You know that scene you always used to see in movies? There's been an accident or a crime and a beat cop is keeping onlookers at bay. He says "Move along, folks. Nothing to see here."
We're always moving on even when we don't realize it. We may stay in the same house, with the same partner, doing the same job, driving the same car, for years on end, but that's not important to my argument. At the same time we are maturing, changing our understanding of our relationships with loved ones, learning new things about the way the world works, and maturing: all of those things are "moving on".
Liberal religion, of which I will use Unitarianism as an example, says "good". Moving on is moving forward; not always. Certainly not every time in every place, but in general moving on is making things better. We of that persuasion are optimistic about that aspect of human nature, and it's an idea that contrasts sharply with other religious traditions.
This optimism about human nature underlies several of our seven Unitarian principles and is sometimes the source of debate when we discuss them. It's harder to maintain the "inherent worth and dignity of every person", for example, if you suspect that the inevitable course of lives and society is toward moral deterioration. Or "Acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth" if we doubt the tendency towards spiritual growth.
Perhaps it's easier to see this in ourselves than in others, because the effects of moving on are often very personal. Can you look back over the last 10 years of your life and identify things you have done, decisions you have made, that have made you a better person in a spiritual sense and in your relations with others? Of course you can. It's only a small step beyond that to accept that that kind of improvement is the expected long-term result of moving on.
I believe that however you move, you make positive progress. It's not consistent. There are steps that look like they are forward but end up being back. But in general when we as individuals and we in groups and even we as a society move, our direction is forward.
I expect to hear pushback from you from at least two direction:
First, some of you will say that things sure don't seem like they are getting better to you. You see violence, intolerance, deterioration....
I'll counter that you don't see those things here, and that it's hard to see progress in the midst of misery. The progress promised by liberal religion is slow and eventual. Also, moving on without the intent to move forward is likely to make for very slow progress indeed. If you take a long view, and set aside the periods when we as individuals or society deliberately do not move on, it's a little clearer.
If I'm right in my premise, about the only thing we can do wrong is NOT MOVE ON.
But sometimes life slams you down. You lose a spouse, your health, your livelihood, your home. You curl yourself up, withdraw, move in rather than move on.
I speak from experience, as can many of you.
Here are some of the things I think we sometimes tell ourselves under those circumstances, and why I think we are giving ourselves bad advice:
So what I've tried to convince you of this morning is that
And if you want guidance on how to move forward, Unitarianism provides some.
And there's this:
If what you do and what you say do not treat other people with love, respect and forgiveness, it probably isn't Unitarian, and is probably not what I mean when I say "Move along, folks...."
And if you are thinking, Bob, you missed the point, it's not that simple, this is your lucky day. You can tell me in 15 minutes or so in Kubala Hall.