On Being Both And

I’ve been spending a lot of time lately thinking about my own theology. Perhaps it’s because I preached about this to the Ministerial Fellowship Committee (MFC) of the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA). Perhaps it’s because the MFC told me they’d like me to consider my UU identity during my preliminary fellowship. OK, I can do that. Every time I do that I keep coming back to the understanding that I’m definitely a UU. But here’s what I’ve come to understand in the last month or so. I’m both fully Jewish and fully Unitarian Universalist. And my Unitarian Universalism is very Christian.

My Judaism heavily informs my Christianity, but it’s not a two-way street. I’m not a messianic Jew. I’m not a Christian Jew. My Judaism is separate from my Unitarian Universalism. When I’m in synagogue, when I’m celebrating Jewish holidays and rites, I’m completely immersed in that. I’m completely Jewish in that time and space. And yet. And yet it hasn’t been enough for me in some ways. Once I discovered the New Testament, I had to explore that as well.

I’m not the first person to be a both/and. I remember reading about the Episcopal priest, Ann Holmes, who was defrocked because she was both Muslim and Episcopalian.  It wasn’t the newer faith, Islam, that was threatened by this, but the older faith, Christianity, that felt she couldn’t be both.

I also find that the people who have the most difficulty with my religious path are those in the older faith — Jews. This isn’t a condemnation, just an observation. I can understand it. For centuries, Jews have experienced Christianity and Christians as a religion that has attempted to supersede the faith. I think my experience might be seen as a threat. But in the end, it is my experience.

So I continue to observe Jewish holidays and Christian holidays. I had a Passover Seder, and days later, experienced the deep darkness of Good Friday followed by the joy of Easter. For me, Passover wasn’t a lead-in to Easter, except that it was. That is to say, the Seder was the Seder. It stood alone. It didn’t need to be the lead-in to Easter. But when it came to Easter, the Christian part of me was entirely informed by the Passover experience.

When we open the door for Elijah on Passover, it is Elijah that I’m expecting, not Jesus. When I sing “Elijahu Hanavi”, I am singing a longing for the prophet Elijah and all he represents. But then, just days later, when I sing “Jesus Christ is Risen Today” I am singing about what the resurrection represents to me. Does this make sense to you?

It doesn’t have to. That’s ok. That’s at the heart of Unitarian Universalism. I have found my spiritual path. I have been encouraged on it by my fellow travelers. It isn’t exactly the same path as anyone else, but I am still traveling with companions, and I am always traveling with God.

So I will continue to be moved and touched to my core when I kiss a Torah. And when I take communion. Both and. It’s who I am.

That’s all I’ve got. That’s my mite.


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