Seminary Program

This is where we post the essays from many of our Universal Life Church Seminary students. When students finish a ULC course, they write a comprehensive essay about their experiences with the course, what they learned, didn't learn, were inspired by, etc. Here are their essays.

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Friday, September 24, 2010

Comparative Religion

By Rev. Linda Francis
Comparative Religion

Being special or the chosen group may elate the ego's of the "select" but it is a direct path to pain, suffering and war for both the select and those not chosen as special. By the time I was six years old I knew I was not the chosen child. My younger brother was the chosen one. A boy was wanted so much that I was actually was given the name of Keith at my birth because a girls name was not even contemplated since there had been ministers in our family for 7 generations until my grandfather had all girls and thus, broke the chain of events. (Females at that time were not permitted to be ministers) . Mother was sure that if she could give her father a boy she would be in good graces with both her father and God.

I grew up feeling that even God was not blamed all that much for my sex, but it was, as if, I personally chose to come and bring her this curse. Fortunately, Dad did add the name Linda or I would have been like the guy Johnny Cash sang about in his song a Boy Named Sue. In the song, the boy grows up strong because his father actually gave him this name for because he had to learn to fight for himself with a girls name, as he was teased and tormented all this life. In many ways the same thing happened to me in a different direction. I painfully understood the bible story of Hanna, Sarah's maid, and how she and her son were sent into the desert when Sarah had a child of her own, and thus the Muslim and Jewish Religions devolved each believing they and they only knew the right path to God and the two still fight over 2000 plus years later When mother talked about the Jews being Gods "chosen people" even at 10 or younger my heart felt for the Muslim faith and as I grew older I knew without a doubt why these two have always been at odds. 

Even as a child I knew this was not the way the God I talked to daily, in my little walks in the woods or at play, was not the same God who would favor one over the other that this was a man made idea created to serve his own self at the expense of others. I too, was taught that perhaps Baptist were the only ones making it heaven. Catholics for sure were not and maybe not Presbyterians, and the Methodist might or might not. Hindus, Buddhist, Muslims and even Jews (unless they accepted Jesus) , etc., were of the Devil and you should not even speak to people of these faiths. Perhaps it was that boys name and knowing I was not the chosen child but I developed a drive early on, even as a teen, to study all faiths and learn all that I could about them. Growing up in the "Bible Belt" of the South I had to do this in secret and I have spent nearly 50 years doing just that, although in the last few years I am teaching and lecturing about the common ground of most faiths and finding and honoring them rather than choosing a path to war and destruction for ever, among families, communities and nations.

Through out the years I have attended churches of many faiths to get to know them first hand. I belong to an Interfaith Organization to promote understanding among major faiths.

Needless to say, I have ready many books, and taken many classes on the religions of the world. Rev. Kythera Ann passion for research is most in-depth and the research skills I see here are to be most admired and I have to admit her passion for understanding all religious faiths goes even beyond my own.
Perhaps, due to a major surgery and the long recovery of many months and the constant pain I am in I was not always able to read the very long lessons and keep my mind on the subject. Then again I am ADDH and perhaps that too, accounts for part of it. Still, I wonder about those who do not have this passion for knowing about all faiths. Did they find there was so much new information given in lesson after lesson, subject after subject, with so many new words and ideas that it was too over-stimulating for the brain to follow. I would often finish reading a lesson and feel I recalled almost nothing, with the exception of the last lesson, which I knew a little about already and thus she added a little more and I was able to retain it.

If more classes were offered by this instructor I would no doubt look at other things and see if they might be subjects that interest me more. She is brilliant without a doubt but at my retirement age, and six degrees from many universities already I am looking for classes that lift me so much that when they are over that I am hungry for more. This one often stressed me in that I read the lesson and could remember so little afterward. However, I will admit I have always did better in classes that presented ideas to ponder rather than a list of facts after facts to memorize, for I am more creative than one prone to left brain activities.

Now from a positive side, I am leaning more and more to the idea that each contact that comes into our lives comes with a purpose for the soul's growth. In Rev. Kythera Ann’s suggested books to read was listed the Tao Te Ching. Having an art degree and creative writing one, I found a beautiful copy of this book that I purchased for the illustrations and because it was on the list of books to read. I begin to read and loved what I was reading but some parts were not clear to me in meaning so I purchased more translations and more and more and this is the book I cannot lay down. It has changed my whole life. The latest was Dr. Wayne Dyer's Change your Thoughts and Change Your Life and it has an essay on each of the 81 verses of the Tao. I have been reading daily these verses over and over and applying them to my life as well, and wow, the joy I am finding is like the sun coming forth each morning … and who do I have to thank, Rev. Kythera Ann, for suggesting it on her reading list?

Now, if Rev. Kythera Ann offered a class in the Tao Te Ching, yes I would sign up, just to see her passion for this book and if it actually matched those in the last class, for the Tao has me hungry for more, , as it is truly changing the quality of my life, making the "golden years" of retirement really golden when one applies the messages that Lao Tze writes about. The astonishing thing is that many of the messages parallel with those from Jesus or the Buddha.

I think I might enjoy Part II more as I have already had several studies in the major world religions and I am sure the author's in-depth research will without a doubt add more to my knowledge.


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