Thursday, May 21, 2009

What an afternoon

This afternoon turned positively exciting.

First, Kevin, my oldest, a sixth grader, informed me that a sixth grade girl brought alcohol to school today. Apparently, as the story goes, she did it on a dare. Apparently, several kids were helping her hide it (I guess it was a beer), but two kids decided to snitch on her to the vice principal. She has now been suspended. So the peer pressure talk ensued between Kevin and me. Right now he's at the point - and genuinely, I believe - that such things horrify him. I'm not foolish enough to think, however, that his feelings won't change over the next few years.

Whew. Sixth grade, and they're already doing stuff like that. Although, really, I guess I shouldn't be all that surprised; I wasn't much older when I started doing things like that. It really confirms my feeling that putting Kevin in a K - 8 school for middle school (i.e., a smaller school setting as opposed to traditional, stand alone junior high) was the best way to go. I think things like that are largely overlooked in larger school settings (unless things have drastically changed since I was in junior high). I think it's a little more difficult to get away with things in a smaller school setting.


Later, I was at Joey's school waiting for the buses that were bringing the first graders back from a field trip that ran late, so it was after normal school hours. I only had Finn with me, having dropped the girls and Kevin off at home, and I was standing out in front of the school with several other first grade parents who were also waiting for their children. A woman approached me. I recognized her as the mom of a former classmate of Kevin's as well as a former classmate of Joey's - last year her son was in the same class as Kevin, and one of her daughters was in Joey's kindergarten class. We don't know each other; we met and spoke once last year when I was pregnant, and I learned that she has 7 kids, so the fact that I was expecting my sixth gave us some common ground for a few minutes that one time.

So she approached me this afternoon and I said, "Oh, it's the other mom with a lot of kids! Hi!" We both laughed, and she asked me how old the baby is now, yada yada yada. Then, out of nowhere she says to me, "Do you go to church?" Fuck. I immediately felt defensive. What does that have to do with anything, and why do so many people think it's their business? "No," I told her, "It's just not my thing." She looked at me sadly - I'm serious - sadly! - and said, "Wow, what a hard job you have, raising all those kids without the Lord." I told her that I don't think my job is any harder than hers is, I just don't believe in God. "What can I do to help you believe?" she asked me. I just looked at her dumbfounded. "To believe or not to believe is not a choice, " I told her. "You either feel it or you don't, simple as that." She insisted that it is a choice, so I asked her, "So you're telling me that you could make the choice to believe in Santa Claus?" "That's not the same thing, " she said. Then she went on about how we're all responsible for our choices in life, and I told her I completely agree, but believing is still not a choice. She asked me how I grew up - meaning, I assumed, what kind of religious training I had received as a child, which I took to mean she was going to try to hold my parents responsible for my non-belief. She was really being nosey - I mean, how was any of this any of her business? Still, I stayed engaged in the conversation because I'll be damned if I'm going to let someone push me around for my beliefs. I told her that my mother took us to church sporadically, never anything consistent, but that I had believed my whole life up until a couple years ago when I finally acknowledged to myself that it all seemed like a bunch of nonsense and I didn't feel it in my heart. At all. I told her that my life was no better or worse when I believed than it has been since I stopped believing - that bad and good things happened to me then, and bad and good things happen now. She actually asked me, "If you don't believe in the Lord, where do you get morals?" Huh? I'm not positive I understood what she meant - did she mean what is the source of my morals, or how could I possibly have any morals if I don't believe in God? I told her that I have very high morals, and God doesn't have anything to do with it, that it's actually possible to be a good person just for the sake of being a good person.

Just then, a neighbor whom I hadn't seen in a long while pulled up to the curb and waved to me, so I excused myself from Whatshername. I chatted with my neighbor for a few minutes, and when I turned around, the woman was gone. Then a minute later, here she comes again. Now she has her arms open, and she hugs me and says, "I just don't want you to think I hate you or anything. I love you, and so does God." Blech, blech, blech.

And I did a crappy thing. I told her that my baby has Down syndrome (to which she responded, "Really? It's not even noticeable!" I think I wanted her to say something stupid), and that my husband has cancer. I wanted to make her feel bad. Bad, bad, bad, I know. I just couldn't stand her self-righteous condescension. And when I told her about Michael's cancer, she did feel bad. And I felt just a little self-satisfied. I bet she's praying for all of us right now.

When it was all over, I was shaking I was so offended and livid. With all due respect to my Christian friends (and I have many), where do these people get off? Do they believe they're on commission with God, that they get points for all the people they "recruit"? This tact does nothing but offend and repel. How would it be if I went around preaching to people I didn't know, barely knew, or hell, people I do know, what I believe or don't believe? How would it be taken if I felt free to ask anyone I came into contact with, "You don't believe in God do you?"


Anonymous said...

WOW! You are so right about the points. Your "friend" will get points with God and points with her firends at Church, and even points with herself for doing what she thinks she should. Smaller points for talking to you, bigger points for converting you. My take, and my passport to the foreign country I'm in says I am a missionary, is that this approach is not always a good idea. (I don't need to give an example here do I?) If I wanted to share God with you, I would walk beside you through your trials, help out where I could and try to mirror the way I feel that God walks beside me. If YOU would bring up the topic or have a question about GOD then I would respond only to the question and not go on and on. Does that make sense? I gain so much from what you write. My life also sucks right now, although in very different ways from yours, and I am a believer who is never free of questions myself. Take care. You are doing a great and honest job as you care for your husband and kids.

Mom of 2 said...

You don't believe in GOD?!?!
Just kidding- I feel like you-
It's just a way to control the
masses- put fear of God into them-
and fill up the collection plates!

Religion and politics should not
be discussed with people you
barely know! They almost always
have a different point of view...

The Beers Family said...

WOW. It is so strange to me that she thought it OK to just ask you something very personal like that and then proceed to preach to you about finding God. You stayed in the conversation way longer than I would have and stood your ground way to go! I always wonder why I feel ashamed that I dont believe - that it is somehow wrong. I too believe that you can be a good person and raise your children to be good people without being afraid of a god who is going to send you to eternal damnation if you dont behave according to a set of rules. Why should fear drive my every decision - if you believe you can still get cancer, you can still be hit by a drunk driver - bad stuff happens whether you believe or not.

Anna Alexandrova said...

What awful manners she has. Christian or not, this is inexcusable. I too cannot stand this condescention and disrespect disguised as well-wishing. Thank you for standing up for all of us godless people out there! You are not alone.

Also you might be amused to know that the view you described to her - that you cannot just choose to adopt a belief for which you see no evidence - has a name in philosophy. It's called epistemic involuntarism. And of course, very few contemporary ethicists beleieve that you need god to be moral. So you are in great company! :-)

Maureen said...

I just don't understand why anyone feels the need to do religious recruiting. Personal beliefs are personal and should remain that way. What a day you've had! Sheesh!

Cwilks said...

So with you on the K-8. I taught K-8 for 2 years and am so happy that Sawyer is going to Beechwood and it is an option, because it keeps them more innocent. Junior High is just an awful place with hormones and kids trying to act older. We have talked about moving down to south OC, closer to my husband's work, but I want a K-8 school, and there are only a few in the whole county.

Also, for a while, in college I was totally Atheist. I loved the shock I got when I'd say "I don't believe in God" I am more Agnostic, in that I don't believe in the Christian form of God, but in more of a spiritual meaning to the universe. Kind of a mix of karma, reincarnation, or being here to learn something from this life. I am not sure where I get these beliefs from, it wasn't one book or person, but a combination of things that I have grabbed onto to make up a purpose to this life. I also have questioned how to teach morality to my children in the absence of religion, because children are so black and white and it just seems easier to brainwash them until they are logical enough to understand the consequences of their actions and to be less self-centered. I know I am rambling, but wanted to share my thoughts to your post.

Larry said...

It's a funny thing religion - and Judy and I laugh about it often: the fact that "Christians" are always on the move to convert whomever they may whereas the Catholics and Jews make their "clubs" so that they are very difficult to join even if you really want to :) What a way to spend an afternoon waiting for your kid - sheesh! Lisa

Jen said...

It's really invasive, isn't it?

Scariest thing I've ever read on a church marquee: "Each One Reach One". I get shivers just thinking about it.

(The next scariest thing? "For all you do, His blood's for you." Or maybe that's just funny. I can't decide.)

Jen said...

Yeah, funny. Definitely funny. :)

Karly said...

I am pretty sure Jesus wouldn't have put condescension in the recruiting manual...

Sorry some people seem to be missing the manners chromosome and that you seem to be bumping into them. I feel bad for all the great Christians that people like this often seem to be the loudest representatives of their faith.