So - working in a synagogue has given me new perspective on the value of scripture, heritage and tradition. Although I briefly thought of myself as an atheist after leaving the United Methodist Church I was raised in, God has never really been far from my heart, and certainly has never been far from my mind - I'm for all intents and purposes obsessed with theological reflection. I once had a conversation with a fellow member in my home Unitarian Universalist congregation, where I must have asked him something along the lines of "why do you stick with Christianity", although I can't remember exactly what either of us said. Even though the words of his answer are lost to my memory, what I understood him to be communicating to me was that he remains a Christian because he has to. Because that's who he is.
At the time, I didn't quite get what he meant. But learning about the yearly cycle of festivals and observances, of weekly Torah readings and study, and all the trappings of what it means to be a Jew - all of that is leading me to realize that I, too, cannot escape who I am. As a Unitarian Universalist, it is incumbent upon me to learn from any and every faith tradition that provides meaning for me and to apply what I've learned to my life. But no amount of respect and study of the Mahabharata will make me a Hindu. No amount of study of the Tripitaka will make me a Buddhist. Although I appreciate Judaism and learned more about it in the past six months than I realized I didn't know...I will never be a Jew.
I have come to the realization - or decision - that I can study and appreciate any of these faiths and more, but that I cannot adopt them as my own. I can learn from them, but I am unable to fully embrace them. The Judeo-Christian Bible and its stories, its legacies, are ingrained in me by way of my upbringing in a way that is more immediate and comprehensible to me than any other tradition has a hope of becoming, by the mere fact that I was raised with it. It's a part of me. And whether I agree or disagree with Christianity as it has become in our society, I have to admit that, as an American with my background, it's still the first lens through which I understand the universe.
So why not claim my heritage, make it my own, and run with it? Because I still have baggage. I cannot, I will not, call myself a Christian unless and until I can deal with the baggage that comes along with that for me. However, I can stop fighting it. I believe I already have stopped fighting it; but saying it out loud should make it easier to let go. Rev. Rolenz' sermon helped me to see that I don't have to accept other people's understanding of Jesus' message - which has been morphed over the millenia into the myriad churches we have today. I am also reading Marcus Borg's Reading the Bible Again for the First Time, which, after reading his book The God We Never Knew, is allowing me to feel more comfortable with my history, and by extension with my future. Can I be a Jesusite without Christianity? Can I call myself a Christian without all the Jesus stuff? Can I, like so many of my Jewish friends, just put secular in front of Christian and be happy with that, ignoring whatever (temporary?) cognitive dissonance it creates in my mind? Hm...
So yeah - that's a lot of babbling. And I'm not sure it came out coherently. Watch the sermon, maybe that will help.
For now, I will continue to reflect on harmonious ways to claim my inherited Christian tradition, melded with my pagan a.k.a. nature-based spirituality. I'm blessed to have a home in Unitarian Universalism, my chosen faith, that provides me the space to do so.
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