Friday, August 04, 2006

Michael S. Hogue: Liberal Religion dysfunctional and unfaithful to its purpose

Hogue nailed this PDF on the home page at Meadville Lombard.

Here are the first four paragraphs. Strong stuff but in a nice Dutch tradition appropriate to a school founded in part by a Dutchman.

Now where Hogue is taking this reformation will be interesting to see,
Liberal religion is in crisis! It always has been and always will be, for crisis is part of the essence of liberalism as a place between extremism and complacency. But our current crisis-nature is nonetheless distinct.

Rather than standing against the hypermodern hubris of our North American individualism, liberal religion is entrenched within this same ethos. Rather than mediating the religious and political extremes in our world, we are paralyzed by our own internal divisions and do not have a theologically purposive vision with which to move beyond them. Instead of witnessing to the constructive increase of justice, love, and wisdom through interfaith community, our public footprint is much too small and we seem to be a register of the world’s religious and moral conflicts rather than a constructive example.

Our crisis is a tragic one, for it turns on an ironic reversal through which our strength, genius, and virtue has become our weakness, our arrogance, and our tragic flaw. As a result, we are failing our historic and contemporary prophetic tasks.

To move beyond our tragic condition, liberal religion needs to re imagine a public theology that is historically faithful and culturally relevant. And doing this depends upon heeding the summons to a New Reformation. For as the powerful hierarchy of the medieval Roman Catholic Church had become dysfunctional, unfaithful to its purpose, so also have we.


Rex said...


As someone who grew up next to Park Ridge, IL, your location brings back lots of memories. But it is your comment on the M/L site about how UUs have no reply to "reclaim what" that prompts this comment.

Did you read "The Metaphysical Club"? I'd be interested to know what your view of Pragmatism is.

Mine is that it offers a rich, unexplored resource. I was interested to read recently that Jurgen Habermas is now in the process of exploring John Dewey, having distanced himself from rigid Marxism.

As I mentioned in my first post on Hogue, RWE is being re-examined as a serious thinker by a half dozen prominent philosophers.

That's "reclaiming."

Bill Baar said...

Thanks Rex, I haven't read "The Metaphysical Club" but Dewey is one of the writers Hogue suggested reading as part of a Liberal Reformation, or reclaiming if you wish.

I think critically reading the Liberal past important because the roots of our failures (the failures that got us to the point were we have to talk about reclaiming something) can be found there. One of the reviewers on Amazon to Menard's book writes,

Menand is not overly critical or analytical about the success of pragmatism. He points out that the later Civil Rights Movement in America could not have succeeded with pragmatism as a base but rather required a commitment to principle and absolutes found more in other writers.