By BASSEY IKPI
Boogie loves Jesus. I'm not sure he's clear on who exactly Jesus is, but he's fully into him these days. He gets it from my father, who is slightly less Catholic than the Pope (except pro-choice, pro-marriage equality and pro-feminist). My dad is just really, really into church. I don't fully understand why, because he's so progressive and everything he seems to believe in and vote for goes against what the Church and the Vatican are into, but my daddy loves Jesus too and so he sidesteps all of that to be there for his homeboy. He's in the Knights of Columbus (yes, I know) and at St. Mathias, he's head of both fundraising and the ushers. Between meetings, mass and functions, my dad is at church at least three times a week. He's in church so much that when he goes to work, Boogie thinks he's at church. He's at church so much, that sometimes he goes to OTHER churches just to help out. No. Seriously.
Boogie and his grandpa are the best of friends. So when he started realizing that good solid hanging out time with grandpa was being interrupted by this church thing, he started getting interested in checking it out too. He started asking me if he could go to church with grandpa. I never said no; I just sort of avoided the question all together or bribed him with waffles and bacon. It's not that I have anything against church. Actually, it is because I have something against church. I just don't like it. Religion, I mean. I've seen how it's changed the climate of this country and how reasonably compassionate and empathetic human beings become hateful and intolerant because some preacher or priest told them that Jesus and God dislikes something or another.
I was lucky to be raised by a father who was very progressive in his thinking and teachings. Church for him was about community and fellowship and being in the House of the Lord. He took the other stuff in stride, but was comfortable enough not believing it himself to keep going without seeing a conflict. I am not that evolved. I stopped going to church 15 years ago and never looked back. I was fine with Boogie going because he is his own person and if that's what he wants to do, then that's what he can do. It's not like he was asking if he could go to a dog fight it's church. What's the harm?
Then I thought about it.
Um, what if he starts to believe some of the things that I'm fully against? What if he doesn't get a balance of other spiritual practices and beliefs? I'd taught him how to do a Buddhist chant when he was younger and he regularily understands now my rainbow key hole is what mommy says when she needs to calm down, but he has no real understanding of God or spirituality.
How am I supposed to teach him any of that if I don't let him explore some things on his own and worse what if my lack of involvement makes him rebel and become one of those religious right Republicans? That I won't stand for. We don't tolerate that lifestyle in my house.
My parents made me go to church when I was younger. I went to a Southern Baptist church in Stillwater because my parents worked on Sundays and this church sent a bus around to pick up all the poor kids and hold them hosta… take them to Sunday School for an entire day. I became a bit of a religious fanatic. I loved the songs and the rituals and I loved reading the Bible. I read it cover to cover when I was in middle school. I was constantly getting thrown out of Sunday school for asking too many questions. I mean, really, if you don't know what day God created dinosaurs, then just say so!
As I got older, I started to get disillusioned by church and religion. I didn't like what it did to people. I didn't like how religions seemed to be pitted against each other. I was having a difficult time believing in Jesus Christ the way everyone else did. I knew that Jesus lived and died but I thought him less the son of God and more a man who was in touch with his God self someone who was spiritual more so than religious. And I didn't understand why religion was taking away his humanity and making him supernatural. It was almost as if to make it easier for us to not follow his direct footsteps and the way he treated other people and make him a super being that we were to worship not emulate. I started getting interested in Islam after reading the Autobiography of Malcolm X and I fell in love with the beauty of the Koran. I decided that Islam and it's dedication to prayer and ritual was more my style than Catholicism. I traveled through that and into Buddhism and other world religions. I realized that religion wasn't for me but the aspect of spirituality I created and adopted for myself worked fine.
I'll spare you the details because it's a much longer blog than this, but I wanted my son to have access to his own journey. He was free to go to church and I would sleep until he got back. Then I thought about my concerns about church and its teachings and realized if I wasn't there to hear what was being taught, how could I be sure that what he was learning was in line with the beliefs I hoped to instill in him? After a long battle with myself and my need to stay in pajamas all day on Sunday, I decided, I needed to go to church a few times. I'd already made the decision that he would be attending Catholic school next Fall. That's a lot of church and church-type stuff for my intellectual sponge of a little boy.
So three weeks ago, I decided to go to church with him and my parents. What I discovered there actually gave me pause. I'd forgotten how quiet and peaceful the sanctuary was. I'd missed the ritual of going somewhere and kneeling and standing and praying and meditating in a more structured way. It was calming and it was peaceful and it was beautiful.
I understood better what my dad found there and what my son was starting to see. It was then I decided to go to church at least a couple of times a month. When the priest is saying his prayer, I'm saying my own. When we kneel to hear the word of God, I'm meditating and reflecting on the God I witness every day in the people and places I go. Religion and church for me are about structure and ritual. I don't even really listen to the priest or readers, I'm in my own head and having my own conversation with God. I just need a quiet place to do it.
I want my son to have a place to go when he feels like he needs a bit of solitude and peace something to quiet the stern and angry voices that can erupt from adolescence. As he gets older, I will continue to introduce him to other religions and spiritual practices. I will teach him ways to meditate and seek peace on his own, but for now, if my 4-year-old is so hell bent on going to church, the very least I can do as a mother is support him.
I also need an excuse to buy some of the cutest pencil skirt dresses, and tiny little boy suits and church shoes ever. I've been dying to get in Calvin Klein's sensible dresswear but had no where to wear them.
What? Yes, I'm going to church but I still gotta be me. Fancy, huh?