It seems that parenting usually throws things at me before I feel my daughter should have to deal with them. Last year it was outright racism. This year, a little friend of hers started preaching fire and brimstone. It worried my six-year-old, because she had never heard of the concept of hell before.
We are Unitarian-Universalist. The Unitarian Church merged with the Universalist church back in the 60s, and their philosophies and teachings are very similar. Our combined denominations claim a lot of very important people: John Adams, Florence Nightingale, Louisa May Alcott, Emerson, Thoreau, Clara Barton, Charles Darwin, Joseph Priestly, Susan B. Anthony, Alexander Graham Bell, and many more.
I generally refer to myself as a Unitarian, because it is easier to say than Unitarian-Universalist. But I take both parts of my chosen faith in equal doses. The Unitarian part means that I recognize that all divinity are part of the same. The Universalist part means we’re all on the same journey, although walking separate paths.
As Meg Barnhouse, one of our living minister/writers puts this last part, “we’re the no hell church.”
Yep, No Hell.
But how do you explain that to a six year old?
I have to confess that my first attempt was an utter failure, going completely over my daughter’s head. After all, how do you explain something you don’t believe in, without condemning those who do?
Talking it over with a friend of mine, whose church believes that heaven and hell are states of spirit, didn’t give me any better angle to approach it.
Luckily, my church has an awesome Director of Religious Education, who happens to be a parent as well. His answers to my question was to explain it in terms of internal versus external rewards and punishments.
I’m still not sure that my daughter understands, but we will have the conversation again in a few years.
It’s a hard line to walk, instilling our beliefs without condemning those of others. But then, who ever said that parenting was easy?