Tuesday, March 13, 2007
Heathens with Faith Insurance
My poor kids. They're so unprepared for the inevitable springtime door-to-door religion salespeople that stalk our neighborhood. We live in a pretty quiet area, good for walking, lots of houses and not a lot of traffic; it's ideal for taking the kids on walks and bike rides, and that also makes it ideal for the faithful to come share their enlightenment with me.

Now, don't get me wrong, I'm not mocking religion, nor am I mocking those out sharing the word, or the light, or the truth, or whatever it is they have that they'd like to share. They just have different priorities and hobbies than I do. I don't expect them to sit down and play Scrabble with my husband or knit a sweater, and as long as they don't expect me to instantly share in their enthusiasms, we'll all get along just fine. Though, I'll admit, I do have a really big, bite-your-head-off problem with those few rare individuals who can't take "No, thank you, now is not a good time, we're in the middle of dinner and both children are practicing their synchronized meltdown skills and I'm frankly not interested, no, wait, why are you still here? Really. Please leave. No, that was not an invitation to come in. No, I don't want that book. No. No. No."

Thankfully, that's rare. The vast majority of interactions are polite and pleasant and undisturbing. They don't make a huge, and certainly not a negative, impression on me, and the only reason I'm thinking of them now is because it's starting to be - dare I say it? - springlike outside. I'm not ever going to let strangers into my house, unscheduled, when I am the only adult at home, and so once the weather starts to warm up and move into traveling-religion season, I feel obligated to at least clean up the front flower/plant bed and remove the obstacle course of shovels and formerly-snowman-adorning hats from the yard.

And as my kids get older, they're increasingly aware of their surroundings and able to ask questions, such as, "What was that person selling? Why were they here?" And I feel guilty with a flippant, "Oh, they're selling enlightenment, two for one if you buy today," type answer, so I try to explain, to the best of my ability.

Which, admittedly, isn't very good. I attended church through junior high and high school only because my mother insisted that I had to go to church if I was going to attend youth group on Sunday evenings. One might suspect that she realized that the youth group I attended was far too goofy and risque to qualify as a spiritually enlightening experience. Once I got to college and could hang out with my friends whenever I wanted to, I stopped attending church, except for a brief foray into Catholicism with my first college boyfriend, who was feeling guilty about all that sinning we were doing and thought maybe if I started to feel guilty, too, it would balance it all out. And Willem, though graduating from a Jesuit high school, was raised aggressively anti-religion and never, to my knowledge, had a nodding acquaintance with guilt in college.

So, Sunday mornings have traditionally been just another weekend morning for us, often characterized by loud music and housecleaning. We did have both kids baptised; not so much out of a religious imperative, although I do think it's nice that they, like myself, have a sort of faith insurance policy that they can cash in if they ever do decide to join a church. "Look, see, I hold policy #5438973H6, I can join."

Instead, our choice to have them baptised was to formalize their relationship with Grandma Judy and Papa Al, very dear friends of the family whose views on faith and spirituality are so accepting and down-to-earth and wonderful that they balance out every prosyletizing, sanctimonious individual I've ever had the privilege of glaring at during staff meetings and sports after-game interviews. They just seem to derive such joy from their faith, and they share it openly with whoever wants it while not ever pushing it on anyone who might not; they live by a simple, goodhearted code that doesn't shake its finger at alternative beliefs or sexual practices (their daughter, in fact, was in a long-term homosexual relationship with a woman of another race, and all were welcomed with open arms at family events).

They're not blood relatives of ours; my mother used to work with Al when we first moved to the area; my parents were babies, themselves, 20-year-olds with a 3-year-old in tow, living 3 hours from all friends and family. Al and Judy sort of adopted them in for holiday dinners and random weekends, Christmas-tree hunting and Superbowl overeating. I've known them most of my life, and they're my middle sister's godparents.

When I was pregnant with Emily, Willem and I discussed the whole religion thing, and while on his own he'd have pretty much ignored the topic, he had no objections to the idea of having them baptized with Al and Judy as godparents. It solidifies our family's relationship with them, and allows a clear response to the, "What is God?" questions that have started to pop up in recent years. We have a routine, now: I answer as best I can, Willem answers as best he can, and then we get on the phone with Grandma Judy and both of us snuggle up as close as we can to the phone to hear her answers to the wildly unpredictable questions of an Emily. It works for us, sort of a living reference book.

So, bring on springtime, with its flat brown grass and earnest young (and sometimes not-so-young) individuals on a mission to bring enlightment to my front doorstep. I've got my back-up plan in place.