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Thursday, July 25, 2013

Finding Our Voice; Social Justice Series part 1

The crafting of a Social Justice voice within and for New Thought / Centers for Spiritual Living is not as easy or as black and white as it may seem.  While our theological doctrine is liberal - our spiritual principles appeal to "conservatives" just as much as they do to "liberals" - politically speaking.  It is the contrast between our rugged individualism and our inherent connection to all life.

Therefore I'm going to have at least 2 entries on this subject (perhaps more if the interest is there).

Part 1 - Will You Sign This?

Recently I was asked by a colleague if I was willing to have a petition signing group at my church.  The petition was for a Marriage Equality Ballot measure.  The individual who asked was seeking guidance as their church had been asked to do this.

The response that followed provided insight into the emerging conversation about the Social Justice voice of New Thought....

Here is my reply:

We've not been asked to do this on Sunday or any future Sunday that I am aware of.

But if  I were, I'd find a way to do it.  (perhaps an open forum and conversation on the issue - after church - that people could freely attend (or not) and the petitions could be available?) 

 I think you could go either way - but it's extremely important to understand your motivation.

 I think it's a valuable opportunity to teach on the Principle of Love.  As you know I believe strongly that New Thought ought to have a place at the table of Social Justice - articulating our own unique voice ... in fact I believe that doing so would greatly change (for the better) the overall tenor of Social Justice work (ie our voice is missing and it shows!)

There are many angles you could take on this to teach....

Dr. Cornel West says it best:  "Justice is what love looks like in public"  - to me, Marriage Equality is about taking a stand for the Principle of Love and the equality of the law being applied to all.  

As for engaging in the political process - a few thoughts...

1. the law is clear that 501c3's cannot endorse candidates - that's the big no-no!  But you can register people to vote and sign petitions on ballot measures if you choose.

 - The Community of Welcoming Congregations hosted a petition signing event for this ballot measure earlier this year for clergy - I was among the first to sign.

- The religious right understands the law and takes advantage of it (not that I favor what they do - but man are they clear and organized!) - the religious left is mostly afraid of the either the law or afraid of offending some of their members - (the religious right does not have this problem), those who tread forward can end up looking like "liberal zealots" (of which we have within our centers - but I would say don't want to characterize all of New Thought or CSL as such) 

2. I don't see this as a "political issue" but as a spiritual principle one.    We teach that "demonstration is the only authority" - so where is the demonstration that Love is all there is and equally available to all?  And if it is not currently demonstrated in our society - how will that change?  If not by our own inner conviction and active demonstration?

- of course the easy answer here lies in Individual choice.  Everyone has to have their own demonstration and thus act accordingly.  True enough.    WIthin this angle you could encourage folks to act on their own inner convictions.  We are after all a fiercely independent teaching.  I think this approach is 99% right, and is applicable to most issues.  There is the slippery slope of allowing "one type" of social issue - opening the flood gates to every social cause needing platform time and sign-ups in the back of church... soon you are the social activism church (ie Unitarians, which we are not [with all due respect to my Unitarian friends and colleagues] ).   The approach of Individual action helps avoid that slope.  

However, there are exceptions (the absolutist out there are gonna go nuts about now...).  Exceptions where "the church" ought to have a voice in the social state.  Civil Rights is one of them.  Marriage equality is not only a spiritual principle issue - it is THE Civil Rights issue of our time.  First and foremost, I don't believe that civil rights should every be put to a public vote, but if that is method we must employ to gain acceptance of this as a basic civil right - then so be it.  

"The Church" cannot afford to remain silent in the face of basic civil rights violations/discrimination.  Especially a movement that speaks of Oneness and universal Love and creating a world that works for everyone.  

The truth of this issue is this - both democrats and republicans, independents, libertarians and tea party people should be voting FOR civil rights of ALL people.  The religious right has been very successful in framing this issue as being liberals vs conservatives, sinners vs religiously moral people, acceptance of 'gay lifestyle' vs 'traditional family values'   - But the truth is one does not need to be "in favor" of "gay lifestyle" (whatever that is) in order to vote in favor of basic civil rights.  A mature society recognizes that you don't have to "like" or even "accept" the choices or behaviors of your neighbor in order to acknowledge that they have the right to make those choices.  

But that wisdom has gotten lost in the fervor of "religious morality" and right vs wrong and liberals vs conservatives. - which is exactly the way the religious right wants it to be thought of.

The only way to change that is for the liberal religious voices of our society to speak up and reclaim the conversation as one of basic human rights, dignity and worth and speak to the transcendent spiritual ideals that supersede political affiliation - i.e. Equality and Justice for All.



I shared the following at the luncheon that CSL sponsored at The Fellowship of Affirming Ministries conference in Las Vegas last week - "We (CSL) don't want to partner with you to "save or fix" the world.  Rather we want to partner with you to REVEAL a world that already exist in the Mind of God and recognize that we must stand with you to work and build it together." 

"It is quite a burden lifted when we realize that we do not have to move the world-it is going to move anyway. This realization does not lessen our duty or our social obligation. It clarifies it. It enables us to do joyously, and free from morbidity, that which we should do in the social state."
Emphasis added
pp. 270, The Science of Mind, by Ernest Holmes

Thus I choose to freely and joyously teach Love and stand for it in the public square.


Rev. David Alexander

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