Jamie Goodwin at Trivium is always a good read, but his recent post Speaking In Tongues resonated with me even more than usual.
Like Jamie, I was raised in a fundamental tradition- Apostolic in his case, Baptist in mine. After trying a pose of atheism- which my soul could no more accept than fundamentalism- I ended up as a NeoPagan and a UU. And like Jamie, I harbor no hurts or ill will toward the faith of my childhood, and treasure the time spent there.
Jamie and I are in the minority in that position- the vast majority of UUs I have met who are former Christians are contemptous of their Christian upbringing. They seem to believe that they have grown above and beyond those forms of Christianity, that those beliefs were lower rungs on the ladder to higher understanding. Some will state openly and some will only imply what most clearly believe- that the old fashioned John 3:16 Christianity is for the intellectually or emotionally impaired. Not me. I have no illusions that I could fence with the likes of C.S. Lewis or W. F. Buckley. My path is not better than theirs, I have not grown beyond them, I have merely grown away from them. I am on a different path because I have different emotional and spiritual needs, not because I am more intelligent than they.
Because we do not despise where we came from, Jamie and I are both capable of seeing that in some ways, modern UU has thrown the baby out with the bathwater. Our horror of ritual, for one thing. UUs are almost unique in shunning ritual; nearly all other religions recognize that ritual is a unifying factor, that it is a trigger for joy and comraderie. The ritual that Jamie misses is speaking in tongues- one of the very rituals most ridiculed by those who believe they are above such trailer-trash holy-roller stuff. Of course, those people have no theological arguments for their attitudes, merely cultural prejudice; they equate dour New England reserve with intellectual advancement, and “making a joyful noise” with more primitive cultures worthy of a “National Geographic” article.
They are missing what makes “being taken by the spirit” one of the oldest and most universal of religious rituals. Whether it is a VooDoo congregate channelling a Loa, or a Wiccan “drawing down the Moon”, or a Pentacostal “speaking in tongues”. or a Baptist “making a joyful noise”, they are letting go, “dancing as if no one were watching, singing as if no one were listening”. It is a catharsis, and more- it is your concious connecting with your subconcious, leaving you more whole and healthy than you were before. It is a revelatory experience; you cannot hide internal conflicts from yourself during such an experience.
But alas, it is an experience the average UU will never know. Or if they do, if they find a safe place in which they can truly let go, to bring forth what is within and share, it will not be within the confines of a UU service.