Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Candy Everybody Wants

When people come to our churches, having left behind fundamentalist Christianity, we often focus on the negatives they have left behind: judgment, discouragement for thinking for themselves, hellfire and brimstone.

But often, they're leaving behind beliefs that can be seen as theological gifts. Gifts isn't the right word, but neither is "candy." Not sure what the right word is.

My point, and I do have one ...

During the last year and a half, I've gotten to know some devout, fundamentalist Christians who were going through the experience of having a child with cancer. They praised God when things went well, and held on to faith when things went bad, repeating over and over that God can make miracles.

And for some of them, the miracles did not happen. And they lost their children.

I have seen so many who responded to that by holding on to the vision that their child was now with Jesus. That what is a lifetime to us, would only be one day to the child in Heaven, and then they would be reunited. That as they grieved, their child was in the most blissful place imaginable. And that Jesus was holding him on his lap.

I normally feel pretty snarky about religious "toys" -- plastic Jesus hanging from the rearview mirror. But I saw something in that line today that made me tear up. A family just lost their toddler to the same cancer that Little Warrior had. Before she got too ill, they took her to a photography studio. At this place, they apparently had some sort of Photoshop magic so that the final picture made it look like the child was sitting in Jesus' lap.

Don't you know that picture is such a comfort to them today?

While it is true that you can still have those beliefs and be a UU, I haven't met many folks that have it, or at least, not with the fervent faith that is encouraged in a fundamentalist church.

Most likely, if they have come to us, it is because they had to. Because they couldn't believe that way anymore. Because their personal theologies needed more room than they had there.

But along with leaving rigid dogma, they had to leave behind some things that could give them comfort.

We need to respect and honor that. It was a sacrifice, in exchange for the noble goal of being true to themselves.


Jimbo & Family said...

Even this staunchly non-theist UUer sobbed over that photo and not-so-secretly wished that I could make myself believe for the sake of that comfort. Great post, as always.

PeaceBang said...

The word you're looking for tmight be "consolation." I know you don't mean to be deragatory but naming that kind of faith "candy" does sound very disdainful, even though I know you don't mean it that way.

UUs have their own "candy." Like: "I am satisfied that my intellect can provide the answer to every Burning Question" or, "I'm here on Sunday morning with all the other Smart People, and am now better than all those Credulous Christians I used to worship with." These are contemporary UU consolations that come from their own fears and uncertainties. It's not as cheezy as a photo of your bsby in Jesus' lap, but it's just as nonsensical in its own way.

(Says the gal who would love a photo of any baby in Jesus' lap.)