Can There Be Such A Thing As UU Liberation Theology?….New Testament People in an Old Testament World part 2

I’ve re-read the comments to my first post on this topic and see a common theme that was not my intended focus.

Salvation cannot be the only thing a gospel talks about. Maybe it’s because I don’t think that having a gospel (good news) necessarily means that one is talking about salvation. While I think salvation can (and often does) come with a gospel, if salvation is the only thing that one is aiming for, I think we’re losing something.

My question about any UU gospel is what it will say to people like one of my friend’s clients, who has, from the time she was 3, been used-misused-abused by every man in her life. Or the parent of a child who has gone to jail/prison and thinks it’s their fault. Or the person who loses some faculty and thinks that it is punishment for some real or imagined sin. Will UU theology say anything to them at all. Will it only talk to them if they have a few degrees under their belt? Or will it talk to them no matter where they are on the socio-economic or educational  scale?

I guess what I’m asking is what is our gospel to those who are psychically wounded, not religiously wounded. Can there be such a thing as UU liberation theology? 

And while I’m on this thought…..another thing I noticed was the focus on sexuality issues in the responses to my post. Do we U/U/UUs have the ability to walk and chew gum at the same time? Yes, we are offering a valuable gospel to many in the GLBTQQ community. My question is where is the gospel to the other marginalized and oppressed groups? Or are we too class-bound to see anybody but “our kind of people?”

I know I’m mutilating this, so I will stop here. As always, there will be more later.


6 thoughts on “Can There Be Such A Thing As UU Liberation Theology?….New Testament People in an Old Testament World part 2

  1. Personally, I found what UUism had to say about reason to be IMMENSELY liberating.

    I had a suboptimal childhood myself full of irrational and distracted authority figures.

    The idea that there might not be a God, but even if there were we were in control of our own destinies and figuring out what to do to help the world was our job and our responsibility was for me roughly psychologically equivilent to that scene where Harry Potter first realizes that he has magic powers.

    I’m sure the questions about class and race are relevant somehow, but honestly, I think going through life thinking, in effect, “Well, I’ve always been told I should do X and believe Y, so I should either go along with that or pointlessly rebel just on account” looks pretty universal to me, and I’m pretty sure all of us are a lot more in control of our own destinies that we normally allow ourselves to think about, if only we will put aside our preconcieved notions and really think things through, asking ourselves things like “sometimes huge sacrifices are worth it, is this one of those times?”

    Most epiphanies look pretty stupid on paper and I get that this one does too, but it was awesome at the time and I still get warm feelings when I think about it.

    But I really don’t know what, if anything, that has to do with race and class, other than it’s a reminder to analyze to what degree the assumptions people make about your demographics actually apply to you and live your life accordingly.


  2. Definitionally, I have doubts that there can be a UU liberation theology (I fully expect someone to prove me wrong). But the baseline for such theologies is that they assume the privileged status of scripture–AND that God has a preference for the oppressed and poor, which is the central operative feature of the theology, the lens through which scripture and one’s life is to be understood. Reason and the concerns of liberal theology are shoved (rudely, if understandably) aside as effete, elitist concerns with things that maybe are abstractly interesting… but should get no time or attention while there’s suffering and oppression.

    Liberation theology is as brutal a critique of liberal theology as it is of traditional theology. The question you ask thus seems to ask for a not-A A-thing.

    That all said, I think that we’re starting to unmoor ourselves from being liberal religion–warily, and warily for good reasons. The critiques of liberation theology have been heard, and the appeal of preference for the poor and oppressed is a real one (but no one’s going to sell us on an aliberal theology. Postmodernism’s critiques are interesting, if ultimately (I think) sort of nihilistic inside their own context… but they help (me, anyway) start to see beyond liberal and liberation theologies to a sort of post-liberal or neo-liberal pragmatism that might be a place where we can be true to ourselves and our roots and embrace the important part of liberation theology–which is that the suffering of the poor and oppressed is the central concern, which needs to be addressed. But not the only thing.

    In the end, I’m seeing a recognition that Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is a very real thing. Religion and theology that doesn’t “get” that we need to fulfill our–and each other’s–needs for air, water, food… first… fails. But so does religion that doesn’t admit that other things are ALSO important for people who *have* those things. A faith that asks–impels–us to be bodhisattva-like enough that we “go back” to be with and assist others to places where their needs are met enough that they can also concern themselves with WHY it’s important, rather than just feel the driving IS important of starvation, fear….

    CC’s point is a good one. Suffering comes in many forms; suffering bodies need attention–but so do suffering minds and hearts. I’m not sure what you mean when you speak of salvation. But as a non-and-never Christian UU, I’ve come to see our faith as being about salvation here and now, in this world and of this world.

    Too much to do for me to worry about trying to figure out if that fits into any testament; if it does for others, great. But for me, the scriptural text is all of life, mine and others, then and now….

  3. If by Liberation Theology, you mean the attmept to “bring justice to the poor and oppressed, particularly through political activism” (as seen in a religious context) – then yeah, we could call much of modern UU theology LT. If you mean “THE POOR GET PRIORITY. The rich and middle-class are welcome too. But the poor come first.” then obviously UU as a whole is far from LT.

  4. If Liberation Theology can be considered “liberation” from the necessity of salvation, and “liberation” from the centrality of Christian scripture – then sure, a broad swath of UU’s could embrace Liberation Theology. Otherwise, not so much

  5. Heh. David, I’m a never-been-Christian UU, and I’ve preached salvation. And, no offense, but that’s a rather modest liberation you’ve got in mind; not trivial, I grant, but modest compared to liberation from real, brutal oppression, denial of any opportunity, hunger, starvation, illness… which is where liberation theology has just rocked. And compared, well, it’s obvious which is more urgent. I’ve been looking at religion from perspectives on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Freedom of speech and thought are very real and important things–once you’ve got food, shelter and relative security. The critique that I see liberation theology making is that liberal theology (and post-modern theology, too) provide for people who’ve already got a lot, and given them safe places in which to consider their needs–while ignoring the far more basic plight of masses of humanity. If you want to get a feel for what UU whatever theology might feel like if it addressed that, look at where Theodore Parker and John Haynes Holmes went. It’s entirely possible… and even attractive to many (most) UUs. The problem for us is that liberation theology’s end is wonderful–and its theological means are objectionable to most of us. I think we’re in need of a theology–or an understanding of theology–that allows us to scramble up and down that hierarchy of needs so that we can grapple with the needs (and perspectives that tend to naturally come at/with those levels of need) without having to adopt what’s false or wrong to us. But we’re going to have to acknowledge that the priority is always going to be the bottom of the pyramid of needs. Feeding starving children has to get more time and attention than Schleiermacher and Sartre.

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