Posted by: emjb | July 24, 2005

DPTs, MMRs, and a God-Shot

Religion is a subject that comes up pretty often for me, and as we anticipate our child’s birth, I expect to hear a lot more about it in the coming years. I am going to have to explain why we do not plan to take our child to church, or Sunday School, or Vacation Bible School; we do not plan on having him baptized. Many of our loved ones have been reserved about our lack of churched-ness up to now, figuring it’s a phase all young adults go through, and that we’ll see the importance of church again once we have a child to raise.

It’s all part of the mindset that taking your child to church is like a vaccination; it inoculates them against doing or thinking evil things. I can almost understand this point of view, but the trade off is usually that instead they are exposed to an organization that discourages them from thinking for themselves, that promotes sexism, racism, and homophobia, and that is so afraid of science and knowledge that it will willingly promote untruths. This is far too high a cost for the otherwise benign pleasures of praising God, reading Scripture, helping the poor and needy, and feeling part of a community of faith. So we will most likely stay “unchurched” and our child will have to decide for himself what he does and doesn’t believe. He may believe as we do; he may not. That will be his right to decide. If he truly wants to go, I’ll gladly get up and drive him, or let him go with a friend, though I will also want to talk about what he’s being told there. And as far as God goes, I expect we’ll have lots of conversations on this topic; it certainly won’t be off limits.

Personally, I disliked nearly every second that I spent in church growing up. It was a prison and it felt like one. I have yet to spend time in any church that didn’t feel the same. Not that there weren’t good people there; there were. But there was also an astonishing amount of hypocrisy and callousness towards anyone who wasn’t like us. There was no one who challenged the edicts that kept women from leadership; no one who asked why we had a “sister church” that was all-black, which sometimes came to worship with us, but was not considered part of the same convention as us, as though black people and white people could not possibly worship the same God every week in the same room.

I have no problem with Jesus; I have lots of problems with what his followers have turned his teachings into lately, namely an excuse to meddle in the personal lives of others and to shred the Constitution. It astonishes me that a religion that professes to understand that we are all sinners nonetheless, like the pigs in Animal Farm, thinks “some of us sinners are better than others” and therefore get to decide how the less-important sinners should worship and conduct their daily lives and educate their children.

Would Jesus be happy at the millions of dollars professed Christians spend to intimidate judges and slap discrimination laws up, instead of doing what he commanded–caring for the poor and needy, being an example to the world? Whatever right-wing churches in America today are promoting, it doesn’t seem to have much to do with Jesus’ teachings at all. It seems to have a lot more to do with making sure we keep Those Bad People out of well, everywhere, so as to keep Us Good People pure. An idea much more akin to those of the Pharisees than to those of the man who spent most of his time with thieves, prostitutes, the indigent, tax collectors, and the sick. James Dobson’s chest-beating about “purity” doesn’t seem to have much to do with Jesus’ exhortation to pray in private, alone, in humility.

Right wing churches nowadays resemble no one so much as those who left the battered traveler on the side of the road before the good Samaritan came along. Or worse, they seem inclined not only to ignore him, but to kick him viciously every chance they get.

I don’t want my child to learn those lessons, or to learn to associate God with boredom and ignorance and hatred. To tell the truth, I have lost interest in looking for a church that doesn’t do those things; I have found that I can carry on, spiritually speaking, without a church at all. If I stumbled across a place that seemed welcoming, I might stay; it might be that there is no place that wouldn’ t make me feel resentful and restrained.

Maybe churches just don’t work for me; maybe the whole idea of churches just doesn’t work. I can’t say. I certainly can’t say what my child will think or want when it comes to religion. All I can decide ahead of time is that I won’t stand in his way, provided he approaches whatever he believes with an open and questioning mind. If I have to inoculate him with anything, the ability to ask the questions that need asking is the strongest medicine I know.



  1. Excellent post. Nice Animal Farm reference.

  2. Instead of church, we’ll be listening to “Animals” every Sunday morning. I’ll make little hymnals and we can all sing along. Now let us pray:

    “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want
    He makes me down to lie
    Through pastures green He leadeth me the silent waters by.
    With bright knives He releaseth my soul.
    He maketh me to hang on hooks in high places.
    He converteth me to lamb cutlets,
    For lo, He hath great power, and great hunger.
    When cometh the day we lowly ones,
    Through quiet reflection, and great dedication
    Master the art of karate,
    Lo, we shall rise up,
    And then we’ll make the bugger’s eyes water.”

    – Pink Floyd, “Sheep”

  3. Mmm. Lamb cutlets.

  4. I could have written the same words if I had your talent, and I know that the best thing you can teach a child is tolerance, for the weak, the less priviledged, and the “different”, teaching them that all creatures have a story, and each is as important as your own.

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