Wednesday, February 17, 2010
Adventures in Real Parenting: Not With My Son, You Don't
I am troubled.
Wait. You already know that, don't you? Let me begin again.
If I have a soul, and that's a big IF, it is troubled.
Parenting conundrum. The thinky kind. What a pain in the brainpan.
Remember in the old days how kids would hide porn mags under their mattress? Well a couple of weeks ago, I found a bible like thing under Nate's mattress.
You see, Nathan has been going to Wednesday evening youth group at the local Baptist church. At first, I assumed it was social. I was fine with him going with the group to feed the homeless a couple of weeks ago. I fully support the good works that the church, any church, does.
I mentioned the bible-ish thing to MathMan who reacted with a touch of horror. He wasn't that thrilled with my cavalier attitude about Nate going to the Wednesday evening things at the church and now here was the direct result of that insouciance I'd displayed. I'd dropped the parenting ball.
The other day, MathMan, Nate and I were riding in the car when MathMan very casually asked,"So are you a Christian now?"
And Nate replied simply, "Yes."
Screeeeeeech!!!! What? Wait. What?
I asked him yesterday what being a Christian meant. He couldn't really answer me. Uh huh.
I know many of you are Christians and you have to know that this is not a personal attack on your religion, but, um, NO. No, no, no, no, and NO.
And for those of you thinking "well, there could be worse things," I beg your patience. Of course, there could be worse things, but this cuts at the heart of the parenting role for me.
We've raised our kids in a culturally Jewish household. By that I mean, I was raised in a Protestant home, but I am not a believer at all. Attending church was a punishment for being a pill during the week. We were not regular attendees, by any stretch. And my parents were never ever ever part of the in-crowd clique that every church seems to have.
To tell you the truth, I am incapable of that kind of suspension in reality. I wouldn't want to worship the god that some people talk about. Wait, scratch that. The whole idea of worship is foreign to me. I am areligious. Kind of like asexual. Faith? What's that? MathMan, who doesn't talk about god and such, was raised as a Jew. We have identified as Jews for the kids' entire lives, when pressed.
While it is true that when we moved to Georgia, we did not seek out a Temple nor did we continue with the religious/cultural education of our children, I certainly do not approve of the brainwashing my son appears to be undergoing. I repeat, brainwashing.
Rumor has it, he's been "saved." From what? Don't bother answering that. I think it's all a pile of wishful thinking. You die, you're dead. End of discussion for me. And for now, for my kids. When they are adults and capable of understanding what they are buying into, then they can decide for themselves.
I've been turning it over in my head - why is this bothering me so much?
Here's the thing. I would never bring my friends' kids to my house to share with them my beliefs or lack thereof. I would never dream of telling the children of other people what they should believe. That is completely inappropriate.
So now I'm between a rock and hard place. (Note: I'm writing and speaking for me only. I'm not speaking for MathMan.)
"Nate, I want to tell you something. I'm not angry. I'm not attacking you, but I need to say this."
"How do you think (name deleted)'s mom or (name deleted's) mom would feel if I invited their kids over here every Wednesday night so that I could 'share' with them how my way of life, my way of believing or not believing in my case is the best way. How do you think those moms would feel?"
"And how do you think all of this is making me feel?"
I hate this part of being a parent. I don't want this to be about me, but you know what? It is. I am this child's (and at 14, he's still a child) mother. I have tried to be broad minded. I've let him be exposed to different avenues of thought. I figured that it wouldn't hurt him, but now I'm not so sure. The fact that within a couple of weeks, he's been persuaded to "join" this kind of thinking, this belief system that runs counter to mine is not something I'm happy about. Of course, when what one is defending is a lack of belief, it's kind of hard to go up against something that promises you that you can do whatever you want and still go to heaven as long as you're "saved" and agree to hate the right people (that's the Baptist angle, at least).
Sophia is concerned. She's getting second hand the information about what's being done to Nate at these church things. I asked her what it all means, because Nathan is reluctant to talk about it now. She tells me that their mutual friends interpret "saved" as carte blanche (my word, not hers - she's sophisticated for an 11 year old, but not that sophisticated.)
Here's her take on things. "I think Nate is at an age where he just wants to fit in." And, of course, she's right. I completely understand. But what if this isn't like the skateboarding fad? Or the skinny jeans? Or the redneck look that swept some segments of his crowd? What then?
Sorry, Christian friends, but this is when I have to be honest with you. This whole affair smacks of cultism. Just because you belong to an "acceptable" cult, doesn't make it any less of a cult. The minute this kid starts "believing in creationism," we'll be conducting a full on intervention. I mean, INTERVENTION.
See - here's the thing, again. I don't tell you what to believe. I simply want my nonbelief to be respected. I don't go out and hold meetings trying to convince people to not believe. I suppose I'm more a humanist than anything. I do believe that people can know and practice the difference between right and wrong without any religious overlay to their actions. I don't need the promise of reward or punishment to keep me from doing or not doing things. And no, I'm not afraid to not believe. I don't feel a void. The thing is - were I to pretend to believe, isn't that just as hypocritical as anything you can imagine? If god is as omniscient as y'all say, then he's going to know I'm lying anyway. Look - even as I little kid, the whole praying thing seemed silly to me.
But I would never tell you that you shouldn't do what you want with your own spirituality or whatever you call it. Understand? Now please, grant me the same.
Here's what I don't like about this.
1. It's disrespectful to MathMan and me as Nathan's parents. My permission for him to attend the social functions was not permission for these people to "save" him or baptize him.
2. It creates a rift within our household. This boy, with very little education as to what it all means and with no communication with his parents at all, has been encouraged to deny his family's belief systems and values.
For example: When he was telling us about a talk they'd had about sex and he used the word "shame." Oh no. Sorry. We're not going there. Shame and sex are not to be mixed together. That's pure bullshit stuff right there. Sex is a biological function. Yes, there are moral aspects, but the aspects I'm far more concerned with are practical. STDs, pregnancy, etc. Shame? No.
That's the kind of head game nonsense we've never played with our kids. I would never approach such a serious topic with such a weak argument. Shame? Oh, please. Let's deal with reality. You don't want a baby now, if ever, and you definitely don't want to get sick. Those are reasons enough for not fucking around. Literally. Shame can be dealt with quite easily when you're saved. I'm sorry I did it. Boom! Problem solved because I'm saved! That baby? It's yours. You are stuck with it. Herpes? HIV? Yeah, pray that away, sugarplum.
Look - I don't even approve of our kids using the words 'whore' or 'slut' when talking about sex. Those words are reprehensible. They are shaming bullshit words that have no place in real discussions of sex. That's how seriously I take this part of the religion stuff. That part harms far more than it helps.
3. We are still this child's parents, but since he's been under this new influence of youth ministers, etc., I've gotten a distinct feeling of distance from him. MathMan thinks it's typical teenage boy stuff and perhaps it is, but I am worried. I don't like it.
The bottom line is this - for those of you who follow a religion that recruits - back off. You may think you're helping people, but I don't see it that way at all. Let people come to you if they want. But this business of recruiting teens? Stop it. They are highly vulnerable to the social aspects of what you do. Meanwhile, you're sucking them into something that they are not able to fully understand. So not cool.
Doesn't your bible list those commandments? And isn't one of them to honor the father and the mother?
Well, then, please do that.
Rant probably not over.