Unitarian Universalist Congregation
of Northern Chautauqua

companionship on life's sacred journey

The body is a sacred garment. It’s your first and last garment; it is what you enter life in and what you depart life with, and it should be treated with honor.
— Martha Graham

Message From Our Minister

From the Heart

Back before the turn of the century, humorist Erma Bombeck famously said “Guilt is the gift that keeps on giving.” We laugh, and yet many of us find ourselves living with more persistent guilt than we would like. More recently, David Brooks wrote thoughtfully about this in his New York Times column – “The Strange Persistence of Guilt.”

Mr. Brooks points out guilt and blame seem to be more powerful in our culture than ever before, even in the face of increasing secularization. Guilt, which some thought was a feeling induced by traditional religion, turns out to be in many ways even stronger as our culture grows more secular.

Brooks makes the further point that guilt seems to increase with our perception of our human power. If we have power, individually and collectively, to see the starving child in Sudan, then we should engage with the world to go and feed that child. And when we do not feed the child, we feel guilty.

I believe there is a liberal religious solution to this problem. The philosopher Baruch Spinoza believes, and I think correctly so, that the only way to truly get past a negative feeling is with a stronger feeling on the positive side. I suggest we each work to find what we are called to do – where our positive passion lies – and then go and follow this passion. As Joseph Campbell puts it, we can “follow our bliss.”

Our guilt can weaken and diminish to the extent we are focused on what we are truly called to do. I know this from my own life, and I can see it in the life of others. The guilt does not disappear completely, but it is more manageable and less disabling in our lives.

In May I will be preaching about this in two different sermons. Come join us to learn more about the wonders of the possibilities here.

May it ever be so.
Reverend George Buchanan