Monday, September 28, 2009

RE Week 2 - Lexical Ambiguity and Evolution

by Philomytha

My 2nd, and maybe last, week in RE. NinjaBoy told me that he was "starting to feel more comfortable." Yeah!

They told us last week that this Sunday's service would begin in the chapel. And then, fortunately, they explained where the chapel was. Otherwise I would have been sitting in the sanctuary with my kids, wondering where all the other kids were. It's funny how a slightly different use of a familiar word can throw you off. What is the big room with the pews where the main services are held called in Methodist/Presbyterian/Catholic churches?

The chapel service was familiar, in a way. All the kids together, sitting with their classes... It was a lot like Sharing Time in Primary. :) The RE Director lit the chalice and talked about what it meant and where it came from (it was designed by an Austrian artist back in the 40's for the Unitarian Service Committee, who helped refugees escape the Nazis). She had a display of many chalices of different sizes and shapes.
"Why do you think there are so many different kinds of chalices?" she asked.

One of the children said, "Because there are so many different kinds of people."

The answer was so automatic I wondered if it was the UU equivalent of a "Primary answer" -- pray, read your scriptures, keep the commandments -- those things that you can use to respond to pretty much any question asked and it will probably be right. If it is an automatic "RE answer," it's a good one.

I tend to be a bit of a pragmatist in that I think it matters less if something is literally true than if it is useful to people in helping them live better lives. I know prayer helps a lot of people, but for me it has always been a superstitious ritual that added to my anxiety rather than provided comfort, so I haven't found it personally helpful. It might be helpful to my kids, so it would be good for them to learn about it (without the misleading promises that the Holy Ghost will tell you where you left your Nintendo DS and such things). But learning at a young age that it's normal and good for people to be different? I'm fairly confident that's useful. Not an easy thing to internalize, probably, but useful.

The RE Director went on to talk about the light of the candle in the chalice represents the light that we have in all of us -- the light that helps us to see how we love other people, how they love us, how all people are connected and important to each other.

A-ha! I thought. I recognize this! It's the Light of Christ. Only without Christ. I contemplated for a while whether it makes a difference to assign the light to Jesus Christ. Does he have to be connected to it in order for it to be valid? Can someone follow that light, live a good life, be compassionate and loving without ever associating it with Christ? I think even a believing Mormon would agree that yes, they absolutely can.

During the rest of the service, I felt quite clearly that peaceful feeling of rightness that in the LDS church would be called the Holy Ghost. I'd be more likely to attribute it to having a moment of quiet contemplation for once, but however you interpret it, it was very nice to feel like I was in the right place.

My son's class was loud. They found countries on the map, talked about the reasons why religions have holidays, and played a type of tag from India (scorpion sting tag -- it involves crawling around on the floor and tagging people with one foot). The boys were rowdy and mine fit right in. The teacher from next door came and told us to keep it down. Good luck with that.

Once again I left him in the classroom while I went to pick up my daughter. There were a couple of other moms waiting outside the 6th grade classroom. We introduced ourselves. I said we were new. "So are we," said one. "We are too," said the other. I asked if they had moved from somewhere else or if they were new to Unitarian Universalism. The latter, both of them. It was either was quite a coincidence or that church gets a lot of newcomers.

When Butterfly came out of her class the first thing she said to me, with her eyes wide, "They don't tell you what you should believe!" We agreed that was pretty cool. And I explained that was one of the unusual things about Unitarian Universalism, since convincing you to believe a certain way is one of the main goals of most religions.

They had been asked to say something about what they believed, with some suggested questions. The ones I saw written on the board were "If you believe there is a God, who do you think made God?" and "Which came first, the chicken or the egg?"

Butterfly said she believed that the Earth was formed by rocks and space debris sticking together. I asked if anyone had talked about God. "No, not really." But the one thing the whole class agreed on was that the egg came first, because chickens evolved from raptors.

They brainstormed possible service projects, including Heifer International and helping David, a local homeless man. Some suggestions they came up with for ways to help David -- a water purifier, blankets, non-perishable food, and, er, beer. Butterfly reported that this last suggestion was soundly rejected by everyone. What a bunch of Mormons!


Na'me said...

I just stumbled across this blog and I am very excited! My husband and I both come from mormon stock but have recently left the church. We've been debating back and forth about the relative merits of raising our (future) kids in other religious organizations. I've been arguing for UU, but he thinks we should pick something with more 'backbone' if we're going to do the religion thing at all. Since we don't have kids yet ourselves, I will be following your blog with great interest!

Thanks for sharing!

Na'me said...

By the way - why is it maybe your last week in RE?

Na'me said...

Do you know of any other blogs of this nature - mormons exploring other religious faiths? If so, could you post links?

mev said...

The reason it is maybe Philomytha's last week in RE is that she hopes her son will be comfortable enough to attend class without his mother present, meaning that she will be able to attend the worship service instead of staying in the RE class with him.

Philomytha said...

That's right, I'm hoping that next week (or soon) I'll be able to start going to the adult service instead of my son's class. I'll be sure to talk about the church's teachings, Na'me, so you can see if it's something your husband would consider backbone. :)

I know quite a few Mormons who attend other churches, but I haven't seen any blogs specifically about that. I'll keep my eyes open.

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