Thursday, May 19, 2016

Thealogy Thursday:Intro

For months now, I've been thinking about doing an occasional spotlight on theology and/or thealogy. Since this isn't a daily or even weekly blog, I'm not going to promise to use this topic every week. But occasionally I'll come back to these ideas.

Important disclaimer: My background is as a casual layperson. Academically, I have a Minor in Religious Studies, and spent 12 years in primary and secondary Catholic Schools. My M.A. in Humanities included some more philosophy, but I did not fit the Sociology course on Religion into my program.

I do a lot of independent reading, and have long been involved in Adult Religious Education discussion groups, but my opinions should be considered just that: opinion. I do not speak Greek, Aramaic, Coptic, Syriac, etc. I've recited or sung Church Latin quite a bit, and my minor in Spanish helps me with understanding it, but it wouldn't be enough to complete Seminary.

As I have discussed in various places on this blog, my faith background has five major roots:

  • Roman Catholic
    • My parents were Catholic Charismatics, who believed that the Holy Spirit is still active, bringing spiritual gifts like speaking in tongues, prophecy, and healing back into this world.
    • My childhood church was influenced by the Columban Fathers, and I spent two years at a Mercy High School. Both have given me some small understanding of Liberation Theology.
    • I didn't leave the Church willy-nilly. I did a lot of reading up on the early Christianities, as well as the history of the Ancient World, before I felt comfortable letting go.
    • In some respects, moving away from the Church was, for me, not so much a loss of faith but a deepening of it. God is too big to fit in one box.
  • Mysticism
    • My early search for the Force from Star Wars led me to discover a little bit of Taoism (in translation), the Chan / Son / Zen Buddhist traditions, Anthony de Mello, Sufism, Thich Nhat Hanh, Centering Prayer, a little about Quaker traditions, etc.
    • That recognition and exploration of mystical traditions throughout the World Religions, is a major influence in my continuing concern for interfaith education and bridgebuilding.
    • I did a lot of reading and practice as a child. Some aspects of these practices are incorporated into my near-daily life: Meditation. Seeing the spirituality in basic, repetitive tasks like sweeping the floor or washing the dishes, breathing. Other aspects... I know enough now, to understand that I'm in the wrong phase of life to pursue this heavily. Right now, my present moment practice is in being *present* for my family.
  • Unitarian Universalist
    • My combination of interfaith mysticism and Religious Studies background made this a natural fit for me, some of the time. I spent about 14 years with UU congregations, and joined two of them.
    • UUs share concern for social justice with many areas of the Roman Catholic teachings. Just War Theory, for one. But not reproductive justice.
    • Many of my UU trainings included components of Anti-Racism / Anti-Oppression training, in accordance with denomination resolutions.
  • the modern Pagan movement
    • The feminist and social justice interpretations of Starhawk, specifically in the later books "Dreaming the Dark" and "Truth or Dare" were a revelation when I was an undergraduate.
      • Between an undergraduate history course on The Ancient World and the later graduate core course (Texts & Images I: The Ancient World), I know that "Truth or Dare" is suspect as a text on *history*.
      • As books about power, leadership, human relationships, small groups, and that Spider and the Starfish interplay between hierarchy and leaderless groups, Starhawk's works are excellent.
    • My personal training has been in Wiccan ritual forms, and that's what I have tended to practice.
    • I have also been involved with UU Pagan groups, although not specifically as a member of CUUPs.
    • This, also, fuels my concern for interfaith relations. 
  • United Church of Christ
    • This is the denomination my husband was raised in, and where we are now.
    • The UUs sometimes joke that UCC means "Unitarians Considering Christ," as the denominations share common roots. My approach to it continues to be more of a "Universalist Considering Christ."
    • Through participation in discussion groups, I've done some re-visiting and perhaps re-learning of what I has understood about the historical Jesus and the development of early Christian theology.
    • This, also, continues my concern for social justice because of faith. 

Could all of this, eventually, circle my faith back to Roman Catholicism?  I don't know. Sometimes I'm open to the idea. Other times, the Pontiff or some theologian will spout off concepts so personally repugnant that I don't think it'll ever happen. Faith is a journey, and I don't know where mine will lead next.

Dr. Amy Jill Levine spoke here in Huntsville several weeks ago. One of the things she pointed out, was how sometimes just changing one word in Christian sermons can make a big difference in avoiding anti-Semitism.  I have also seen anti-Catholic rhetoric occasionally in UU or Pagan teachings... Also, there are still many Christian denominations for whom "Pagan" or "Heathen" continue to be insults. As much as I enjoy The Christian Left's blogs and Facebook posts, they are not immune to these issues. I hope to discuss some of these language issues in future posts.

I will probably discuss books I have read or am reading in this space. Authors include: Anthony de Mello, Amy Jill Levine, Elaine Paigels, Bart Ehrmann, Joseph Campbell, and more.

If you are looking for traditional, orthodox ideas, these Thealogical Thursday posts will not be for you. They should be properly labeled in the subject line, so that you can skip them.