7 Challenges Of Faith and The UCC - A Primer
As the world remembered the life and legacy of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. again last week, Paul Brandeis Raushenbush, Senior Religion Editor of The Huffington Post, reflected on the foundation of Rev. King's faith.
The framework for his reflection were 7 major tenets of what he identified as central to King's theology and thusly his public ministry. I found them incredibly compelling - for at their heart these 7 points are superb litmus tests of how one embraces the priority of the social justice aspect of Jesus' own ministry.
For both the individual person of faith as well as the corporate body of believers as The Church, these are excellent points for personal reflection, Bible Study, Youth Group discussion, sermon series points...you name it. Particularly for us in the United Church of Christ, these seven points are superb primers to start to help people understand what the UCC is all about. I invite readers to share this on their various social media outlets as a means to begin to understand more deeply how Dr. King's theology and that of the UCC are very much in tandem with one another.
Here they are:
1. Does your faith encourage an active and prophetic stance towards creating justice in this world; or does it explicitly or implicitly encourage a complacency towards inequality here on earth with the idea that faith is more spiritual than social and that it will all work out in the afterlife?
I know for myself as a life-long member of the United Church of Christ, we hold a strong conviction that we are called to bring about justice for all people in our current day and time in order to truly breathe life into Jesus' prayer for us when he taught "Your Kingdom come, Your Will be done on earth as it is in heaven." That doesn't speak to passivity as regards lovingly working against injustice against those who are oppressed - in whatever form - but rather working here and now towards a more loving and equal reality for all people.
2. Does your faith affirm the fundamental dignity and worth of all people and reject any claims of superiority, ether explicit or implicit, based on identities including race, religion, sexuality, gender, class or nationality?
Most certainly, The United Church of Christ's position of being an "Open and Affirming" denomination speaks boldly and prophetically to this point: an element of my denomination that deeply resonates with my own personal beliefs and experience of the world.
3. Does your faith encourage critical examination of the context and deeper meanings of teachings and scriptures and is it open to continued revelation of eternal truths that come with new knowledge, instead of a fundamentalism that idolizes the past?
As one of our Congregational founders, Rev. John Robinson said, "I am verily persuaded the Lord hath more truth yet to breath forth out of His Holy Word." For we in the UCC, Rev. Robinson's prophetic words remind us that we should always be open to new things being revealed to us on our Journey of Faith. We will probably never "get it" completely, we must be comfortable living with Mystery at times, and that a life of faith is one perhaps more filled with questions than answers.
4. Does your faith promote non-violence, and believe that war is only to be used as a last choice or not at all? Does your faith confront and reject any teachings that might cause anyone to act with violence or incite rage or hatred towards others?
The UCC defines itself in part as a "Just Peace Church", defined as Just Peace as the interrelation of friendship, justice, and common security from violence and against the Institution of War.
5. Does your faith further interfaith cooperation and empower your ability to feel compassion for the suffering of those who are different from you and see the wider interconnected responsibility of the human family instead of caring only about and for those in your immediate group?
Yes, it does!
6. Does your faith promote social justice and equality as well as individual charity as both integral parts of the Gospel?
7. Is your faith grounded first and foremost in love, and do you believe that love, not dogma or judgment, is the defining characteristic of God?
From a personal and denominational standpoint, blessedly the answer here is yes as well....and the major bullet points of the UCC's "Still Speaking" initiative speak to this, as well:
- Where God is all-loving and inclusive
- Where the Church of Jesus Christ welcomes and accepts everyone as they are
- Where your mind is nourished as much as your soul
- Where Jesus the healer meets Jesus the revolutionary
- Where together we grow a just and peaceful world
Our work continues....in Dr. King's legacy, and in Jesus' name.