Progressive Faith Sermons - Dr. Roger Ray

Five years after Luther began the Reformation he was damning Anabaptists who did not agree with his Biblical interpretations. Within a generation the initially bold and dramatic reforms envisioned in Protestantism settled back into the same magical thinking of traditional Christianity.  With the current Progressive movement also fail? Are people afraid to think for themselves; will they always fall back into the comfort of creeds and magic shows? As Voltaire observed, if you can persuade someone to believe what is absurd you can then get them to commit atrocities. The world needs a fact-based faith that refuses to believe lies.

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"The Intoxication of Power"
(I Kings 21, the story of King Ahab and Naboth’s vineyard)
There is a very distinct anti-government thread that runs through the Torah, the Prophets, and the Writings of the Hebrew Bible. The story of how Ahab’s wife had a citizen killed so that the king could take his land represents the danger of how power corrupts an individual and destroys a society. As easy as it is to criticize the abuses of those in power, there is also a personal message in this to reflect on how much better we really are when given the power to abuse others.

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In this epsiode I am reading an article that I wrote in immediate response to the shootings at Pulse in Orlando. You can read the text on the Daily Kos at http://www.dailykos.com/story/2016/6/12/1537676/-Who-Did-it-This-Time-Maybe-a-Little-Bit-it-Was-All-of-Us

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Dr. Paul Thomlinson, chief researcher for Burrell Mental Health speaks to current social aspects of the stigma of mental illness and how the failure to receive treatment relates to addiction.

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Addiction is back in the news, largely because opiod and heroin addiction is reaching into the mainstream of middle and upper class. This message addresses the assumption that, as Jung suggested, the root of addiction is a spiritual thirst, perhaps best seen in the need for positive community connection.

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US General Boykin described our war in Iraq as a battle between our God and their God. This unfortunate prejudice is also visible in the battle described in I Kings between Elijah and the prophets of Baal. We need to rise above such partisan divisions and recognize that governments are not interested in religion, they just use religion to recruit the poor of one nation to kill the poor of another nation. Wars are about money and power. There is no reason for people of faith to ever go to war because of their religion.

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Progressives often seem to feel a kind of compassion fatigue from being asked to be concerned about so many different issues of injustice. Perhaps the issue is that we give ourselves permission to give up because we get tired, or bored, or we allow indifference to get the best of us. Perhaps the spiritual prescription for the church is that they should choose to love more.

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Early 20th century theologians as well as many poets, journalists, essayists, and philosophers were urging the public to embrace a progressive approach to faith that was concerned with behavior more than beliefs, that was rooted in ethics and not in magical thinking. Maybe it was WWII, or maybe it was the advent of evangelists on TV and radio, but Americans did not embrace their sages at the time. We can hope that a more rational approach to faith is being born in 21st century America.

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Accepting that the world has a beginning and an end leads to a dismissive view of poverty, pollution, warfare, and social classes. While everyone certainly has a right to their personal beliefs about life after death, Muslims, Christians, and Jews must focus on the life that we know and to root our faith in what we can see in front of us. The early church was so confident that Jesus was coming back soon that they ignored many important matters of ethics. We cannot afford to make that mistake.

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At a time like this, scorching irony, not convincing argument, is needed. O! had I the ability, and could reach the nation's ear, I would, today, pour out a fiery stream of biting ridicule, blasting reproach, withering sarcasm, and stern rebuke. For it is not light that is needed, but fire; it is not the gentle shower, but thunder. We need the storm, the whirlwind, and the earthquake. The feeling of the nation must be quickened; the conscience of the nation must be roused; the propriety of the nation must be startled; the hypocrisy of the nation must be exposed; and its crimes against God and man must be proclaimed and denounced. 

(an excerpt from an Independence Day speech delivered by the former slave, Fredrick Douglass, in the presence of President Millard Fillmore in 1852)

 

 

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