I am a parish minister currently serving the Eliot Church of Natick MA. Eliot Church is a Community Church affiliated with the Unitarian Universalist Association and the United Church of Christ. Any statements made and postions held in "Unity," however, are solely mine(of course, they may be used with appropriate atribution). Therefore if you disagree, please do not blame the church!

Friday, July 30, 2004

My July Vacation II: The DNC

The Democratic National Convention just wrapped up not too far from where I live.  It was at the Convention in 1988 in Atlanta that I decided to become a minister.  I was working on the campaign of the Rev. Jesse Jackson for president.  History majors will recall that we lost that election to Michael Dukakis who then lost to, of all people, George Bush!

It is remarkable to me how things have changed.  When I was there in '88 there were religious people everywhere.  People were talking about their faith, how it transformed them, and how it motivated them to act in the world to fulfill God's plan.  Then (at least among those who volunteered for Jesse and even Mike), God's plan was clearly a liberal  one.  We answered a call that included a radical inclusiveness, a "rainbow coalition" if you will, and an economic revolution based on justice for all.

For the Christians on Jackson's staff, this wasn't something they were doing against their tradition.  Their politics were (and still are) based on the life and teachings of Jesus.  So it was strange to watch the convention this year and to miss that clear connection to faith of any kind.  Religion is something that we have given over to the conservatives and while many people tried to get it back (I am thinking, in particular of an interfaith service I attended at Old South Church featuring Bishop Shelby Spong and another the next day with James Forbes), it was clear that, as far as public perception, we were running uphill.

What can Liberal Christians, and liberals from other faith traditions do to enlarge our voice in the town square?  How do we get to be the ones perceived as following God's plan?  True, it is possible to be both theologically liberal and politically conservative.  But even then there is the expectation of discussion and tolerance that doesn't seem to exist in the dominant religious culture of not just the United States but the world.
Well, I wore my clerical collar to the convention.  This isn't always the case for ministers in either the UCC or the UUA.  However, I just wanted folks to know that there was at least one minister in Boston this week who wasn't on the podium, but was still proudly liberal.