People are always delighted to discover a “cradle UU,” because there seem to be so few of them. So many of us have gravitated to this church because we were dissatisfied or hurt by experiences in other faiths, most of them Christian. Some of us felt like outcasts, not accepted because of our visible doubts, our refusal to accept certain doctrines, or our sexuality. Some, I suspect, were intellectually insulted by being asked to believe in certain creeds. I can remember during my own Lutheran confirmation class when I asked the pastor, “What happened to all the Native Americans who lived before Jesus and didn’t have a chance to believe in him?” He answered that they were damned to hell. When I expressed amazement, he went on to say, “the sins of the fathers shall be visited upon the third and fourth generation.” So Adam’s original sin was somehow responsible for the dismissing of a whole group of people to hellfire and brimstone? I remember sitting there, watching the dust motes floating down through the air, thinking, “This is screwy. That’s not the god I believe in.”
It took me a few years to leave that church, which I did in my early 20s. I doubt that I would hear the same message today in a contemporary Lutheran church, but that doesn’t matter. What I mean to describe is a moment of insight when I knew the faith statement I was hearing was inherently false for me.
My spiritual search led me through agnosticism, becoming a Presbyterian and later, a Roman Catholic, and finally rejecting Christianity itself. Later I turned to Buddhism. Like the Jews and Muslims, I believe god is one. I see Jesus as a gifted teacher named Rabbi Yeshua, who showed his followers a way to live and relate directly to god. Jesus had a spark of divinity within his being, just as each of us does. His teaching is on a par with the Buddha, with Mohammed, and with contemporaries like Gandhi and Martin Luther King.
My spiritual beliefs are still evolving. What I sense, at times, is that some people carry deep scars and unhealed wounds from their experiences in traditional churches. Coming to the UU fellowship that accepts each of us without question, which says that our unique spiritual journeys are authentic and to be honored, is the beginning of healing for many of us. It certainly was for me. I wish we had a ceremony for healing that one could actually experience, a washing away of the pain and injury some of us carry around inside. Healing the ruptures in one’s soul is work that one does to become truly whole. It takes great strength to face those wounds and what they have done to us.