Lighter moment during Panel discussion at Rawtenstall (l. to r.): Shannon Ledbetter, Paul Rasor, Ben Dandelion and Jim Corrigall. [Photo: Jenny Jacobs ]

People of faith need to develop ‘theologies of resistance’ if they want to counter the rise of anti-liberal ideologies in the world today.  This was the view of Dr Paul Rasor in a lecture to a lively, 50-strong audience at Rawtenstall Unitarian Church and Unity Centre on 6th October. 

The lecture was the first in a series on ‘The Future of Faith’ organised jointly by Unitarians of the Lancashire Collaborative Ministry and Pendle Hill Quakers, and supported by the Progressive Christianity Network.  Dr Rasor is an academic theologian currently living in Holland and an ordained Unitarian Universalist minister in America.

Dr Rasor said while both political and theological liberalism are in decline, far-right trends are growing in strength, not least in the United States and Europe.  Theology is crucial to resisting this, he argued, because all ideas are rooted in belief systems.  He gave the example of free-market fundamentalism, based, he said, on a belief in the ‘free-market god’ that can save us all.   

Religious liberals need to challenge theologically the value systems that underlie such beliefs, he argued, just as the Universalist Church challenged exclusive doctrines of salvation (Calvinism) more than 100 years ago in America.   They did this through the radically-inclusive theology of universal salvation (‘we’re all going to be saved!’), a theology which grew in popularity and reach.  Universalist theology had strong political and social implications, helping to bring about the more egalitarian society of today. 

There was lively audience participation throughout, with questions and then workshops following the talk.  The day ended with audience questions to Panellists: Rev Dr Shannon Ledbetter, an Anglican working with Lancashire Unitarians on social justice and ministry issues;  Dr Ben Dandelion, a Quaker theologian active in Pendle Hill Quakers; and Dr Paul Rasor.  The event was chaired by the Unitarian Minister to the Lancashire Collaborative Ministry, Rev Jim Corrigall. 

Next in the series: Matt Carmichael on ‘Rekindling the Spirit of Community’ on 1st December, and Alastair McIntosh on ‘Towards Third Millennium Christianity’ on 23rd March.   Both are on Saturdays, 11 am start at Rawtenstall Unitarian Church, Bank Street, Rawtenstall, Lancashire. BB4 7QY.