Saturday, February 22, 2014

What are the topics we're supposed to avoid discussing?

Oh yeah, politics and religion. Let's go with religion. 

A while back, The Oatmeal posted a comic called "How to Suck at Your Religion."  Matthew Inman is very sharp, very funny, and very perceptive. Also super cute but that's beside the point. I have read his comic called "My dog: the paradox" at least ten times and still laugh every single time. Either the comic is very good or I'm very simple-minded and have no short-term memory.

The religion comic stuck with me because it rings true, at least for me. I am very careful not to force my religious beliefs on my daughter (a point Inman makes in the comic). I do take her to church with me every Sunday, but I tell her regularly that she's free to choose her path when she is older. One good thing (well, there are many good things) about being a Unitarian Universalist is that our religious education programs teach children about many religions. We don't pretend that they don't exist or that they are "wrong." In fact, our religion draws from Judeo-Christian traditions.

I also try very hard not to mock or to make light of anyone else's religious beliefs (another point made in the comic). It's hard not to wonder about folks who attend the Westboro Baptist Church, though. What bible have those people been reading?  People do some pretty awful things in the name of religion. Warren Jeffs, anyone?

Tomorrow, I am coordinating the worship service at my church. We don't have a regular pastor at this time, so I am part of a committee that brings in speakers and coordinates the services. We also facilitate the services, meaning that we stand up at the front of the sanctuary and announce the hymns, read announcements, etc. For tomorrow's service, I am excited to welcome a Catholic priest who also happens to be an art professor. He's going to show us images of art and talk about how art results in outreach and action. The topic reminds me of the art history classes I took in college - I loved them! If I thought any employer would have been willing to pay me to look at art, I would have taken nothing but art history classes. I also can't find an employer who will pay me just to pet doggies. But, I digress. I guess my point is that I think it's very cool that even though I am not Catholic, a priest can nonetheless add some value to my personal spiritual journey.

I don't know that this blog entry has any larger point, though. For many years, I sat in various churches (United Methodist, Congregational, etc.) because I was looking for something. But, I wasn't finding it. I did meet a lot of nice people, but I always felt like I was a little too rough-edged, a little too cynical, a little too smart-assy to fit in. Over time, I started scrutinizing the Apostle's Creed more and more. Finally, I allowed my long-buried doubts to surface fully. I wasn't in the right club.

In 2006 I attended a UU service and found what I had been missing. What I found was a community of NPR-listening, liberal-leaning, doctrine-questioning people. Some of them are also smart-asses. UUs generally adhere to the religion's 7 Principles, but their personal beliefs tend to vary greatly. I feel so lucky to be among them. I learn something new every week. Far from dreading the old "church on Sunday" routine, I sincerely look forward to it.

If I do have a point, I guess it's that I would encourage everyone to question what you've always assumed to be true. You don't have to attend a Lutheran church just because your parents did. If it doesn't feel right in some way but you still want to be part of a religious community, try some other church on for size. Sometimes a church's religious leader can also make the difference between a meaningful church experience and a less satisfying one. I attended a United Methodist Church for a long time, not because I believed everything I was told there, but because I just liked the pastor so darned much. I still think he's great and I learned a lot from him.

I may cover my personal beliefs in detail in some other blog entries but I will say that I believe that when you're dead . . . you're dead. This life is way too short to spend all of your Sundays feeling bored/disenchanted/unfulfilled. Get your smart-ass self out there and find your own way. Whatever you do, just don't suck at it.

p.s. This is somewhat unrelated, but I thought it was awesome that the UUA's president, Peter Morales, was arrested last year for protesting immigration policies.  I don't have any plans to be arrested but I believe he is on the right side of history. 'Nuff said.

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