Progressive Faith Sermons - Dr. Roger Ray

The ancient mythic account of Jacob's night wrestling in the wilderness with a man/demon/God made him a new person… with a limp. Coming to terms with ourselves, taking a fearless and searching moral inventory of our own life, is the path out of the wilderness of isolation, constant victimization, and life destroying anger.

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Many are surprised to find that their favorite source for progressive sermons is a tiny church in Springfield, MO, the reddest of red states. I can tell you that our survival is now dependent upon the donations we received from our world wide audience. Please take a moment to become a regular donor by clicking on the "Donate" button on our website: and make your gift a recurring monthly gift.

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Progressive religious people have made a choice, not one necessarily based on evidence or critical thinking, but a vital choice between self service and service of others. For us, the spiritual life is rooted in an evidence based faith in which we use critical thinking but we have chosen an ethic of interconnectedness with other people rather than simple self service.

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Progressive communities of faith, if they are to survive the coming generation, must be willing to make some fundamental and fairly quick changes. Churches must be willing to embrace critical thinking and set aside creedal beliefs in otherworldly myths and superstitions. We must embrace a radical mission of service and prophetic witness to social justice. But, and this is crucial, we have to learn how to make this journey joyfully. Without joy, cynicism will paralyze our congregations.

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Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “Freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.” The prophet Amos was angry about how the poor were abused by merchants in his day and we have every reason to be even more angry today but we cannot wait for the marketplace to grow a conscience. The victims of economic exploitation but organize, unite, and demand fair treatment and people of faith need to get out of the pews and join them in the streets!

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On this 15th anniversary of 9-11, we look back and ask ourselves if 15 years of war with more than 600,000 civilian casualties, have we defeated terrorism or have we just created new generations of terrorists. As Malala has told us, with a gun you can kill a terrorist but with education you can kill terrorism. We must immediately cease the drone killings, invasions, and military tactics and begin teaching peace on both sides of this violent divide.

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Though our world has completely transformed in the span of a century, our attitude towards labor is still locked in the more primitive era of scarcity. The real modern world is still waiting to be born when we will afford all human beings a decent way to live without fear of homelessness or hunger.

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Rev. John Churcher's 2nd lecture in the "Evolution of God" conference. This recording was made in the Unitarian Universalist Church in Columbia, SC

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The 600% increase in the price of a life saving Epi Pen was a purely capitalist decision because the corporation holding patent felt that the market would bear the higher price. That is the whole problem with the health care system being in the hands of unbridled capitalism. Capitalism, as an economic system has neither a morality or a conscience unless the society chooses to place ethical boundaries around it… which we should.

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What do we mean when we say “GOD”?
A religious conference addressing the evolution of what people think about the nature and character of God.
Community Christian Church in Springfield, MO
4806 E Cherry St
August 5-7

Unitarian Universalist Community of Columbia
AUGUST 12-14, 2016
2701 Heyward Street, Columbia, SC 29205
Keynote Speaker, Rev. John Churcher, of England’s popular “Permission to Speak” fame and noteworthy speakers include Rev. Mo Wills, Sean Spyres, and Dr. Roger Ray.

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One of the great contributions of Abraham Maslow to the practice of psychology was a shift in emphasis from trying to focus on what was wrong in a person's life to trying to enhance personal strengths. As one old hardware store sage advised a customer, "Stop worrying about killing weeds and focus on growing grass." In the progressive movement, we need to move beyond stressing where we disagree with mainstream religion and really get good at expressing what we do believe and how we want to incorporate those positive beliefs into the world.

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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

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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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