I’m thinking about how much ground we spiritual and religious progressives have ceded. What the hell? The ground we too often cede is the moral high ground. The ground of love. The ground of respect. The ground of care for Earth. The ground of what really matters for the few seasons we have to live.
The right wing of religious life with its focus on purity, avoiding sin (especially sin related to sex), and keeping gender roles arbitrarily clear, claims the moral high ground all the time. It’s practically their favorite activity, as far as I can tell.
It is time for religious progressive to be fierce in our opposition to the definition of religion being one of disgust, bigotry, narrow-mindedness, and obsession with sexual behavior. We sit our our “liberal laurels” and join one another in “like-minded” communities and fail to put our bodies, our energy, and our money where our mouths are.
Meanwhile, families are detained and separated at the border.
Meanwhile, 220-some residents of the US are wounded and 73 have been killed in less than two months. And those are just the ones I’ve read about.
Meanwhile, transwomen are more likely to be murdered than ever.
Meanwhile, reproductive justice becomes less and less available across the country.
Meanwhile, waterways become polluted with the fire retardants used in the wildfires of summer.
Meanwhile, floods and land subsidence erode the landscape and entire islands are slowly being covered by water that is melting from the protective ice at the planet’s—not our planet’s—poles.
Meanwhile, the vast majority of people with physical and developmental disabilities will be sexually assaulted in their lifetimes.
Meanwhile, roughly 1 percent of people worldwide controls nearly half of all the wealth in the world.
These are moral issues, friends. These are moral issues.
And they are moral issues that progressives can take firm positions on based on their spiritual missions, messages, and reasons for being. Frankly, religious and spiritual people (whether those spiritual people claim religious affiliation or not) have an obligation to take up these moral issues and struggle with them.
The moral high ground is not a zero-sum game that progressives have already lost. It is a place of struggling for the primacy of love in our culture and way of life.
So take up the space that our convictions demand!
Take it, lay yourself upon on it and declare your right to share it, to be there, to be clear in a justice-seeking life that is based on love.
I’m not saying lord it over other people. I’m not saying declare that those with whom you disagree are worth less as human beings that you or we are. I’m not saying any of that.
But I am saying to stop being afraid of your religious, moral, and spiritual values.
Rev. William Barber II, one of the founders of the progressive movement Moral Mondays movement and the contemporary Poor People’s Campaign (the original was founded by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.), reminds us consistently, from his Christian perspective, that the issues of this day are moral issues that religious progressives should feel obliged to address, based on their religious values.
And those of us who do not espouse any particular religion, what are our obligations? What are our values?
Whatever our religious affiliations, it is true that each of us is responsible for the discernment of our own hearts. And that’s true for those of us who do not adhere or practice any religion, just as it is for those who do.
Call it duty. Call it obligation. Call it humanism. Call it the right thing to do.
I call it love. And in my world, love is not withheld from anyone. Love, as in the mercy the Jewish character Shylock asks to be shown in William Shakespeare’s 16th century play, The Merchant of Venice, can pour out upon Earth, transforming everything it touches:
“The quality of mercy is not strained.
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath. It is twice blest:
It blesseth him that gives and him that takes.”
So let us work unfailingly to be merciful, honestly kind, and fiercely compassionate… let us love one another now because it is our right, privilege, and duty to do so.
And while we’re at it, let us remember that love IS the moral high ground, the center of a responsible progressive religious position, and leaves no one behind to suffer.
Love does not abandon children and families. Love proclaims their worth and dignity as a moral imperative.
Love does not abandon trans and non-binary and gender non-conforming folks. Love proclaims their beauty and unique contributions as essential to a full and thriving culture, and love knows that protecting them and celebrating them is a moral imperative.
Love does not abandon polyamorous families. Love knows–how could it not?– that love itself takes many forms, many shapes, many times and distances, and love knows that honoring love in all its life-giving, beautiful forms is a moral imperative.
Love does not abandon single parents raising their children. Love knows–again, how not?–that caring for the young and the old is a hallmark of a healthy community and that doing so is a moral imperative.
Love does not abandon Earth and Her creatures, systems, and people. Love knows that if we are to live at all, we must learn to live different, and that doing so is a moral imperative.
Love not only does not abandon anyone, but love stays, love rests with, love suffers with, love abides.
Love stays, friends, especially when things are at their hardest. Love never gives up.
My position is this: If you have a tradition that calls upon love as the center of its values, then please live out of those values. If you have no tradition that you call your own, but you practice some kind of personal spirituality, ask yourself how love factors into that practice, and if you find it wanting, do something about that. And if you do not practice or believe or adhere or join, then I’m asking you, join me.
Join me in love.
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