Rabbi Sandy Sasso [an expert on spirituality and parenting interviewed by Tippett] says, don’t let the people who ruined your tradition for you define what that tradition is about. Often many of us – even if we have grown up uprooted or have uprooted ourselves – we have a mother tongue, we have a homeland. Start there; don’t let it be defined by the people who turned you away from it. See if there’s something there for you to work with as an adult bringing your questions now, your curiosities now.
Can you define “homeland”?
Your denomination. For me, my Southern Baptist upbringing was so rooted to a place, it was a whole universe which stopped making sense when I left.
But when I started realizing that what I was asking – what I initially thought were ethical questions which in fact were spiritual questions – I did realize that Christianity was my mother tongue; the Bible was my textbook.
I could have moved away from that. But I really needed to go back there and see, because I knew how to read that. And I did find that I was reading whole different things there than what had been taught to me in Sunday school. And that was really exciting.
I didn’t return to the Southern Baptist tradition, but I did go back to Christianity. And now I really identify more as Christian instead of a denomination.
Parents want their children to be virtuous. But you talk about virtues becoming charged and uncomfortable to discuss. Why?
A lot of the words around the classic virtues are either charged or just watered down – compassion, gratitude, love. Love is something you fall into, you fall out of. Compassion and gratitude have been on too many Hallmark cards. And words like "peace" and "justice" are politically charged. So for the virtues we want and need, the language itself doesn’t carry the water for us.