From two liberal religious leaders, an accessible yet deeply reasoned discussion of how the common hopes of religious progressives from many traditions can create a liberal religious renaissance.
For over a generation, conservative religion has seemed dominant in America. But there are signs of a strengthening liberal religious movement. For it to flourish, laypeople need a sense of their theological heritage. A House for Hope lays out, in lively and engaging language, the theological house that religious liberalism has inherited-and suggests how this heritage will need to be spiritually and theologically transformed. With chapters that suggest liberal religious commitment is based on common hopes and an expansive love for life, A House for Hope shows how religious liberals have countered fundamentalists for generations, and provides progressives with a theological and spiritual foundation for the years ahead.
“A thoughtful meditation on religion, duty, and the common good.”—Booklist
“To some observers, religion and conservatism have become inextricably fused. But to [Buehrens and Parker], something new is emerging—a liberal religious renaissance.”—Steven Levingston, The Washington Post
“For nearly three decades, journalists and pundits have focused on the views and beliefs of the Religious Right and basically ignored members of America’s mainline and liberal Protestant establishment. . . . [Buehrens and Parker] have set out to reintroduce people to the riches and bounties of progressive religion.”—Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat, Spirituality & Practice
“Buehrens and Parker begin with the life of service and work for justice and deepen it to show the implicit beliefs that it assumes and that are implicit in it. They show that progressive Protestants can be proud and articulate about their beliefs.”—John B. Cobb Jr., coauthor of For the Common Good
Hope is rising. The political tide in the United States has turned, and many are hoping for progress on issues such as global warming, health care, marriage equality, and international conflict. But religious fundamentalists of many varieties continue to promote frameworks of meaning that put earth’s global community, its diverse peoples, and its ecological systems at profound risk. More than political change is called for; America’s liberals and progressives need greater awareness that at the core of social and political issues lie competing responses to the classic questions posed by theology. Effective work for social change requires people of faith who are theologically literate and engaged. To that end, this book provides a primer in progressive theology. It recovers and reconsiders the hope-filled religious frameworks that inspired generations of activists to work for women’s rights, racial equality, economic justice, and peace. These frameworks embody reverence for the sacred, nourish community life, carry forward the aspirations of our forebears, and respond to legacies of violence and injus|tice that harm our bodies and souls. They hold promise for our time. As Sara Robinson, blogging in 2008 for the Campaign for America’s Future, argued:
“Secular progressives don’t seem to understand that while politics is all about how we’re going to make the world better, progressive religion tells us why it’s necessary to work for change.... Liberal faith traditions offer the essential metaphors and worldview that everything else derives from-- the frames that give our dreams shape and meaning. It has an invaluable role to play in helping our movement set its values and priorities, understand where we are in the larger scheme, and gauge whether we’re succeeding or not. The conservative movement knew from the get-go that it would not succeed unless it could offer people this kind of deeper narrative. Providing that was one of the most important things the religious right brought to their party. Progressivism will not defeat it until we can offer another narrative about what America can and should be--and our liberal churches have longer, harder, better experience than anyone at developing and communicating those stories, and building thriving communities around them.”
This book uses the metaphor of a theological house to articulate the “frames that give our dreams shape and meaning.” Through this metaphor we explore the classic topics of theology from a progressive vantage point--reminding the reader that liberal religion has a long history, and inviting reconsideration and reimagining of its key concepts. We write as coauthors because we recognize that no one authoritative voice can claim to speak to all of liberal and progressive religion. Dialogue that opens up further conversation is integral to progressive theological method. We have been in dialogue with each other for a number of years about many issues in progressive religion today. We have much in common as a result, but we do not always agree about every issue or formulation. To invite the reader into dialogue as well, in each section of this book there are two or more chapters: one by Rebecca introduces the theological theme and identifies distinctive liberal perspectives on the topic; one by John offers further historical perspective, counterpoints, and reflections on the theme.
Each dimension of the house--including its setting within the natural world--corresponds to one of the classic issues of systematic theological reflection. Theology, we suggest, is architectural--it provides a framework for human life. It is also ecological--it creates an interactive system in response to a specific environment. And it is archeological--it unearths artifacts from the past that can inspire our imagination and understanding now. Here are the basic dimensions and coordinates of this theological house for hope, and the questions that each represents.
John Buehrens and Rebecca Parker
Chapter One: This Holy Ground
Chapter Two: Last Things First
The Sheltering Walls
Chapter Three: Life Together
Chapter Four: Restoring Heartwood
Chapter Five: Deliver Us from Evil
Chapter Six: Taking Refuge
Chapter Seven: The Rocks Will Cry Out
Chapter Eight: The Changing of the Foundations
The Welcoming Rooms
Chapter Nine: A Home for Love
Chapter Ten: The Welcome Table
Chapter Eleven: A Sanctuary for the Spirit
John Buehrens and Rebecca Parker
Chapter Twelve: No Caravan of Despair
Chapter Thirteen: A Call to Partnership
- Read an interview with John Buehrens and Rebecca Parker in Religion Dispatches