Churchy Stuff

I’ll start by referencing this post: Dear Parents with Young Children in Church

This really spoke to me, because I am that parent. When I’ve attended services at the UU church we attend (when we can), I’ve been the parent frantically trying to keep a preschooler quiet and content long enough for him to be released to his classroom. I love that the UU church and many others have a special time at the beginning where everyone is together and then the children get a special story time before being sent to their classes. I think it’s beautiful. But for me, as a parent, it’s stressful at the same time. I never stopped to think about how important it is for the children to be included. Instead, I worried about loud questions, silly sounds, and a squirmy body that refused to be controlled. By focusing on my fears rather than the child, I have been doing us all a great disservice, particularly the child. Granted, the child I’m referencing, my step-son, has behavioral issues beyond the norm for a preschooler… but that doesn’t invalidate his spiritual needs. Now I have a newborn son who will be joining us as well the next time we make it to church. Placating a newborn during a church service does not sound like a peaceful endeavor to me, but I suppose I’ll get around to tackling it before too long.

I miss church. I miss being with other people in that kind of setting, all singing and praying together as a community. I wanted to go this morning, but I chickened out and chose to sleep in instead. Both the boys woke up cranky so it worked out for the best. I stayed home and cooked bacon and did dishes – not very uplifting for the spirit, but not too awful either. I truly do miss Sundays being church day. When I first left Christianity I was so thankful to have my day back after years of attending three services every Sunday plus one on Wednesday night. I needed the last three years without church to help me reclaim my day of rest and find my desire for church again. Church used to be a habit, something I had never been able to choose – now I can choose to go or not go without fearing judgement and feeling guilt. Church attendance should never be associated with judgement and guilt anyway, right? Just one more thing fundamentalism managed to screw up for me and so many others like me. I don’t want church to be ruined for my boys. I want to give them the opportunity to know the joys of church without ever experiencing the negatives I saw because of fundamentalism.

I’m considering visiting a United Church of Christ church that is closer than the UU church we usually attend. I’m interested in seeing what UCC is like, now that I want to re-examine Christianity. I love Unitarian Universalism and the local UU church… but I’m not sure it’s what I need right now. Because UU envelopes such a broad scope of beliefs, I feel like much of its spiritual potential is lost to attempts to not offend anyone. I guess it’s easier to focus on less divisive issues like social justice rather than communing with the Divine when your congregation includes atheists, agnostics, and humanists. This of course varies from congregation to congregation, but the two UU congregations I’ve visited both seemed to have this problem. I call this a problem because of my personal beliefs, but were I an atheist etc. I’m sure I’d be very happy with the way things are. Finding middle ground between atheists and non-atheists in a church setting has got to be a nightmare for UU ministers!

What kind of church do you attend, if any?


New Project: Re-examining Christianity

I’m doing something I never thought possible.

I’m re-examining Christianity.

What does this mean? I’m really not sure. I guess one of the most obvious things to take away from this realization is that I’ve finally healed enough to forgive the past. My head is clear enough to fairly re-examine the whole of Christianity apart from the taint of fundamentalism… or at least that’s my goal. I’m not sure I’ll ever be free from the taint of fundamentalism; this may mean that I continue to embrace the Divine apart from Christianity simply because I can’t get past my upbringing.

Fundamentalism taught me to see things in black and white. The Bible was the perfect and complete Word of God – all of it – and it dare not be questioned. God was both loving and vengeful; He was to be feared and obeyed. Hell was a literal place that unfortunate sinners went to when they died. Fundamentalism was controlling, judgmental, and fear-inducing. I will not return to that – ever.

Can I find the Divine I now believe in within Christianity? Can I find enough redeeming qualities in Christianity that will allow me to live under its umbrella?

There was a time when I knew the Divine only within the parameters of Christianity. I had spiritual experiences and felt love and peace – all experiences I still consider valid. Now that I’ve been out for three years, I find myself missing the familiarity of Christianity. I’ve considered other brands of spirituality during this time – Taoism, Buddhism, Paganism, etc. – and was willing to ponder their framework for encountering the Divine. I had spiritual experiences during this time and value the many lessons I’ve learned from other faiths. I picked up the title Unitarian Universalist and still want to hold onto that as part of my religious identity because it goes a long way toward describing my beliefs. But I’m not done searching and trying. What ultimately brought me back to considering Christianity was this thought:

If I was willing to look for the Divine within the framework of other faiths and their myths/sacred texts (without the binders of fundamentalism), why am I not willing to do the same for Christianity?

My core beliefs remain the same as I head into this endeavor:

  • I do not believe in a literal Hell or place of punishment. I am accepting of Heaven, rebirth, or other positive afterlife options.
  • I believe in the Divine and feel such a being to be positive and loving. I refuse to see the Divine as vengeful, petty, condoning of genocide, etc.
  • I see the Bible and all other sacred texts as books written by men. There are inspiring things written in these texts that point humanity towards the Divine; perhaps some of these things came directly from the Divine. No sacred text is without error and no one text is the one for all of mankind to follow. Lessons – good and bad – can be learned from each text; each text has value.
  • I believe the purpose of religion and all things holy should be to put humanity at peace with itself, the earth, and the Divine.
  • Spirituality belongs to the individual. No one faith can claim to be the only one acceptable to the Divine.

I make no promises about where I’m headed, but I’ll keep you posted. I’m not sure there is a brand of Christianity that will fit my beliefs. This should be interesting blogging material if nothing else. 🙂

Searching for Community… Again

Last year I found a wonderful church community in a local Unitarian Universalist (UU) congregation. My empty spots that needed spiritual community and the sharing of spiritual experiences found what they needed. I wasn’t able to attend frequently, but I enjoyed it when I could and was glad to interact with church members through social media. Our family joined the church and we were even married there. I was hopeful that we’d found our spiritual home. I really, really like the people we met at the church. They are very genuine and full of love and have shown me a whole new side of what religion and church can be. This summer the interim minister I loved moved on; the new minister, whom I really like, will begin her ministry in September. Lots of changes and exciting times are in store for the church, I’m sure, but I’m not sure we’ll be a big part of it. 

My idea of what “church” looks like or is meant to accomplish has changed greatly from my days as a Baptist. I like sermons about love, peace, religions of the world, and even how the church can be an active force in the community. The church we found seems to put more emphasis on being an active force in the community than anything else. That is what the majority of the congregation has chosen, so it only makes sense that the church would steer that direction. This emphasis on social activism is a bit much for me, though. Today I learned that the Religious Education (RE) curriculum for the fall would be about racial justice and social activism. One of the things that drew me to UU in the first place was the RE program for children – I love the concept! Religious education, from a progressive, open-minded perspective, that introduces children to many ways of thinking is a wonderful idea and something I’m totally on board with. I’m perplexed by this church’s choice of RE emphasis for the fall, though, because I do not see how a curriculum about racial justice and social activism fits the concept of RE. Naturally, this is just my own perception of what Religious Education stands for – the majority of the church feels differently and that’s fine.  Continue reading