Today I was told I was wrong.
I have been attending a Universalist Unitarian church lately - delighted by the professed inclusion of a variety of spiritual practices. The structure of the celebrations follows the norm - entrance, light candle, words and music and non-denominational prayers/ meditations, douse candle. One service was lead wholly by various members of the congregation.
And the music. OH! the music has been a balm to my soul. Choral music. Contemporary music, orchestral and pop Congregation singing hymns, of course, and members playing Chopin, and choirs singing Billy Joel, and... and... and... So far every service has been different and every service, musically at least, has fed my soul.
Propelled on the love of the music, I joined their choir. Just this week.
I am glad that I did. That I have been carried on the wave of the music. Because today, I was told that I was wrong. That my practice - the Happiness Practice - basically everything I am - is wrong and NOT part of the inclusion that is the Unitarian Universalist tradition.
I am "enlightened enough" to understand that this could be my interpretation… but the words I would say her sermon paraphrased down into was "Individualistic focuses and practices are bad." We are, as humans, relationship beings. And so, our focus the core of the faith practice - even a liberal faith practice which has no set dogma or creed but is all about inclusion - should be on the society. "Ask not what your church can do for you…"
I am proud of myself. I was still able to enjoy the music.
And it is so tempting to rail against the injustice of this personal attack - though it wasn't. It wasn't personal at all. She didn't even know I was in the audience. Only a few people in the congregation even know I am a Happiness Practitioner. Heck, only a few people in the world know what a Happiness Practitioner is!
The first part of the service had readings which talked about the difficulty of being a liberal religion - because there is no One True Way. There is no set dogma, creed, or practice to say "DO THIS" in bright bold letters. So it in not, as was said, a faith path for the faint of heart.
And this sermon was the minister's way of giving her congregation a sense of purpose and a direction for their spiritual focus. "Ask what you can do for your church. For your community." It was her job!
And isn't my job to accept that? Not that I am wrong, not that I have to change in order to become an acceptable choir member. But to accept that the words she spoke are her truth. Her reality. Her Happiness hinges on this belief. This is her center.
And it does piss me off, that to be true to myself I have to accept her truth as valid, for her. It would feel so good, so righteous, to use all this hurt to argue with her, tell her how wrong she is, make her validate my point. MAKE her - and by extension the community she represents - accept me.
Well, that's not my job. That's not my truth. And in the end, it might feel triumphant - for having said my piece - but it wouldn't be fulfilling. It wouldn't be my PEACE. Because in the end, it would be against the true meaning of acceptance and inclusivity - which means basically she has the right to believe her reality of the world. She has the right to make the world a better place in her fashion. She didn't throw me out. She didn't even single me out. She didn't harm me in any way - though I was harmed by her words.
I, to be true to my faith and my practice and my Happiness, get to practice accepting her. And I get to make a choice.
Am I going to let her truth become my truth? Am I going to turn myself into her version of a Universalist Unitarian in order to feel I have permission to sing? No.
Am I going to slink into the church each time, hoping to be unnoticed so I can get what I need and scurry away? No.
Am I going to swagger in, daring someone to ask me if I am an individualist? No.
Am I going to starve myself of music in order to be out of her sphere of words? No.
Am I going to sit martyr like through her sermons and wait for the arrows of her truth to pierce the armor of mine? No.
I am responsible for my Happiness, for my joy, for my practice. And if we ever meet, she will think what she thinks about me. She will include me - the Unique and Equal individualist - or not as fits her truth. It has nothing to do with me.
And will I include her? Well. The Happiness Practice is diverse. And Inclusive. And we accept that everyone, EVERYONE has the right to their truth. And frankly, I don't know her. She could be a very nice person. But I won't be seeking out her company any time soon; I doubt she is my KIND of person. Because of this one truth she has spoken.
If I want to make the world a better place - if I want to make MY world a better place, I have to do it my way.
I hope you're having a great day!