Sunday, March 2, 2008

Sunday thoughts

OK, I'll take on the first two of my threatened blogging topics, since you commenters were so kind and encouraging.

1. I'm supporting Obama. Clinton has not been in my top three of the various Democratic possibilities at any point in the primary race. But, I have to say that I have grown more and more uncomfortable with the sexism leveled against her in this race. Not by Obama, but by pretty much everyone else. I won't detail it, as that has been done well elsewhere, but it does disturb me to the core. The truth is, while I don't support her for many reasons, her support of the Iraq war chief among them, I nonetheless find her brilliant, talented, articulate, savvy, strong and a formidable politician. Denounce her votes, if you must, stake your claim for other candidates, if you wish, but don't whine about her being bitchy or strident or over-emotional or under-emotional or a bad wife for staying with Bill or a good wife for staying with Bill or even (and I'm guilty of this one) too political. Like anybody who could win the presidential election is NOT too political?

Yesterday on "Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me," Peter Sagal was doing his usual job of skewering her when Paula Poundstone, God love her, stopped him in his tracks with her snappy insistence that maybe we should just let the voters decide and shut up about it.

2. Home-(Sunday)schooling the boy. When my son was a baby/toddler he alternated between the nurseries at the Quaker meeting his dad attended and the Presbyterian church I served as pastor. When he was two, we moved for his dad's graduate school and ended up worshiping at an Episcopal church in the outback of New Jersey. Wonderful church. Then we moved for me to take a call and for three years (ages 3-6) he was active in the church where I served. He liked that church. This is the church where I burned out. Before I left the church, his dad had returned to worshipping among the Quakers and for the last two years we were in Maryland, the boy went with him. He liked that church too. So, three good church experiences within his memory: Episcopal, Presbyterian, Quaker.

Then we moved. And our lives imploded. We worshipped together for a while at a local creation-spirituality based non-denominational church. A wild and interesting place, but as the separation became a more certain reality, I went in search of my own church community. I landed quickly in a small ecumenical congregation made up of mostly renegade Baptists. Soon after, my son began coming with me and joined the Sunday school. He never liked it. At all.

Late this past fall, as we entered the holiday season, he became very sad. There were school problems -- icky teacher, class bullies -- and the reality of going through the holidays for the first time since his parents split. He constantly complained of feeling sick. We consulted a child therapist and his primary doc, ran blood tests to rule out physical illness and basically just did our best as parents to hold him through what was just a really sucky time in his life. We tried to give him space and encouragement to grieve and express his feelings and figure out some healthy coping mechanisms. But it was a hard time for all of us.

As a long-term, upbeat substitute came into his class and we made it into the new year and he reconnected with some of his best friends, things were looking up. Except when it came to church. He still hated it. He said he wanted to go back to the church where we had gone last year as a family, so we did. But he didn't like it as much as he remembered. (I think he just like that when we went there, we were still a family). I continued to talk to him about church and why it is important to me and that the fact that he didn't like it wasn't going to change the fact that we were going to attend somewhere regularly, so what might we do to make it more bearable?

Well, as he lived with this reality for a few weeks, he became more articulate about what was bothering him. And it was the other kids in Sunday School. He felt so left out and rejected that it was making him, literally, physically ill Sunday after Sunday. When I started really paying attention to this and seeing that he wasn't making it up (though he did have a role to play in the outsider status), it broke my heart.

So, I began to think about what it was I really want him to know about God and church and faith. I'm a firm believer in the need for community in our walk of faith. I want him to know the Scriptures. Even more, I want him to know the God found there. I want him to know about Jesus. I want him to learn how to pray. I want him to have other adults around him besides me and his dad who are intentional about their spiritual and ethical lives.

In my ideal world, he would learn this among peers at Sunday school as well as in inter-generational worship. But this isn't an ideal world. This is a world where my kid has been through hell recently. And not just recently. His ability to function well among peers is a hard-won case, complicated by his place on the autism spectrum. And the truth is, the church we attend is very cliquey. So much so that I almost left a few months ago. Except, where would I go? It's not like I have any fantasies about an ideal church made of ideal human beings. And there were others, like me, on the margins of the clique, whom I dearly loved.

So, we have come to a compromise. We will worship somewhere together every week. Most weeks, it will be at this same little church. Today it was at Quaker meeting. (And he liked it.) But I will not subject him to the rejection and sadness he has experienced among his peers at Sunday School, just so I can say I take my kid to Christian Ed. I am perfectly capable of teaching him the Bible lessons he would learn there and he is having a hard enough time among peers at school this year without having to do that again on Sunday. I want his affiliations with the Bible to be positive -- not based in a place where he felt physically ill.

So I am now officially home-schooling my child in Christian Ed. And maybe I'll take him Kirtan chanting or Sufi dancing one of these Sundays, too.


Diane M. Roth said...

LJ --

1. I agree with you about the sexism in this campaign. My discomfort w/Hillary has to do more with my discomfort about the country being potentially tossed back and forth between two powerful families for the past 20 years. what does this say about the state of democracy?

2. about your son (((LJ))) other kids can be so mean. I've experienced kids being both amazingly mean and compassionate and inclusive.

more cows than people said...


First, it is so good to hear your voice so fully again.

Second, thanks for the link to the NOW article. It had a similar effect on me as the Jack Hitt article in Mother Jones over a year ago called "Hillarating: Why America Loves to Hate Hillary" or something like that. I do believe my issues with Clinton are substantive and not sexist, but I am affected by the constant sexist spin on her and we all need to resist this strongly.

Third, your son's struggles with church sound so painful. I think your plan is beautiful. It does seem to me that most kids, at a certain point, start to hate even the best churches. I wish I had better resources for helping the parents in my congregation through this struggle.


lauraj said...

Diane and MC, thanks!

As a woman, I would love to happily and eagerly support our first viable woman candidate for president. And maybe I will in the general election.

Thanks for your support in the SS efforts.

Wormwood's Doxy said...

LJ---I'm with you on all counts on the political front.

And on the SS front---we are fortunate in my parish to have a large and vibrant youth program. But I think about the biblical grounding I received in my fundamentalist church/school and wince when I see how little my kids know the Bible.

So much of life is about being intentional, I think---and I am constantly reminded of how "unintentional" I am about some important things. Thanks for the reminder...

pj said...

Here I come, joinin' the choir.

I actually cast a protest vote for Edwards, as he was still on the ballot during the NY primary. But I am disgusted and saddened and exhausted (though not surprised) by the sexism being leveled at Hillary. I kinda wish Obama would say something about it actually. I'm sure there will be racist shenanigans by the GOP if BO is the nominee, but it seems that an awful lot of the sexism is coming from Dems! Not good.

As for your son, oh, you and he both have my sympathy. I have very strong memories of being excluded by other kids in all kinds of situations (I was very shy and nerdy for a number of years.) I think your plan sounds great. I wish I could tag along with you on your ecumenical outings! :)

(((LJ and Son)))

Here's to continued improvement on all fronts.

Anonymous said...

Hi - I get this too and agree with the sexism comments (there is a "Hillary Nutcracker" (you crack nuts between her legs) on sale here. It's very disconcerting.

LJ -- I'm so sorry about your boy and his spiritual discomfort. You are a good, good mom. You are loving him into his spiritual life which is the way to go.

Missing you -