December 16, 2008

Away In A Manger

I've mentioned before that I went to a private southern Baptist elementary school. It was really the only way in which I was abused as a child. My parents weren't assholes. They didn't hate me nor did I end up hating them as a result of this educational nightmare. They thought they - totally non-religious souls themselves - were doing the right thing, doing me the favor of a good education. They weren't and halfway though fourth grade, I let them know. They yanked me out. All this is a really long way of saying that I should know the biblical differences between David and Joseph when it comes to the story of the baby Jesus. Apparently I don't.

Early last week, some relatives sent a Christmas card accompanied by a sheet of stickers for Mia. Nativity stickers. For some strange reason I decided that this was the time to discuss the story of Christmas with Mia. She pointed at a sticker on the sheet and I explained the significance of each. The manger, the star, the three wise men. I totally blanked when Mia pointed to Joseph. I said David. Beth, within earshot, corrected the error then laughed at me. Explaining the three wise men took a little doing as well, as I'm not completely sure who was holding the gold, frankincense or myrrh. (On a side note, I really like the way myrrh is spelled. Is it too late to change Owen's name?) I chose not to explore the possible reasons one of the wise men was giving the sheep strange looks. And I encountered a little trouble when there was one person I couldn't for the life of me identify. I settled on "Erica, the baby Jesus' the nanny."

The day after we had this discussion, Mia's preschool put out a nativity scene for all the kids to play with. Mia is now enamored with the baby Jesus. She loves playing with him. She refers to the three wise men as "the three wise guys." I like to imagine Joseph sitting in a smoky strip club with them, putting a hit on some rogue shepherd for a cut of the myrrh trade and a little frankincense under the table having yet to realize that his son has the ability to turn water into wine thus opening up a whole new range of money-making possibilities.

When talking about religion with my daughter, I am flip but not disrespectful. I don't want to minimize the importance of religion even though it's not important to me. But I like to think the people at that southern Baptist school would be horrified and perhaps every time I'm flip it's a shot at them. To me, the religious education I got there, in my first five years of school was like getting waterboarded at Gitmo. Instead of disclosing information about terrorist training camps, I was forced to regurgitate Bible verses I'd spent the previous week trying to learn.

At some point I realize that I'll have to explain the story of the baby Jesus in more detail, describing not only the who and the what but the why as well. I can't guarantee I won't be flip but I will try and be respectful, and accurate though I reserve the right to color the story with my own beliefs. I'll try to stay away from the three wise men as mafia, biblical characters as sheep molesters, and learn the difference between David and Joseph. Beyond that I make no guarantees.

How was religion handled in your house growing up?

Posted by Chris at December 16, 2008 6:37 AM
Comments

You know, last year I wrote about how I changed the words of a Christmas carol to be about Santa instead of Jesus and I got hate mail for weeks. Consider yourself warned.

Posted by: Mrs. Cactus at December 16, 2008 7:02 AM

my mom is southern baptist...grandma? a holy roller southern baptist (fortunately for me, being the lesbian i am... no church of god members!) all my friends went to the catholic church down the street...so i went too! got my own veil - yea it was THAT long ago... and rosary... absolutely LOVED latin!!! learned transcendental meditation... studied a little native american culture rituals... and the tao... i am a non-practicing... religious whore who practices a little witchcraft (well my neighbors think so cuz of the fung shui and crystal stuff)... and just consider myself "spiritual"

Posted by: the unicorn at December 16, 2008 7:37 AM

I tried to explain to Mia yesterday that Santa doesn't come to Michael's house because we are Jewish and Santa doesn't come to everyone's house. That was a travesty in her eyes.

Posted by: jodifur at December 16, 2008 7:56 AM

That's really funny- we took our daughter out of her private Christian school last year. She was in 1st grade. I was like your parents, in that I wanted a private, excellent education even though I didn't care about religion much. Well, that didn't last long because horrible things happened in that school in the name of God. So I took her out.

Posted by: La Petite Belle at December 16, 2008 7:57 AM

Not very well unfortunately, which is why I wasn't a Christian for many many years. It took years of studying on my own and making up my own mind before I was able to feel comfortable being a Christian. Most of the churches of my youth took a heavy handed approach with no real education. I do not like being told what to believe, I want to trust the things I believe in.

Some of that may not make sense without back story but I am sure you will understand Chris.

Posted by: Jeff A at December 16, 2008 8:04 AM

We (the kids) went to church on Sundays with my mom. My dad didn't go with us...sometime he had some sort of disagreement with the higher-ups in our church and refused to attend. He watched on tv while we were gone (he said...I think he napped).

Other than church on Sundays and a week of vacation bible school in the summers, religion wasn't really mentioned. We didn't pray before meals or talk about God much at all. It was just understood that we were all Christians and that was that.

I don't even take my kids to church. We've attended several, but haven't found one we like. I answer questions as they're asked to the best of my ability, and our babysitter is VERY religious so they get some information there, too... I want them to be Christians, but I don't want a particular brand of religion shoved down their throats. They should get to choose how they believe.

Posted by: Alissa at December 16, 2008 8:10 AM

Well, my step-father, who was a certifiable dipshit and probably could've won awards for being so had there been competitions, watched the 700 Club with that piece of work Pat Robertson in his chair coughing up various levels of mindfuckery. Between my mom and my grandmother, I was given a bible and told to read and ask questions, but not to just buy everything it said. I did and then started reading other stuff and answering my own questions and this went on for decades and still happens today. So, I was brought to it in maybe the best of ways that 98% of religion in general seems to frown upon: 'Here's the thing; read it and ask questions.'

Posted by: You can call me, 'Sir' at December 16, 2008 8:17 AM

When I was growing up, probably until I got to highschool my mom was a christmas and easter catholic. Somewhere around the time I was 15, she changed her mind and got very involved in church again - and by that time, I wasn't interested. I'm still not, actually.

My husband grew up involved in church by choice and has moved away from it the older he's gotten. Consequently our children aren't being raised with much involvement in the church (fun when other children tell your daughter she's going to hell because she doesn't pray).

Posted by: sarah at December 16, 2008 8:26 AM

When I was a child, I begged my parents to let me go to Sunday School with my cousin. It was an amazing time of crafts and laughter and fun. When I was on the cusp of being a teenager, my parents divorced and I began to question my beliefs. Then my mother married an ultra-religious man and I started going to church 4x a week (or more). Turns out he molested my sister.

I'm an atheist.

Posted by: Jen R. (aaron-n-jen.com) at December 16, 2008 8:38 AM

I think I got told about religion as and when I asked about it, plus somehow I had some christian books from relatives. I do remember having religious 'phases' but nothing ever stuck. If I had children I'd talk to them about it as it arose but make it clear it was up to them what they believed. I'd also encourage respect for people who are religious. Hopefully they would get that respect back.

Posted by: Katherine at December 16, 2008 8:54 AM

Catholic School Girl here. My school years from 1st through 8th were filled with penguins and steel edged rules! Heh. But yanno what? Educationally I was WAY ahead of the kids in public school. If I could afford to send my child to a private school I would in a heartbeat.

Posted by: NotAMeanGirl at December 16, 2008 9:04 AM

We went to church and I went to sunday school until I was a little older and then I was able to decide if I wanted to continue going and I decided no I didn't want too. As an adult I consider myself "spiritual" I really consider myself Agnostic which many incorrectly believe as athiest. I am not athiest. I like to read about a lot of religions. I just really have a hard time believing in any Deity, it's a hard concept for my brain to grasp and get around I'm not opposed to it and I'm not saying anyone else cannot believe in it. It's just my cynical side jumps in and asks questions.

Posted by: Dee at December 16, 2008 9:06 AM

We went to church once a week and I hated every single solitary second of it. I didn't have religion shoved down my throat. It was just Something We Did. I managed to develop an unhealthy fear of screwing up and having to deal with God's punishment. Then I wised up a little and stopped doing that so much. Then I went to a church that I thought was nice but they turned out to be a cult. Now the only time I go to church is when I'm home with my family because it makes my parents happy. I'm striving to be Quaker.

Posted by: Sparkle Pants at December 16, 2008 9:08 AM

I grew up in a Roman Catholic household, where we went to mass every Sunday and had a nativity scene on the big wooden tv (I don't know what they're going to do this year now that my dad finally got his LCD).

We aren't religious at our house at all (my wife is a non-practicing but still believing member of the United Church; I am agnostic), but we introduced the nativity story to my daughter last year. To her it is another Christmas story, like Santa.

Posted by: SciFi Dad at December 16, 2008 9:09 AM

Well, I grew up in a very Catholic, very Croatian family, so I'm still trying to recover from the time I told a nun off at school (in Croatian mind you) and found out that she was a friend of my grandmother's and spoke fluent Croatian!

I actually just did a post on my blog about religion, so the timing of yours is kind of funny.

Posted by: Claudia at December 16, 2008 9:12 AM

We went to church a few times a year, and I went with friends. Otherwise, it wasn't "handled" at all. And having seen plenty of services now of various religions, I'm very happy and secure in my decision to leave organized religion out of our lives.

On a side note, my best friends both went to Catholic schools for those formable early years and were yanked out when the bullying and horrible treatment by teachers finally got reported.

Posted by: Brad at December 16, 2008 9:20 AM

The three wisemen were Vito, Geno and Big Pussy.

Posted by: William at December 16, 2008 9:23 AM

I was raised in the Methodist church, my parents attended Church most every Sunday and I came along and went to Sunday School. I'll be honest, I never paid attention to it and don't really know a lot of bible stories. I hated church as a kid, it was boring and long. I'm trying to do differently with my son but we currently don't go to church on a weekly basis...someday we might.

Posted by: Darren at December 16, 2008 9:51 AM

Well, my dad was a church organist, so um, every Sunday was pretty much at church. I even kept going to church in college, and after a brief hiatus, now end up going to church twice a week, but if you had told me that a few years ago I would have said you were high.

That being said, I was raised a liberal Lutheran, not Southern Baptist, so I think that's the difference. I don't know the order of the books of the bible and I could maybe quote John 3:16 if I tried really hard but that's about it. Lutherans sing lots, and I like to sing, so I think that's why I go. Plus, it's a college church and there's always free food afterwards!

Posted by: Heather at December 16, 2008 9:54 AM

Oh, and I think the three wise guys are hilarious!

Posted by: Heather at December 16, 2008 9:54 AM

You made me spew my coffee out my nose with the 3 wise guys! Snort!

My grandma left the catholic church, but when I was born she decided she better baptise me anywhere in case I could go to purgatory! So down the street was a Methodist church and she had them make sure I wouldn't end up there....other than that...we didn't think about it...

My mother tried every religion by the time I had to live with her, and she settled on fundamental baptist...holy shit...rolling in the isles and making sure you dust the pew every Sunday with you ass and act like an ass the rest of the week! Snort

Posted by: Gypsy at December 16, 2008 10:01 AM

My father is very religious. My mom isn't really, although she was raised going to church. Mostly, religion was something that they fought about, so I didn't grow up with warm fuzzy feelings about God. They sent me to an Episcopalian high school, where I spent four years ditching Chapel and using the mandatory religion classes to construct my own belief system that has nothing to do with Christianity. So, that kind of backfired on my dad. I still fight with him periodically about religion, but I try to just change the subject instead. Who knows what he'll do once I have kids. Probably sneak them off for baptisms or something.

Not that I have strong feelings about the subject or anything :)

Posted by: bad penguin at December 16, 2008 10:02 AM

so how much hate mail and hate comments you expect to get today????

Posted by: madmom at December 16, 2008 10:08 AM

If it's still on the stands, pick up a copy of the current Newsweek. It has a great article about religion. Or it might be on-line - I haven't checked. If I can find it, I'll send it to you.

Anyhow, my folks were pillars of the American Baptist church in the small New York town where I grew up. I was in Sunday School every week, sang in the choir, and liked it. I don't remember a single word of hate ever being preached.

After I left, I bounced around between church and no church for years. When I moved to the south in the late 60's, I joined the Southern Baptist church there but not for long. What a difference from the way I was taught. They tried to tell me my baptism didn't count (they don't think much of their American Baptist cousins) and that was the beginning of the end even though they lost that argument. I checked out my aunt's Methodists, they needed an organist/pianist desperately, so I signed on and joined. That was almost 40 years ago and I'm Methodist still. We aren't perfect, but we try and my local church is great on social issues.

Churches vary widely, even within denominations.

Anyhow, I'm grateful for my early religious training and what Bible knowledge I have. When the bigots spout their cherry picked verses, I can come right back at them.

I always answered the kids' questions with "some people believe" of "I believe" and go on from there.

Incidentally, those manger scenes are inaccurate. The Magi showed up much later. Makes for a pretty tableaux though.

Posted by: Ann Adams at December 16, 2008 10:21 AM

Your daughter is the best! Three wise guys...lol!!!
Merry Christmas to you, dear friend!

Posted by: Maribeth at December 16, 2008 10:29 AM

Practicing, though not vigilant Catholic, here. My mother is devout and sent us to Catholic school until the 6th grade when my Dad had a disagreement with the principal. Always have had my faith and try to go to church on a regular basis. However, I do not discuss religion or politics in polite company, normally, because everyone has their own beliefs and who am I to argue...after all, I might be wrong.

I love "the three wise guys"!! Mia makes me giggle.

Posted by: Krush at December 16, 2008 10:51 AM

I was raised Catholic, and my family was faithful, but the parish I grew up in was the liberal one whose pastor was always being called on the carpet by the Archbishop for his non-traditional ways. Make of that what you will. I was very active in my church youth group all through middle school and high school, but totally stopped going to church at all for a few years in college. I came back to practicing, and am now pretty active in my parish. My daughter attends our parish school, but my boys are in public school and do the weekend religious education program.

A huge factor in my being comfortable with my faith has to do with how my church leaders presented God and Jesus. I didn't grow up with, and I don't get bombarded now with, fire and brimstone. Religion isn't about being flawless or perfect, it's about recognizing flaws or mistakes and doing something about them. My youth director once said that people want Jesus to throw them a rope when they're struggling in the deep water, but what Jesus is really doing is jumping into the water with us to show us how to tread water and swim again.

Posted by: MamaKaren at December 16, 2008 10:59 AM

If you want to be really accurate you could always teach Mia that the holiday is the Pagan celebration of Yule/Winter Solstice, which was Christianized to convert the masses. (Just add Baby Jesus- voila! religious conversion! Everyone loves babies!)

And of course there is also Kwanzaa.

But make sure you teach her the absolute most important thing about the winter holiday, whatever you choose to call it- time off from work and presents!!!

Posted by: jessica at December 16, 2008 11:04 AM

I like to consider myself a recovering Catholic. I decided around the time I was in College that I wasn't going to be a part of an organized religion. And I'm not being flip about that...it was a long time coming.

I was raised Catholic for the first 12 or so years of my life. Went to Sunday School religiously (ha!) for most of that time. My parents separated when I was about 8 and divorced around the time I was 12. I visited with my dad every 2 weeks or so and lived with my mom.

I knew that something happened in my early teens or even earlier that caused me to doubt what I was being taught as a Catholic. I always had the thought that there was something not quite right. It wasn't until my oldest niece was born 6 yrs ago and I was asked to be her godmother that I had a conversation with my mom that put it all together for me.

Around the time I was 12 or 13, we were asked to do some family tree like project for Sunday School. I wasn't going to be seeing my father in time to get that part of the project done and I told the nun that. The nun apparently (and paraphrasing here) told me that divorce was a sin in the eyes of the church and my parents were going to hell. (she was a hardliner - I remember not liking her all that much!) My mother was met by a hysterical child that day after Sunday School and after she had a few words with the offending nun, we left the church and never returned.

We did attend a lutheran church a few times, but by the time I was in high school, it was only for special occasions (Christmas, Easter). My husband and I have made a decision that we wouldn't be raising Leda in an organized religion (my husband was not brought up religious at all). We will teach her about Christmas and Easter and will most likely have her read the Bible when she's older (It is a good story! I read both old and new testament when I was a teenager) and when she is interested in attending church or synogague, we will accomidate her. We think it is important for her to make a decision on religion for herself.

Probably a longer answer than you expected! ;-)

Posted by: cyndy at December 16, 2008 11:29 AM

Growing up in a Buddhist family in a Buddhist country and going to Catholic school, it was an interesting experience. Buddhist practice is pretty much a part of the culture (karma, doing good, etc.) so we're already learning the basics even before you get to school.

Catholic school doesn't push their religion on the kids either. Catholic kids go do their things while us Buddhists do whatever we do. Nativity story and the story of our school's founder and patron saint were just that, stories. We did "Our Father" every morning ("Hail Mary" on Fridays), say grace before lunch break, and another evening prayer. Praying is praying. We weren't forced to understand who it was going to.

We get to swap religion class in 9th grade though, deeming 15 as old enough to make a religious decision for ourselves. Buddhists get to learn about the bible and Catholics learn about Buddha. Now, we know both sides and are well rounded.

Posted by: oakley at December 16, 2008 11:31 AM

We were church goers and Sunday schooled all around, and then they just let us make up our own minds. I call myself spiritual, not religious after a 10 year stint working as a youth director for the church. I was not well liked by the pastors because I would say things like, "I know you don't believe a dang thing about the Bible right now, but if there ever comes a time in your life that you think something's missing - try going back to church. It might be it." And I seriously meant it. I gave away what I believed and left it to them to make their own decisions.

Posted by: k8 at December 16, 2008 11:42 AM

My dad's a minister; I stopped going to church when I went to college. Fortunately, my dad isn't the happy-clappy type of guy. He's actually really cool, and tries not to feel like he and my mom did something wrong along the way because two of their four kids don't attend church.

Posted by: Alison at December 16, 2008 11:58 AM

don't get me started on the religion thing..i could write a book about how messed up it is in my family. i was raised by two sets of parents. orthodox jews (stepdad and mom) and an atheist and an agnostic who likes to celebrate christmas (dad and stepmom)
and somehow through all of that, i have a sister who is agnostic, a brother who is pentecostal and a brother who went to yeshiva university.

hahaha.

Posted by: ali at December 16, 2008 12:10 PM

I think I told you this before, but one of the reasons I read your blog is because you and Beth are raising Mia and Owen the same way that Dave and I plan to raise Jake. I have a hard time not being flip, if not downright disrespectful, about Christianity. I never really talk about other faiths, so I'm not so douchey about them.

I was raised Presbyterian, but I say it was more "conveniently Christian". The parents dropped us at Sunday School so they could run errands, and we went to church a few times a year. My dad is now a crazy born again, and is already talking to my kid about Jesus when he gets him alone. If it continues, I will cut the relationship.

My mom could care less.

My husband was raised Catholic, but they are total C&E Catholics. They are furious that Jake isn't baptized, but haven't been inside a church except for ceremonies in over 30 years. Hypocrits.

I'm going to let the Baby Jesus stuff slide for as long as possible, then just tell the story as a story so my kid isn't the weird kid who doesn't know who Joseph is.

I mean...

Totally kidding. A good friend of mine only recently learned that Noah's Ark isn't just a nursery theme for twins.

Seriously.

Posted by: lora at December 16, 2008 12:14 PM

I grew up in a Judeo-Christian cult. I KNOW the difference between David and Joseph. And it's done me absolutely NOT ONE BIT OF GOOD in real life. But I can explain the origins of Christmas to my kids. You want I should call Mia and explain it to her? I'll tell her the REAL origins if you want. :)

Posted by: Mr Lady at December 16, 2008 12:38 PM

Personally been a long winding journey from atheist to agnostic to christian to buddhist, although I understand the pastafarians have a great buffet...

We try to teach that at the core of all the religions are a few basic values: be nice to each other, don't take each others stuff, treat everyone with respect, and karma is a real and efficient force in the universe, whether it is God with a scoreboard, Luke bringing balance to the force, or being sent to your room for being mean to your brother. We also remark in passing that there are bad people who use the cloak of religion to get other people to do bad things, but making them think it is good. If anything can be salvaged from the Clone Wars ( how Lucas can sleep at night with a whole generation wanting to grow up to be Anakin, I'll never know ) it is that the clone troopers wanted to be good guys, but that they were tricked by the evil emperor ( if you accept that Sith is a religion ).

Posted by: metawizard at December 16, 2008 12:48 PM

Interesting question. My mother was forced to attend church when she was younger so when I was growing up my family was not church-going and she didn't force it upon us.

With that being said, I kind of feel like I missed out on the educational part. And it makes me wonder if I would have stronger beliefs (good?) as well as less of an open mind (bad!)had I been raised differently.

I just have the kinda karma-be-a-good-person-you know-the-difference-between-right-and-wrong belief system and so far it has worked out well for me.

Posted by: ::c:: at December 16, 2008 1:08 PM

This is great timing. My wife and I were guilt-tripped into attending my aunt and uncle's church Christmas program, a big musical number. "Oh it's just Christmas music, no preaching," she said. I found that hard to believe and sure enough I was right.

I think that the religious elements in my family (or anyone, for that matter) ought to respect my religious decisions and preferences as much as I respect theirs. If I choose to believe my own thing then it's really none of their concern. Of course, being the "personal relationship with Jesus" born-again types that they are, my aunt and uncle probably fear Hell for me. Thanks guys!

Posted by: Mark V at December 16, 2008 1:25 PM

I remember growing up in a non-denominational church, but Mom tells me we're Presbyterian. Honestly, I couldn't tell you the difference between any of the various groups.

I attended church until I was about 15, then I started having questions that no one could answer to my satisfaction. I've studied several religions, decided that there really wasn't much difference between most of them, really dislike organized religion (too many hypocrites) and now I just do my own thing. Do I believe in a higher power? I think so.

Posted by: sherri at December 16, 2008 1:26 PM

I was raised Southern Baptist. We became Presbyterians when I was about 20. Jeff went to the Unitarian church. He's since become a Presbyterian too.

Posted by: Kelley at December 16, 2008 1:55 PM

I was raised in a fundamentalist church (school & all) but I somehow managed to keep my view of God separate from all the BS we were taught. It makes me so angry/sad to hear about the damage "religion" has done. I'm a Christian, but I think most of the church conveniently ignores most of what Jesus actually said in favor of condemnation and proving-you're-better-than-other-people.

Re: the nativity. Yeah, it's always easier to sanitize things for the nativity scenes. Mary was a pregnant teenager and Joseph was considered a patsy for marrying her when she was preggers with someone else's baby. They were both dirt poor, and belonged to a culture that had the status of, say, Kurds in Iraq. Or Native Americans in the US for that matter. It's funny that you mention sheep.. the fact that the shepherds were the ones who heard the news and came to visit the scene was completely scandalous. In the culture of the time, shepherds had a rep. as sheepf***ers and were pretty much the lowest of the low. Kinda like a homeless alcoholic guy showing up at the manger.. "Don't let him near that baby!" And the wise men probably showed up about 2 years later when Jesus was old enough to get into the Frankincense and make a mess while Mary was visiting with them. I love how religion tries so hard to make everything upright and perfect, while God is all about undermining their efforts.

Posted by: Jess at December 16, 2008 2:42 PM

I was raised in a fundamentalist church (school & all) but I somehow managed to keep my view of God separate from all the BS we were taught. It makes me so angry/sad to hear about the damage "religion" has done. I'm a Christian, but I think most of the church conveniently ignores most of what Jesus actually said in favor of condemnation and proving-you're-better-than-other-people.

Re: the nativity. Yeah, it's always easier to sanitize things for the nativity scenes. Mary was a pregnant teenager and Joseph was considered a patsy for marrying her when she was preggers with someone else's baby. They were both dirt poor, and belonged to a culture that had the status of, say, Kurds in Iraq. Or Native Americans in the US for that matter. It's funny that you mention sheep.. the fact that the shepherds were the ones who heard the news and came to visit the scene was completely scandalous. In the culture of the time, shepherds had a rep. as sheepf***ers and were pretty much the lowest of the low. Kinda like a homeless alcoholic guy showing up at the manger.. "Don't let him near that baby!" And the wise men probably showed up about 2 years later when Jesus was old enough to get into the Frankincense and make a mess while Mary was visiting with them. I love how religion tries so hard to make everything upright and perfect, while God is all about undermining their efforts.

Posted by: Jess at December 16, 2008 2:42 PM

Whoops

Posted by: Jess at December 16, 2008 2:43 PM

I don't remember Erica in the story, but it sounds like a good addition. I wonder what she had for transportation.

Posted by: cassie-b at December 16, 2008 2:43 PM

I think Jess said a lot of the things that were going around my head. It kills me to see how many people have been hurt in the name of Christianity. Most of the people who do things like that are Christians in name only. But at the same time, good people can hurt you too - yeah the church can be full of flawed people, just like the rest of the world. I know I've hurt people, I've screwed up, and I hope that it doesn't get blamed on the fact that I'm a Christian. I'm just human.
I think sometimes the idea of hypocrisy comes from people misunderstanding and trying to live up to impossible standards and then not having the freedom to fail.
Anyway, my early childhood was "Sunday Christian" -went to church, went through the motions. Changed churches, got more involved, it was a lot more part of "real life" - went to Christian school, which was overall a good experience. I had actually asked my parents to switch me after grade 4, which was a horrible experience.
Through high school I was very, very involved, Christian school, youth group, worship team, etc. I'm sort of more in-between now...more moderate, sometimes disenfranchised, but even though I get so frustrated with "church" sometimes, I still love the people in mine and know that 99% of them mean well at the very least, and that many of them love me very much. I just have to resist the urge to punch the ones who say my depression would get better if I "prayed about it." (Nooo...really? Never occurred to me. Thanks, genius.)
Haha. Aaaanyway. Ramble much? ;)

Posted by: Heather at December 16, 2008 3:57 PM

My dad's a (non-southern) Baptist minister - so religion was a big part of my childhood. But so was Santa (who I thought was Jesus' dad for a while as a pre-kindergartener) and feminism (ideas like that Mary might not have been a virgin, and that it's "Magi" not "Wise Men" because at that time the far east scholars where they were to have come from included women as equals, and so Magi is a much more inclusive term). Christmas was further complicated by the fact that it's also my birthday and for a while when I was three I thought that meant I might end up hanging from a cross (religion is complicated as a kid... and as an adult...)

Now I'm mostly agnostic with some buddhist/christian/pagan leanings. And my husband is athiest. It'll be interesting when we have kids how we handle the reglion questions that are bound to arise...

Posted by: suze at December 16, 2008 4:35 PM

I was raised in a Lutheran household, where the good old German beliefs were followed. I went to Sunday School every Sunday, but if we went to church with the parents it must have been Easter or Christmas. When I graduated to the high school grades, I went to youth group on Sundays, and also played in the bell choir. Both grandparents were very religious, and I just knew from a point what Christmas was and that it wasn't just Santa and gifts. I'm hoping to give some of that knowledge to my boys, but at 3 and 2 years old, they're just at the age to start, but they're not totally comprehending it all yet!

Posted by: Katie at December 16, 2008 4:53 PM

I was raised in a Lutheran household, where the good old German beliefs were followed. I went to Sunday School every Sunday, but if we went to church with the parents it must have been Easter or Christmas. When I graduated to the high school grades, I went to youth group on Sundays, and also played in the bell choir. Both grandparents were very religious, and I just knew from a point what Christmas was and that it wasn't just Santa and gifts. I'm hoping to give some of that knowledge to my boys, but at 3 and 2 years old, they're just at the age to start, but they're not totally comprehending it all yet!

Posted by: Katie at December 16, 2008 4:53 PM

I was raised in a Lutheran household, where the good old German beliefs were followed. I went to Sunday School every Sunday, but if we went to church with the parents it must have been Easter or Christmas. When I graduated to the high school grades, I went to youth group on Sundays, and also played in the bell choir. Both grandparents were very religious, and I just knew from a point what Christmas was and that it wasn't just Santa and gifts. I'm hoping to give some of that knowledge to my boys, but at 3 and 2 years old, they're just at the age to start, but they're not totally comprehending it all yet!

Posted by: Katie at December 16, 2008 4:53 PM

All I know about nativity scenes is to put the manger in the barn, the kid in the manger, and spread Donner and Blitzen and the elves around until the space looks not so empty.

It's quite possible my mother drank a little too much eggnog while she was carrying me.

Posted by: Charlie at December 16, 2008 5:47 PM

My dad was actually a Methodist minister for a while when I was growing up, until a really bad experience with some hypocritical "Christians" made him give that up. (Now, he's a teacher...out of the frying pan and into the fire? Who knows!) Anyway when I was growing up, it was important to go to church. But when I made the decision at age 13 that I did not want to go anymore because of those assholes, my parents totally supported that, and I haven't been a regular churchgoer since then.

We live in the Bible Belt, I swear we live in the buckle of it all (South Carolina), but in our house, we treat the religious right in a really smarmy way. We're still believers and we have our faith, but fuck organized religion - we want no part of it.

Posted by: Stephanie at December 16, 2008 6:19 PM

I was raised in a Lutheran family. My parents are fairly conservative and religious. I am not so much. I go to church on Christmas Eve and Easter and for the children's Christmas pagent at my parent's church. I am not so sure what I believe in, but in raising my now six year old son, I felt like I wanted him to believe in something beyond himself. Or at least have exposure to the ways people think about spirituality or something. (Real defined, huh?) So we say a grace at dinner and thank someone we call God for what we have. He knows the story of Christmas as a story. I don't think stories will hurt him. And when he asks questions I answer them with, "Some people believe this....but no one really knows for sure. What do you think?"

Anyway, more than you wanted maybe, but it is a part of my parenting I am proud of - that even if I have a hard time believing, I hope I can give my son exposure to things and have him think for himself.

Posted by: Sharri at December 16, 2008 9:32 PM

I was raised as a Southern Baptist, which explains why my son doesn't know who Jesus is. ;)

Seriously, though- the people in the church that I grew up in were kind, loving folks and that part of it was a great experience- but the Sunday School material sent to us by the Southern Baptist Convention was decidedly not, and that part of the experience turned me off from organized religion. Reviewing organized religion from a logical, philosophical, social and historical standpoint over the last few years has turned me off of all 'religion' from a personal perspective.

But, I recognize the good that many folks get out of their chosen faith, and try very hard to have a 'live and let live' attitude. I've started telling my kid stories from the Bible so that he has that cultural background, since the majority of our country that is religious is Christian at this point, and there are some good 'moral' lessons that might be illustrated by some of those stories. I'd like to do the same with some of the other more prevalent religious faiths, like Judaism, Islam, and Buddhism, but it's going to take some time for me to learn about them, too.

Gah! I'm rambling! Anyway, great topic, once again!

Posted by: gabrielle at December 16, 2008 9:32 PM

Oh boy. Glad to see I'm not the only one with a long answer.

Raised Pentecostal. Actually I come from a very long line of Russian Mennonite Missionaries, so born again Christianity is my "heritage". My family was (is) VERY religious-we went every Sunday without fail, both my parents were VERY involved in the church by being part of the board, teaching classes, etc. They were very highly respected in the church we attended and everyone thought our family was perfect. Everyone used to say we were such "good" kids.

I developed a very unhealthy desire to please authority and my family in order to be accepted, and and intense fear of God's punishment (or their rejection) if I didn't. I was TERRIFIED of the book of revelations and always believed that if I wasn't right with God, I'd get left behind. As a teen I became involved with the church more for social reasons-youth group on Fridays, choir, drama team, working at religious summer camps, etc. My parents had dreams of me becoming a missionary and going to India, where my great grandfather had started an orphanage. I even dated a guy that had gone to India on a missions trip, and who was a church going boy that everyone assumed I'd marry.

Once I moved out on my own, I began to experience the world more (I had been really sheltered) and questioned my beliefs somewhat. I realized that I didn't want what my family wanted for me, and I wasn't the person that I had portrayed for so long in order to be accepted. I still did what they wanted though because I believed I had to in order to be loved.

Then I met Hubs. Who is a Christian, but doesn't believe in church and has many views that are the polar opposite of Pentecostals. Who also was the same age as my boyfriend's DAD. We fell madly in love and I ditched the churchy boyfriend for him.

My parents/sibs/church family went ballistic over this and told me that I had to choose between God (meaning them) or the Black Angel From Hell (meaning Hubs). What followed was something right out of a movie, with my Mom claiming to have visions from God that Hubs and I would be divorced, that God told her it wasn't my path, and that Hubs would be dead 10 years later. They literally saw him as a Satanic force, stealing me away from God's destiny for my soul. At one point I was forced to choose and feeling pressured that I'd lose my family, I caved. They whisked me away to a private location and had me under house arrest for months, monitoring my phone calls, who I was with, gave me a curfew, etc. I was 21 and had been living on my own and supporting myself for three years and this was REALLY hard to take but I felt that I had to do it in order to keep my family.

Eventually I gathered the courage and walked away from them, moved in with Hubs, and we set a wedding date. My family refused to have anything to do with our wedding, and the entire church family I grew up with plus all my church friends disowned me completely. They treated me as if I had suddenly become a meth addict prostitute. I was only 21.

It's been 16 years now. Hubs and I are still happily married. I have not, nor will I ever, set foot in a church again. I do not trust religious people. Despite some attempts at repairing the relationship with my family, too much damage was done and it just didn't survive. I still struggle with some depression and anxiety around religious holidays, trying to reconcile with what I believe with what I grew up with. In fact more often then not, I find myself wishing that we could just take off for a sunny vacation and skip the whole damn holiday altogether.

Am I bitter? Ya, probably I am. I have a hard time trusting anyone, and just can't deal with super religious people. It's hard to go through something as traumatic as that and not have lasting effects. With Jake, I've let him know what I believe but have made it clear that where ever his life takes him, or what he believes, I will always love and accept him. No matter what.

Posted by: Scatteredmom at December 16, 2008 11:04 PM

Late to the Party but I can see I'm not the only one out there raised "something", stopped going around the same age, conflicted at a later age.
I was raised Catholic, went to Catholic school 1-8 grade (yes, educationally WAY ahead of the public schoolers when we hit H.S Yay us!). Church every Sunday 9:15 mass hungover or not. Mom very involved - Mother's Circle, Church bazaar chairwoman (the first!). Dad along for the ride (but also insisted we go). My mother died when I was 27 and her funeral was I believe the last time I went to church before I moved to California.
I had our son baptized in our catholic church (more for my family - but also didn't want him to be a total heathen). Few years later we discovered an episcopal church so we went there and my husband was baptized. Moved back to Conn., didn't find a church we liked so son and I went back to our catholic church (not the same one I went to) and he went through catechism, made his first communion but I "let" him stop in 6th grade. I don't think I've gone to church since then (wow! like 7 years).
I BELIEVE, I pray, I try to be good and kind and loving. Sometimes it works, sometimes I fail. But I feel better knowing I'm not alone!
I've said this is the year I'm going to go and find the people I want to pray and believe with.
Thanks for making us think about it a little harder.

Posted by: NancyJak at December 17, 2008 9:34 AM

Why, oh why, is it only the monster raving looney fundamentalists who find it impossible that you can lead a happy, productive, moral(?!) giving and sharing life WITHOUT religion...

From what I've seen and heard over the years, you and yours (and myself) are best steering well clear... if you know what I mean :)

PS. There's folk her in BC, Canada with plastic Santa's mixing with Wise men in their front gardens... and to be honest I think they're not being ironic....???!!

Posted by: english thorn at December 18, 2008 4:35 PM

As a kid, going to church was something that I had to do and not something that I wanted to do. I no longer go to church, but my parents do and we cope with our religious differences.

On a recent visit by my parents, my son decided to go along to church with them. When he returned he was annoyed, apparently Nanna had said that there would be a Nativity - he didn't know what a Nativity was but thought that it might have something to do with an 'activity' and would be fun. I don't think he will be volunteering to attend again any time soon!

Posted by: del at December 19, 2008 5:49 AM

I also went to religious schools, but mine have been all the way through college. They always gagged so much crap down our throats I have never really bought it. My parents and I have never been people to go to church or anything like that. I figure you can pray when and wherever if you chose to do so. I would probably be a little flip about it too, to be honest, if I was to attempt to explain.

Posted by: Dianna at December 19, 2008 12:49 PM


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