The Healing Church

Anonymous writes ,

I have found this topic that I stumbled upon very interesting and surprisingly uplifting.  As one who suffers from recurring episodes of depression I feel sort of motivated to seek a liberal Christian church for awhile,  just for a change.

Unitarian Universalists who privilege intellectual prowess over all other qualities of a human being often point proudly to their Jefferson Bible as a great example of how liberal religion should work. A robust man, that Jefferson! Just took out his scissors and chopped the gospels up, amputating all of that miracle nonsense and keeping just the teachings and the social justice stuff. THAT’S what’s good for all this stupidity that ails America!

Because I am a generally well-respected smartypants with a Harvard degree and an ability to articulate my opinions in the UU setting, I feel perfectly confident flashing a big smile at such moments and saying, “Sure, works if you’re a rich white male. As for myself, I consider the miracles the best part of the gospels and wouldn’t dream of cutting them out of my heart… or my Bible. What an arrogant desecration, although certainly I understand what he was doing as brave and exciting for his time.”

I’m a minister and therefore privileged myself. I can say that and start a conversation from a place of confidence, acceptance and equality. The vulnerable person who is standing on the outskirts of that conversation looking in has no such confidence. What they accurately intuit is that this is no place for a suffering person, not a welcoming spiritual home for someone who has deep doubts about humanity’s inherent worth and dignity, and who comes in need of gentle companionship. How does such a person participate in the verbal jousting we so often mistake for fellowship? They don’t. They just go away, feeling terrible about themselves for not being able to connect with the religious group that advertises itself as the accepting, welcoming, open-minded ones.

When Jefferson took his scissors to the Bible, he cut away all the healings performed by Jesus.  Only the most comfortable individuals would call that the act of an enlightened man. What it says to others is, “You shouldn’t need this.” And that hurts. This is a perfect example of how Unitarian Universalists unintentionally commit spiritual abuse.

 

 

10 Replies to “The Healing Church”

  1. I don’t want to redo the NT. But I also don’t find the miracles in it any more relevant to my spiritual and religious life than fairy tales. Obviously others disagree. To me this is an underlying challenge for UUism. While the person who needs those miracle stories may in some places be left out, in other churches the person like me would be lost. It’s the conundrum of a religious movement where personal preference trumps any common belief or teaching. Something will have to give…

  2. Amen, Sister! I think I’ve been waiting 40 years for someone to give tongue to those thoughts and to my inchoate discomfort with Jefferson’s spiritual truncation and intellectual arrogance – at least in the field of religion. Jesus’ “Take up thy bed and walk” has helped my depressed self to my feet many times. Blessings!

  3. Not only did Jefferson cut out the healing, he cut out the “truths” embedded in the metaphors and miracles. He mistook truth for facts. It’s fatal mistake.

  4. Context isn’t everything, but it’s often a lot. I don’t know how arrogant Jefferson was in this act; perhaps very, perhaps little. Putting the best construction on it, he was struggling against “miracles as proof of Jesus’s divinity,” as I recall (historian needed here). I think that might have been legitimate at the time – for him and perhaps more generally in the evolution of Western religion (Judaism and Christianity in particular). Even if one accepts miracles – as contraventions by some power of the the “laws” of biology and physics – what do they prove, especially if they can be found in most religions (as they certainly can).

    For me what’s in question is how we should approach his action. Is his issue still alive for us? It’s not for me. And his action was perhaps another little action (in the grander scale of actions) that led from “science” and “rationality” to “scientism” and “rationalism.” I think we can appreciate his action without worshipping it, accept it for what it was without institutionalizing it and making it a catechetical required answer to a question that no longer is vibrant.

    After banishing Carl Jung from my intellectual world for a long time, I’ve been rediscovering him and his “school,” including the renegade Jungians like James Hillman (may his name be for a blessing). From a Jungian perspective, the miracles in the gospels are a specific symbol, not to be taken literally, but as pointing to some energetic structure in our Unconscious – to the deeper Mystery of both Self and Life. So I, too, would rather entertain, question and explore them than excise them.

    What do the narratives of the miracles (in the gospels or in the Torah and Qur’an and sutras and Upanishads) open up for me? What do they point me to?

    For what that’s worth.

  5. @RevMark I don’t think Jefferson was any more arrogant when he cut text from the Bible than those who write laws dictating only “Science” can be taught in US Science classrooms.

  6. Today’s surprise is seeing my comment featured in the intro to the post. I don’t mind. A second surprise is how my generally elevated day came crashing down to a large extent while reading the comments. Don’t know what that is about.

    It reminds me of the winter when after attending service in my church (which I love) I stopped off a few times in a UCC church on my way home to somewhat restore my sunken spirit. My other strategy was leave immediately following the beautiful service, which worked pretty well too. The hymn that stuck in my mind during this time was “There is More Love Somewhere.”

    My final surprise is how well Rev. Weinstein inferred the feelings of a depressed, introvert based on a brief comment. The members of my church are great, but I have felt like an outsider amid the cliques of well educated, successful, together people.

    Now, I have just enough time for a sunset walk, which I’m hoping will pick my mood back up.

  7. Today’s surprise is seeing my comment featured in the intro to the post. I don’t mind. A second surprise is how my generally elevated day came crashing down to a large extent while reading the comments. Don’t know what that is about.

    It reminds me of the winter when after attending service in my church (which I love) I stopped off a few times in a UCC church on my way home to somewhat restore my sunken spirit. My other strategy was leave immediately following the beautiful service, which worked pretty well too. The hymn that stuck in my mind during this time was “There is More Love Somewhere.”

    My final surprise is how well Rev. Weinstein inferred the feelings of a depressed, introvert based on a brief comment. The members of my church are great, but I have felt like an outsider amid the cliques of well educated, successful, together people.

    Now, I have just enough time for a sunset walk, which I’m hoping will pick my mood back up.

  8. I’m sorry, Anonymous, and I’m also glad that you wrote in to represent the many UUs who need and deserve a healing church. You are not alone. As they say, thank you for sharing. I wish you well.

  9. I guess I have such a different experience from most of you. A lot of what you describe as typical UU intellectualism, I actually have not experienced at all at a church Not at my church, not at SUUSI (that I have attended for five years), not even at GA (though to be honest, I really picked and chose what I attended and did there, and ended up leaving early/getting distracted due to work). I have seen this intellectualism online A LOT. I kind of find it fascinating because it really is very different than what I experience face to face.

    Peacebang, have you been to SUUSI? There is a whole lot more heart than head there (unless you count the homebrewers swapping their favorites). Music, community, laughter, games late into the night, dancing, teenagers being teenagers, kids running in feral packs together. To me, SUUSI is the very definition of what UUism should aspire to.

    I find the Jefferson bible liberating because in my mind he said “the miracles are not the reason to listen to and follow Jesus. Do not follow Jesus because he has magic powers and will grant your wishes but because he offers true morality and ethics. ” I find the miracles, without the intellectual understandings of the metaphor and symbolism, are distracting and often enticing of our baser instincts to get the easy answers. The child-like behavior of doing the right thing because I am either afraid of being punished or because I want a reward, not because it is the right thing to do to put me in right relations with the world. The phrase “there are no atheists in a fox hole” is the very definition of this opportunistic piety – I believe sincerely because I sincerely do not want to get hit by a bomb.

    I also have a huge problem with miracles as popularly presented in American culture – the literal belief that this person was saved or helped due to direct personal intervention by God – as completely bereft of any kind of ethical context. So my neighbor’s dad lived because a ton of people prayed for him? Awesome but what does that say about the guy in the ICU bed next to him that passed away? Sucks to be him, then, I guess…

    My educational background is in Anthropology so I tend to take popular culture meanings very seriously. I get that an individual may have very different opinions and even definitions of miracles, but this does not change the popular culture views that surround us, and unless explicitly refuted and explained, are what people assume when one speaks. And I personally think this redefining of terms, this reclaiming of language that has very clear meanings for the vast majority of English speakers in the US, well, THAT gets very intellectual and locked in the head very quickly.

    (wow, my 6 year old just fell asleep on my legs and now I cannot move… I’d better end this and move him before the circulation in them completely cuts off).

  10. @anon 6:26 wow, sorry about that. I know at my Church I found very little intellectual smugness. People are well read and informed (that’s different than well educated although many are that too) and hold strong opinions on many things, but none of that is smug. The closest would be Social Justice of which I’m apart, and we take on a mission of Eductation. I’ve always thought that pretty secondary as it’s a well informed congregation to begin with, and instead we should not in our SJ mission the impact of SJ work upon ourselves. That impact on us outweighs any other good we do. I get no where with that notion. But that’s small stuff really.

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