Progressive Faith Sermons - Dr. Roger Ray

Our wisdom lesson offers us a view of the how things could be, through illustrations and words. It’s the kind of world that everyone could enjoy living in, because it would be organized around compassion, equality, and justice. But that world has mainly lived in human imagination, though not because it is impossible. Instead, we have inherited a set of obstacles to achieving well-being for all. A case in point is the mobilization of the powers that be to defend the power and wealth they have accumulated – even in the midst of a global pandemic and in the face of an uprising against police brutality and White supremacy. While much of public discourse continues to fixate on the fear and fascination of “looting” by protesters, the real thievery of runaway capitalism continues and even increases. Until Black lives are more valuable than White profit, the world we’ve imagined will stay in our dreams.

Direct download: 20200628_Sermon.mp3
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Covid-19 will also have a casualty count among congregations. Which churches will survive into the 21st century and, frankly, which ones really shouldn’t? If loneliness is the number one form of suffering in the western world, surely the connections made in a faith community should be a major solution to that isolation. But, perhaps more importantly, the churches that will survive the virus and the ongoing church exodus will be congregations that are morally relevant on a global scale as we address the social justice issues that exist in the real world (demanding that we stop obsessing about superstitious beliefs in invisible beings and places).

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Category:general -- posted at: 1:07pm EDT

While we are currently focused on racism as it appears to us in policing and in the pandemic, we know that the roots of racism are centuries old and expressed in every dimension of our culture. Today we are especially focusing on race and healthcare outcomes. We welcome sociology professor, Kyler Sherman-Wilkins to our pulpit to speak to this specific area of his academic expertise.

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Many progressive people, maybe even especially progressive clergy, are often so afraid of criticism that they keep their most passionate beliefs to themselves. This is especially true for those of us who live in deeply conservative areas dominated by traditional forms of religion. However, since most of us did not have the luxury of being born into progressive families, we had to think, study, and painfully grow out of our comfortable prejudices into a new place of open minded and liberal views. Don’t we then owe it to others to have the courage to speak up? This is especially true in this moment as demonstrations continue across the globe as we seek to bring an end to police brutality and murder of minorities and to seek greater justice generally for people of color. Now is a time for a prophetic community of faith to make its voice heard.

Direct download: 20200607_Service.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:30am EDT

“I can’t breathe.” Eric Garner’s last words were echoed this week by George Floyd as his life slipped away. The challenge for us is not to become inured by repetition. This time there was an arrest but immediately the coroner started the cover up saying that Floyd just happened to die from other causes while Derek Chauvin was kneeling on his neck. Will he be found “not guilty?” If not, will he be pardoned by Trump? Will he find his way onto another police force and kill again? This often-repeated scenario must be stopped. Here we plea for two things: Immediate reforms to policing, the judicial and the penal systems AND longer term work in bringing racism to an end in America, a long overdue educational process that starts in the nursery and continues in lifelong learning and self-correction.

Direct download: 20200531_Sermon.mp3
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Every lie incurs a debt to the truth that must eventually be paid. This was initially said of Russian lies about the Chernobyl disaster but it certain applies to lies told about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, the cover up in Catholic and Protestant churches about pedophilia, Boeing’s cover up of the failures of the 737 Max. We will see how many people die in direct response to Florida’s governor trying to manipulate the numbers of Covid-19 infections in that state. A quick comparison to the honest treatment of the pandemic in South Korea to how it has been handled in the USA leaves us to wonder if the price incurred by our President’s denial and lies has been more than 90,000 deaths.

Direct download: 20200524_Service.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:20pm EDT

Logic and faith should be partners! A healthy spirituality does not deny reality but rather interrogates and interprets reality. We are not seeking to escape this world to be transported into an imaginary “other” world but rather to logically, ethically, lovingly transform the only world we know into a better, more compassionate world. For faith communities to be relevant in the emerging world, we must embrace an evidence based approach to our spirituality that is defined by critical thinking and a fearlessly prophetic scrutiny of our own beliefs.

Direct download: 20200517_Service.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:25am EDT

We are taking a wide angle view of what it means to be a woman in the 21st century, from being relegated to carrying water and fire wood in the third world where female genital mutilation and sex trafficking are still common to the USA where, sadly sex trafficking is also common, but there is also religious oppression, a glass ceiling, and a sorely lacking representation in the houses of government. It's like Mother's Day on steroids…. join us!

Direct download: 20200510_Sermon.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:45am EDT

May 1 is the international workers’ holiday but this year, in light of the pandemic, more consideration needs to be given to the very nature of the economy beyond the traditional rivalry between owners and laborers. As the income gap has grown and the more complex issue of the ownership of capital has pushed assets into the hands of fewer and fewer people, it is time reconsider our assumptions about ownership and distribution of wealth. As President Trump and many states’ governors are pushing (largely minority) workers to go back to work in unsafe conditions for less than a living wage in the midst of a pandemic, is the word “revolution” too strong to use or is it not quite enough?

Direct download: 20200503_Service.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:23am EDT

Prejudice is its own logic, or, at least, it is impervious to logic, evidence, or critical thinking. This week we'll consider the irrational beliefs behind many of our prejudices. We look at the early American assumption that Native Americans, Africans, and Asians were somehow less than human and then we pay special attention to the case of the British mathematician, Alan Turing, who was of unique importance to both winning World War II by breaking the German Enigma code, and later laying the groundwork for the invention of the computer. In just a few years after the war, Turing was put on trial for being gay and chose suicide over the chemical castration imposed on him. Considering our history of prejudice shines a particular light on the current violence against the trans community.

Direct download: 20200426_Service.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:26am EDT

"On Reparations" presented by Dr. Kyler Sherman-Wilkins, Missouri State University professor of Sociology

The subject of paying the descendants of African slaves some form of reparations is complicated but just because it is complicated does not mean that it should not be done. Imagine starting to play Monopoly with 10 players but one player starts with 90% of the property and the bank. Liberated slaves were promised "40 acres and a mule" to give them a more fair start in life but with the assassination of Lincoln, that plan was never carried out. How can we meaningfully address the injustice of centuries of forced, uncompensated labor and the centralization of capital in the hands of the few? We have to be honest about the history of American wealth and seriously drill down on solutions which will inevitably be controversial but must, none-the-less, be carefully thought out and implemented.

Direct download: 20200419_Sermon.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:28am EDT

The pandemic is almost all that is mentioned in the news and it certainly occupies much of our emotional and mental energy. Sadly, however, the Covid-19 virus might not be the most dangerous thing going on in the world right now. The Trump administration had rolled back more than a 100 Environmental Protection Agency regulations before the coronavirus elbowed its way into our awareness but since journalists are paying attention to nothing else, the Trump administration is crucifying the EPA in what CBS news has called "an open license to pollute." The virus will eventually recede, even though it may take a year to 18 months, but the earth . . . the earth is forever!

Direct download: 20200412_Sermon.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:23am EDT

As we try to learn the skills of staying home, maintaining distance, and the disciplines that prevent the spread of the Covid-19 virus, that means that some of us are very isolated, living alone with almost no face to face contact with anyone. Others are quarantining with a significant other, or with children. There is a lot of stress in both contexts, stresses from anxiety, depression, or domestic conflict, all of which can lead to substance abuse. Dr. Roger Ray and Dr. Paul Thomlinson met two decades ago working on an addiction research project and have often shared a lectern to speak about the most recent research and the insights they have gained from both personal and professional experience with drug and alcohol use and abuse. This talk on addiction is directed to our unique situation as we are all trying to survive both the coronavirus and the quarantine it demands of us.

Direct download: 20200405_Service.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:45am EDT

The world as we have known it no longer exists. This pandemic will end, realistically, however, the virus will remain and will be held at bay, largely by a vaccine that will have to be repeated as the virus evolves every year. Still, when it is safe to go back to church and to restaurants, movies and music venues, not all of them will have survived. And as governments around the world try to navigate the complexities of having shut an economy down and then trying to start it up again, we will have to make serious decisions about universal healthcare, and possibly even a universal basic income. As Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez has observed, the virus did not so much create new problems as it poured gasoline on existing problems with health care, the income gap, foreign policy, prison policies, and the environment. We have the opportunity to forge a better world after Covid-19 than we had in the first weeks of 2020.

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