I know of no silver bullet to address our deepening domestic divisions. I do know we need to acknowledge and defeat them with the urgency a wartime adversary warrants. — Susan E. Rice in the New York Times
In her op-ed article, the former secretary of state outlines what the United States needs to do to remain a “string, cohesive beacon of democracy.” I’d add another to her list: Return our liberal churches to their calling as spiritual sanctuaries rather then political hot houses. — MHP
That vision — “spiritual sanctuaries” — is a call for disengagement and for abandoning those most in need of us.
“The church must be reminded that it is not the master or the servant of the state, but rather the conscience of the state. It must be the guide and the critic of the state, and never its tool. If the church does not recapture its prophetic zeal, it will become an irrelevant social club without moral or spiritual authority.” (A Knock at Midnight, June 11, 1967)
“The contemporary church is so often a weak, ineffectual voice with an uncertain sound. It is so often the arch supporter of the status quo. Far from being disturbed by the presence of the church, the power structure of the average community is consoled by the church’s often vocal sanction of things as they are.” (Letter from the Birmingham Jail, April 16, 1963)
“First, I must confess that over the last few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in the stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Council-er or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I can’t agree with your methods of direct action;” who paternalistically feels he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by the myth of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait until a “more convenient season.”
Shallow understanding from people of goodwill is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.” (Letter from the Birmingham Jail, April 16, 1963)
The call to crawl back into complacent sanctuaries where white people can debate about what spiritual means, or if it even means anything, is a call to be complicit.
Nah. Not happening.
Why does it have to be an either/or? Can’t we have spiritual sanctuaries and mobilize for justice?
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I don’t see anything in the MLK quotes saying that churches should abandon their spiritual roots. Churches can have a conscience without becoming all about politics. In his letter from the Birmingham jail, MLK asked the white clergymen to accept the idea of street protests. He didn’t ask them to make uncomfortable every soul in their pews who was not yet comfortable with street protests, or every soul who might be accused of discomfort with street protests.
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Let’s be clear, as BHO would say: MLK wasn’t talking about OUR church, the UU church.
He was talking about the Christian church which could and did serve as the conscience of the state only insofar as it understood itself to be a wholly separate power from the state. Once the church throws in its lot with a particular politics, it ceases to be capable of acting as conscience and becomes, merely, a chorus of affirmation for the powers that be.
If the UU Church wants to define itself as the Church of Left Wing Politics, it can do that.
Or it can be the church of the free and responsible search for truth and meaning.
It can’t be both.
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