On a cold December day, I stood with others, including five members of the Fellowship, at a demonstration on behalf of service and maintenance workers at K-State in their efforts to move the basic wage from $10.56 an hour up to $12 an hour, equal to wages at the University of Kansas. This exemplifies the prophetic witness in the public square, though it was not specifically a religious witness.

While our charitable work as a congregation matters — giving clothes to the FIT Closet, food to the Breadbasket, Christmas gifts to families at the Manhattan Emergency Shelter, cooking up breakfast at the Happy Kitchen — justice demands more of us. Our religious values recommend engagement with the democratic process and speaking out for justice, equity, compassion, peace and liberty. My friend and colleague Paul Rasor, director of the Center for the Study of Religious Freedom and professor of religious studies at Virginia Wesleyan University, wrote a book a few years ago, Reclaiming Prophetic Witness: Liberal Religion in the Public Square. His thesis is that religious liberals (UU’s, mainline churches, Reform and Conservative Jews and many others) have ceded the public role of religion to conservatives, deserting a long historic heritage of liberal religious prophets, including abolitionists, war-resisters, and civil rights leaders. We may still be out there on the line fighting for what we believe in, but we no longer cast it in religious or moral language or tone.

Yet, there are religious and moral motivations behind our positions. Bigotry and discrimination are wrong because they undermine the worth and dignity we ascribe to all human beings. Destruction of our climate is wrong because it disrupts the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part. Aggressive militarism works against the goal of peace for the world community. When we take our UU principles seriously, they have real implications for policy and politics. They also help us sift through the difference between liberal religion and liberal politics, which remain distinct, though overlapping. The test is how do our religious values guide us?

In North Carolina, thousands of people have been involved with a movement called Moral Mondays (http://moralmonday.org), where a broad coalition of progressives, including religious leaders, have called on their legislature and governor to support voting rights, public education, social programs, and fair taxation because it’s the right thing to do. Rev. William Barber, a key leader of Moral Mondays, praises fusion politics, bringing a diversity of people together to support an agenda that is not shy about saying what is right and wrong.

There’s a movement in Kansas to do the same thing — the Kansas People’s Agenda will gather at the Capitol on January 11. We are helping to support the Manhattan Alliance for Peace and Justice in providing a bus to go. You can make reservations here: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSdtoxaqeCq5NU0JnpuzJ3nlqioFmvBPk6A0s_xK-PE-FhVTbw/viewform.

Another opportunity to be involved in UU prophetic witness will happen Saturday, February 4, when UU’s from around the state gather to engage together about our prophetic work. Facebook event is here: https://www.facebook.com/events/278701435865969/

Paul Rasor says it well:

As religious liberals, we know that we are united in a single interdependent world, that human beings have the ability to create good as well as evil, that our diversity is something to celebrate rather than fear, and that we can build just and liberating human communities. This is the message of healing and hope our prophetic social justice practice brings to the world.

Hope to see you somewhere soon working for justice,

Jonalu

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