Growing up, if I pressed them about their personal religious beliefs, they usually used the word "agnostic" as "humanist" hadn't yet gained its current popularity. But they were Unitarians, dedicated to freedom of belief, and so they always emphasized that it was up to me to determine by own beliefs.
But guess what? I grew up and my beliefs didn't match up with theirs.
I did my religious experimentation ... UCC church camp with a friend in junior high, Christian Student Union in high school, visiting whatever church my current boyfriend went to -- Catholic, Baptist, Jewish, Pentecostal.
I remember distinctly being 20, standing in the kitchen at home on Christmas break, and casually telling my older sister and mother that I believed in the Virgin Birth.
I'm glad they weren't holding anything breakable, as they surely would have dropped teacups, goblets, vases. What? they asked. Didn't I know that "virgin birth" was found in so many religions, it wasn't even original, and didn't I understand metaphor and and and and ...
Several years later, I discovered Wicca. It hit home at the time. I was so excited. I understood now my Baptist friends and their fervor, their feeling of being "born again." Mine wasn't being born again in Christ, but in a Goddess religion that reflected so many of the deep feelings inside me. Pantheist and panentheist thought sparkled in me -- so many ideas, so many concepts!
I attempted to share some of this with my mother. In the same way that some people just have no interest in football or scrapbooking, my mother really has no interest in theology. She looked at me blankly, having no idea why anyone would want to spend so much time reading and thinking about religion. Now social action ... that was something real!
All this is to explain why I have a foot in each camp of the theist/humanist wings of our religion. I get very excited about the UU ministers who are getting comfortable with the "language of reverence." I hope, as Rev. Christine says in her recent Imagineering Faith sermon, all our churches can be places "where its safe to speak about my tender, precious spiritual life."
I am also tenderly protective of those whose feelings are reflected in a recent question posed to the UU presidential candidates:
...many of the secular humanists of previous generations, despite the acceptance of diversity that we say we believe in, are feeling bereft – bereft of a sanctuary from the world of deity (Christian or otherwise). The UU church was the one place in many UU’s lives where those who lived to a different drummer, theologically speaking, could live without the expectation that they subscribe to a divine being.Many theist new UU's don't have that same sentimental tenderness. They have come from Christian or unchurched backgrounds, and they don't understand that these previous generations have been here for decades. Generations who have seen their fellowships where God was never uttered, where you went to a program not a worship service, be infiltrated with people who beat drums or light candles, who not only have a moment for reflection, they meditate or ye Gods! pray.
Teach your parents well, teach your children well.
Of course, there are those who have always been deists, just as there are brand spankin' new agnostics coming to our congregations.
But what I've been seeing lately is a generational shift, from older, humanist UUs to younger, theist UUs.
My father has said before, of raising children, that you raise them to think for themselves and the first thing they do, they think the wrong thing.
(As a mother of a 13 year old, I have my moments of agreement.)
Balance, balance. Balance to not recoil when someone says, "I love God." Balance to not feel defensive when a theological scholar presents a program that challenges what you believe.
Like the Virgin Birth.