It's Not Theology, It's Class
As a minister, I get them all the time. I read them all, too. I think about them, and wonder whether they minister to people in a simpler and more direct way than all our sophisticated musings and carefully-crafted sermons and intellectual talks.
I have wondered for a long time if it isn't that Unitarian Universalists are really that theologically different than the typical American, but that they prefer a far more sophisticated, intellectual and un-emotional expression of that theology than is preferred by those who get misty-eyed over stories from "Chicken Soup For the Internet User's Soul."
Are we theologically that different, really? Or is much of what we react against theologically really a reaction to lack of sophistication? In other words, is this about theology, or is it about class, culture and education?
Today I got a Gooey Religious Forward that really brought this point home for me.
Here it is, for your reading pleasure. I added paragraphs and one comma.
Breakfast at McDonald's
I am a mother of three (ages 14, 12, 3) and have recently completed my college degree. The last class I had to take was Sociology. The teacher was absolutely inspiring with the qualities that I wish every human being had been graced with. Her last project of the term was called "Smile."
The class was asked to go out and smile at three people and document their reactions. I am a very friendly person and always smile at everyone and say hello anyway, so, I thought this would be a piece of cake, literally.
Soon after we were assigned the project, my husband, youngest son, and I went out to McDonald's one crisp March morning. It was just our way of sharing special playtime with our son. We were standing in line, waiting to be served, when all of a sudden everyone around us began to back away, and then even my husband did. I did not move an inch... an overwhelming feeling of panic welled up inside of me as I turned to see why they had moved.
As I turned around I smelled a horrible "dirty body" smell, and there standing behind me were two poor homeless men. As I looked down at the short gentleman, close to me, he was "smiling". His beautiful sky blue eyes were full of God's Light as he searched for acceptance. He said, "Good day" as he counted the few coins he had been clutching.
The second man fumbled with his hands as he stood behind his friend. I realized the second man was mentally challenged and the blue-eyed gentleman was his salvation. I held my tears as I stood there with them. The young lady at the counter asked him what they wanted. He said, "Coffee is all, Miss" because that was all they could afford. (If they wanted to sit in the restaurant and warm up, they had to buy something. (He just wanted to be warm).
Then I really felt it - the compulsion was so great I almost reached out and embraced the little man with the blue eyes. That is when I noticed all eyes in the restaurant were set on me, judging my every action. I smiled and asked the young lady behind the counter to give me two more breakfast meals on a separate tray. I then walked around the corner to the table that the men had chosen as a resting spot. I put the tray on the table and laid my hand on the blue-eyed gentleman's cold hand. He looked up at me, with tears in his eyes, and said, "Thank you."
I leaned over, began to pat his hand and said, "I did not do this for you; God is here working through me to give you hope." I started to cry as I walked away to join my husband and son. When I sat down my husband smiled at me and said, "That is why God gave you to me, Honey, to give me hope." We held hands for a moment and at that time, we knew that only because of the Grace of God that we had been given were we able to give.
We are not church goers, but we are believers. That day showed me the pure Light of God's sweet love. I returned to college, on the last evening of class, with this story in hand. I turned in "my project" and the instructor read it. Then she looked up at me and said, "Can I share this?" I slowly nodded as she got the attention of the class. She began to read and that is when I knew that we as human beings and being part of God share this need to heal people and to be healed. In my own way I had touched the people at McDonald's, my husband, son, my instructor, and every soul that shared the classroom on the last night I spent as a college student.
I graduated with one of the biggest lessons I would ever learn: UNCONDITIONAL ACCEPTANCE. Much love and compassion is sent to each and every person who may read this and learn how to LOVE PEOPLE AND USE THINGS - NOT LOVE THINGS AND USE PEOPLE. If you think this story has touched you in any way, please send this to everyone you know. There is an Angel sent to watch over you. In order for her to work, you must pass this on to the people you want watched over.
An Angel wrote: Many people will walk in and out of your life, but only true friends will leave footprints in your heart. To handle yourself, use your head.To handle others, use your heart. God gives every bird its food, but He does not throw it into its nest.
This is, of course, just a story about treating people with dignity. I have no doubt that many UUs have done exactly this sort of thing: reaching out and providing help to someone who needs it, and speaking words of compassion and care as they do so.
What makes this an eye-roller to most people I know, however, is not the theology (break it down and it's just like yours and mine: Every human being possesses inherent worth and dignity, if God is present in the world, it is through the work of human hands, people are to be cherished more than things, etc.), but the sentimentality of the writing, the inclusion of angels, the effusive praise of God's grace, the misplaced quotation marks, the misuse of the word "literally," and the fact that this woman actually took her child to McDonald's for breakfast. How often do we conflate pure class snottiness with theological superiority and sophistication? How often does it close our ears and keep us from spiritual solidarity with others?
So this seems to be another post on Unitarian Universalist terminal uniqueness, which too often keeps us from seeing that what one person describes as "the pure Light of God's sweet love" is no different than our "inherent worth and dignity," and what one person describes as an angel sent to watch over you is the spark of divinity Mr. Emerson reminded us was divinely installed in each soul.
I am grateful today for all the years of Gooey Religious Forwards sent to me by congregants, friends and family. They have been a kind of Scripture of popular religion that I first regarded as a nuisance, and now receive as a gift and an important challenge to my long history of personal snobbery. Keep 'em coming.
(The Ultimate Gooey Religious Forward That I've Learned To Love)