Doing Things the Religion Way


I keep asking myself what at first glance appears to be a simple question: How do we do something in a religious way?

The answer isn’t so easy as it at first appears. “Religious” is, I think, in the eye of the beholder. Nurture not nature.

Your religious is my boring. And visa versa.

For example, I grew up Pentecostal. In the churches I attended, services were raucous and loud. There were electric guitars, electronic keyboards, drums, tambourines, much singing, and lots of shouting. There were lots of tears, both of regret and joy. There was dancing and laughter. This held true for regular Sunday mornings, Sunday evenings, and Wednesday night services. It also went for funerals, since in that case we were celebrating the ascension of a person to heaven.

There were no candles to light; no crosses . . . those sorts of things were “Popish.” (And we all knew that the Pope was Antichrist.) The song books were battered paperbacks — all songs, no rituals.

The only object we considered “holy” in the more traditional sense was the bible. Everybody brought one. We were perhaps prideful at how worn and torn our own was, from all the reading. The bible was a talisman.

As a consequence of my upbringing, the slow and stately moves of more traditional Christianity appears to me as stilted and fake. Wearing a robe? How is a preacher going to get down and preach it with a robe on? A preacher in the spirit takes off a jacket and opens a collar button. “Don’tcha just feel the Spirit movin’ here?”

A favorite Pentecostal comment about more formal religious observance is, “When’re they gonna wheel the coffin in?”

This is a question I’ve asked myself on a number of occasions. And still do, even though I’m a Unitarian Universalist now.

So, “religious” appears to be culture-specific, and it varies even within a single religious tradition. Slow and easy. Fast and furious. It’s nurture, not nature.

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