Thursday, September 22, 2005

From Freedom to Virtue

Doug Muder writes of how religious (and by that I also read cultural) liberals need to make the personal political.


For years, religious liberals have been publicizing the wrong thing about ourselves: our freedom. The Right knows that we have more freedom than they do, and they see it as evidence of our superficiality: Sure, you’re free. You can get an abortion. You can get a divorce. You can drink. You can sleep in on Sunday mornings. You can go to porno movies. You can sleep around.

They’re not impressed.

They see us as people who want to be free to slough off our obligations. They don’t understand that we want to be free to make commitments. And that we do make them and keep them. That part doesn’t fit. It breaks the frame.


When I look at this congregation, I see a lot that would break the frame of the Religious Right, if they only knew about it. I see married couples -- gay and straight alike -- who stand together and handle gracefully whatever the world throws at them. Their frame can’t account for that.

I see children who are growing up to be fine young men and women. Their frame can’t account for that.

I see people who give up their time, their energy, and their money to make the world better. Who build affordable housing. Who are committed to peace. Who make beautiful art and music. Who care for the mentally ill. And there are people I don’t see right now, because at this moment they’re back there teaching our children to be better people.

Their frame can’t account for that.

The Religious Right sees itself as the last embattled fortress of virtue in a world overrun with vice. If evil is breaching that fortress, it just makes their battle more desperate. But if goodness is alive and well outside the walls, that doesn’t fit. It breaks the frame.

We fight them best by making lives that they have to admire. By building better families and better communities. By contributing more to the world. By doing it in public. By doing it in ways they can’t ignore. If you want to hear sermons about family values, go listen to Jerry Falwell. He’s good at that. But if you want to be surrounded by people who live values, whose example can show you how to make your family work, come here.

That’s the message that wins.

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