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.