My daughter will be five years old next month. She has not been christened, confirmed, baptized, or any other religious ceremony we put children through. I think one of those doesn’t normally happen until the tween years but I can never keep them all straight.
My little girl has been to mass on holidays and sat through a few sermons at my grandmother’s small, rural church. She’s gone to religious pre-schools and she has memorized a prayer to say before eating dinner. This is the extent of her religious exposure. And I feel like it’s time to change that, to introduce her to the loving and supportive communities that church can provide. There’s just one small problem. My husband and I are not remotely religious. I don’t even think we count as spiritual.
When I was younger, my family went to a Presbyterian church. I guess it was the middle ground between my father’s Catholic upbringing and my mother’s Brethren roots. I can still remember the first time I refused to go, saying that the whole thing was bogus. I was in fifth grade and my grandfather had just died. We were racing to the hospital, three hours away in Michigan. I spent the entire trip praying that he would be okay. I never even got to see my grandfather to say goodbye. It was the first time that I said, “If there was really a God, he would never have let this happen.”
I realize that there are plenty of people who will argue with me about that. I know reconciling the tragedies of the world with faith and spirituality is a difficult road for many. As I got older, I started to accept that God can’t control every bad thing that happens, that he can’t grant every prayer. I bought into that whole, “He has a plan that only He knows,” thing.
But somehow, overtime, that doubt crept back in to my mind. I saw the ways that churches abused their power and protected the guilty instead of the innocent. I saw churches that preached the love of God, only to condemn some human beings for who they love. Even worse, more than any scandal or dispute over beliefs, I simply lost faith. I stopped believing in all those old Biblical stories I learned as a child.
I cannot speak for my husband’s experience, but he too became disillusioned with religion in general. After serving as an altar boy for years, he won’t even take Communion when we attend Christmas Eve mass with his mother. He won’t even mouth the words of the prayers, ones that he’s had memorized since childhood.
My husband and I are completely and totally separated from the Christian industrial complex. And yet, there’s something that draws me back to it.