Saturday, November 30, 2013

Midway Between Major Religions – Unitarian Universalism Works For Interfaith Families

As I've stated on this blog before, my family is an Interfaith one. My husband is Jewish, I am a former Catholic. We have chosen to raise our children Unitarian Universalist, or as my husband calls it, “the I'm okay, you're okay religion.” I think our minister would agree with that.

Our church's mission statement includes the idea that we “explore religious and cultural traditions so that we may honor our differences and our common ground.” As an interfaith family, we do that. My kids are well-versed in both Jewish and Christian principles and are comfortable being both. In 6th grade religious ed, my son spent the bulk of the year visiting various houses of worship to learn, straight from the congregants themselves, what the different religions believed. Family members were encouraged to attend and we went everywhere! From many different denominations of Judaism and Christianity to a Buddhist temple, our group traveled and were welcomed warmly by representatives of the different belief systems. It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience and it was amazing!

My husband feels comfortable in the church since the view of God is a personal one and that's respected at UU. No one there tells you what to believe – you need to discover it for yourself. There is no right or wrong, no pressure to believe one thing or another. Words of wisdom may come from The Old Testament, New Testament, Torah, poetry, songs, or a multitude of other sources. We celebrate Chanukah, Christmas, Kwanza, Samhain, etc., understanding that the body of our congregation comes from a plethora of belief systems.

I love UU because it recognizes that beliefs are fluid – what you feel certain of today may not resonate with you as you age. It treats you as an intelligent person who is capable of deciding what feels right. Doctrines are not passed down, rather, they evolve as we evolve. As far as my kids go, they're going to decide what they believe on their own, because even those individuals who are exposed to the strictest dogma must come to terms with their own principles. UU gives my children the tools and the room to decide. It points toward different traditions and says, “Go forth and learn. If you decide to come back, we'll be here.” There's no guilt involved; there is, however, the idea that you are accountable for your own actions. That's just responsible living.

Yes, my husband still goes to Temple on the Jewish High Holy Days; it's his tradition which he proudly upholds. My son, by his own choice, attends those services with his dad. He chooses to acknowledge that he is part Jewish, however, it has been his choice alone not pursue it further.

I find it fascinating that my kids have decided that they believe in an afterlife. Their images of Heaven are surprisingly strong and vivid, as I learned when two elderly family members died. My son said he's confident he'll see Grandpa again. His faith helped him through the grieving process. My daughter believes in reincarnation; I cannot say whether she's correct or not, but it's certainly her right to believe.
Unitarian Universalism blessedly affirms that.

This week we're celebrating Chanukah and lighting the menorah. In a few weeks, we'll attend Christmas Eve service. We are an interfaith family. For us, it's not an either-or. It's all inclusive.

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