One Sunday this summer I had the opportunity to do something new that was very rewarding for me. I gave a sermon! I’ve included the text of it here. It’s a long read (I had 20 minutes to fill), but if turning cultural relativism into a religion is your cup of tea you might enjoy it. What a treat it was for me to deliver it.
If you’re anti-authoritarian but still nostalgic about church, if you’re interested in your spiritual well-being but can’t stand rules, if you don’t mind a little New Age hugging then check out your local UU. You’ll meet a lot of misfits, hippies, New Englanders, and people who for whatever reason had to walk away from other religions. As my friend Ayla, who grew up in the UU, describes it, “It’s a little bit of Christianity, a little bit of rock and roll.”
Chances are you’ll find other anthropologists, scientists, and professors too. For example my minister has a PhD in physics from Princeton. When I shared with him this story about how some Christian fundamentalists reject Set Theory he said, “Well then, they must object to Godel’s incompleteness theorem as well.” UU’s are a bunch of smartypants.
This sermon was part of a month long series on the theme of Harry Potter…
Harry Potter and Magical Thinking
I must admit I was a little baffled at first when I was invited to give a sermon on the theme of Harry Potter. Why me? Had I lost some kind of bet? I am a cultural anthropologist by training and if there’s one thing we anthropologists are good at it is not feeling uncomfortable in places where we don’t belong and muddling our way through things we have no business doing. “Just figure it out along the way,” is the anthropologist’s maxim.
Imagine that the inhabitants of Hogwarts are like some far-flung tribe and after an exhausting journey from Newport News to this hidden and out of the way place; after having successfully navigated a humiliating and Kafka-esque gauntlet through the Ministry of Magic’s bureaucracy of customs and inspections you, the anthropologist, have arrived in khakis and pith helmet to study this community you know nothing about. You are lonely, far from your friends and family, your bed is hard and the food here tastes funny. You’re a stranger to everyone and can’t seem to make it through a single day without embarrassing yourself by transgressing some to you as yet unknown code of conduct.