574. Sermon and Rebuttal

Most Sunday mornings, I go to services at the local Unitarian Society. It’s not the way I’d choose to spend my time if I had lots of options. I’d rather just hang out with people; I’m not into organized religion. But lots of people are into it, and Sunday mornings can get to be lonely times with so many people gone. So for now, I spend my Sunday mornings at the Unitarian place.
One thing I don’t like about organized religion is the idea of a sermon. A sermon is not just a speech. Because of the way it’s presented, with lots of pomp and circumstance, a sermon can feel as if it’s supposed to be closer to Ultimate Truth than the average speech. And even though I like some of the sermons I hear, I don’t like the feeling that I’m supposed to be swallowing everything I hear.
Today I heard a sermon that really bothered me. The person who delivered it started by talking about the Salem witch trials, then talked about the Children’s Crusades. From there, he went on to talk about the importance of setting limits for children. He gave the impression that children who don’t have limits can be little monsters.
Arthur Miller wrote “The Crucible,” a play about the Salem witch trials, while Senator Joseph McCarthy was busy accusing people of being Communists. Miller was probably using the story of the Salem witch trials to make a statement about the irrationality of the Red Scare that was going on at the time. People should have been setting limits in Salem, as they should have been requiring McCarthy and other Red Scarers to behave reasonably. And McCarthy et al. were not children.
I got up to speak during the Unitarian service. The time I chose was not officially a time to rebut the sermon; it was a time to share personal thoughts and experiences. But Unitarian services are a little more open than some religious services, and I think it was okay that I spoke about the sermon.
What I said was that my take on the sermon was that it’s important to stop unreasonable behavior from happening. Unreasonable behavior, I said, doesn’t come only from children, and reasonable behavior doesn’t come only from adults. That’s all I said, even though I felt like elaborating. I didn’t want to give a sermon.
It is important to set limits for people. People should know how to relate to other people, and part of knowing that is knowing who has which limits. As we learn about ourselves, we learn what our limits are. I don’t always know what my limits are in time to let others know them. I’m getting better at it, but like the rest of you (I think), I sometimes think something won’t bother me and then later find out that it does. Children, who often have less expertise at this than adults, often have to have lots of limits set. But not ALL children and not ONLY children.

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