And I Am Convicted
Is there anything more unintentionally comical than a worship service where the idea of Communion is discussed and dissected, but no one actually takes communion? Stop the madness.
I finished my essay this afternoon and toned down some of my inflammatory comments, trying to infuse my criticism with the genuine love I have for my co-religionists. I'd like to share with you some of what I submitted for the Skinner House anthology of writings by UU Christians. I call the essay, "And I Am Convicted" (I mean that in the evangelical way, not the criminal way):
"I remained a closeted Christian for several years, reading and thinking and teaching myself how to pray, discovering and respecting the troubled sibling relationship between Judaism and Christianity, and giving my heart and soul over to Christ as both man and spirit. I explored some Christian churches but was turned off by their literalism, their supercessionist treatment of Jewish religion, or their lack of commitment to social justice causes that were widely supported among my Unitarian Universalists. I began to have more affection for Unitarian Universalism, now that I could see it within the larger context of American religious life.
But where was Jesus in our UU worship life? I had never once questioned his absence in my childhood church, but I now began to wonder: since Jesus’ radical inclusivity, love of humanity, and passion for justice was so harmonious with all the “good news” I was hearing in our congregations, why did our ministers and congregants so assiduously avoid the gospels? I found it comical on some Sundays, depressing other Sundays, and consistently baffling. I could not understand why UUs would allow the perversions of the religious right to define the word “Christian” (or “religious,” for that matter), why they would concede religious language to the conservatives, and why they would go out of their way to construct a religion intentionally bereft of theology, rendering themselves a quasi-religion and many of their churches temples of denial and hypocrisy, where every spiritual path but the Christian path was considered valid, and where all evidence of a Christian past was removed, revised, and painted over.
It took me over ten more years of committed Unitarian Universalist life to consider that perhaps my dear UUs were the most strangely faithful Christians of all: having either intuitively or consciously embraced Jesus’ gospel of love, service and justice, they could not stand to affiliate with any so-called faithful who claimed to have received their inspiration for discrimination, exclusion, superstition, and damnation from the same source. The well, for too many UUs, had been irrevocably poisoned, and they would thereafter drink of the living waters from another source. Any other source, it seemed, but the Christian well. I felt called to abide with my religious community, to remain patient with my own sense of religious difference among them, and to pursue the ministry."
I continue later:
"I call myself a Christian because I am a disciple of Jesus Christ; not just Jesus-that-great-guy-and-teacher-with-the-long-hair-and-sandals, but Jesus the living avatar of the great God, and Jesus the Christ of Easter morning. I have always said that I am a mystic at heart, and that if I had been born in pre-Christian times I would have been a devotee of the mystery religion of that time and place; perhaps the Eleusinian or Orphic rites. Christianity is the mystery religion of my time and place, and I am a devotee of it.
This last point, of course, distresses my rationalist Unitarian Universalist friends to no end, and I understand and accept that with affection and forbearance. But when we say that our living tradition draws from “direct experience of that transcending mystery and wonder, affirmed in all cultures, which moves us to a renewal of the spirit and an openness to the forces that create and uphold life,” I think of that original community of disciples, who had a direct experience of the risen Christ which I revere and respect. It matters not at all whether I believe a dead man can be brought back to life or not, and although I used to research this question with some energy at the beginning of my Christian journey, today I have lost interest in exploring the scientific or historic “what’s, when’s and how’s” of the first Easter. Do I believe, then, in the Resurrection? I believe that the original community of disciples had a direct experience of one who was truly dead, and who soon thereafter experienced his appearance among them to send them out to love the world, to serve, to heal, and to overcome the forces of hatred and oppression.
And I am convicted.
So, Sari, we do discuss theology sometimes, although not often enough in our congregations -- out of a misguided pandering to the religiously wounded among us, which causes us to avoid many of the conversations and much of the theological education that could most heal the angry, ex-Somethings who join our congregations. We discuss theology on our blogs now, I suppose, and that's going to have to do for a start. You should know that the average UU blogger is not representative of the average Unitarian Universalist, many of whom proudly sport a "Famous UUs" T-shirt while they drink Fair Exchange coffee of a Sunday morning, and most of whom will never give a good hee-haw about what year the First Parish in Quincy officially transitioned from Calvinist Congregationalism to Unitarianism.