I am a Jewish Unitarian Universalist minister sexologist – and that means in the coming weeks, my family will celebrate Chanukah, the Winter Solstice, and Christmas. We will light candles, decorate our home, sing songs, exchange presents, and, I hope, take the time to breathe and be grateful.
The mission of the Religious Institute on Sexual Morality, Justice, and Healing is to advocate for sexuality education, sexual health, and sexual justice in America's faith communities and society in general. We help congregations become sexually healthy faith communities and work with sexual and reproductive health organizations reach out to faith communities.
The stories of both Christmas and Chanukah resonate with our ministry to promote a progressive religious voice on sexuality issues. We speak out against injustice and for religious diversity. Chanukah is the first recorded battle for religious freedom and against efforts to have a minority religion assimilated into a larger whole, a struggle again religious fundamentalism that still goes on today. The miracle story of the oil that burned for a week instead of its expected one day is a legend of hope and grace.
We work with faith communities to understand the need for sexuality education for children, youth, and adults in the context of religious education. A plain text reading of the Gospel of Matthew begins with a frightened pregnant teenage woman and the young man who decides not to leave her. Joseph is told in a dream that the baby is to be named "Emmanuel," which the text tells us means "God is with us." The Gospel of Luke tells of their journey to find a safe place for the child to be born.
Sex. Abortion. Parenthood. Power.
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Our work to assure that every child is born healthy and wanted is reflected in these stories. In my denomination, children learn that just like the wise men visiting the baby Jesus, all new babies are to be welcomed. Emanuel, God is with us, is the promise of every child that is born, regardless of the circumstances of their birth. It is the understanding that it is in our relationships that we can experience the divine.
These miracle stories are our stories today, and the stories of those most marginalized and most vulnerable. The stories together remind us that in the darkest of winters, in the physical world or in the dark parts of our souls, even the tiniest light can with faith become brighter and stronger, until the whole world is filled with that light once again. As reproductive and sexual health advocates, they remind us, that every human life, no matter how humble his or her beginnings, can indeed bless the entire world.
May it be so.
Visit Rewire throughout December to read about the ways in which individuals, both clergy and lay people, connect their religion or spirituality to their commitment to reproductive rights. The other pieces in this series can be found here.