Creating a New Prophetic Agenda

Article excerpt

One major factor in the election results of 2004 was "retro-religion"-people seeking a return to the imagined stability of the pre-modern religious past. Yet that is only one response to the worldwide earthquake in economics, politics, technology, and sexuality that has been stirred by the hyper-modern last half century. Another authentic response has been the emergence of a progressive religious and spiritual movement that, while critical of some major aspects of modernity, is ready to venture forward in hope, not flee backward in fear.

So far, the retro-religious impulse has won greater support than the impulse for more inclusive religious renewal. Why? One reason has been the walled-off attitude of many secular liberals and progressives and some religious progressives to the possibility of a serious, progressive religious movement. Here are two examples:

-One minister's co-worker was astonished that a clergyman could strongly affirm a woman's right to choose.

-I was one of the four clergyfolk of four different traditions who spoke in a TV ad broadcast by Al-Jazeera to the Arab world denouncing the use of torture by the U.S. military in Iraq. When a draft of the ad was first shown to me, not a word in it came from religious language. It was I who insisted on saying that torture is "sinful."

We religious progressives often hide our light under a bushel. Indeed, we have rarely shared our light with those with whom we share many critiques of modernity.

We have not made clear that we, too, believe that sexuality is sacred. We have rarely drawn our sexual teaching from the Song of Songs, and as a result have let ourselves be misunderstood as drawing it from the Playboy philosophy.

We have not made clear to religious conservatives or to secular liberals that a society does not need to choose between personal responsibility and social responsibility: that an authentic religious outlook must affirm both.

What we need is a new prophetic agenda to shape a new context within which political parties operate. Imagine creating one national and fifty state "Councils for a New Prophetic Agenda," made up of Muslim, Christian, Jewish, Buddhist, Hindu, and First Nations sages-say thirty-six people each, four times our constitutional Supreme Court. …

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