05 July 2009

Left and Right Together: Reccommendation

I’d like to share what was for me a thought-provoking read, UU minister Doug Muder’s “Left and Right Together”. This is the text of a sermon, available online, and it addresses what the religious right and the religious or spiritual left have in common. Although he uses the word “religious”, the UU take on religion is broad enough that he's also addressing life stances like Humanism. Muder is a humanist himself.

He begins the sermon with readings from someone I would never expect to hear from in a UU fellowship: James Dobson. What we have in common, Muder says, is that we are mutually concerned with the way humanity is shaping up. “Both have loyalties that go beyond self and the convenience of the moment. Both reject the materialism of popular culture. Both seek something more substantial than the momentary satisfaction of desire or the endless striving after status. The committed (liberal) life is a different way to pursue these goals, not a denial of them.”

Muder states that both ways of life are concerned about the unhealthy growth of the same thing, the religion of “Consumer Hedonism”. This is a religion that dominates the culture to the point that it needs no building, names, priests, or anything of the sort: it’s become the very atmosphere we live in. To show this, he lays out what Consumer Hedonism is and elaborates on what values it instills in everyone -- values that are rejected by those who are concerned about bigger things. “Liberals and conservatives alike reject the emptiness of Consumer Hedonism, and nurture values that transcend desire and image: Values like family and friends and community. Compassion for the stranger. A just society. Appreciating the wonder of creation. Building a personal relationship with Beauty and with Knowledge and with Understanding. When those values are part of your experience of every moment, when you have trained yourself to experience them as immediately as you experience your physical desires, you're there. [...] The main difference between religious liberals and religious conservatives is in where they look for those values and how they hope to bring them into the world. Conservatives look to traditional values, a way of life that they believe worked for our ancestors. Typically, a conservative faith has a Golden Age it wants to preserve or restore: Eden, ancient Israel, the Jerusalem of the Apostles, the Medina of Muhammad, or even the small-town America of Norman Rockwell. Conservatives see the deeper values of those communities being replaced by practices that satisfy more superficial desires.

Liberals, on the other hand, attach their vision of deeper values to a future Utopia or to a Platonic ideal. They see themselves not as restoring a Golden Age, but as marching onward and upward towards a world more perfect than has ever existed before. Two centuries ago, a world without slavery was a complete dream. No Golden Age had ever achieved it. But here we are.”

He ends with thoughts on generating a dialogue between the human-concerned left and the religious right. I found the sermon to be very…thought-provoking and more than a little heartening. I’ll own to going weak at the knees for ideas that bring people together, but outside of my own biases I think Muder makes a valid observation. What say you?


Chrissey said...

Again, I want to "like" this! Really really like it! ;)

CyberKitten said...

In many ways they (Left & Right) are both focused on a mythical utopian future - so they already have lots in common. Maybe they could build on that? [grin]

kimc said...

I thought that conservatives were "focused on a mythical Utopian" past?

smellincoffee said...

The apocalyptic versions of some religions (particularly Christianity, Judaism, and Islam) have "golden age" futures after the return of a Messiah figure. Christianity and Islam look for golden ages in both the past and the future, although the one in the future requires lots of disasters and death.

That's apocalyptic for you.