Saturday, September 25, 2010

how to raise your kids right

and please do not think that the title implies in any way that i'm an authority on the subject.

these may be the insane ramblings of an insomniac, allergy-infested, overtired, dehydrated, pregnant woman at 3 in the morning.

or maybe they do provide some insight. i don't know.

i attend a unitarian universalist fellowship. there's a saying that it takes all kinds to make the world go round. well, at a unitarian universalist fellowship, you find all kinds.

at our particular unitarian universalist fellowship, however, belief in any kind of a higher power other than science or nature is certainly NOT the majority.

having been raised with a strong faith tradition, i find it difficult to wrap my brain around this.

for years, i was raised to believe that madeline murray o'hare, a woman who worked tirelessly to get all reference to religion out of public communication (specifically, tv and radio), was public enemy #1 to anyone who believed in god.

i get to our UUF and find that to many of the members, she's a hero.

whether or not religious programming should be made available to people who choose to view it is a subject for another post.

what i'm writing about is raising kids unitarian.

and i'm not sure i like what i see.

we have a family in our fellowship that is a very good, upright, moral family, with two wonder*full parents, and two young (8 and 5) children who are very polite, intelligent individuals. the mom is a working artist (a real live artist! SHE's my hero!) and the dad is a philosophy professor at a local college. i consider these people my friends, have no problem either being in their home or having them in mine, and i'm glad that our children play together because their kids are so wonderful with my two year old.

however, a couple of nights ago, the dad posted on his facebook status about his son asking him some questions about god and ghosts, and the dad rejoiced when his 5-year-old son said that god was dead and praised him for being "his little nietzschean (sp?)"

this breaks my heart.

in my experience, for faith to be true, it always had to be childlike. full of wonder, innocent, trusting.

and when i hear a five year old child saying things like god is dead, it makes me wonder where the hope for the future is in unitarian universalism.

we have another family in our fellowship whose 17 year old son just went off to college. he did a sermon as kind of a coming-of-age service at the end of our "church year" (we do small group ministry in the summer, so his was the last regular service of the season). and this young man said that he searched for answers in every faith tradition he could get his hands on a book to read about and hadn't found his answers.

so i asked him where he found hope, and he said, "there isn't any."

so i asked him what gets him out of bed in the morning, and his mother, jokingly, said, "me."

while that was funny, it really didn't answer my question. it was a serious one. i'm raising a two-year-old in this faith. i'm going to be bringing a newborn into this faith. freedom to choose what you do and don't believe in sounds like a good thing, but do i really want my children to grow up in a world where god is dead and there is no hope and the only thing that gets them out of bed in the morning is me standing over them with a cattle prod?

the seven principles of unitarian universalism provide a solid moral framework for how to live your life.

* The inherent worth and dignity of every person;
* Justice, equity and compassion in human relations;
* Acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations;
* A free and responsible search for truth and meaning;
* The right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large;
* The goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all;
* Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.

i grew up in the catholic tradition, and perhaps with the exception of "a free and responsible search for truth and meaning," and "the right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large," the catholic church does teach that.

but the catholic church also teaches that its earthbound leader is more than human, if not equal with God. (the pope is supposedly "infallible;" um, he's still human, right?)

and currently, it further teaches that women cannot be full leaders.
that if leaders abuse children in unspeakable ways we just send them to another parish.
that doctors who perform legal, safe abortions are evil, but people who bomb abortion clinics are working for the greater good.
(while certain individual pastors speak out against these things, this is the "party line," so to speak.)

and i have a big problem teaching my daughter (and baby shrimp) that that's OK.

i still love the structure of the Mass. basically, my philosophy is, it's not God and Jesus i have a problem with. in the immortal words of rufus the prophet from kevin smith's movie dogma, "it's the shit that gets carried out in (their) name...wars, bigotry, televangelism." it's the way that people ~ FALLIBLE PEOPLE, THE POPE INCLUDED ~ pervert the overall message. any psychopath can skew the bible to support his message, but in English classes in school, we're taught to read for an overall theme. and if you read the bible, its overall theme is love.

one of the greatest things i ever heard spoken in a catholic church was not spoken by a priest. it was spoken by a campus minister with a master's in theology from berkeley. him i will mention by name: it was kevin steele. at the easter vigil, he was allowed to proclaim the gospel and give the homily, and he said, "if god is love, then the proper response to that is to live loving lives."

hmm. maybe i did find my answer after all...

more later...

1 comment:

  1. Like the young man you mentioned, I searched for faith, for answers, for God. I never found him. What I found was religion, control, domination, greed and sin. What I found were rules and charlatans and disappointment.

    I like to believe in God -- I do, it's a wonderful concept -- a higher power that sees us through all of our lives, watches us, helps us, loves us and teaches us how to love each other. I love the idea of that kind of parent.

    But in my search I never found God. I found men and women using the desire and need to believe in something good and powerful and hopeful for their own ends.

    I no longer have religion -- in a lot of ways what I believe is very much in line with the beliefs of my atheist friends -- that we are responsible for our own joy, that we are responsible for our own choices, that we the only person or force we can truly rely on is ourselves.

    The difference between me and an atheist, however, is that I do not rail against religion. Atheists can have a tendency toward arrogance and some believe and act like those among us with faith are fools. I don't believe that.

    While it doesn't work for me, I understand that life is very hard and I understand the pull and hold of the belief in God. I don't think it's foolish or misguided or stupid to turn to God. To the people I know who have a strong faith, God brings them comfort and joy. And I do not understand or agree with anyone who would say that that's a problem.

    So, I do not have religion. But make no mistake, I do have faith.

    I have faith in the power and magic of love and kindness and generosity. I have faith that while being "good" (in the classical Christian way) is a choice, its a choice that most people are trying to make.

    I don't believe in mystical forces. Evil is nothing more than a total lack of humanity. While I have no certainty, I lean toward not believing in God or Satan exist. For me, there are no devils, no angels. There are just people, making choices -- some good, some less good.

    But I want to say that even though I would probably be technically classified as atheist, or at least agnostic, I absolutely believe in the Principles you posted. I absolutely believe we are here to learn how to love and how to take care of each other. I absolutely believe that kindness and compassion are not just ideals, but responsibilities we have toward every form of life on this planet.

    So the bottom line is that even if parents teach their kids that God is dead, they can still teach them the values and ethics of faith.

    You want to give your babies hope, and that's wonderful and amazing and I love you for that, but please, understand hope is not inextricably tied to a belief in God.

    Hope and love can exist independently of faith and are created everytime we treat each other with respect for the beautiful and magnificent beings we are. Because whether you believe in divine creation or in evolution, there is no denying that life in all its forms is amazing.