Friday, July 31, 2009

Broadway, Almost

Here they are, all set and ready to go to their big show. Ava and Olivia participated in a music and show camp this week at the church next door to our house. About 40 kids had 4 days to learn 10 songs, dances that went with the 10 songs and then perform the whole show for a sanctuary filled with adoring family and friends.

Let me just say for the record that the director was fabulous and was so kind and patient with the kids. The show was well, down right good. My kids? Yes, they were absolutely enthralled with the whole experience and still continue to sing those blasted Christian songs of salvation over and over and over.

And yet, I was conflicted throughout the whole week. Yes, leave it to me to be uneasy and over think any situation where people are being extremely kind and generous to my family and pretty much asking nothing in return. And no it is not lost on me that my children were able to participate in a wonderful singing, dancing performing experience for all of $40 for the week. Where else would they get that much experience and entertainment? If it exists here in the metro area in non-liturgical form, I don't know where.

So, then why was I ill at ease at times? Why was I conflicted as to whether this was the best thing to let them attend this camp? The play had an overtly Christian theme but it was at a church for heaven's sake, forgive the pun. There was talk of where do you attend church? Imagine me with a green nose and two heads as I honestly answered that we don't attend a church. And, pray for forgiveness for our worldly sins. The kids are 7 and 3...I just can't get a grip around how much sinning they've really done. Unless you count the candy stealing and hiding of wrappers underneath the bed until bugs start to congregate incident of 2008. I'm not real big into original sin and punishment as redemption if you haven't guessed.

As the pastor opened the show he did so with a nice prayer. Then he even thanked people from other congregations for "sharing their children" so all Christians can come together for worship and song with our children. I know I know, but I couldn't help but think, wait what if we aren't all Christians? What if someone here is Muslim, or Buddhist or dare I say agnostic gah, athiest? What if someone here worships trees? Would we still all be invited?

My inner conflict has nothing to do with this church really, or its people or whether I agree with everything they profess. It is a more deeply rooted issue that I continue to grapple with centered around spiritual community vs. organized religion. Have you noticed that organized religion does community really well? My goodness, we have several churches within a 5 miles radius that boast membership in the thousands. My inner conflict stems from these places having amazing facilities and a sense of belonging for families...but the old "we believe one thing" that's the part that gets me every time.

Ava asked me recently why her friend attends a church and we do not. I told her it's not that we don't permanently or won't. Gees, her Irish Catholic dad went to parochial school until 12th grade. And, my father still attends weekly mass. But at some point in my life I also found value in having God as a presence in my life but also to be a critical thinker. This is what I want for my kids, critical thinking with a bend towards spirituality I suppose. I don't want them judging others. I don't want them going to college thinking they know "the way". Why yes, because because when you don't know "the way" and you question everything life is just so much easier. Hmmph.

This week I found myself feeling like perhaps I am isolating my children all in the name of being stubborn about organized religion. I would love to know how many folks attend a church and yet believe only 50% of what is being professed each week? 70% what about 30% How many people take their families to a church because they just want that community for their children and figure they will just "unprogram" the stuff they don't necessarily believe over dinner during the week? And is that fair to the church if you take up their resources and time believing that as you go in?

Yeah, this issue was a hell of a lot easier before I had kids. A hell of a lot easier. See, I knew I didn't belong there next door.


Johnny said...

There's no right answer. And maybe, that's the right answer itself.

Diana said...

I was raised Catholic. I don't go to church now and I'm learning not to judge everyone who does. I have a very negative feeling about Christianity that I feel bad about and want to change. Sometimes I go to the Buddhist temple in town for talks and meditation and I love it. My daughter is almost 5, and she know nothing about religion. I'm not sure what to do, but I love that others are in the same boat.

Lisa~~ said...

I struggle with these same issues and wonder if we're doing the right thing by having Maisie in a Christian school especially considering that I'm not Christian (and completely apathetic about religion) and hubby is a lapsed and doubting Catholic. But then I look at the quality of education that she's receiving vs. public, 10 students max per class vs. 30-35 in public and you know those signs outside of every church that read "Jesus Saves" well the big J saves me big bucks compared to secular private schools. I'm just waiting for the day when she's a little older and they're talking about religion in school and she informs them that we don't "do" the big J at home and word gets around and they all gather for an intervention to "save" us!! Good luck with the whole religion thing.

Elaine said...

There's research that suggests that many of the large churches like you are describing do have a substantial number of agnostic-like parents who feel like they ought to be giving their kids something and are attracted by the extensive programing and such and not by shared belief systems. Don't know what that means, other than you are clearly onto something with that.
My spouse and I are Christians - quickly I qualify by saying 'of the peace, justice and service Mennonite sort' and i spend my days and energy engaged in inter-faith education and dialogue with Muslims, Hindus and Buddhists. We have had a terrible time finding a church community that we fit into in the US. And would be just as uncomfortable in the places you are describing as you must be. And I struggle with what to teach my children about religion/faith/spirituality. They know about Jesus, who in our telling of the story was all about compassion and service and nonviolence and justice. They also know about Buddha who kinda did the same thing. All of which is to say, even Mamas with PhD's in Religion struggle with this stuff. Johnny's probably right. No right answer. The raft is not the shore and all like that.

Tracee said...

We get grief from my mother for not taking Lilly to church. I grew up in a southern baptist church and I'm totally against organized religion of any denomination. However, that doesn't mean I'm not "spiritual" in my own way. It is a tad embarassing that Lilly doesn't much about J and simple bible stories esp. when she goes to sunday school with my folks. It's our choice and there is no use fighting about it so when they bring it up, we just shut them down. Hubs degree was in religion and he wanted to be a preacher at one time. We gave L a choice this summer of going to VBS this summer but she wanted to stay home and watch Scooby Doo.

Alyson & Ford said...

We go to church regularly as we do believe in God and Jesus Christ. We believe reading the Bible is the way to gaining faith. With that said, I have seen it both ways: if children are not in an organized church group/worship, then when they are older they will have a difficult time making the educated decision as to whether they want to be Christians or not. Just my opinion; which alot of people in our church do not want as they can't get their arms wrapped around someone who is Christian, pro-choice, democrat, adopting parents! Churches do not fit our need, we go and learn what we need.

Alyzabeth's Mommy