Sermons in Liberal Religion

Rev. Meredith Garmon

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"Liberal" comes from the same root as "liberty"--thus liberal religion is religion that is free. Being open-minded, it is free of dogmatism; being democratic in its polity, it is free of authoritarian hierarchy. Liberal religion does not imply liberal politics: people may find a home in liberal religion whether their politics are left, right, or center. Liberal religion holds that revelation is never sealed; truth is never complete. Our understanding is, and should be, continually evolving. No assertion can ever be permanently exempt from revision. Religious understanding, like empirical knowledge, is a self-adjusting enterprise that can put any claim in jeopardy (though not all at once). We do not stand upon a foundation of certainty, but swim within a rising tide of growing knowledge. The way that we make spiritual and religious sense of our world, our selves, and our lives shifts and grows as all our understandings shift and grow. Liberal religion insists that our relations rest on mutual, free consent, and seeks always the most informed possible consent. Liberal religion affirms that religion must be lived, must find embodiment in the actions of our lives. Accordingly, we have a moral obligation to work for the establishment of just, loving, and peaceful community. Establishing such community will not be easy. Liberal religion seeks to be clear-eyed about the very real capacity of humans to inflict enduring harm on themselves and others, yet it is ultimately optimistic about the possibility of confronting and transforming the many forms of evil and oppression. Liberal religion is not belief-centric. What we believe is that your religion isn't about what you believe. Your religion is about three things. (1) it's about the ethics and values by which you live; (2) it's about the faith community you choose to be a part of, and the shared rituals that affirm community connectedness; (3) it's about experiences of transcendence, connectedness, and oneness. The job of the faith community is to bring these three different functions together in such a way that each one reinforces the other two. Because liberal religion is not belief-centric, it celebrates and embraces diversity of belief and viewpoint. Heeding the words of 16th-century liberal theologian Francis David, "we need not think alike to love alike," liberal religion does rely on shared doctrine as the basis of community. The basis of community is love and justice, regardless of what individual beliefs may be. Thus we are a people of covenant rather than creed. Our covenant is to walk together in the ways of affection and respect: accepting one another just as we are, yet also encouraging one another to spiritual growth; affirming and promoting a free and responsible search for truth and meaning; upholding the inherent worth and dignity of every person; respecting the interdependent web of existence of which we are all a part; advancing the goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all. The living tradition in which liberal religion is rooted includes: (1) Direct experience of that transcending mystery and wonder, affirmed in all cultures, which moves us to a renewal of the spirit and an openness to the forces which create and uphold life; (2) Words and deeds of prophetic women and men which challenge us to confront powers and structures of evil with justice, compassion, and the transforming power of love; (3) Wisdom from the world's religions which inspires us in our ethical and spiritual life; (4) Jewish and Christian teachings which call us to respond to God's love by loving our neighbors as ourselves; (5) Humanist teachings which counsel us to heed the guidance of reason and the results of science, and warn us against idolatries of the mind and spirit; (6) Spiritual teachings of earth-centered traditions which celebrate the sacred circle of life and instruct us to live in harmony with the rhythms of nature.

"Liberal" comes from the same root as "liberty"--thus liberal religion is religion that is free. Being open-minded, it is free of dogmatism; being democratic in its polity, it is free of authoritarian hierarchy. Liberal religion does not imply liberal politics: people may find a home in liberal religion whether their politics are left, right, or ce... Show more

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Related: other religion-spirituality

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