after day, week after week, is to somehow articulate the full truth of my people’s deep human experience and deeper human longing, all while pointing us forward with both hope and commitment.

My abiding love for the progressive church stands in creative tension against the fundamental critiques of this book—liberal optimism, attachment to respectability, the centering of whiteness, and a progressivist view of history. These critiques apply to the congregation and the denomination in which I serve as acutely as anywhere else in the world of progressive religion. And yet these critiques cannot arise from less generous a sentiment than love for the people I serve—a love that would be greatly diminished if I remained too cautious or too comfortable to offer honest critique of the broader liberal religious culture that holds us all.”

Rev. Nancy MacDonald Ladd's book is a razor-sharp critique on the optimistic excesses of liberal religion, particularly as they relate to racial justice. At the same time, Ladd has a pastor's heart and seeks to reconcile progressive religion's failings with a genuine love for religious institutions and belief in their ability to make positive change. After the Good News reads like an insistent shake of the shoulder after a long, self-satisfied slumber—telling readers to not only ‘wake up’ but ‘stay woke!’
—Kathleen Rolenz, co-author of Worship That Works: Theory and Practice for Unitarian Universalists, 2nd Edition

Nancy McDonald Ladd’s artistic and thoughtful book names what we are all thinking: that it is difficult to be in the ‘hope’ business these days. The undertow she creates with her storytelling and naming of what is real in the world drags us closer to the heart of faithful living. She calls us to the task of a deeper understanding of our faith and future with every page. After the Good News is not just a book you want to read; it is a book you MUST read.
—Daniel Chesney Kanter, Senior Minister, First Unitarian Church of Dallas and author of Faith for the Unbeliever

A brilliant contribution by Nancy McDonald Ladd. She offers us a soul-stirring, historically grounded approach to theology, one rooted in her Gen X experience, and yet compelling and relevant for all; a UU theology of wholeness that meshes hope with realism, social justice, and the practical spiritual needs of our world.
—Rev. Manish Mishra-Marzetti, Senior Minister, First UU Congregation of Ann Arbor, Michigan and co-editor of Justice on Earth: People of Faith Working at the Intersections of Race, Class, and the Environment

Nancy McDonald Ladd is a wonderful teller of stories whose insights and ministry have blessed many. Now we see that she is also a gifted writer and this book shows us why. Weaving her own unique and moving narrative with the story of modernist, progressive theology, she names the historical legacies of the liberal religious imagination. With humor and compassion, she seeks a relational wholeness grounded in ritual, liturgy, and authenticity—a faith that illumines a path of partnership and promises a new way shaped by ‘resilience, truth-telling, and humble courage.’ Reaching deep into every corner of life and ministry, she exposes the ‘good old days’ of twentieth-century modernist theology and plots a twenty-first-century course that replaces estrangement with life-affirming consequential commitment. This is one of those books whose publication comes at the right time. It is a shining gem with sharp edges to prick your conscience and move you beyond the platitudes of traditional liberal religion. It is a must-read for anyone who cares about and is committed to the future of the liberal faith.”
—Fredric J. Muir, Minister Emeritus, Unitarian Universalist Church of Annapolis and editor of Turning Point: Essays on a New Unitarian Universalism

“With her trademark blend of incisive analysis, eloquent persuasion, and captivating wit, along with a penchant for sometimes painful honesty, Nancy McDonald Ladd exorcises the often racist and classist demons of optimism and progress, in order to fully embrace the only spirit that can inhabit brokenness: the spirit of humility, confession, and atonement. This is a powerfully transformative vision from one of our leading theological voices.”
—Rev. Galen Guengerich, Senior Minister, Unitarian Church of All Souls, New York City and author of God Revised: How Religion Must Evolve in a Scientific Age

“A book you have to read! A narrative grounded in Nancy McDonald Ladd’s personal history and the emerging Unitarian Universalism of the twenty-first century. She calls Unitarian Universalists to a genuine relationship with the world as it is. Liberal religion must craft rituals and liturgies to express the pain, remorse, and transformation that will inevitably flow from a life so embedded.”
—Rev. Tom Schade

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