What do you do, when you are exposed to toxic levels of political and religious prejudice, intolerance, narrow-mindedness, lies and hatred? I intuitively and subconsciously seek medicine.
Most of the last week I spent with our clerk of session in Pittsburgh at the General Assembly of our denomination. We were there, together with many others, to advocate for our denomination’s unequivocal support for the same gender marriages. We tried our best and only time will tell... But at the same time I felt almost suffocated by the poisonous gasses of fundamentalistic ignorance, hateful obscurantism and pious hypocrisy of would-be friends. If this is a mainline denomination, one of the more progressive in our nation, what does it say about the rest of our society???
I came home from Pittsburgh and I listened to full two and half hours of Die Zauberflöte. After a week of evangelical darkness I needed an antidote of enlightenment. The Magic Flute can provide just that. On the surface it might look like a simple fairytale, but under the surface there are deeper meanings. For me it is a complex parable of Theressian and Josephine reforms of the Austrian enlightenment.
These enlightenment reforms had some serious pitfalls, yet the list of their achievements as well as their goals are nonetheless impressive for the 18th and early 19th centuries: 1) the social reforms of liberation of serfs and the taxation of nobility and the rich; 2) the institution of civil rights, the judicial and prison reform and abolition of torture as well as capital punishment; 3) the education reform with compulsory public schools; 4) the medical reforms with the beginning of public healthcare and hospitals; 5) religious reforms of tolerance, pluralism and curtailing the most conservative and totalitarian segments of the religious spectrum...
The problem is, that although American society was born under the same star of enlightenment and although many founding fathers were strongly influenced by this movement, American society has never truly embraced and internalized this important stage of civilization. As a result, our society is perhaps technologically advanced, but at its core it remains essentially pre-enlightenment or seriously divided on many or all of these matters.
I think that it is not a mere coincidence that one of the most progressive movements in our denomination is called “More Light Presbyterians.” I know that they are predominantly a GLBT advocacy group, but the symbolism and meaning are significant and deeper. After the week at our General Assembly I know that our denomination as well as our whole society deeply needs liberation from the darkness of religious prejudice and narrowmindedness and the presence and witness of progressive, loving, caring and enlightened communities of faith like our Rutgers Church. I hope you will join us this Sunday in our worthy endeavor of being more light alternatives of life and faith in this world.