Thursday, June 16, 2011


I say that I live in Austin, but I'm actually in the suburbs outside of Austin. Austin is a unique, liberal oasis in the center of the conservative desert of Texas, if you're inclined to think of conservatism as a barren wasteland. I'm not; I was once conservative, though I have more liberal leanings now. But one way in which I never meshed with conservatism was in my religious beliefs.

A few days before Thumper was born, I wrote about how I was pondering his religious education. I have, in the intervening years, come to the conclusion that our conversations about religion will develop independently of my constant over-thinking. But I've noticed lately that here, in my suburban landscape, there are a lot of upper middle-class white folk who are surprisingly (to me) religious. They also make lots of babies. I suppose it's not surprising, ultimately, that there are good Christian breeders here in suburban Texas, but I've been feeling more and more in disguise lately.

"Vacation Bible School" (familiarly referred to as VBS) has repeatedly been suggested to me as a summer alternative for the boy, and church daycare and/or preschool is also a highly recommended solution, even from my south and central Austin friends who are not particularly religious. Apparently it's not uncommon for the agnostic or atheist parents to send their kids to church child care, and hey, they don't indoctrinate THAT much, anyway. The more time we spend at our suburban YMCA (which, Lord God, is a lot of time, because of the gymnastics, the swim lessons, the soccer, the child care while I work out, the cool pool with the splash pad, the free babysitting one Friday a month, the cheap babysitting two Saturdays a month... Well, it adds up to a lot of time, is what I'm saying...) the more I seem to find myself listening to conversations between mothers of four and five kids talking about the dilemma of either home schooling or sending their kids to private school, of church, and bible school, and bible studies, and backyard bible clubs. Forgive me if any or all of that should have been capitalized.

I was even invited to attend a backyard bible club, or Backyard Bible Club, or backyard Bible club, today. I didn't exactly or directly respond to the invitation and immediately felt the degree to which I am undercover out here in the suburbs. Religion is a dominant part of the lives of most of the moms that I've met through the couple of moms' playgroups to which I belong, and I do my best to fly under the God radar. I try not to talk about religion, because as far as I can tell, nothing good can come of such a discussion. At best, I will be stuck trying to explain myself, and at worst, Thumper will no longer be able to play with some of the friends he has made over the past year or two. Making friends has turned out to be one of Thumper's best skills, but still, I don't need to be burning any of his bridges.

So it turns out that, despite all my agonizing over the religious education of my child, I'm an anti-religion snob whose first reaction to the word "bible" is distaste, and there's no chance of me inculcating my child in Christ, though I recognize that growing up without faith is a disadvantage and that without early indoctrination, faith is virtually impossible.

Still, there's going to be bounce houses and ice cream at the Backyard Bible Club.


Anonymous said...

so i grew up presbyterian. relatively strictly. i managed to stay that way until halfway through college even though the seeds of change had been firmly planted in early high school. i have many good memories of religion. or some of the people i met through religion. that's more accurate. religion gave me nightmares. literal nightmares.

i really never mingled outside my church and it played an important role in making me who i am. it wasn't until having kids that i really made a sea change in my thinking. what was i going to provide my kids? what values and fears would they derive from me? where do i find the sense of community for my kids that i grew up with if not with religion? i still wonder about that. but i can't fool myself for them. i don't buy it. i can't buy it. there is too much that contradicts it. but yet i find myself being cautious, because of familial relationships and a fear of disappointing. recently, my eldest has been talking about heaven. i've never mentioned it. but she hears it because i can't be the one with her all of the time. there is a brief moment of "yeah! that makes explaining life easier." but easy isn't how i see things. so why should i resort to an easy explanation for her? six months ago, i came across a book that, from the best i can tell, introduces different religion as black and white-ly as possible. what they believe. no justifications, just what. is was almost as if i had bought it before i realized it. judaism=christianity=buddhism=islam=shinto=etc. here's the facts (as in: here's what different people believe.) that's the best i can ask for. i want my kids to make the decision on their beliefs based solely on that. what THEY believe. i am still at a loss as how to explain that nana and daddy have very differing views as to how, when, and why we are. but i know the questions are coming. in a way, knowing that i was "saved" when i was 5 was comfort. in another way, i was a terrified and tortured kid because of the images that played in my head due to it. and that i vow to never instill in my kids. cheap child care, bouncy house, sense of community be damned. i'll find another way. i could have gone on for pages, but i need my sleep. tomorrow might be the day a kid will ask me what happens when we die. guess i better be prepared.

-not willing to post to facebook

Myra said...

I have only positive memories of growing up (also Presbyterian but a liberal church) with religion.

Unfortunately, it made my natural curiosity very impotent.

While I feel for Anonymous' statement, he/she fails to realize that our parents generation lived that. They don't believe this stuff is real any more than we do. We just have the freedom to say it.

Part of growing up is realizing certain things just don't exist.

Anonymous said...

I highly disagree with your assertion that our parents generation dosen't actually believe religion. Or for that matter, our own generation. While maybe not as prevalent as in the past, for the time being, god is "alive and well" in the hearts and minds of many. Most of my friends, especially those who I have known for 15 years or more, would identify as christian. Even if, at a fundamental level, they question it, they have convinced themselves that it is real real. They live their lives according to it. Who would dedicate their lives to a religion that they deemed fantasy? That makes no sense. When one of my friends posts to facebook that they have "given a descision over to christ," to them, it's not symbolic. They actually believe god will provide them with real, tangable direction.

Just my 1 1/2 cents.

Purelight said...

There is a vast vast difference between believing in Creator/God/an orderly Universe,and believing in any specific religion.

Anonymous said...

I heard an interesting comment by a deacon when he was speaking to a group about "faith" ... his point was that it takes just as much commitment and faith to believe that God does NOT exist as it does to believe in His existence. The difference is that one belief comes with a promise of everlasting life in heaven and the other a big scary unknown.

I, Rodius said...

Thanks for the comments. Next time I see you, Anonymous #1, I'll have to find out more about that book. Yes, God and human institutions celebrating God are not the same thing, and I don't think my parents fed me lies they didn't believe in. I also don't think I can do that to (or possibly for) my son. I just feel awkward whenever the subject of God, religion, church, or the Bible comes up because I'm afraid I'll out myself and force other people to form an opinion about me that I probably won't feel like I deserve. I'm pretty sure at this point in my life that religion will never play an important role in my life. Part of me, though, thinks I may be cheating Thumper by forcing him to discover his own beliefs from a foundation of no faith, which has not happened for me, rather than discovering what he does, or does not agree with about the foundation of faith that I could have, but did not, give him.

Related Posts with Thumbnails