It may not be apparent from the ratio of media coverage, but progressive religious values are as much a part of the national political discussion as are conservative religious values. Kentucky State Representative Kelly Flood is a legislator who unflinchingly promotes liberal values as the best hope for the correction and preservation of American democracy.
Reverend Kelly Flood served as parish minister of the First Unitarian Universalist Church of Lexington from 1990 to 1998. Since then, she has worked as the Vice President for Advancement (lead fundraiser) for Starr King School for the Ministry, a Unitarian Universalist seminary in Berkeley, California. Since 2008, Rev. Flood has served as Representative of Kentucky House District 75.
“Each of these threads in my professional life has stayed rooted in an understanding of public service that is connected profoundly to liberal religious values,” said Rev. Flood in a recent sermon at the First Unitarian Universalist Church of Columbus, Ohio. This understanding includes “a strong sense of stewardship, where generosity and strategic choices are linked in order to shape a community that’s more connected, and one in which all of us have meaning and purpose in our lives. I believe that our very way of life depends upon it.”
In her sermon, Rev. Flood expanded on the concept of moral framing developed by George Lakoff, Professor of Cognitive Linguistics at the University of California at Berkeley. “Wherever you find yourselves in the political spectrum, we are in the habit of framing our national discourses with an understanding of family,” Rev. Flood said. We speak about it in our congregations, in our communities, and as a nation. When we want to frame up the picture of the way we understand and organize ourselves, we begin with the frame of family.
“Why does this matter? It matters because of the radical differences with which religious conservatives and religious liberals understand what a healthy, productive, prosperous family looks and acts like—especially how we raise our children, and what we tolerate in our children.
“Conservatives believe in the Strict Father model of family, where the father is the decider, the ultimate moral authority in the family. His authority must not be challenged. His job is to protect the family, to support the family by winning competitions in the marketplace, and to teach kids right from wrong, especially by disciplining them if they do wrong. Physical discipline is necessary and required. Only then will children develop the internal discipline to become moral beings. And only with that discipline will they prosper.
“What does that mean for people who are not prosperous? They don’t have discipline, and without discipline, they cannot be moral, so they deserve their poverty. The good people are hence the prosperous people. Helping other people undermines their discipline, and makes them unable to prosper on their own, and to functional morally in the world.
“Liberal religious values see our nation’s government fundamentally as a Nurturing Parent, where we raise our children not to be obedient, but to think for themselves. We place a higher value on a child who, when we tell her to go and clean up her room, sasses back and says, ‘I’m going to go read a book instead.’ Liberal religious values hold that it’s more important to think for oneself in order to become responsible, to know one’s mind, and ultimately to turn that responsibility to one’s community.
“The Nurturing Parent worldview assumes that the world—despite its dangers and difficulties—is basically good, that it can be made better, and that it’s everyone’s responsibility to work for the betterment of our world. Thus, both parents are essential to raising children. Children who know empathy and responsibility for oneself and others are children who are being raised properly.”
Rev. Flood’s complete sermon is available from this video link.