One of the most important considerations in developing a theology is the context in which we search for greater meaning. Where we are — in terms of age, ethnicity, class and location — has everything to do with how we search for and find greater meaning.
For most of us, our context is of privileged, mostly white Americans living in a complex time of shifting political and cultural values. Many of us are older, some younger. We come with a vast range of histories. Some of us have known incredible hardship, others not. What we are comfortable with informs much of what we believe.
I have seen this contrast most vividly in worship. For the most part our congregation is comfortable with a vaguely naturalist understanding of the Divine, rooted in Nature and our care for humanity. Most of us believe humanity to be good but capable of doing terrible deeds. Many of us like classical music and hymnody, we generally eschew clapping unless it is in time with the music, and we don’t like to hear politics mentioned in the service. Contrast that with what others of us consider as worship: wherein clapping is a sign of joy and acceptance, music is always meant to be sung, and bodies move freely as part of worship. One younger person told me that when I asked us not to mention politics at the candle boat she felt left out, since politics — as a struggle for acceptance and equal rights — is very spiritual for her.
As we come to grips with our shared theological identity we would do well to name the contexts we live in; most notably the context of white privilege, which does not see anything wrong with imagining a theological construct that mirrors the status quo. One of the reasons Building Your Own Theology is so successful is that it begins with where you are and where you came from.
My questions for you this week are these: Why do you believe what you do about that which gives you ultimate meaning? Are you rejecting the Gods of your past or rejecting religions that use God for their own political purposes? What about who you are and where you came from informs what you believe in? I am a religious naturalist because I have experienced something much greater than myself or even this known reality, but I choose to anchor that experience in what I see mirrored in the natural world, having grown up in New England and having traveled to places of amazing natural beauty.
How about you? Drop me a reply. And join us this Sunday as Kim Warman and I unpack the Spirit within the beauty of the Earth.
Be amazed, Rev. John