The final break from my religious past


Part 2-D of a multi installment series for LENT

2. Down the Road of Doubt – When did a crack in your faith first appear? Was it a moment of intellectual questioning or emotional disappointment?

Seminary – The final movement away from the Catholicism with which I grew up and the Christian Unitarian Universalism I now claim came through a series of experiences I lump together as “seminary,” although not of all this experience involved being an actual seminary student.

I think my seminary experience began during my last two years of college. During that time, following my depressive episode, I read two books about the rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Parting the Waters and  Bearing the Cross and then virtually all of King’s own writing beginning with the collection A Testament of Hope. My Christianity began to take shape around the call of the Gospel to free the oppressed and work for justice and peace. I began to see the teachings of Jesus as quite a demanding call and very unlike what many churches made of the religion they claimed was based on this teaching. I also devoured books by and about Mahatma Gandhi. I became very involved with Amnesty International and human rights work.

I went to actual seminary at Harvard Divinity School. I was still Catholic at the time and I was preparing to teach religion in Catholic schools, which I end up doing for 8+ years. My religious world exploded at HDS. During my M.Div. studies, I was surprised by how much I enjoyed biblical criticism and studying the bible. I was fascinated with the historical critical method and the world of the bible, especially the environment in which the Christian scriptures were composed. I also began to learn about Unitarian Universalism from a UU who was in my New Testament small group section.

Another surprise for me was the depth of the Catholic tradition. Although I disagreed with a lot of church teaching, I also loved the fact that Catholic teaching did not take a fundamentalist, literal view of the bible. I admired the social justice ethic based in a belief that human beings should not be treated as a means to end, such as mere cogs in a factory of capitalist production or dispensable troops in a war, but as ends in themselves. I equate this theological anthropology with the Unitarian Universalist principle about the dignity and worth of every person. I appreciated the concern for the poor and oppressed, especially as articulated in liberation theology. At the same time, it became increasingly clear that the church didn’t seem to follow its own teachings in the way it disregarded the equal humanity of women, queer people, and even lay people in general.

The final break from the Catholic Church came at the end of the 2002-2003 school year. The Catholic Church in Boston was speaking out loud and clear in support of state constitutional amendments banning same sex marriage and against the marriage equality movement gaining rapid momentum in order to fight for equality. The Boston Globe broke the story of the massive pedophilia and child sex abuse cover up in the Archdiocese early in 2002. The combination of these things along with learning more about Unitarian Universalism from our school librarian, a member of a UU church, caused me to leave my teaching job and the church and become a UU.

I feel my seminary education finally came to an end when I studied to be a spiritual director at Heart Paths DFW. I cemented my religious identity as a Unitarian Universalist and my spiritual orientation as Christian. I made what has been the last major shift in my faith, tying together a missional, church in the world, social justice faith to a mystical, contemplative faith.

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