Thursday, May 30, 2013

Dear Mom

Dear Mom,

I respect your Christian worldview.  I respect your belief in it.  I admire your tenacious commitment to your religion and your indoctrination.  I admire your decision to indoctrinate me into a system you believed in.  Your personal beliefs are strong and solid and they have led you to many courses of action.  Good action in the service to others.  Good action in the humility and grace of a life lived with meaning and purpose.  You showed me this path because you believed this is the path.  And I really appreciate that you did so.

Now comes the hard part.  I do not share this worldview.  In truth, I never really have.  I had many many questions when I was a child and the Christian worldview did not answer them to my satisfaction.  I have beliefs.  I have a commitment to them.  I am committed to my beliefs but you and I do not share the same beliefs.  I have personal beliefs that lead me to serve others.  To find meaning and purpose.  To value respect and love and peace and individuality and community.  I believe in my path.  I am indoctrinating my children into my world view.  But ironically, I am not indoctrinating them into faith or religion.  I am showing them the world as I see it and I am asking them to be inquisitive and curious and to wonder and wonder and wonder and never stop.  I am raising free thinkers.  I am agnostic.

Since I know you so well I can say that every day you practice your beliefs.  Everyday you make choices supported by your ideology of Christianity.  I practice my beliefs everyday.  I practice humanistic faith in the world, the people, this life, all this love.  I do so because it is my ideology.  It is what I know.  Just as Christianity is what you know.

You would, no doubt, shudder to imagine raising us three girls any other way than in the Methodist Church that you've called your home.  I as well would shudder to imagine raising my three boys in any other way than in this inquisitive, free thinking, philosophical, agnostic wondering way.

We are more alike then we are different.  We raise our children with conscious deliberation and purposeful planning.  We mold them to become people who will make the world a better place.  We simply have different ideological frameworks from which we start from.  The day to day decisions we make are certainly more alike then different.

Here is what I believe.
*I believe that life is a deep and AMAZING mystery.  I cannot get enough of it.  I want to read all about the Universe.  In fact, if I could, I would sit down in a hammock and read every single book about the Universe like it's my job.  I would love that work.  I wonder ALL THE TIME why we are here?  What is the meaning of life?  Where did we come from?  Was there a creator of this amazing existence?  If so, who created the creator?  Did something truly come out of nothing?  So when I say I am agnostic that simply means I do not know.  It does not mean, I do not care.  It does not mean I do not ask.  It means I ask every single day and every single day my answer is, "I don't know, but it is exciting to think about."  If I had to stop thinking about these answers and simply told myself the answer was God in Heaven and Jesus Christ was his Son sent to Us to save us from our Sins, I would be so so sad.  Thinking and wondering is simply my life's greatest pleasures!  It is this experience that I want to indoctrinate my children with.  I want them to wonder at life just as I do and to always try to ask more questions.
*I believe that religion is a very understandable and normal reaction to life.  Life does beg questioning but for some people that is uncomfortable or scary or startling or confusing and religion answers questions.  I get that.  I can't make myself believe in an active, prayer-answering God, any more than I expect to make people who believe in Him to stop believing.  I simply do not believe.  And I have tried it on for size.  I cannot fit into this mold.
*Even if religion as a construct didn't deter me the institution of the Church would.  I do not like my philosophical yearnings, my inquisitive mind, my search for meaning to be guided by a minister or a book.  I want to to be wild and untamed and I want to read many many books about all different ways of believing in order to nurture my spirit.
*Even though I am not a religious person I am deeply spiritual.  I believe a little bit in reincarnation, after all, energy has to go somewhere.  I believe a little bit in karma and dharma, and I believe that meditation and prayer are equally powerful and equally mysterious and equally the same and equally different.  I believe than when I am alone in nature or with my loved ones in nature I am in my true form more than anywhere else on Earth and so I crave and cultivate natural experiences.  Taking my boys on a hike every week is our version of Church.
*I believe in humanism.  I import ethics onto my children intentionally.  I instruct them to use the golden rule.  Value all life and all living things (except spiders).  I teach them to honor me and their father and their fellow brother (related or otherwise).  I teach them to make ethical decisions based on what they know to be good and right (if it harms no-one and benefits the greater good over the individual need).  I teach them that loving kindness is our religion because that is the only religion that comes completely natural to me and flows through my body like life blood.
*Finally, I believe in telling my children all of these things.  I tell them, many people believe in God and many people believe in Jesus Christ.  I tell them, however, that when children are born in Africa, or Russia, or Japan, or South America, or Utah, or Moline, Illinois, they believe what the people around them indoctrinate them to believe.  Without giving children stories to believe, they are simply, athiestic.  I am trying to turn them into happy agnostics.  In other words, I want them to ask questions and search for answers, but I do not want them to be told that any particular story is the one and only truth.  Because, quite frankly, that's not possible.  Just as Muslims and Buddhists and Jews and Hindus and Christians all believe in their fundamental truths, I believe in mine, and I don't think anyone has the answer.  I encourage my boys to understand Christianity because it is the religion that we are most imbedded with in this American culture.   But I am working on teaching them about Christianity within the framework of religion in general and I teach them that it is one approach to understanding the world. 

Now that you know what some of my beliefs are, let me tell you something I am struggling with.  I have a great big job to do.  I have to introduce my children to concepts that are daunting and philosophical and very difficult to grasp.  It's going to take me some time.  I am growing my library of literature and I talk with them at any moment that they wish to talk about it but it's an evolving process, their religious education.  It's also a sensitive process.  I am careful to be clear and accurate when I describe beliefs or when I draw them "pictures" that I know are laying down very cryptic ideas into them.  So, bear with my sons if they ask questions and go ahead and tell them what you believe.  Just do me a favor and remind them that it is your belief and not the truth and the light.  Could you do that for me?  I have been working very hard to ensure my boys respect Christianity because after all people are Christians and people should be given respect.  So also, if they are a little, inappropriate in their responses to your questions, or they say things that shock you, it's okay to tell them how that makes you feel, just do it gently.  Say, "oh you know that's what I believe and when you say what I believe it's silly, it hurts my feelings," and then when they say, "sorry, I didn't mean to hurt your feelings,"  maybe you could say, "that's okay, families forgive, let's eat some ice cream!" 

Mom, I tell you all of these things because I am not going to send my kids alone into the world.  I am not going to have them respond to the question, Do you believe in God? honestly and with great enthusiasm and interest and thoughtfulness and wonder if I haven't stepped out too and answered these difficult questions right along with them.  In most of my life people know that I am an agnostic woman.  I can't keep you in the dark any longer.  It isn't fair to you, it isn't fair to me, and it definitely isn't fair to my kids.  

Thanks mom,
P.S. I'm sorry I didn't tell you sooner.  I thought you didn't want to know.
P.P.S. I hope you are happy that you now know.

Your 33 your old daughter