One of things that has happened through blogging is that I am more regularly in contact with — and generally aware of — people from other denominations. And when the blogs take me back to my North American roots, that means there’s plenty of room for envy of larger churches, a culture of tithing, and diverse religious traditions where the grass seems green.
When I am tired, the grass often seems greenest at one of the Unitarian Universalist blogs I read. Part of the joy is the way the person writes. She is funny and sane and vibrant. But it is also the picture she paints: a world where people sit light to doctrine, believe deeply in the inherent worth of each person, see the value in community and work for social justice. The UUA (Unitarian Universalist Association) was strong in the edgy quirky town where I did my teaching degree, and I have sometimes wondered if I had stayed there longer, if I would have eventually drifted into the UUA pews.
(funny really. God became optional, but they kept pews…)
Now, as I said, when I am tired, I can feel the pull. When I am fed up with clergy shirts and a life of black and grey, I can long for the freedom of ‘other ways’. But the temptation always seems illusory when I examine it.
Could I really sustain a spiritual life that I had to build from scratch? or a set of beliefs that tried to draw on all and sundry traditions? (if this is unfair to the UUA, I apologize. I know little about it. It is just how it seems).
I am sure that I couldn’t.
When Christianity seems difficult it is tempting to jump off the liberal edge into self-chosen spirituality, and a Christ-shaped humanism, but I know I could not survive there. I might seem to for a while. It might be fun. But when things tip from difficult to seemingly unbearable, what holds you then?
I remember a time during my curacy when being a priest was exceedingly painful. Someone I cared (care) about greatly had had her life derail, and it was all bound up with conflicting concepts of God and the church. I remember the pain. I remember the helplessness. And I remember standing at the altar, blessing and breaking bread with tears in my eyes, thinking ‘this is only bearable because it is true.’
I can’t live without that truth.
And I can’t imagine a life in which all truths are optional.
So no greener UUA pastures for me, then. But I am thankful for the blog, and the occasional glimpse of how life is lived by those brave souls who seem able to live without anything solid to hold onto.