Wednesday, March 24, 2010

bringing Jesus back in

This weekend a member of our Committee on Ministry (the committee at church that keeps its fingers on the pulse and monitors whether the congregation is fulfilling its mission) passed along to me a comment he had heard in one of his interviews, that this congregant appreciated that I had "brought Jesus back in" to our church conversation.

I've been turning that one over in my head for the last few days. In a lot of ways, that makes me uncomfortable. When I told my family, they (even the "relaxed Catholics" in the bunch) thought this was a pretty bad thing. Jesus is for the conservatives, and the rest of us will avoid talking about him, seems to be the general consensus.

But I actually have "brought Jesus back in", at first because I was convinced that the kids needed to at least know the story, and have a basic level of religious literacy so they could join in the general conversation. Last year during Christmas season, one of our younger kids asked me "what's up with that baby in a pile of straw?", and that got the whole ball rolling.

And I've come to see that there are actually three stories to tell about Jesus: the miraculous birth story (clearly mythological and pagan in origin as far as I'm concerned), his ministry and teachings, and the crucifixion/resurrection/subsequent religion (which is almost all stuff I disagree with). In our disagreement with some parts of these stories, UU's and liberals in general avoid the entire story. It's the baby out with the bathwater.

Why, exactly, are we so afraid to talk about Jesus? As UU Victoria Weinstein wrote:

But where was Jesus in our UU worship life? I had never once questioned his absence in my childhood church, but I now began to wonder. Since Jesus’ radical inclusivity, love of humanity, and passion for justice was so harmonious with all the “good news” I was hearing in our congregations, why did our ministers and congregants so assiduously avoid the Gospels? I found it comical on some Sundays, depressing other Sundays, and consistently baffling. I could not understand why UUs would allow the perversions of the Religious Right to define the word “Christian” (or “religious,” for that matter), why they would concede religious language to the conservatives, and why they would go out of their way to construct a religion intentionally bereft of theology.

Of course, Unitarian Universalism doesn't exist in a vacuum. We are surrounded by other religions and denominations, and our churches are full of large numbers of refugees who come to us with emotional and spiritual scars from their previous religious backgrounds, and all of this means that we have baggage - especially when it comes to Jesus. I understand the baggage - I haven't come through 32 years of living in American society without a bit of baggage of my own. But our children don't have the same baggage we do - and maybe, just maybe, if we give them a different story and "relationship" with Jesus, they could maybe never have some of that baggage.

Because, really, the man who preached love and compassion and justice for the poor was preaching many of the same things we try to preach now.

Note on comments: I love comments and I love the conversations the internet enables. But let's all keep it respectful, OK?


  1. Growing up Unitarian among the Baptists in Texas I often felt awkward among my peers at school and in the neighborhood due to my ignorance about Jesus and all things biblical. I agree that kids need a UU perspective on Jesus.
    - Sharon

  2. Wow, this is powerful stuff, and you make some really good points!

    I grew up in the Bible belt, too, where kids sang songs about "the devil" in Sunday school. I never want religion to scare my children!!!! I do want them to know Jesus' parables and his teachings of love, grace, and compassion.