I grew up in an interfaith world. My two closest friends in elementary school were Jewish and Catholic; because I was raised Unitarian Universalist, I grew up learning about different traditions and beliefs in not just our city, but within our own congregation. Today, I am rooted in my Christian faith, and my closest friends include members of the Muslim, Jewish, Buddhist, and atheist communities. In fact, I am close to more people outside of my tradition than in it.
I am so grateful for these friendships, because I know that they have enriched my life and made me a more thoughtful and compassionate person. But it’s important to remember that on a global scale, the experience that my friends and I have had is not only unusual, but very, very new. Above all, it’s something worth fighting for.
Happy New Year! I hope your holiday season was lovely. It’s been a little while since I posted – I took a little break from blogging during the holidays so I could spend time with family and work on upcoming projects. Now that the holidays are over, I’d like to take a look back on the past year and what I’ve learned.
I’m not going to kid around – 2015 was hard. My final months in Oxford were some of the most challenging; I struggled at an internship and then immediately flung myself into full-time summer work; and when the new school year started, I worked myself to a breaking point. It felt like only the latest in a list of recent failures. I came home in the early days of October and finally started to heal. It had been one of the hardest times of my life. But then, from the ashes of my darkest months, rose something new.
I don’t really do Halloween. And, as a permanent resident of the United States whose whole family hails from across the ocean, I don’t really celebrate Thanksgiving, either. Which means that, for me, Christmas starts in October.
Yes, I’m one of those people. For me, Christmas isn’t just a holiday, but a season. I start brainstorming gifts when the leaves begin to turn. I sing carols as soon as the air starts to sting. I’m currently reading three books about Christmas, and yes, it’s still November. I love Advent, and Christmas sermons, and Christmas Eve services. Let’s put it this way: I love Christmas.
So it is with all the festive and holiday sweater-clad love in my heart that I say to you: there is no war on Christmas.
Rachel Held Evans and I have had vastly different faith journeys. She was raised an evangelical in the American south, the daughter of a Bible professor. I was brought up Unitarian near fast-talking New York, the child of an ex-Catholic feminist. As she struggled with the culture and creed of her religion, I struggled with the lack in mine. And so it is a testament to both her writing ability and her way of getting to the heart of the matter that, in the pages of her latest book, Searching for Sunday: Loving, Leaving, and Finding the Church, I often found myself saying, “Yes. Me, too.”
I received a card in the mail a few days ago, from my good friend back at college. We’ve known each other since our first year, when we agonized over Hebrew homework together; she has been with me in my process of spiritual growth ever since. Along with two beautiful handmade gifts, she wrote of my upcoming confirmation, “I know… that this isn’t just a culmination, but a beginning.”