This summer, I went back to church.
Spirituality and religion were big questions in the early days of Skinny Black Girl. I was 24, a not-baptized, but regular service-attending Christian, coming to grips with not desiring marriage or children. The submission thing? Not happening. Nor did I plan to stop fornicating. I didn’t just like sex. Sex was an art form. I never felt more womanly than when lost in giving and receiving pleasure. Praise and worship were one thing, but nothing moved me in the spirit like the mind-body union of sex. When friends asked “So, what? You’re never gonna get married and just keep sleeping with people?” it haunted me every Sunday as I refused to ask for deliverance from the flesh.
“We all have faults,” another friend said during one of my final showdowns, “but we try to change to be more like Jesus.”
“I don’t want to change to fit a religion,” I replied. “I need a spirituality that fits me.”
So I broke up with Jesus. An amicable “It’s not you, it’s me” deal.
For years, I was curious about Unitarian Universalism. An open, liberal religion emphasizing the exploration of ideas and a democratic process was right up my alley. Getting out of bed and going to a building to find God…wasn’t. I was “more spiritual than religious” anyway. God or It or The Creator or Life or whatever I called it that week was all around. I didn’t need to seek it out in a church.
I never found an easy-to-define spiritual practice. There was a 7 Spiritual Laws of Success phase. The Five Agreements phase. Concepts like karma, creativity, and gratitude. Astrology.* Eventually, I landed on agnosticism. Willing to occasionally entertain God, equally willing to consider its absence. I tried to adhere to a moral code, but it changed as I changed. I abhor establishing a thing only to change it so my “code” became gut-driven. I stopped worrying if I was “good” or “bad.” Right or wrong, I’d live and die by my choices and never whine about circumstances I created.
Then came the #ImNotWashedWorldTour. Trying new things. Pursuing interests. That’s how I ended up attending Unitarian Universal services this summer. There were three total: two at a large, historic chapel; one in a small, community center-like building. All services were very white and musically austere. Sermons favored rational exploration over spiritual rapture. There was a lot to like–their acceptance of all faiths, focus on right action instead of right belief, and the offering process (proceeds go to charities listed in the week’s program).** But I wasn’t sold on joining a community where no one looked like me. Or joining a community at all. In the end, those three informative visits were enough.
Occasionally, I stream a random UU service on a Sunday and send electronic offerings. I also subscribe to weekly UU sermons via podcast. I still identify as agnostic, but in listening, I’ve circled three practices: curiosity, empathy, and kindness.
Curiosity because as much as I like to think I know every fucking thing, I don’t. An emotionally guarded person can remain intellectually open to the world and the people in it. There’s always more to learn.
Empathy because humanity is fucking hard.
Kindness because it’s the least I can do.
[*] I’m still into astrology, but that’s more study than religious practice.
[**] And hour-long services. Get in, get the word, stay for coffee if you like, get out.