Prophets and Bystanders Series Invitation: November 2023

When James Luther Adams (JLA), the most prominent Unitarian Universalist theologian of the twentieth century, was asked if he saw neo-fascism rising in American possibility, his response was crisp and clear. 

Having witnessed firsthand the rise of fascism in Europe, JLA rejoined, “When the enemies of freedom come to “rescue” us from the regnant social chaos, they will not be wearing brown shirts and hailing der Führer; they will come waving the flag and clutching the Bible—seemingly innocent symbols of American culture.”

According to a poll in 2022 by the Public Religion Research Institute and the Brookings Institution, “researchers found that more than half of Republicans believe the country should be a strictly Christian nation, either adhering to the ideals of Christian nationalism (21%) or sympathizing with those views (33%)” a belief that brings with it a profoundly anti-democratic impulses with “half of Christian nationalism adherents and nearly 4 in 10 sympathizers said they support the idea of an authoritarian leader to keep these Christian values in society.”

Fascism rises. 

Stoked by grievance; 
Scapegoating migrants and minorities and Queer and Trans communities, and body autonomy
Seducing us with the story of a mythical past was much better than today. 

How will the liberal church rise to this challenge? Is the term’ fascism’ an alarmist cry or a stark reality?

James Luther Adams saw up close the failure of liberal churches and institutions to combat the rise of Naziism in Germany. 

For some, the middle ground seems safest. A call for “civility” and a balanced viewpoint tried to navigate the political climate by finding a middle ground and blaming both sides. Failing to recognize the extremes of good and evil surrounding them, their neutrality leads to inaction. 

For others who, rather than confront the looming shadows of extremism, recede into their personal bubbles. By detaching from societal concerns and seeking their own personal sanctity, they forsake our collective responsibility. 

For James Luther Adams and other anti-fascist theologians, like Bonhoeffer, in the face of the dehumanization and violence of fascism, religion cannot be relegated as a private individual act. Adams’s test for an authentic liberal and liberating faith lay in the implications of one’s faith for public policy.

For luminaries like JLA and anti-fascist theologian Bonhoeffer, religion wasn’t a Sunday chore or a personal retreat. True religion, they contended, had its fingers on the pulse of society, ready to intervene, shape, and resist. For Adams, genuine faith was reflected in its ability to manifest in public policy, not just personal piety.

Our November Worship series “Prophets & Bystanders” is more than a worship series; it’s a theological crucible. This isn’t just about navigating the external tempests; it’s a voyage into our soul’s core.

This series challenges us to step out of theological armchairs to don the mantle of a public, palpable faith. A faith not content with silent hymns but roaring with prophetic fervor.

This is a summons for us to ascend beyond mere observers, to resonate with the audacious vibrato of prophetic voices against the chilling winds of injustice.

Join us this Sunday, November 5, as we begin to answer this urgent call. We gather in person at 8:30 AM in person and 10:30 AM in person or online. You can find details about our services at and helpful information on our FAQ page.

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