My mother’s politics

My mother is a quiet, reserved person and she would never be described as an activist. She spent her life molding the minds of her students in her many classrooms. She may be quiet, but she has always had strong opinions about things and the way she taught me about them influences me even now.

These days it is not uncommon to see advertisements that feature what I call purposeful role reversal. A father may be folding the laundry or a mother is coaching sports. In the 70’s, there was an ad for Jif peanut butter and the tag line was “choosy mothers choose Jif.” The fact that the commercial insinuated that only mothers choose peanut butter and that you’re not a good (choosy) mother if you don’t choose Jif pretty much outraged my mother. She stuck with her favorite, Peter Pan, thank you very much. She showed me that it was possible to “vote” with your wallet.

Long before conservative Christians began speaking up politically and years before the Moral Majority was formed, my mother was on guard to protect me from certain types of religious indoctrination. Vacation Bible school was forbidden and if a friend invited me to church or youth group, the group/church had to be investigated by my mother. If they had any conservative/prejudiced/evangelical leanings, I wouldn’t be allowed to attend. My churchgoing desires were satisfied by her taking me to a local liberal Episcopal church, where I would be confirmed.

In 2015, same-sex marriage became the law of the land. The first thing my mother said to me about the decision was, “too bad Uncle Max and Charlie aren’t alive to see this.” Uncle Max was her paternal uncle and Charlie was his partner. I knew about Uncle Max and Charlie because my mother was honest about their relationship. In the mid 60’s, most gay people had to keep their orientation a secret even from family members. As a young child growing up in the 60’s and 70’s, I knew my Great Uncle Max was different, but in my eyes, he and Charlie were just handsome relatives whom we saw at holidays.

My mother is now 75 years old. I love the fact that she has friends of all races and religions. Her strong opinions are something she holds close to her and unless you are family, you might not know about them. As long as you respect her, she will respect you and her political views won’t be discussed among friends. I admire this and strive to emulate her quiet strength.

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Judge Not, etc.

As I noted in my last blog post, I have been in and out of churches for a very long time. I have longed for the community of a good church.  I have joined my local Secular Humanist group and attended my first meeting this past Sunday.  The topic of discussion piqued my interest.  A local church group, along with the local police department (in conjunction with the police department? I really don’t know…) held a prayer walk and vigil on the streets where the local prostitutes work. The humanists were appalled by this for a number of reasons, which I’ll get to later.  The last line of the information that was provided for the group meeting was, “Humanists have a better plan.”  Well, OK!  As a woman, I am concerned about this topic.  Too many women are using their bodies to pay for drug habits. Admittedly, I don’t know much about the profession, but I have a heart for the women who feel that this is their only option, for whatever reason.

The group meeting began with introductions and then the facilitator passed out copies of the church’s flyer advertising the prayer walk and vigil, which took place on a recent Saturday morning.  Next, the facilitator read us a personal anecdote about his own experience as a young military man who was approached, along with his buddies, by ladies looking for a “good time”, or has he called it, a “date.”  The only reason he did not partake was that he couldn’t afford it.  I listened and tried to understand where he was coming from.  He preached about the “victim-less” crime and how it should be legalized, blah, blah.  Fortunately, many of the group participants spoke up and took him to task for condoning the exploitation of women (and men).  The talk then turned to how we, as Humanists, could do better.  More on that later.

The group was starting to sound pretty judgy.  The judged the supposed white, middle-class women at the church preaching to mostly women of color.  I shook my head in agreement, but still wondered how we could do better.  Unfortunately, I spent the 60 minutes in the group attempting to explain to these people that church groups do offer a lot to those who are in the midst of crisis.  They want you in church, they invite you to their groups and they can be very hospitable and caring.  I have seen this in my own life with people I have known and not every Christian is judgmental.  Still no good answers to how Humanists could do a better job.  No one really wanted to meet the prostitutes where they were and offer them comfort, a meal or some coffee.  With all the bitching that atheists do about Christians being judgmental, these people were just as bad, if not worse.  At least the Christians they complain about actually do try to help others.  I’m sure there are good Humanist and Atheist groups that help, but this was not it.

I decided to do further research into this church and their ministry and found that the leader is a recovering addict herself, who was welcomed into the church while she was in jail.  The people from the church came to visit her while she was in jail and cared about her in a way that she had never known before.  I also viewed pictures of the event on their Facebook page and saw much diversity in the participants.

No answers or solutions were given during the group time, except that drugs and prostitution should be legalized, thus subjecting them to regulation. I suppose that is one way to look at the problem, but these are people with real issues and they need a lot more than governmental interference.

Religiosity

Religiosity, in its broadest sense, is a comprehensive sociological term used to refer to the numerous aspects of religious activity, dedication, and belief (religious doctrine). Another term less often used is “religiousness”.

I was not brought up in church. I was christened as a baby (no doubt due to family pressure, as my parents, especially my father, were opposed to religious indoctrination), and until the age of 12, never stepped foot in a church.  Our family didn’t pray.  Even the extended family didn’t participate in outward signs of faith, such as saying grace, etc. My parents are both highly intelligent and well-educated.  They had their faults, but were good parents who raised their children to have morals and manners.

I eventually did find my way into the world of religion and church.  40 years later, I still cannot wrap my head around that foreign world.  I am fascinated by the christian culture, yet repulsed by it.  This dichotomy has been plaguing me and hampering my spiritual growth.   Why can’t I sit in church on Sunday and feel content?  I am challenged when I go to church.  I am challenged by my deep desire to believe that the christian god and his son, Jesus Christ, were/are real.  When the pastor speaks of the love that Jesus had for the broken, I am convinced that this time, my doubts and lingering negativity will be replaced by the power of the holy spirit living inside of me.  So, what is it that makes believing in a higher power so difficult?

All of my doubts and my negative thoughts are echoed and sometimes shared by other christians.  I temporarily  no longer felt alone, wracked by my inability to have “good enough” faith.  I wanted to be like Jesus, but the christian faith requires the belief of the omnipotent god that created this world.  The explanations by the faithful for the condition of the world and the people that god created seem hollow.  It’s a fallen world.  Heaven is our real destination, if you are a christian.  Christians are told that in order to experience this afterlife, one must be a chrisitan.  No Jews, Buddhists, etc.  will be going to heaven.  I scratched my head and wondered and then another pat answer was given to me in an attempt to explain this.  I didn’t like the answer, but I still struggled to believe.  I continued to pray, read the bible, go to church.  I did these things because I want to do the right things.

To compound the theological questions, there is the christian culture that gnaws away at my desire for religious maturity.  I didn’t  want to be an immature christian, so I worked very hard at not associating with those people who call themselves christians but don’t practice what they preach.  I know, christians are only human and can be just as horrible as non-christians.  I practiced forgiveness and grace as I try to do with most people.  We are all struggling, we should hold each other accountable.  I think there is a scripture about iron sharpening iron and bearing each other’s burdens.  I’ve done that.  Check.

So, what is lacking?  Is it that I didn’t have a relationship with god?  Well, I can’t say I haven’t tried.  Many, many prayers have been said and I have listened. I thought that relationships involved two-way communication, but I’m not hearing anyone answering.

I wanted to start another paragraph here and rant about the horrible, unspeakable suffering in this world, but I’m not going to.  Everyone already knows this.  Personally, I see it every day in the deteriorating health of a man who has thousands of people praying for him daily.  So-called god is not answering the prayers of his own mother, the epitome of religious goodness.  God, the deity that created the entire world, has either chosen not to intervene in the lives of his flock, is intervening in ways that are mysterious and unfathomable, or does not exist at all.  Of course, most believers choose the second answer and they will find all kinds of ways to back up that belief.  Paul suffered.  Ok, I can buy that (if you believe in biblical stories). So, why continue to pray for anything, at all?  God already knows how fucked up the world is and every day babies get raped and murdered, good people suffer horribly in the worst ways imaginable and yet the god who answers prayers allows these atrocities.  I don’t hate him.  I merely have no use for him anymore.  I still want to have a religious epiphany, but I am no longer seeking it.  Praying does not hold a place anymore in my life. Church is fine when it does good, but I can do good without it.  I never did find a church community that embraced me, uplifted me and carried me through the hard times, like it was supposed to do, so I won’t be losing that.  I will just be losing the 40 year quest for that that has left me bitter and angry.  Bitterness and angry will be replaced by contentment, acceptance and I will finally put my searching to rest.  And I will rest.