Today we did something that we don’t usually do in this family: we went to church.
Yup, the ridgy didge Jesus is my saviour church thang.
Our neighbours, who are also our very good friends, are religious folk and they go to a non denominational church locally. They are pretty active members and I know they have very firm beliefs but it doesn’t really bother me. I like them and I guess one of the reasons for that is that they are not preachy at all. They aren’t constantly saying “Praise the lord” to me or telling me to “ask God” about something. We have often had conversations about our differing beliefs but always in an intellectual way as opposed to a conversion way so really, it isn’t a big deal.
They often invite us along to the service when they have big events on and usually I just say no but this Easter there was talk of an easter egg hunt and Monkey begged me to go. To be fair he didn’t really know what he was asking to go to. We don’t talk about church or Jesus or God or religion in this house just yet, mainly because there isn’t much for me to say about it. We talk a lot about ideas that are often linked to faith but to me that aren’t faith based – ie treating others the way we would like to be treated. To me that’s just being human.
So, we went to church.
Well as soon as we got there and checked the kids into the kid’s play area (which was really great by the way) I got the vibe that I was expected to go into the auditorium with my friend and “enjoy” the service. Right away I said I just wanted to stay and observe the kids. My reasons were two fold:
1/ I wanted to see exactly what I my kid was experiencing at “kids’ church”, and
2/ I wanted to make it clear (even though I thought I already had) that was I there for my kid to share an experience with his friend/neighbour as opposed to me suddenly being saved and joining the flock.
The whole kiddie church thing was pretty innocuous. It was mostly face painting and games that had no religious significance whatsoever. There was one bit though where we all went into a room and had what could only be termed as the kiddie church service. Today they did a kid friendly version of the meaning of Easter and really, I have to say it was very well done. But it involved my kid putting his hand up (as they were all encouraged to) to say yes he wanted to pray and accept Jesus into his heart and at that point I started to get really mad at myself for introducing him into an environment of indoctrination. My kid wasn’t praying because he understood what was going on, he was praying because everyone else was doing it and that was what was encouraged.
Prior to today I have honestly struggled a bit with whether or not I am doing the right thing by not exposing Monkey to religion. I can say that I 100% put those fears to rest today. If he wants to learn about religion then he can learn about it in an intellectual sense. We can talk about the Bible, the Torah, the Koran, Buddhism, Pagan rituals, whatever. Then if he wants to explore those religions on a more personal individual level then he can choose to do so when he is good and ready. I’m not looking to push my beliefs onto him. He is free to choose whatever path feels right for him and if he wants to be religious then I will support his choice. My brother converted to Catholicism as an adult, my parents sometimes go to a non denominational church similar to the one I went to today and I have many religious friends and I support their right to their beliefs and to practice and celebrate them as they see fit. But they truly aren’t for me.
I felt really angry after we got home today for quite some time. While at the church I was “welcomed” by so many people and asked what I thought of the service, given a free coffee (they have a coffee machine and sell them to the congregation), stopped by the pastor for a welcome chat, asked to complete a form about whether or not I was looking for a new church to call my home and all that jazz and the more it happened the more pissed off I became. While I recognise these things as totally nice behaviours (and the people there really were lovely, if I was looking to join a church this place would totally be an option) and I was warm to everyone in response I felt totally hoodwinked by my friend. Like she has been waiting to slowly convert me and coerce me into “joining the flock” all this time. Like I don’t really know what I believe and that I’ll “come round”. Like I need saving. Fuck I hate that term.
I realise some of this might be a little to do with misplaced anger about my dad so I’ve mostly let it go but I had to sit down and write this post and get it all out of me once and for all as it was going around and around in my brain tonight. The really great thing about it though is that I have really defined my thoughts and beliefs on this subject now. Where I was fence sitting a little before today, I am not anymore.
I don’t believe in organised religion. I don’t believe in a church who sent a petition to the government against marriage between same sex couples (the church I went to today did this and it makes my fucking blood boil). I have my own relationship between the universe and what may or may not be my God (a term I use only as I have no other way to define it) and it has nothing to do with what some people wrote in a book thousands of years ago. These are not my stories.
My son won’t go to a Catholic primary school as they are hard core religious and friends or not at the local church, we won’t be going to a service there again. That is their story and they have the right to teach it to their kids if that’s what they believe. But I also have the right to teach my kids my story and let them choose a path of their own to follow.
So that’s what I’m going to do.
A little note to any of my blog readers who are religious: this is not a personal attack on religion or your beliefs so I hope it doesn’t come across in that way. This is simply me working out and articulating exactly what my beliefs are and how things will work for MY family. I am never offended if people talk religion in the comments on my blog and am quite honestly honoured when people say they have prayed for me. For someone to take time out of their day and spare a moment in their thoughts for me and/or my family, well that is just so touching and truly does move me. That is a gift and I always appreciate it.