Interfaith Begins at Home

 My two children have been raised Unitarian Universalist (UU). They both love and live their faith. They both also get frustrated at times. Over the years, we have had numerous conversations about why they are “the only kids they know who are UU.” This despite the one hundred youth in our lifespan religious education program. But I get it. They are in the minority.

Another common refrain has been how to explain to someone what being a UU means. My 20 year old daughter has gotten this down fairly well. She paraphrases our principles and then sums them up to say; “UU’s believe that there are many paths to truth and that each person has a right to discern their pathway to truth.” Most kids get that and respond by saying something along the lines of “cool.”

My 15 year old son takes a different tactic. His response goes something like, “We are kind of like Christians, and kind of like everything else too.” He says that most of his teenage friends look at him blankly and then continue on with whatever they were doing. It is fascinating to me that my son feels the need to connect with UU’s historical roots in Christianity. Is this because that is familiar and an answer that others understand? Or is it an innate connection that he has to his own family’s historical roots?

Over the years my kids have visited mosques, Black churches, Jewish synagogues and Hindu temples. This as part of their religious education. As a family we engage in interfaith activities and learn about other faiths. We have friends who are Atheist, Bahai’i, Buddhist, various Christian denominations, Hindu, Jewish, Religious Humanist, spiritual but not religious and Unitarian Universalist.

Over the last few years, my son has had to adjust to his mom becoming a minister. He’s not quite sure how he feels about this. Over the course of a week he will vacillate between being slightly irritated, confused, nonplussed, proud and supportive. We have discussed WHY I want to be a minister, if I will EARN enough money for him to go to college, WHAT a minister does, and whether there aren’t already ENOUGH ministers in the world. To put this in perspective, he is happiest when playing on a soccer field or running sprints around the track with his (religiously and ethnically diverse) buddies. I am happiest when sitting on my meditation cushion or swimming alone when the town pool is at its quietest.

The more challenging conversations center around the impact that religion has had in our history, and today. “Violence, Mom! That’s what religion has done. People kill people in the name of religion. Why, Mom. How is that good?” I’ve learned to listen more than respond, to sit with him in his fury and confusion.  Listening without becoming defensive, not letting on that I want more than anything in the world for him to be happy, and how for me that includes being an active part of a faith community. The days that I could put those desires into words are gone. I can only hope that his earlier years, his experiences, and our family life has given him a foundation from which he can explore and to which he can return. My guess is that will happen many, many times.

The most touching thing happened the other day. It was my birthday (okay, really in January), and my son had ordered me a (belated) gift. When the Amazon box arrived, I set it aside until he came home from school. “Oh cool,” he said as he sauntered into the kitchen. “Here Mom. Happy Birthday.” Sheepish smile. I open the box to “The History Of God, the 4,000 year quest of Judaism, Christianity and Islam.”

“Thank you!” I gushed as I went over to hug him. “What, Mom? I mean, that’s who we are, right?” Implicit in those words were the lens of interfaith. An understanding that God is much too big a concept for any one perspective. A desire to understand multiple points of view. I mean, if we are going to study this thing called religion, how could it be otherwise?

Yes, my boy, that’s who we are.

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4 thoughts on “Interfaith Begins at Home

  1. Rebecca, this article really made me smile. What a beautiful gift. In your relationship with your son, you really model what interfaith dialogue and encounters should entail: listening more than responding, avoiding becoming defensive, and sitting with him to learn more. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Thanks, Lauren.
      Yes. Listening is very powerful. It is also very challenging to have a reasonable conversation when their are heightened emotions.
      In this case, I also think that as a 15 year old, my son will learn best from his own experiences and relationships than from what I say. He has friends from many religions. In fact, he shared with me today what his Christian friend told him about the meaning of Good Friday.

  2. Rebecca,
    Thank you for sharing a window into an interfaith home. As a person who came from a single religious background, I appreciate the perspective a great deal. Your instruction “to listen more than respond, to sit with him in his fury and confusion” is quite helpful and valuable. I often find people want more just to know that they are being heard. That hearing their perspective and lived experience is worth the time spent listening. Let’s listen to one another more often and more intently.

    1. Hi Ellie,
      Thank you! It is not always easy to “just” listen. Often I feel like if I was being a “good” mother, I would have the exact and enlightened response. Is there such a thing? 🙂

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