Confessions, part 7

I didn't go shopping for a new church/religion just then. For one thing, I knew of nowhere else to go. The same reasons that had brought me to UU in the first place still applied.  

 

So, a few days later I showed up for my second Adult Spiritual Development course, where we discussed an essay by Rebecca Parker (from the book Soul Work). In it, Parker described her experience of a sudden profound insight about racism in America. She compared her transformative experience to a "baptism," and to leaving the insulation of "the Garden" while guided by a "divine serpent."  I had enjoyed the numerous religious allusions in the essay but did not think of them as anything more than literary devices. But during the discussion in class, Rev. Hardies pointed out that Parker was speaking in the "language of reverence" - doing what President Sinkford had been calling us to do, what I had found objectionable in theory but not in practice.   It was an epiphany. All of the sudden I not only understood what "language of reverence" meant but also that I had been using it all of my life.  I just hadn't recognized it as such.

Adam and Eve. Moses. Jesus. Even after I had rejected traditional Christianity, I was still drawn to the biblical stories. Some of my favorite works of literature, songs, paintings are ones that take a well known religious story and reinterpret it. Had I viewed these books, movies, songs as "religious," I would not have been able to respond to them the way that I did. Because, I thought, it was ok to reinterpret biblical stories when it was merely art.  But as soon as it was religious then there could only be one meaning to each of these stories - the meanings that I had been taught in my conservative Lutheran school - because that's what I had been taught in my conservative Lutheran school. For some reason, even though I had rejected the validity of these interpretations, I subconsciously accepted that they were the only interpretations that could be considered legitimately religious.  

That evening was the first time I had ever been told of a religious tradition where this type of reinterpretation was not only permitted but encouraged. That this <b>is</b> theology. I did not yet understand then why it was encouraged, but I did understand its implications.  Up until then I had viewed religions as "finished products," take it or leave it, and I had never been able to find one that I was willing to take "as is." For the first time, in UU, I recognized that religion could and should constantly be re-examined.  To speak in the language of reverence, I had been wandering the desert for years and finally glimpsed the Promised Land. I realized that I both could and needed to make a commitment to this tradition. 

My first service at All Souls was in mid-September.  I signed the membership book in October.

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Acknowledgments

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