Blogs Are Stupid

Doesn't anyone believe in Dear Diary anymore? What happened to the joy of putting actual pen to paper? And why does every ordinary Jane and John think they can write well enough to burden the world with their scribblings? It’s a mystery that badly needs solving. My first entry contains my thoughts about blogging and will set your expectations. The rest will probably be stream of consciousness garbage, much like you’ll find on any other blog. Perhaps we will both come away enlightened.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

More than Faith

I've been thinking a lot about religion lately. As a lot of you know, my feelings on the issue are terribly conflicted.

The reason for that is, that although I had a lot of really awful experiences growing up, and continue to have them, living, as I do, in the Bible Belt, and having, as I do, in-laws who are deeply mired in generations of religious zealotry...I also have a lot of truly wonderful memories.

And really, if I'm being honest, going to church gave me a sense of being part of something bigger than myself. That was reassuring somehow.

I'm not sure I was ever convinced of the veracity of the things I was taught. I'm not sure I've ever been convinced of the reality of God in his most traditional representations. But it didn't matter. I'm sure my parents thought that as long as I was exposed to Godly people, engaged in Godly activities, and had strong guidance, the faith would come.

It never did, but that doesn't mean I didn't take something away from those years. And those are the things that I worry my children are missing. Not the Faith. Not the conviction; but a sense of belonging. A sense of community. And experiences that they will remember forever with fondness.

Chuch Camp. God. How much fun was that? The bus ride to and from, listening to our Walkmans and singing hymns. Shut up. I like hymns. The fun skits. The cute counselors. The evening campfire where I held hands with a shy young man from Michigan who had twinkling eyes and curly brown hair. The being away from home all by myself.

We weren't Catholic, but I grew up in an area where Catholicism was the more predominant religion. So on Fridays, every restaurant served fish. Our church periodically had summer Fish Boils to express our tolerance of other beliefs. I can remember the smell of fish and butter and spices in the air. People laughing, kids playing tag, the Pastor looking weird in jeans and a polo shirt. I remember burning my tongue on the steaming fish but not caring because it was so tender and delicious. I remember drinking rich cream soda, one right after another, with no one bothering to tell me that I'd had enough.

I remember walking solemnly down the crimson aisle with a huge palm frond on Palm Sunday. I could never compete with the beautiful clothing worn by the more affluent kids, but I liked that my hair always looked the best. My mother would wash it and roll it and comb in until it shone. And we did usually have a new dress. I knew it wasn't as good as some, but I always felt excited and pretty anyway.

And I have always been affected by Easter, even as a small child. The thought of someone, anyone, being treated as Jesus was, is a very heartbreaking thing. Even a child can grasp the depth of his suffering, Mary's sadness, the despair of his followers. But after tears were shed and prayers were said, there was fun and frivolity in the form of an egg hunt. I will always remember racing accross the churchyard with my basket bumping my legs; grass tickling my knees and my sisters' laughter in my ears.

And through all of these memories runs a thread of constancy; my parents, the churchmembers, the pastor, the church. I can still recall the name of every kid I ever went to Sunday School with. I can see them in my mind, as clearly as I see the faces of my own children.

This is what I fear my children are missing in their lives.

But is it worth exposing them to the more unsavory things I have experienced? Those things that caused such a profound aversion in me; a turning away, a contempt?

Maybe, it's better to let them make the choices about what to believe on their own, and let their discovery be pure. If believing is something they feel led to, then I want it to be untainted by the evils of hypocrisy, intolerance, bigotry and greed.

Saturday night, a spate of bad weather had Pre-Pubescent One cowering in my bed. And, as often happens when he ends up in bed with me, we have some very satisfying talks. I don't even remember how the conversation meandered around to religion. I think we might have been talking about Easter at the in laws. He's getting old enough to understand that their beliefs are somewhat...intense.

He asked me, timidly, what I believe.

"Babe, I don't know. If I knew what to believe in, I'd be teaching you to believe in it to, and spare you from all the uncertainty that I've felt for so long."

"Well....maybe it's better if I figure it out for myself. Maybe, it will feel more like my own decision then, instead of just another thing you tell me to do."

Damn. Why didn't I think of that.

He was quiet for a moment considering. Then he said, shyly,

"Maybe we can figure it out together."

"That would be cool, dude. Cause I could really dig figuring some stuff out."


He was quiet again, and then said,

"Mom? I kind of like it when you don't have all the answers."

Surprised, I said,

"You do? Why?"

He shrugged.

"I dunno. It just makes me think that you're not perfect. It kind of makes me know that...you're just like me, in some ways."

"Hmmph." I said.

"That's a compliment Mom."

I rolled my eyes dramatically and said "What. EV-er."

He grimaced and said,

"You are so bad at that."

"Well I try."

And then he rolled over and went to sleep. Satisfied.

And I laid awake thinking about palm fronds and church camp and shy young men with curly brown hair.

29 Comments:

  • At 11:50 PM, Blogger jen said…

    but see, you are teaching him more about faith than any church, the simple honest questioning of a righteous and thoughtful woman.

     
  • At 11:54 PM, Blogger NatzG said…

    What Jen said. Awesome.

     
  • At 1:30 AM, Blogger Lara said…

    beautiful. he seems, as always, like a wonderful young man.

     
  • At 7:25 AM, Blogger Avalon said…

    What an insightful young man. No matter what you do or don't believe, he understands faith.

     
  • At 7:34 AM, Blogger Fairly Odd Mother said…

    That is really, really awesome.

     
  • At 7:40 AM, Blogger Magi said…

    I am facing those same struggles. My husband is athiest. I'm more agnostic, but I have wonderful memories of being part of a church family. I worry that I'm shorting my child by not giving her those.

     
  • At 10:49 AM, Anonymous gurukarm said…

    What kids you have! It's very clear, from the conversation snippets you share with us, your humble readership :-), what an amazing mom you are (and their dad too - he must have a big hand in this, I'm imagining...) Thanks, as always.

     
  • At 10:55 AM, Blogger sltbee69 said…

    I think that conversation just proves that you've been handling the whole religion thing is exactly right. I love those types of conversations with my PPO.

     
  • At 11:28 AM, Blogger Mad said…

    Church camp was my idea of hell.

    A community that is not consumer-based is very appealing to me. Too bad faith needs to be a prerequisite for entrance.

    I like the idea of my daughter finding her own way to her own beliefs.

     
  • At 12:23 PM, Anonymous Andrea said…

    It's funny. I know so many people who grew up in a church and worry about their kids losing out--and I've never once doubted that Frances is much better off sleeping in and goofing off on Sunday mornings. There are better ways to form community, surely?

    Whether you take them to a church or not,e ventually they will find their own way--just as you did.

     
  • At 12:31 PM, Blogger Tracey said…

    Sigh... such a sweet conversation...Loved it.

    I'm more interested in the ideas of God and eternity that my kids and I discuss than any religion. Religion, for me, is a man-made device, constructed so that everyone believes exactly what a few believed so that those few are in control. So that they can believe that they really ARE correct and have less fear of the unknown. The thing is: You can't know what the unknown is until you get there. No matter how many times a religious book is read.

    Hope that didn't sound anti-everything. It wasn't intended as such and I have to jet...

     
  • At 1:12 PM, Blogger PunditMom said…

    Thank you for writing this. We struggle with how to deal with this for PunditGirl. Mr. PunditMom and I are of different faiths, but are not particularly religious. We have issues with the dogma of our religions, but also think PG is missing something. She already, on her own, has decided she believes in God, whatever that means for an eight-year-old

    I like the idea of working on it together. And thanks for the advice on the parental eye-roll ... I'd better work on it! ;)

     
  • At 1:31 PM, Blogger Traceytreasure said…

    I'm right there with you! I see the joy in my face when I see pictures of me in my Easter dress as a child. I don't usually give religious advice but Sylvia Browne wrote a book called Secrets & Mysteries that answered some of my questions in the Christian Controversies(part 5) of her book. There also a blog called: doubtingfaith.blogspot.com - I've been there a couple of times this "Holy" week. It's hard isn't it? Just so you know, you're not the only one who feels the way you do.

     
  • At 4:10 PM, Blogger Chicky Chicky Baby said…

    You're thinking my thoughts, lady. Must be the time of year. It always has me reconsidering church.

    But your son. Wow. Smarter than most men I know.

     
  • At 6:44 PM, Blogger Jaelithe said…

    I often wish I could have church without that pesky organized religion part.

    I didn't have even the same good experiences you had as a child going to church, because my family's churchgoing was sporadic, and I never felt comfortable there when we did go. I was already questioning my faith by the age of eight or so, and gave up Christianity entirely before I was even a teenager.

    But I know that other people make friends through church, find babysitters through church, find good advice and neighborly support during trying times at church, etc.

    And I remember the palm fronds and the Easter egg hunts fondly, too. (Though I never once did have new clothes.)

     
  • At 6:50 PM, Anonymous Angela said…

    You're right where you need to be. What a great post.

     
  • At 8:02 PM, Blogger SUEB0B said…

    I think you are doing great. As long as there is love, support, honesty, you will give your kids what they need til they find their own beliefs. Your honesty is refreshing.

     
  • At 8:13 PM, Blogger wyo said…

    You might see if there's a Unitarian Universalism church nearby. Like all churches, they vary by congregation, but, as their website says, "If you're searching for a religious home that is guided by a quest for truth and meaning, not by a set creed or dogma, we invite you to discover Unitarian Universalism. We are a caring, open-minded religious community that encourages you to seek your own spiritual path." It's where I plan to take my daughter when/if she expresses an interest.

     
  • At 8:52 PM, Blogger kevin said…

    My mother was raised in a very conservatively religious home and, because she felt like she missed out on certain experiences as a result, she decided not to raise her own children in a similar environment. I think sometimes she questions this decision though when she sees that her younger son, me, grew up to be what some might call the happy heathen.

    It's not that I begrudge anyone their religion. It's just that I don't get it. Occasionally I feel as though perhaps I missed the bus. I wonder what most of the world sees that I do not. That being said, I do feel there is great comfort and intellectual freedom in foregoing so-called faith and religion altogether, and those are the truths I hope to pass on to my daughter.

     
  • At 8:52 PM, Blogger Angela said…

    It is sometimes best to let them find their own way.
    a wise mom.

     
  • At 10:07 PM, Anonymous mischief said…

    Well, for what it's worth, I think your son has the right idea. Sometimes in the innocence, beyond the theologies and creeds and interpretations, the picture is made more clear.

    This is in the new testament in Matthew, Mark and Luke. Here is one version. Luke 18:16 and 18:17:But Jesus called the children to him and said, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. I tell you the truth, anoyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it."

    Just what I believe.

     
  • At 9:38 AM, Blogger ~*~ Jennifer ~*~ said…

    Ohh... you know me... I've gotta post. Ü

    Will you at least give him a Bible? Get all the God and Jesus with out any MAN thrown in? Just let him read, and you read for yourself. Just read it... no studying it or analyzing it... no preacher cramming it down your throat.

    That's my suggestion for the day. (Because then you know... the Holy Spirit will lead you in the way you should go!!) °Ü°

    Just a bible... that's all he needs for now.

     
  • At 11:31 AM, Blogger AA said…

    Perhaps Jennifer is right. What harm can a Bible do? Oh wait, it sometimes scares the snot out of me! I find it a depressing read at times. Still I think that to be culturally literate in our country you should have some knowledge of the Bible. There are too many literary allusions that will go unknown without that basic knowledge.

    I always enjoy a REAL bible study. Unfortunately, most study groups are actually prayer groups and I can't do those.

    Have you considered letting him read Traveling Mercies by Anne Lamott? I like the way she discusses faith.

     
  • At 11:52 AM, Blogger JaniceNW said…

    You and your younger son are simply awesome. I love this blog post. I'd hide in your bed if there was weather too!

     
  • At 4:10 PM, Blogger Rock the Cradle said…

    Get thee to a Unitarian Universalist Church, my friend.

    I grew up in a UUA church, and have wonderful memories of the community there. Because that really is what it is all about. Finding a community that is openly asking questions, searching together. A place where you feel like you belong. We learned about all different religions. And since our leader was enamored of the Transcendentalists (Emerson, Channing, Thoreau and the like) I developed a love of these spiritual thinkers as well.

    The Bible was a beginning. But it was were I went from there that turned out to be a most exciting, satisfying, and rewarding exploration.

    Good luck in your search. If you have any questions, I love to talk about this. Consider my e-mail open to you.

     
  • At 10:22 AM, Blogger Mac and Cheese said…

    I love that kid.

     
  • At 3:24 PM, Blogger Amy Y said…

    PPO is such a smart guy... really he is.

    I've struggled with these kids of things quite a bit myself. I don't have any faith, now, but I grew up Catholic/Christian. I want to introduce my boys to the ideas of faith and religion without giving them the baggage and negativity (judging others, especially). I also want it to be theirs, not mine.

    One nice solution we've found is the Unitarian Church. They are a very diverse and unjudgemental group. They worship many things and are of many faiths. They have great religious education classes for kids (I don't want mine to be ignorant!) and help introduce them to several faiths so they can choose what is best for them.

    Unfortunately, there is not one anywhere close to our home... so we don't go as often as we'd like to. But in theory, I think it's great!

    Anyway, I am glad to know I'm not the only mom out there with an issue such as this... So thanks for that :)

     
  • At 3:35 PM, Blogger Jennifer said…

    It makes me sad to hear that several people had bad experiences with religion. I guess the key word there is "religion". I am a Christian, but I think of it as my personal relationship with God, not some set of rules and legalism I follow. I grew up with amazing Christian parents and a great church - both of which provided endless examples of God's love. I guess that is harder to find than I thought.

     
  • At 10:07 PM, Anonymous MommyWizdom said…

    I believe you answered your own question. Your parents gave you church and "religion" as you call it, and yet you didn't follow in their footsteps. You don't have the faith you believe you should have according to your background. So, you can give your kids church and a sense of community and still allow them to find their own way to their faith. AND with the knowledge you have of your past, you can be watchful of the things that made your experience negative. You can lead a horse to water but you can't make him drink. I don't think it would hurt to take your kids to church. You might even enjoy the search for a good one! And who knows, you might find some peace for yourself along the way.

     

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