I grew up in a metropolitan area of a million, give or take a few hundred thousand. That was a long time ago, and everything has grown. My kids on the other hand, have grown up primarily in towns of less than sixty thousand people. While this has made for easy commute times to school, stores, job, and the post office, and a freedom to not obsess over door-locking, it has brought challenges for me as a single parent, in finding liberal religious communities that have the critical mass to help support my kids’ spiritual growth.
What lesson is there for kids these days, to learn from communities? They have more freedom to talk to friends with cell phones, instant messaging, and social networking now with the advance of technology. So, technology takes a lot of flack for the demise of the good ole days. But, I wonder if the religious communities have failed? Both liberal, conservative, and in between. Has the old guard been so careful to avoid risk and new things, different people, that it has shut out youths and their parents from participation in its communal life? Has it stopped holding kids in the “arms of love?” Has it judged and shunned single parents, non-traditional parents and families, and blinded itself to who we are and what we can offer the community?
Last week an old Christian song surfaced in my mind. Its words and melody brought me reassurance and solace when I was in my twenties. I no longer believe in the deity of its protagonist, but I miss the comfort and assurance that the song brought to my solitary being. “Be not afraid. I go before you always. Come, follow me, and I will give you rest.”
I heard a history yesterday of a Czech preacher who was gassed in the Holocaust (Norbert Capek). He had wavered through at least two religious traditions in his time, including Baptist and Unitarian, and suffered counseling and admonishment from both. Still, he persevered, and even at the end, in one of the worst imaginable circumstances, he found meaning in his life.
I still don’t know. Does this kind of “faith” and assurance come from our communities, harsh and misguided as they are, or from some kind of light of love within the individual? Or is it simply from knowing the love of a parent or adult, constant in one’s childhood, affirming one’s very being, so that the body never forgets?
If you know the answer(s), please share. Until then.