Monday, January 28, 2008

den of iniquity

i was raised force fed on evangelism and by the time i was sixteen i was done. i've seen the extremes: folks casting out demons, writhing on the floor, sermons that went on for days and folks raising the roof. i've had my fill of good old fashioned bible thumping and i know all the hymns by heart. it wasn't a good thing for me, growing up terrified of evil and way more wrongs than rights. i've committed mayhem in every youth group i belonged to and heard i'm praying for you in the worst way you can hear it said. even so i was a pretty good kid convinced i was awful, on the escalator to hell.

as i grew up and sprouted my own head i learned not all of that was right or even okay. i spent many years wandering religion, studying different ones trying to find truth. i've talked to shaman and priests, gurus and saints. and in the end i've eschewed religion as ordered by man almost out of defiant laziness if nothing else. i can't wear the cloak no matter how many alterations i make. i can't make sense of limits, of retribution, or of ideas that make some people more and others not.

but i also deeply admire those who've got their faith nestled tight, those who believe without a doubt. i know it's not a simple thing, faith, but some people make it seem easy. and while i don't long for it i might almost covet it, the finishing of the search, the final frontier. but it's not in my heart, not now and who knows if it ever was. there were times in my youth i thought i knew and then everything got brighter and more confusing still. i'm not sorry but it's still there, so intentionally injected under my skin it became no different than mothers milk.

there isn't an end to this post or some newfound revelation. i'm not coming to conclusions or changing my mind. but it's one of the things that rolls around in my head when i wonder what to teach M, what i base my own spirituality on. and it's not yet finished but i don't know where it's going, either.

38 comments:

liv said...

you mention wondering what to teach M. i think that you lead the way naturally in peace, and that to know peace and live peace is a spiritual practice unto itself.

the sound of the universe is one: om.

flutter said...

I think you teach her to find her own way

Family Adventure said...

Teach her that you don't have all the answers. That part of the answer is the quest.

I know you'll do well.

Heidi

ewe are here said...

Ahh, I've wondered the same thing: what to teach my boys. I think teaching them to trust themselves first, perhaps...

kristen said...

you surround your girl with love and fill her with truth, that's teaching her more than any bible thumping incident ever could.

and she'll have a better set of morals than most of the people that go to church regularly.

QT said...

Wow, there isn't much for me to say that hasn't already been said by all the wise women before me.

M is already leaps and bounds ahead of so many other kids - just from what you have exposed her to - loving, giving, being thankful.

wheelsonthebus said...

I don't believe in God, but I do wish I could give my kids the security that comes with belief in an afterlife.

Gwen said...

Oh how I know the childhood of which you speak, having lived it myself. And so I struggle with this, too. We joke sometimes that we will know we have failed when our children grow up to be evangelicals. Which is why I let my oldest daughter explore Christianity all she wants. What's more tempting, after all, than the forbidden fruit? When she asks, we tell her the truth, that different people have different answers and that she will someday have to figure out how to make sense of it herself. M might be young for that approach, though.

Maybe our upbringing has blinded us, a little, to spirituality. You have Faith--in people, in your ability to make a difference, in the power of one, in kindness--more than almost anyone I know. That's what you teach your daughter.

jennifer said...

What a moving post. I read everything you write, even though I don't comment often. I usually find myself mute.
My husband and I are from wildly different religious backgrounds, but the one thing we have agreed upon is to raise our children with respect for all other living things, people and not. That's as far as we've gotten.

NotAMeanGirl said...

I was raised by an Athiest and a Roman Catholic. Heh. Yeah... I went on the search for truth too. Husband is a Southern Baptist... When Shecky asks about God and Church I tell him what I know. I believe in a higher power, I believe in an aferlife, I believe we are here for a purpose, I believe everything happens for a reason and I believe in being the best person I can be. That usually seems to satisfy him and it leaves things open ended for him to make his own decisions down the road. :)

Kyla said...

I hope you find it, if it is something you desire.

But, jen, I have no doubt that you'll pass on your amazing values. You already are. You're teaching her to care for her fellow humans, teaching her that everyone is worthy of compassion and care, that our purpose is in extending a hand to one another. And that is something that even people with faith miss out on far too often.

Oh, The Joys said...

Teach her to ask questions, friend.

One of the best things my grandfather ever said to me with regard to this very question of faith was that a community of faith didn't have to be about having absolute faith. It could be about asking tough questions about the subject in community. Viewed that way, I found the whole idea more compelling.

cce said...

I'm trying hard not to color my kids view of religion with my own special tint of agnosticism as well. It's tricky. Kids seem drawn to the ritual and the easy answers offered up by packaged religion. I hope they will discover that they have a lot of beliefs, some that are Christian, some that are steeped in Eastern religion. But I'm with those who have already said that just letting them know that there is no RIGHT way to be religious is super important.

Hetha said...

I struggle with this too jen. I often think about showing E all of the different faiths and talking about what they have in common and what sets them apart.

It all boils down to how you live your life on a daily basis, not where you go or who you worship one day of the week. M has the best possible role model that I can think of when it comes to the basic principles of love and reaching out to others in need.

(I just read The Shack, God is a major character and is an African American woman...you might actually dig this book)

Anjali said...

I hear you. I envy those who feel so secure in their beliefs, that they are unshakable. I sometimes wish I felt that way, too, though I doubt I ever will.

pgoodness said...

I struggle with this. My mom is very strong in her beliefs and very church-centered. I, however, gave up the church years ago, but not my general belief in God. My faith, though, is in spirituality, not a specific entity. I believe in the earth, and fate and karma. I believe that people should believe in what they want, not what a person standing in the front of a church says. I do envy that absolute belief and faith that people have, but it's not for me...too many variables, and, well, science.
In a nutshell, I don't know what to teach my boys either. Matt knows about Jesus as he relates to Christmas, and we have some books about God and Jesus, but that's as far as I've taken it. How do you teach someone to believe in something so purely without question when you question it yourself?
(oops, sorry about the book!)

Deezee said...

I suspect that when M asks the questions, you'll have the answers, even if the answers come in the form of more questions.

Religion is not my cup of tea as I've seen too much pain follow in its wake, but I still nod to the generosity that can come out of (some) religious institutions. My son has heard all these mumblings, and by 14 has fashioned his own set of beliefs, a kind of beautiful thing to witness, and of course I can say that because he hasn't strayed too far from my own! :)

(damn parental ego)

meno said...

You teach her that wherever she goes, whatever she believes, you love her.

crazymumma said...

Ultimately it comes down to believing in yourself.

I think.

Anyway. Thats what I teach my girls. But the irony? Is that I am still learning myself.

patches said...

I appreciate what you're saying.

mamatulip said...

To echo what's already been said - I do think it's about finding our own way, asking questions, opening our minds and believing in ourselves.

But I get this post, Jen. I really GET it.

Blog Antagonist said...

I can relate to your feelings so well, but you know. However, I think you are teaching M the religion of kindness, generosity, and selflessness. If there is a better religion that that, I haven't seen it.

Lawyer Mama said...

This is me too, sweetie. I struggle with it.

Aliki2006 said...

I struggle with this all the time. But I think flutter said it best--teach her to find her own way, to be strong in herself, to believe in the things she is filled with conviction about.

Ally said...

To nail down my own beliefs didn't seem nearly so important until my little ones started asking questions that I didn't quite know how to answer. I don't believe in a black and white, heaven or hell version of Christianity. But I also don't want to throw the baby out with the bath. All this to say, I hear you, Jen, and I think this is a very difficult part of parenting.

However, I think there's good news! (And not in the evangelical sense, either). It is thus: You are teaching your child what is right (loving people, helping them meet their needs) and what is wrong (ignoring a person in need) each and every day with your actions. This, more than any theological discussion you could have, will teach M how to live. And how to love. And this is no small thing.

Marymurtz said...

There are days when people say to have faith and I want to smack them. Then there are times when it gets so dark that for me, personally, faith isn't even a choice. It's all I have.

I'm a Christian, but I believe there are many paths to the hereafter, to the next step. There are many facts and many truths, but in the end, for me, it's not about the religion. It's about the RELATIONSHIP.

And whether it's a relationship with God, Gods, A God, THE God, Jesus, Buddha, Mohammed, Yahweh, or Nature, the World, or just everyone around us....we were all created to be relational (is that even a word?) We are not just here to have faith in a higher power, but to have faith in each other, to be kind, to be honest, to do good in the world, to be decent and caring and to take care of one another.

And Jen, if that is the measuring stick for righteousness, you are doing more for the world to serve your fellow man than most religious people I know.

Teach M to be like you. Teach her that everyone can be redeemed--by kindness, by generosity, by the simple humanity of what you do every day.

painted maypole said...

oh jen... as I've said before you are one of the closest followers of Jesus I know, and i don't say that to try to sway you in your search, or to foist my own faith upon you, but to say that I think you are on the path (not that you need me to say that or that you need to be on the path with me or... ack...i trust you know i say it all with love and no judgement)

i'm sorry that your past has been so hard, and the search so long, and the things that you are teaching M, they can only be good, because look at the example you are setting... one of love for her and yourself and for the whole world...

Bon said...

i've tried on a few cloaks in my day, too, and heard the same prayers cast down like condemnation when i was young and vulnerable, and have found myself faithless but longing, especially over the past few years' sorrows, for the structure of meaning, weary of the labour and the loneliness of having to construct it myself.

and i too wonder what to teach my child, what to bring to his table, not only in terms of example and spirit and ethics but also even in terms of organized religion, because i fear if he grows up in a vacuum of it his rebellion may be to become, even briefly, one of those people who wield faith as a weapon and i can't think of anything that would scare me more.

this was fabulous, this musing and all these responses. food for thought.

Mad Hatter said...

Yes, Jen. Fabulous. This post spoke to me deeply. I've been thinking a lot this past week about those encounters with a warped version of Christianity that, long ago, turned me from my faith--a faith that I know I can never return to. I have plummeted those depths and have come up with other answers for myself.

I do wonder about my daughter. I don't want to discourage her from her father's faith b/c I think she will find value in it--as I did for years. Besides, it was the faith of her grandparents and it brought them great comfort. And yet I don't want her to be determined by it solely.

Jennifer said...

There are so many wise and gentle women gathered here. How wonderful.

Acceptance, tolerance, belief in love and peace. Those are the things I think my children need to see and feel and live. I know M is learning all of this, and more, from you already. You're giving her amazing gifts.

Wayfarer Scientista said...

I think you already know what the important things are that you need to teach her about, and they are about her own humanity. And she will discover for herself whether or not faith is a path for her.

Christine said...

i am lost in so many ways when it comes to faith, god, etc.

i get so angry at the church i was brought up in yet standing there as my little nephew was baptized seriously moved me. was it god? was it habit? was it love for the baby? i wish i knew.

Karen said...

Just to add to the chorus, here. You are on a journey and she is journeying with you. When the time is right, she will launch her own ship and you will be at peace with that. Now is the time you have to teach her about the journey, and all the love and sorrow we meet along the way. She's safe in your hands and heart.

Queeny said...

It's like you're living in my head. This reads so much like something I might have written.

The Expatriate Chef said...

I searched too, a lot of faiths, as far reaching as Lakota and the Bhagvad Gita. What struck me were the similarities. A few basics about respect for one another, nature, gratitude, peace. I liked Gibran's The Prophet best so far. And the faith I have is solid, but not able to be defined. I'm okay with God being a discovery process, not a fixed track. You have soul, Jen, that's where it counts.

carrie said...

I am struggling just letting my kids know that there are so many, many different paths of faith - that it will ultimately be up to them to decide, or not decide, like their mother.

It is so hard sometimes. Especially when other kids ask why we don't go to church, or when your t-ball party is held at this gigantic, ornate, lavish, disgustingly fancy "church" with pool tables, the latest video games, dvd's, foosball and the list goes on. I don't want my kids to be drawn to that, but in the end, it isn't up to me -- all I can do is guide them. Ugh.

Catherine said...

i can't make sense of limits, of retribution, or of ideas that make some people more and others not.

Oh, I so agree with you. I pasted the quote from you because I think most people of faith would agree with it - and agree that these are weeds that have grown up and choked many of our faith communities - but have nothing to do with actual, original beliefs and faiths. In fact, I think most faiths were developed to ride the words of these things - but funny how human nature just keeps getting back there.

I grew up in the world you did, but luckily even though my parents were Christians (Evangelicals even, the Pastor of my church even), they rejected all the extreme and nasty parts you described, so I grew up passionate to find the "good parts" so to speak. On my own blog, I write about my faith, as well as blog about World Relgions. I guess I'm trying to sort out the Love from the hate.

Thanks again.
catherine

The Holmes said...

Oh my God....you just articulated what I've been trying to come to grips with for....I don't even know how long now, but haven't been able to make sense of. I feel like faith and doubt go hand in hand, that one doesn't, can't have faith without doubt being around as well. When somebody tells me they've got it all figured out (in so many words), I don't believe them, but I envy their certainty, but then again I don't. Anyway, thanks for writing this.