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Archive for the ‘Religion’ Category

It was a few days before Easter when we first spotted them: two wolves, crouching on the church lawn, faces snarling, poised to leap.

Have I told you before that I have A Thing about wolves? They might count as what one might call a “familiar” – I think there’s some sort of demons/witches involvement in that term, but what I always think of is something akin to a symbolic animal or even a muse. Something that shows up in various forms and fashions throughout your life, possibly at Important Times, and takes on some sort of personal significance. It was hard not to read something meaningful into their appearance, is what I’m telling you.

The church lawn wolves were plastic or plaster or some other inanimate material, but they were startling nonetheless.

It’s a Catholic church, I think; I know nothing of Catholicism, and not much about religion in general. My mom would know, I thought. She attends church regularly and reads books about religion and religious texts and has deep discussions with her pastor.

Alas. She didn’t know! We speculated for a few minutes about their theological significance. Maybe the wolves were somehow related to the Easter season. Maybe they were supposed to signify the wolves that are trying to attack Jesus’s “flock.” Maybe they were the church mascot. Maybe there was some little-known Bible story we were forgetting/hadn’t attended to very well.

We decided that I would call the church. I was a little reluctant to do this; I don’t like making phone calls, and I was unsure who to ask. But my mom was confident that WHOEVER answered the phone would be delighted to answer my question, and would probably go into great detail with his/her answer.

Over the Easter weekend, I pondered the wolves. I combed through my memory of Bible stories. I examined the Easter season from multiple angles. I dressed the wolves in various metaphorical costumes. Nothing seemed right.

My first call was fruitless. The recorded voice – someone who had been coached to speak clearly and to enunciate and to speak much more slowly than he might normally do – gave a long list of options from which I could choose. None of them sounded right. Did I need to be connected to the priest? Probably not? The parish? I… have no idea. The school? No, that one’s definitely a no. The accounting office? Nope. The final option was to stay on the line, but no one ever answered.

I called back later, went through the list once more, and stayed on the line. This time my call was answered, and so was my question:

The wolves are there to scare the geese.

No theological significance at all.

Church lawn wolf

 

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The other night, I had a terrible nightmare.

In it, I was about to get married. It was one of those horrible stress dreams I used to have a lot in the months before I actually got married: I was late, I hadn’t showered, there was no time to get properly made up and groomed before the wedding ceremony, and no one cared except me.

But this dream had a nice little twist. In it, we were going to be married for a second time. As in, we were already married, but my parents had set up a second ceremony. It was going to be in the Lutheran church (my family was originally Methodist but are now Lutheran). And for some reason, the ceremony was going to transform both me and my husband into Lutherans.

At first, I was more concerned with trying to put on mascara – which of course failed, and I ended up with huge black clumps instead of eyelashes. But then I became rather hysterical about the idea that we were going to take part in a ceremony that would assign us to a religion. My in-laws weren’t there, for some reason. They certainly would be shocked and probably dismayed to hear that their son had become a Lutheran. (In the dream. I honestly don’t think they’d care much in real life.) And my husband was only going along with it to placate my parents, because he adores them.

I think it turned out okay, in the dream. Or morphed into some other dream.

But I know exactly why that was the subject of the dream.

It’s because I watched an episode of this odd reality show called Pregnant in Heels the other day, and one of the pregnant-in-heels women on the show was struggling with her husband about whether or not to baptize their baby. The woman was Catholic and her husband was Jewish, so both were opposed to the other’s idea of religious-induction ceremony.

Anyway, this show made me start thinking about my own future hypothetical baby and what I would do in that situation. And I discovered that the idea of not doing anything just doesn’t sit right with me. (And by the way, if you didn’t have a religious baby welcoming ceremony, I don’t think THAT is weird. In fact, I would love to hear why you didn’t. What I’m saying is, this are my muddled thoughts on something that – surprisingly, to me – is totally personal and different for everyone.)

So when my husband and I drove to Chicago for a conference he was taking part in, I asked him what he thought about the issue.

What you should know straight up is that my husband and I are not religious.

We do not go to church. We do not really identify ourselves as one religion or the other. My husband is entirely fine with this. He is a Man of Science and he hates pretty much everything about organized religion, but especially the evangelical aspects of some religions.

I, on the other hand, don’t mind religion. In fact, I actually really like certain things about religion. Namely the lovely traditions that have been passed down for centuries, the beautiful allegorical stories from religious texts, and – my favorite thing – the sense of joyful peace that accompanies a religious service.

My husband’s parents are Jewish and non-denominational Christian. They are non-practicing in either religion, but my mother-in-law identifies herself as Jewish enough that we did not mention Jesus at all in our wedding ceremony, which was performed by my childhood Lutheran pastor.

My parents – as I said in the bit about the dream which you may have skipped because sometimes reading about others’ dreams is tedious – are Methodists-turned-Lutherans. I was baptized into the Methodist church and then confirmed a Lutheran. I went to church pretty much every Sunday as a child and even taught Sunday school for four years in high school. In college, I sang in my college’s chapel choir. I loved that the most, because the chapel was non-denominational, so we got to hear perspectives on all different religions. Plus, we got to sing beautiful music from religions all over the world.

I don’t miss religion, per se. I feel like I can believe in what I believe on my own time, in my own way. But I do miss the traditions and the music and the lovely peaceful happiness of sitting in a church service.  (Not enough to go to a church or temple by myself, mind you. My shyness wins every time.)

But when I think about (possibly) having a kid… The idea of NOT having some sort of welcoming ceremony… a baptism or a brit milah or a simchat bat or what have you… just seems odd.

And yes, I realize that what’s even more odd is that I’m considering these things when we don’t actually belong to a church or a temple. Which probably needs to happen if you want a religious professional to preside over such a ceremony.

But let’s allow that teeny little point to slide a bit for a moment here.

What I can’t pinpoint is why I think it would be weird not to have some sort of religious baby welcoming ceremony.

Maybe it’s because I went through all the religious ceremonies as a kid – baptism, first communion, confirmation – and so it seems like a natural part of child-rearing?

Maybe it’s because I feel like it starts the child off on a good religious foot? We’ll let our kids believe in whatever they want to. But maybe it would be easier for him/her to choose a religion if s/he had a background in it?

Maybe it’s because I love ceremony, the act of speaking the same words and going through the same motions and following the same tradition that have been passed down through centuries?

I honestly don’t know. I don’t think that the possibility of having a child should change our level of religiosity. And yet… some part of me feels a spiritual obligation to give my child a religious background. (If it’s not clear, I don’t care which religious background it is. Jewish or Christian doesn’t matter. What matters – to me – are the solid moral foundation and the you-are-a-small-link-in-a-giant-chain history that religion brings to the table.)

My husband pointed out that he wasn’t baptized and he didn’t have a bris, and that’s okay. He is one of the most kind-hearted, moral people I know. So I know lack of religion hasn’t tainted him. (And, to be fair, he didn’t grow up with a complete lack of religion. He participated in some of the Jewish holidays and even went to a Unitarian church for a short time.)

(When pressed about the issue, my husband noted that he doesn’t think baptism would sit well with his mother. Belatedly, I’m irritated that he said that. I know we want to please our families, but this would be OUR child to raise however WE wanted. But I know he was just talking, and hadn’t really thought about the subject before I dropped it on his head.)

And then he said, “Can we talk about this when we are actually on the path to having a baby? We’ll have 40 whole weeks to talk about all this stuff.”

I let it go. But not without having a mini freak-out inside my brain where I thought, “Those 40 weeks will go by so quickly! And we’ll be preoccupied with morning sickness and hormones and what kind of car seat to buy, not to mention picking a NAME. There’s no way we can leave such an important discussion until then!”

So now I am discussing it with you, Internet.

If you care to share, what sort of religious ceremony did you have/will you have for your baby? If you are not religious, did you do anything similar that I’m just not aware of?

If you and your spouse each identify with a different religion, what did you/will you do when it comes to welcoming the baby into the world? And how did you/will you reconcile your religious differences?

I am seriously interested, so even if you have pages and pages to say on the topic, please say it all!

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