A Religious Liberal Blog

This site hopefully can provide some vehicle by which I can comment, complain, and once in a while praise the state of religion in this country and around the world from a liberal protestant perspective.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Helping the Poor

Should the government do a lot more to reduce poverty?

41% of Mainliners
39% of Evangelicals
47% of Catholics
59% of the Nones

said Yes

Should the government do a lot more to reduce the gap between the rich and poor

28% of Mainliners
30% of Evangelicals
43% of Catholics
56% of the Nones

said Yes

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Beach Boys Melody

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Royce on Original Sin

Royce presents a picture of our beginnings as originally a mix of instinctual reactions to our environment. Such reactions are neither informed by some broader purpose nor are they related to each other in a way, which is reflective of a stable personality. For these actions to be considered a kind of conduct, whether good or bad, they must be done for some end and they must connect up with other actions in a way that is reflective of the kind of person who has done such acts.

The move from incoherent reactions to stable conduct comes from the ways in which one’s social environment responds and seeks to train the person and their conduct.. Such training is most often found in the sort of limitations that a community places on the individual. The most pertinent comes from the contrast of what we are and what we aim for and what the community and individuals within that community desires for us.

We begin to have a sense of what we do, why we do it, the meaning behind what we do through “other instances of conduct with which we compare” ourselves. Am I a good clarinet player? One has to see themselves in relations to a group of other players, by which one can self-evaluate one’s self in relation to others. Sometimes this is found in how I differ from others, but it also can be found in those areas that I am alike others.

As Royce writes: Contrasts, rivalries, difficult efforts to imitate some fascinating fellow being, contrasts with foes, emulation, social ambition, the desire to attract attention, the desire to find myself within the social order, my interest in what my fellows say and do, and especially in what they say and do with reference to me, such are the more elemental social motives and social situations which at first make me highly conscious of my own doings.

But this complex process is not only done through contrasting ourselves with other individuals but also with the wider community at large. That may be the church, the nation, and any number of communities where we understand ourselves either in agreement with the “general will” of such communities or find ourselves at odds with them.

Through the community, one begins to develop the means by which one becomes aware of one’s own individuality and yet it is primarily through the level of conflict that this process is able to take place. A person comes “to self-consciousness as a moral being through the spiritual warfare of mutual observation, of mutual criticism …through taking a more or less hostile account of the consciences of their neighbors.”

It does not mean that there is also not a mutual taking in of the other, in a positive fashion, but it does mean that to the degree that an individual is created, there will be some level of contention between the individual and the group from which the individual came out of. Thus it is the very social training that, far from producing socially obedient creatures, which replicate the values and beliefs of the community instead produces the individual who becoming aware of their own individuality finds the community a place of limitation and restriction.

The more social training is used in the formation of the individual, the more the individual self-will is brought forth in opposition to what has produced it in the first place and there the tension arises. How can the individual be that individual without losing the required social cohesion of the community? And how can the community have that cohesion without destroying the individuality, which contributes to the community?

If it was simply an issue that individuality brought the end of social cohesion it may seem as if the community’s interest would be to try to not raise up individuals. But this is not an option for the community. Once they have sought to train the individual, shape their conduct as conduct and not a bundle of reactions, even the laws and group pressures cannot help but provide the basis for contrast that serves in the development of individual self-assertion.

It is this training that creates the possibilities of a moral life, one, which develops the relatively unified personality that provides the basis for self-reflection and self-consciousness. And yet Royce identifies this as an evil since with this moral life comes the social tension, which makes one enemies, in some degree, with every other individual. This becomes the moral burden of the individual, as far as they are an individual; they are at odds with others.

Salvation will be found in this process through his discussion of grace and the role of the beloved community of which volumes have been written. But I wanted to focus on how he treated original sin.

Saturday, November 01, 2014

My Choices this November

Even though it is never a surprise who I plan to support during elections I'll share my vote and the reasoning behind my choices. In years past I have voted Green, Republican, and Democrat but this year given the issues and how the parties have aligned themselves, I'll be voting straight ticket.

Connie Johnson for US Senate: Oklahoma has an unusual situation where because Sen. Coburn is retiring early, we have 2 senate races. Connie Johnson could fill that seat and she was easy to get excited about because of her track record as a progressive champion of causes in the state senate and her issues based campaign. There are few progressive events and causes that I've been a part of where Connie was not involved with and given a public voice to.

Matt Silverstein for US Senate: Matt is running against Sen. Inhofe, which by definition makes him a favorite for me. But I was worried initially because as he started his campaign he seemed to want to avoid talking about issues and only focus on a generic change in Washington. But he won me over in the last few months by picking up on economic justices issues in particular. Both are much needed voices in Washington.

Joe Dorman for Governor: His avoidance of social issues, especially as marriage equality has become a reality in the state worries me. But Oklahoma has faced some of the worst education cuts in the nation and he plans to reverse that. And he has campaigned for Medicaid expansion which would insure 144,000 Oklahomans in one fell swooped.

Cathy Cummings for Lt. Governor :has run the kind of campaign I wish could happen more. She has visited every community and nook and cranny of the state, using in person meetings over advertising to reach people. And she has run on the issue of wages and the need for a living wage. In Oklahoma, which has one of the lowest incomes in the country, this is essential if our state is going to build a middle class.

Other Races: Joe Cox for Superintendent of Instruction with his experience in the public schools and his support of protecting teacher's retirements as well as resisting the "teach to the test" formulas. Mike Workman for Labor Commission and Bert Smith for US Congress who stands with the labor movement. But I need advice on the judicial races. Feel free to message me about them.

Tuesday, February 05, 2013

Greatful for support of domestic partnerships

I’m writing to express appreciation to the Sheridan Press and to Sheridan’s legislative delegation in their support of HB 168, which would have recognized domestic partnerships in Wyoming. This legislation would have extended important legal rights and responsibilities to gay and lesbians and their families. It would have insured that such families were not legal strangers to each other on important matters from medical care decisions to parental rights. While I’m disappointed that it failed to pass the state house, the fact that in Sheridan, it was supported sends a wider signal of welcome to all people and it gives me hope that the Equality state will, sooner rather than later, live up to its motto.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Post Election Pastor's Column

“All this is from God...who gave us the ministry of reconciliation” 2 Corinthians 5:18

Another election has come and gone. Some of the candidates I voted for won. And some of my candidates lost. Soon I’ll be visiting family for Thanksgiving and we’ll discover that some of us in the family voted different then others. And we’ll still come together at the same table, enjoying the blessings of food and fellowship together on this holiday.

How is that possible? When I read the newspaper and watch television, I am told that there are two Americas. There is a blue and a red America. And neither the twain shall meet. We live in different neighborhoods and towns, consume different products, and watch different television shows, for news as well as entertainment. Do you like NASCAR? Do you listen to NPR? Do you like steak or are you a vegetarian?

Micro targeting voters has become key in winning elections. And our lifestyles, where we live, who we associate with, what we do for a living, have all been calculated by pollsters to tell us how we will vote and to which America we belong. This movement has intensified over the last generation so that this fragmentation has become reflected in lopsided vote totals and the leading of lives where we rarely run into folks who disagree with us. How does one live with difference in such a situation?

The nice thing about family is that more often then not you’re stuck with them. While much of our lives are chosen, this is an area that is largely not, even for those of us who were adopted. And so the question of living and relating to folks who think differently is built in or at least should be during the holiday season. I think we need more of those kind of situations, where the relations and connections we have with one another are stronger and deeper then politics or whether someone agrees with us or not.

 Could the church be that kind of place? For the apostle Paul, the church’s mission is that of reconciliation, to be a movement for healing and wholeness in a fragmented world. And yet churches often fall into the same trap as the culture, with blue and red churches, where folks are expected to fit a certain set of beliefs before they can belong.

 But the one advantage the church has, the one thing we can offer is the communion table. Like the family table around thanksgiving, the communion table is a place where folks can overcome difference with food and fellowship and a deeper set of bonds.

Those bonds are not determined by whether we are democrat or republican, black or white, gay or straight, tea party or occupy, hunter or vegetarian, cat owner or dog owner, single or married, city or rural, old or young. They are not determined by whatever demographic that a micro pollster has put us into.

 Rather such reconciliation happens because of what God has done for us. The communion table can happen, like family tables not because of our chosen lives but because of the fact that we are chosen, by adoption or birth or circumstance, to be included as family. It is to that which we belong by virtue of God’s love for us.

Now not all churches or families function this way. And the holiday seasons can be a painful time as a result. But my prayer is that they would. And that whatever it is that estranges us from one another, God can help us find those connections and relations that can make us whole, as individuals, as a community, and as a country.


Rev. Dwight Welch
First Congregational (United Church of Christ)
Sheridan WY

Monday, January 18, 2010

Martin Luther King Day

A few things worth noting for Martin Luther King today. Here's a link to some MLK quotes which highlight his thought. And here's a piece which situates King within a complex set of relations on the left, in the social gospel, and in the work of Reinhold Niebuhr.

The only thing missing is the personalist tradition which King picked up from at Boston University. Personalism, has much of the same metaphysical commitments as process theology does but it takes God's personality, our own, the universes' as central to defining not just what should be but what is.

Admittedly I'm apt to think that this is an over extension of the term. Much of the universe strikes me as "indifferent" if not an obstacle to the development of personality. Personal consciousness is quite an unusual thing which has developed in the history of our planet.

Thus I can see the ethical import that King and other personalists derived from importance of creating the conditions by which persons can develop but I'm not sure I can share the metaphysics behind it. I'm too much of a hide bound naturalist on that score.

But I think as a tradition it's worth noting, being attentive to, and drawing what resources we can from it as well from the social gospel movement, the democratic left, etc. Otherwise all we'll have is a sanitized King that fails to challenge our society. And that would be the worst response to his legacy.