Saturday, April 07, 2007

I don't mean to butt in

Last week Thomas and I went to a friend's house. We have known our friends for nine years. This family is fundamentalist Christian. For the record, I am a Christian but no where close to being what I term "fundie."

We both know that we are totally different from each other on the religious front. I watch my P's and Q's when I'm around this friend, fearing I might slip up and say, "Oh, shit" in front of her. We have both had a mutual respect for each other and our differences.

Thomas has asked me why they are the way they are, and we have had many open talks about it. One of the things I tell Thomas is that this country is so wonderful because we can believe whatever we want to and practice that chosen religion (as long as it causes no one harm) however we want. (I still take exception to the Pearls and their physically cruel punishments, but I've already talked about that ad nauseam.)

Anyway, I have suspected that she talked with her children about why we are the way we are. I was right on that.

She had to take two of her children to an appointment on the day we visited. She asked if I'd watch her youngest while they left. So I did. The boys were happy to play together and I didn't mind at all.

So what I found so funny was after my friend left, the very first thing her youngest son did was to come up to me and say this: "Um, I don't mean to butt in, but why don't you go to church?"

I believe he was too polite to ask that question in front of his mom, but he was curious and wanted to know. I didn't give him an answer other than the fact that it was a very long story why we didn't go to church. But he was very relieved to know we were Christians.

So as Thomas and I were driving home, I took the opportunity to discuss this because he witnessed it. I asked him what he thought of his friend's question. Thomas thought it was rude and an invasion of our privacy. I explained that children are curious and just want to know things, and while it is something I hope he would never ask someone, it didn't really bother me to be asked.

I brought up the fact that his friend was very relieved to know we were Christians. I asked Thomas what he thought of that. He asked me if they would be our friends if we were not Christians. I told him no, that our friends would not accept us if we were not Christians. (And that is the truth. I have talked about that with Mom Friend a few times.)

Thomas thought that it was very sad indeed. He just couldn't understand the concept of not being friends with someone who didn't share the same faith. I was SO proud, because that is the lesson I have been trying to teach. (And it's one reason I'm "not Christian enough" with some of the local homeschoolers. So be it.)

I have friends of all different faiths or lack of faith. I don't judge on what religion someone practices. I do judge, and that is if they are kind, moral, etc. I cannot imagine closing myself off to -- well, the world. I do, however, understand that is "their" choice to make, though. I just feel it's so sad. Then again, like I said, this is why I'm viewed as "not Christian enough."

Why do I stay friends then? This relationship has been on and off over the years. Sometimes I would just go crazy with it all and not call for months. We always seem to end up in the same place, though, as it's a small town. I stay friends because deep down, aside from the judgmental part I don't like, she is a very lovely person. Her kids are nice, well behaved, and warm. Thomas adores her kids, and they like him.

Thomas asked me why we (well, I) stayed friends and I told him that if we did not, we were being judgmental. We will never see eye-to-eye with anyone. There will always be differences. It opens his world to see how others live, especially those that are so different from us.

And that's it. I don't expect any more religious posts here for a very long time.


Angela, MotherCrone said...

I am so proud of Thomas's wisdom, and your handling of the situation. After years of struggle, this year I have been blessed with finding a few families that while devout in their faiths (Catholic and Hindu) are totally respectful of our choices as Unitarians. There is much we can teach each other!

It is sad to not befriend anyone who does not believe as you do, because it limits your growth. A Catholic friend has interesting take on this. It is ironic that Fundies use religion as the excuse to act exactly as Jesus told them not to-do not judge. If one has true faith, they will not be so afraid of things different.

Still hoping you are able to find some friends like these...for it makes life so much easier!

Carrie said...

I've come here and tried to comment so many times, but always end up writing a small russian novel and deleting it because it's just so long.

The way you handled this warms my heart, and I cheer for Thomas' natural understanding that just because people are different in their personal relationships with God, that doesn't make them "bad". Children know this automatically from the depths of their soul, but like the family you speak of, the parents beat this natural understanding into submission. It's so sad.

You see this woman as being good deep down; I see it the opposite way - lovely and good on the outside, toxic on the inside. The universal rule that all Wiccans live by is "if it harm none, do as thou wilt" -which if you think about it, is the ten commandments wrapped up in one sentence- yet that wouldn't be good enough for her. If you were Wiccan she would not only spurn you, she'd teach that lovely little boy that you were "bad", "a sinner", or worse. In her own heart she would *believe* that you were these things; she wouldn't say "Frankie's wiccan but that's okay, she's a good person and I know that." That's toxic. (Substitute any spiritual belief there for Wicca, it'd be the same.)

I, too, hope that you are able to find some good families to be with. You said it's a small town, though; so you might really have to search.

Hey, I've got an idea... when it's churchtime on Sunday, go out and see who else is out and about! Maybe you'll find someone at the park or playground who won't "tsk tsk" at you just because you don't go to church. :)

Give Thomas and yourself a big hug for me. You both deserve one. :)

Frankie said...

Well said, Angela. I'm glad you've found some families this year.

Carrie there is so much truth in what you wrote. I cannot elaborate on it all here, but you have great insight. I see my friend as good because her good is really, really good. And I like to think that often times, we are "victims" of circumstance. Most times we believe what our parents believe. That is what she was taught and she cannot think out of the box. That's her interpretation, which is 180 degrees from mine. I liken it to this: I believe that religion is based on geography. Where you are born in the world determines what you are. Of course there are exceptions, but you trust what you know, experience, see and believe.

I have trouble drawing the line on my own beliefs: Should I remain friends with someone that I disagree with or not. That lesson has really been a struggle for me. I'm sure it will continue to be a struggle as well.

kamrin said...

You are so understanding! I am glad that there are other moms out there trying to teach tolerance.