Monday, 19 December 2011

From Tequila Shots to Jesus (Things I Hope for my Son)

This wasn’t the post I was going to write today. But it’s the post that came. It’s something that has been marinating in my mind for a while now. And today I had the chance to say it out loud in one of those conversations that feeds your soul. The kind of conversations that I crave, like food, but that often get missed in the day-to-day discussions of baby sleep patterns and diaper changes.

I have been thinking a lot about religion in the last few months. If you know me, you might think that this is an unexpected admission. Religion and I have a complicated history. We had a rocky beginning when, at the tender age of five, some well meaning religious neighbors told me I was going to Hell because my organized-religion-less parents had failed to baptize me. That kind of thing can really mess a kid up.  Especially when that kid then watches a movie where dead children go to live with Santa Claus because they are too young for Heaven or Hell and then hopes that she will die before the age of ten so that she can live at the North Pole instead of in the fiery pits of the Devil’s Kingdom.

So that happened. And it shaped me in profound ways. Then I became a lesbian and became the target of many people who stand behind the Bible in an attempt to espouse hate – ignoring the passages that focus on love and clinging to the passages that seem to justify condemnation. My wife and I have received a number of packages from her Jimmy-Swaggart-obsessed Granny warning us of our eternal damnation. Many times small, neatly wrapped, packages have arrived at our door with pamphlets and ripped magazine pages containing highlighted passages such as:

“Marriage is scorned. How many people today are simply living together without the benefit of marriage? Fifty percent of our homes are breaking up. The other day two homosexuals had their sordid relationship 'dignified'  by a 'marriage ceremony' performed by (would you believe?) a preacher.”

“The facts are these: God made man and woman. He made man to be the head of the family. He didn't intend for him to be a dictator or a tyrant, but He did ordain him head of the family. Ladies, whether you like it or not, this is God's plan. Any other order will frustrate the laws of God and will bring total destruction to those who promote such a system.”

“Today we have changed the names, but we haven't changed the problems. The harlot has now become the party girl; the drunkard is an alcoholic; the sex pervert is gay or homosexual. I'm sick to death of words like 'gay' being used to amass respect for people who don't deserve respect. Why don't we use words descriptive of their chosen lifestyle, such as pervert, queer or faggot? There are plenty of appropriate words branding these people for what they really are.”

So that happened too. And it shaped my understanding of organized religion.

But lately I’ve felt a change. I’ve felt an urge in me to understand the bigger picture. I’ve felt an urge to pray even though it’s not something I’ve ever done.  You see Mac has two moms with a very complicated relationship to religion. One of them is a “recovering Catholic” who is, at most, agnostic. The other was raised religion-less and has worked hard to convince herself of the possibility of Heaven while making Hell feel utterly unbelievable. But I can’t help but want him to have faith. I want him to believe in something bigger than himself. I want him to pray and to trust in God. I want him to have the kind of security in the bigger picture that his moms lack.

These things have been banging around in my brain for months now. I’ve googled “gay friendly Ottawa Church” and I’ve thought out my hopes and fears for my son. But I haven’t said it out loud much. And then today, I am sitting cross-legged on the floor, drinking coffee with one of my oldest and dearest friends as Mac kicks and squeals on the blanket between us. Out of the blue she mentions that she’s been thinking about going to church lately. Raised Catholic, but not practicing, she wants her daughter to know of God and feel his love and guidance. We both stared at each other for a moment. Each completely shocked by what the other was saying. We had moved past the pleasant chat of baby care and life’s complications and into the meaty, satisfying, conversation that all new moms need. We talked about what we wanted for our children beyond access to sports and a good education. We talked of the people we hoped they’d become while realizing, humbly, that our influence on their personhood will be both huge and miniscule in a myriad of ways. 

We finished the conversation with an incomplete plan left hanging in the air. Yes, we will explore church for our children. The how and the when have yet to fall into place. And as she left I couldn’t help but smile at the amazing ability of true friendship to twist and grow as two people wander through separate lives. Ten years ago we had conversations that fed my soul too. They were about the world and the future and what we could do with it. But more often than not our conversations centred around tequila shots and the search for post-bar-poutine. From tequila shots to Jesus. That’s quite the leap.

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  1. Thanks for the honesty! Hope you find a community of like-minded people with whom to inspire and support your Mac.

  2. Reading this made me miss you, your wit, your honesty and curiosity. Although I am not a parent, I too share a curiosity around religion as I was brought up in a non-denominational family.

    My parents were both raised United and were forced to attend Sunday school. Their parents gave them each a choice when they were teens to continue or abort, and they both chose to abort the religious dogma.

    When they raised my brother and I, they wanted us to choose our religion. This gave me the opportunity to explore religion on my own accord. I attended various churches and denominations through out my elementary years and into my teen years.

    I wrote an essay in Gr. 9 on God and religion in general. Not much has changed since then with regards to my view and my opinion. My stance is such that religion provided hope and a divine explanation at a time when the scientific method didn't exist.

    How else could you explain or understand why a loved one dies? Or why a child dies? Having faith meant that a higher power had control and was making those decisions and there were reasons why they were making such choices and I believe that provided comfort for those who were hopeless and helpless.

    I hold a certain amount of contempt for religion, because it has been the foundation for many wars, disputes, hate and far too many deaths to count. I just don't understand how someone would want to kill another person because they don't have the same religious beliefs - it is crazy.

    I accept and respect people's beliefs and I feel fortunate that my parents allowed me to define religion in my own way.

    I contend that it is healthy for young minds to explore their own beliefs and find something that makes sense for them as an individual.

    Good luck with your quest! Thanks for the read.

    Love ya,


  3. Thank-you very much for your kind words Sarah and Andrew.

    Oh B! Gosh I miss you! Thanks for the articulation of your thoughts! Xo

  4. I live in wonder why we can not coexist. Hang in there.. and thank your for your honesty.

  5. I also have a strange past that leads me to struggle greatly with religion versus my need to believe in a higher power. I have always hoped that when I do have children I can encourage them to believe because that faith is such a beautiful thing. My atheist fiance has even told me that he admires my ability to continue searching and to have a sort of faith he doesn't know.

    We're both members of a church near us that is absolutely amazing. It's a Unitarian Universalist church ( )and was the first openly gay-friendly denomination in the US. They believe that everyone has the right to their own truths and I share a pew on Sundays with Atheists to Catholics, Buddhists to Muslims. The sermons don't focus on what your belief SHOULD be but how your beliefs shape who you are and that the ultimate goal is to be a good person.

    The Canadian version of this is the Canadian Unitarian Council.

    I think it might be a good place for your amazing, beautiful, modern family to seek out truth while also feeling accepted.

    Keep being awesome :)

  6. Your blog is remarkable and truly beautiful both in content and articulate eloquence. Please keep writing so that we can keep reading.
    This particular blog has especially captivated my interest and prompted a response.
    I hope you don’t mind that I share my opinion based on my view of the reality surrounding religion/church with regard to their perceived present status and their effect on the world.
    I think religion ( in it's traditional and it's present form ) has evolved to a point where a transition in form and structure is accelerating so rapidly and radically that one cannot even begin to imagine what it will look like in the next two or three decades. The walls, especially those of the catholic church are crumbling at a phenomenal pace and most others are not far behind.
    Every human being needs a myth though according to C.G. Jung and it must be cultivated collectively, so there will always be a need for the church in one form or another. But if it is so, that at any given point in time, the current of collective movement ( the milieu) is inspired by a fundamental natural inscription ( Logos ), then the general inclinations are not in vain and all indications are that church in its new configuration may be much more like innumerable islands (i.e they will increase in number and decrease in size contrary to the general and intuitive ideal that churches need all to come together and unite as one). One indication of this is evident if it be considered that a fundamental characteristic of each congregation is a common belief in what/who God is and clearly on the axis of a ‘common belief’ we ( human beings) are in one sense advancing much more closely toward the individual pole rather than the universal one ( ie. The secular world in general is seeking to find a way to be all inclusive while the ideology in church continues to strengthen and close in on itself.)
    In an attempt to legitimize or to affirm the righteousness of all religions many of us often say “they are all equally right .” But if we accept the premise that the essence of God transcends the human capacity to comprehend God then in order to communicate, make contact with or to ‘know’ God, we need a myth, it follows then that in our notions of the nature of God we are all by necessity equally wrong . If this were held to be an underlying principle in a church with to few members to become an ideology , then perhaps we could all be “different” while at the same time be united by our human weakness rather than divided by our fear of it.
    I am not suggesting that we are being called individually to form a ‘new’ church within ourselves but there does exist plenty of good reasons to indicate that the general appetite or fundamental desire for spiritual nourishment is far exceeding the diminishing supply that religion has to offer. I am not pretending to have some vision or idea about what the church should or will look like in years to come and I may be wrong about the direction it appears to be headed. However, as Jean Vanier says “ the church is increasingly loosing it’s influence on humanity … but not Jesus “ and there is undeniably a natural tendency toward a major shift in the evolution of religion and while it is painful for many, nature tends toward what is needed and nature will have it’s way.
    I am not to sure if any of this could be thought of as any “ food for the soul “ Kristin but I do hope you can find some relevance to the topic of your blog. As Jeff or Melissa would attest to, when the subject of spirituality is raised I have the uncontrollable tendency to rant and ramble on for far to long and ( seemingly) off the track. Since you don’t yet know that side of me very well, I am thinking you might be a little more tolerant of just one ranting.

  7. Larry not only will I be tolerant of this one ranting I will offer my gratitude for your thoughts and encourage many more rantings in the future.

    I really appreciate your honesty and your perspective. It may very well be the case that, as you say, the general (or my) appetite for spiritual nourishment is exceeding the diminishing supply that religion has to offer. But the truth is I have yet to find out as I haven't sought out what it has to offer at all.

    To be entirely honest, because of my past, I have been very skeptical (almost scornful) of organized religion. Seeing a cross in a person's home hasn't made me think "oh s/he is a person of faith" it has made me think "oh s/he probably thinks I'm going to Hell." So I think a lot of the work that needs to be done is inside of myself. And I'm hopeful that I can find a Church and a community that will support that change.

    Perhaps it won't satisfy my needs fully and I may need to search out that learning from other spaces and places. There are certainly people doing God's work from a space outside of the church. Hopefully I will continue to meet those people and be inspired by them.

    My hope for Mac is that he has faith. Real faith. I want him to question and to challenge but my underlying hope is that he will find peace in a belief that he is part of something bigger. I hope to be able to give him the tools to understand organized religion and to bring him in contact with religious people who do not believe that his moms are going to Hell. I want him to have the rhetoric with which to respond when someone learns about his family and insults us based on biblical arguments.

    Of course, I also want him to ultimately become his own person and follow his own path. So if he ends up an Athiest I will support and respect him. I just want him to have all the options first.

  8. Brenda, Thank-you very much for your comment. My wife's (now deceased) Granny aside, we face very little homophobia in our lives. We are legally married, our family is protected, our extended families are loving and supportive. We are truly very blessed.

    Happytwentyfour, Thank-you very much for your suggestion. I will take a look at that link. Wanting to believe while simultaneously being skeptical of belief is a hard place to be. I know. I hope that you find what you are looking for and that your future children will benefit from your soul searching.

  9. You should check out the MCC. My partner ( a recovering catholic), I (raised anglican and then pentecostal) and our two children attend MCC Toronto which is led by Rev. Brent Hawkes. It's an amazing and positive experience.
    I stopped attending church as a teenager but something happened around 25. I just felt a yearning for it and I've rediscovered it on my own terms. My partner was the same. We've decided to raise our children with that foundation and to encourage them to explore as they grow.
    One of the things that Brent Hawkes preaches about is that progressive people should stop ceding established religion/church to the religious fanatics. If they get to twist it to their hateful ways, why shouldn't we as progressives get to also interpret it in ways that are kinder and more loving. Doesn't the bible say the greatest of the rules is love. It's the first and most important commandment. That's what led me back to church.
    I now proudly identify myself as a christian and I love that it drives conservatives bonkers. Me and my lesbian household are christian, eat your heart out Rick Santorum!!!
    You can watch the MCCToronto services online at services are broadcast live at 11 on sundays and archived.

  10. I love your honesty in this post. It's funny how kids make us rethink everything. I love those moments with other people when we can be so honest and realize that half the time we aren't alone!


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