I’ve received a steady stream of inquiries over the last few month about the availability of Bill Doherty’s 2007 Fahs Lecture at General Assembly, “Home Grown Religion,” so I was happy to find a printed copy of it when I opened up the most recent packet of materials from LREDA (the Liberal Religious Educators Association). It’s a fantastic lecture, and it may well hold the key to the future of faith development in Unitarian Universalism, and perhaps even to the future of our faith itself. Here are some of my favorite parts of “Home Grown Religion.”
Religion is caught more than taught, and it’s caught most fully in the family. Church programming can supplement but not replace the home. Most parents and religious professionals agree would agree, but we know more about running organized programs in church buildings than we know about supporting faith formation in the home.
It’s a fantasy that getting out of our children’s way or teaching them a little about all religious traditions will release them to find their own path. The reality is that we hand our children over to the gravitational pulls of a me-first mainstream consumer culture that does not satisfy their spiritual needs or help them flourish—and that sometimes leads them to turn to a more authoritarian religious community.
My point is that because our children feel strong pulls from the culture of self-absorption and the culture of authority, our ambivalence about exerting our own gravitational pull towards Unitarian Universalism leaves them religiously abandoned. We either raise our children ourselves or others will raise them for us. If we want our children to grow up spiritually alive, free, and engaged with the world, we have to offer them citizenship papers in our Unitarian Universalist tradition.
The central venue for faith development is the home linked to an intentional UU community. The key active ingredient that makes this work is not what we spend most of our time on: Sunday school classes, worship services, and youth activities. Instead, the key active ingredient is the spiritual development of parents and other adults, and their grounding in both a local church community and the Unitarian Universalist tradition.