in all the discussions on atheism in the UUCarnival. I’ve also been lurking on the discussion at Philocrites over The Rev. Dr. Galen J. Guengerich’s sermon on Gratitude as the unifying UU discipline. (and all this lurking makes me wonder, when you lurk in blogworld, are you a lurker or a blurker?)
I’m so frustrated that I’m not well-read enough to quote other people about what I think, so the best I can do is to write about what I feel and what I observe, so here goes:
I didn’t come to the UU church (my first church experience since I was a preschooler) because I thought I needed anything. I came to support my husband. Lo and behold, I needed a church community; heck, I just needed a bunch of kind-hearted, left-leaning folks who could tell me on a weekly basis what I, the mother of a 4-year old, a not-yet-3-year old, and another in utero, needed to hear most: “you’re doing a great job.”
I have to say, I didn’t walk into the church with any real God concept, nor did I feel wounded by any particular theology, but I also knew I was not an athiest. I knew without words, without hymns, and without tangible evidence that there was something out there bigger, more important, more creative, more lively, and much more generous than I am and that I was a part of that and it of me. And that, when I listened to it, good came of it.
But it was this knowing part of me that I denied for years. The voices of reason told me that there must be proof. Now it just may be that I’m insane (with a teenager and a pre-teen in the house, it’s very likely that I am), to feel that I can know something without proof. But what I came to find, in that little church of mine, inch by slow inch, is that I could trust that knowing. I could trust it more than I could trust what other people called truth, or facts.
Part of the reason I came to trust it was through exploration of how other people talked about faith and God; part of it was being challenged endlessly to try to prove what I could not. But here’s the best part: I’ve grown into the kind of person that just doesn’t argue about it anymore–mostly, and if so, usually not out loud.
We had a meeting at church the other day and two gentlemen decided to argue with every premise that was put before them. And then, of course, one of them had to say “but what does spirituality mean? I’ve never been given an answer to that question that makes sense.” I started singing the Talking Heads in my own little brain. “Stop making sense,” I wanted to say to him. Stop trying to make sense of what other people think and feel (and often at the same time), and get on with your own stuff. And so, once I said that to him in my head, I said it to me in my heart. It’s my stuff and I like it. It gets me through the night, and the day, usually.
I don’t know that gratitude should be called the discipline of this church. I think that gratitude is a byproduct as well as a means to an end. I just fall back on what Christopher Reeve said, quoting Abraham Lincoln, that my religion is “when I feel good, I do good and when I do good, I feel good.”
All I know tells me that that’s some practical advice. Do good. Be good. Be grateful, too. But I see the questions already forming on the lips of those who must know factually, literally: “But what does it mean to do good? to be good?
You know; you just know.
And then you learn you don’t need to draw lines around what you know and what you don’t; what you can see and what you can’t. You find you don’t need to define a thing in order to know it. You trust what you know. And the hardest part? Learning that other people need to trust what they know and how they know it, too.