Flustered and Faithless

I’m feeling flustered. I’m trying to put together a thoughtful blog post – and failing miserably. I’ve started – and saved – several drafts on different subjects that occupy space in my mind…yet nothing seems to be coming together quite the way I’d like it too. I find myself diverging from whatever subject I started out with, and the words seem both hollow and meaningless for some reason.

I struggled greatly with the subject of this blog post. It’s something that preoccupies me a great deal but that I don’t talk about very often – partly because I feel like we live in a climate of increasing intolerance and where people become exceedingly angry, violent and mean when you don’t agree with their view of the world.

Do you ever find yourself worrying about what kind of a world you’re hoping to bring a child into?

I know that it’s a luxury to worry about this at all. I have the time to ponder these types of issues, ad nauseam, and pontificate about things that many people don’t have the time or energy to think about.

I’m a worrier. I get that from my mom. Sometimes I really think that this may have been transferred in utero, if not already embedded in my genetic material – but even if I consider those less than likely scenarios, my mother definitely instilled a deep and constant anxiety in me.

I’m not religious, and I’m comfortable with that – though I will admit that I used to pray, and I used to “talk” to God well into my teens and early 20s. But as I’ve gotten older, I’ve felt disenfranchised from any notion of faith because of the way I felt it was used to discriminate against people and abuse the goodwill of others. I’m fervently pro-choice and pro gay rights. I hate the idea that someone is treated as a lesser person, a lesser individual, based on their skin color, gender or sexual orientation. I don’t know anyone, personally, who’s had an abortion – but I imagine that, for most women, it’s a harrowing decision that is not made lightly. I don’t have any gay or transgendered friends. But sometimes, when I see what’s happening across the country, I worry about the children that are coming into a world filled with so much hatred.

I made a big mistake and watched a documentary about this preacher somewhere in the Midwest whose entire family is basically spewing nothing but hate-filled vitriol. Obviously, I was already aware of that whole situation – but the documentary had a far more profound impact on me than I realized. I feel truly shaken by the idea that an entire, extended family spanning multiple generations is preaching and practicing a religion of hate – and brainwashing their innocent children into disseminating the same message.

I know I shouldn’t have watched this, really. I have an incredibly hard time dealing with that level of belligerence, of hatred – and what I find most offensive of all is when people use religion to justify that kind of intolerance. When I was growing up, being a “good Christian” related to things like honesty, forgiveness, acceptance, tolerance. It was about helping others, about striving to be a better person. Faith was private and didn’t need to be talked about because it was about living a good, honorable life – not about preaching discrimination, death and doom.

When I prayed as a child, when I talked to God as a young adult, it was with an assumption of benevolence – like a sage, white-bearded grandfather who would listen to your problems patiently and love you in spite of your flaws. I absolutely reject the concept of a vengeful god – simply because, to me, that notion is just an abuse of scripture in the hands of people who want to justify their own anger and intolerance in the quest to control others. There’s something really wrong with the world when someone hands a poster to a child that proclaims how awesome it is that people die while protecting the very freedoms they’re using to spread such venom.

All of this is running around in my mind and playing into old fears about whether or not I should even attempt to put a new life into this world. You know how, when someone has strong faith, they believe that God has a plan for them? Somewhat similarly, I sometimes wonder if there’s a deeper reason – beyond biology and medicine – why we*  haven’t been able to get pregnant.

(* we = my husband and I. I’m not so presumptuous as to assume that I can or should speak about someone else’s situation.)

Of course I know that, just as with religious belief, it’s really just evidence of the struggle to make sense of a horrible, awful situation – something you didn’t ever anticipate and over which, it seems, you have little or no control.

This isn’t the first time that I’ve wondered about my decision to pursue ARTs at some point. I have no reservations about whatever perception or opinion someone else might have to disagree with ARTs – and I know there are some who have issues with it. I know some people believe that infertility is perhaps some kind of punishment – or that ARTs are an unacceptable interference in “God’s plan”. (I won’t even get into the idiocy of the latter – because, seriously, if someone believes that the deity they pray to thinks that crack whores and pedophiles are suitable parents while good, loving people should remain childless, they can keep whatever it is they’re smoking.)

Some people have ethical objections to the whole process on the grounds of religious belief; some take issue “only” with the process of selective reduction. I do understand that selective reduction is an issue that is difficult to deal with – probably more so for someone who believes that all life is sacred and that life begins at conception etc. I’m not arguing a point about whether such a belief is right or wrong – but I think that it’s a decision that should be left to the couples in question. Personally, I’m not worried about defending my own choices to someone else at all – quite frankly, I don’t give a rat’s a$$ about whether or not someone else agrees with women who pursue IVF, get selective reductions, or even have an abortion. The way I see all these issues is the same way I see divorce and gay marriage: if you don’t like it, don’t do it. Problem solved.

What I do worry about is how I will deal with these issues when we have children – regardless of how they come to be in our lives. Even if we end up adopting, these fears and worries remain the same for me. I would have absolutely no problem loving a child – biological or not – even if he/she turned out to be gay. It’s not a problem for me because I don’t find the concept offensive and, unlike some, I don’t think it’s a choice, I don’t think it’s a sin or an abomination and that someone deserves to die because they’re a square peg that doesn’t fit in a round hole someone decided is the only acceptable option. I think that when you love a child, you want them to be happy – and telling them that what they feel deep inside of them makes them a bad person? Not ok.

I struggle, deeply, with the fear of how to help a child grow up to love and respect others and himself/herself – even if the child is different or others around him/her are different. My worst fear would be a child who either ends up hurting himself/herself because of bullying or themselves become a bully. I worry about adopting a child who was exposed to years of abuse and neglect, to bigotry etc. I worry about how to help a child who struggles with his/her own identify because they were never really loved to begin with – because how can you love yourself or love someone else when, from the moment you were born, you were treated with disdain, hate or indifference?

A few years ago – back when I still had some semblance of a social life – I took a picture of a friend’s daughter with another little girl she was friends with. One of the girls was black with bushy curly hair; the other one was white as snow with light blond hair. The contrast between them was like yin and yang. In the picture, they’re hugging each other fiercely and both grinning from ear to ear. It reminded me of something I read not too long ago about how racism isn’t something children are born with, it’s a learned behavior – just as prejudice and hatred are.

I went to a fairly big school (in terms of student body), yet there were probably less than half a dozen black kids. Even so, it never occurred to me to think that a black person – or any person of color – would be of lesser “value” than I was. It never crossed my mind that I should choose my friends based on something so arbitrary – yet the majority of my friends have always been white as rice. It was never a conscious decision at all – but, in looking back, I realize that most people do gravitate towards those who are most like themselves. I don’t know whether or not that’s a bad thing, or if it’s a normal, natural thing. I remember having an Asian friend in college – and, when I hung out with her and her other friends (who were all Asian) a few times, I felt really out of place; almost like an intruder. In hindsight, I wonder whether we recognize in others not just our external similarities but also our shared cultural heritage and upbringing.

So I can’t help but wonder whether thinking something is enough – or whether, even with these issues, actions speak louder than words. Would it be enough for me to teach our children that we’re all equal – irrespective of gender, race, ethnicity, cultural background, sexual orientation? And how do you teach a child not just to love themselves and others – but also to cope with the rejection from others who were raised in an environment of hatred, abuse or neglect? In this climate of extreme polarization, how do you teach your child about acceptance and tolerance without speaking out, openly, on the issues yourself? Is it enough for me to have an opinion but not to do anything about things that I find morally objectionable – and how do you find a middle ground between standing up for your beliefs and still agreeing to disagree with those whose opinions, beliefs and lifestyles you find completely unacceptable?

I know it probably seems ridiculous to worry about these issues at this stage. I’m nowhere near becoming a mother by any means – medical or otherwise. I know that the best case scenario would be that I somehow manage to get pregnant this year – but that’s definitely a long shot.

I’m sorry that this post is pretty much all over the map and that it’s touching on some very sensitive, controversial and personal subjects. I’m wondering whether I’m the only one who thinks and worries about these issues. Do you think about things like that – and, if so, what do you do to calm your mind? Do you worry about the world we live in – and how that will affect your future children?

Sometimes I miss my “conversations” with God. I miss praying with my grandmother. I miss the belief that there is more good than bad in this world – and the faith that most of us are trying to be good most of the time. I want to have faith in something that is greater than myself; I want to, once again, have faith in others. But I could never ascribe to any belief system that preaches and/or condones intolerance.

 

(NB: I’m not trying to offend your beliefs, so please don’t be shy about sharing your thoughts, feelings and opinions – even if you don’t agree with me.)

 

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10 thoughts on “Flustered and Faithless

  1. Obviously I’m behind in the game because I just read this. You bring up a lot of heavy stuff here and I’m with you on most of it. But what I personally disagree with is the idea that there is more hatred/intolerance in the world than love/acceptance. I absolutely without question believe that there is more good, more love, more acceptance. But hate gets the attention. The negative stuff gets the documentaries, the media coverage, etc. But ultimately love is louder. And that is why I don’t question bringing a child into this world. My husband and I will hopefully be examples of love and acceptance and that is how our child(ren) will learn. Just my 2 cents.

    • Thanks for taking the time to comment. I actually value other people’s input regardless of whether it’s in agreement or disagreement – simply because it helps me get perspective and try to see something from a different angle I might not have considered previously or at all. I totally get what you’re saying – after all, good news doesn’t sell newspapers, most of the time. But I have to wonder whether there isn’t a pervasive greed and lack of common decency these days. I love your way of thinking about leading by example for your own children, which is exactly how I feel too – hopefully we’ll get there…

  2. I really enjoyed your post. I think you bring up a lot of issues that have crossed my mind. It’s good to read someone else’s opinion. Now in the process of bringing a child into the world my hubby and I have definitely been talking a lot about many of these issues.

  3. Alex, I can completely respect everything you wrote here and I can relate in so many ways. My struggle started when I was young..I’m sure you’ve read my posts about my childhood and about God. I struggled with religion because how could people who follow such a loving God be so intolerant, mean, judgmental. Who are they anyway? They are no better than me. I felt like an outsider myself. I then married into a God-loving family who are not your typical Christians. They’ve even offered to take in my drug-addicted brother multiple times and love him. I’ve also finally found a church that is ‘come as you are’ and ‘we accept all’ unlike most churches you step into. One thing that they said when I first started going is that ‘you can have a whole lot of religion without a whole lot of God’. We are put here not to be mean to others, but to love and that includes everyone. We cannot make someone else be a certain way, nor can we decide what someone else does with their life. Although people may have beliefs it is not the responsibility of ‘Christians’ to police that. But how many times do you see that? A lot! I totally get what you are saying here– I also worry about the world I will hopefully bring a child into. But just like you, I did miss those conversations with God, so I started talking to him, living my life with God and not necessarily religion and just loving people. All people.

    • What you said about how there can be a lot of religion without a lot of God – that really resonates with me. I feel like so many people just “use” God as an excuse or justification to do horrible things to others – I guess it shouldn’t come as a surprise since that’s what’s been happening for thousands of years. Yesterday, I was just so shell-shocked from seeing these little kids – who didn’t even fully understand the ramification of the words – get roped into spreading a message that is only about hate. I found that so incredibly disheartening.

  4. We share very similar views (except I like to call God the Universe – and have just seen too many instances of coincidence to not try and connect them, the science geek in me can make more sense of my worlds that way) and I am also a worrier – something I am trying to work on. I worry about bringing a children into the current and future environmental situation. And the only thing that helps me find some sort of solace is thinking about other points in time in history. Did people worry about bringing a child into a cold war era where nuclear war seemed so close? or the can you imagine bringing a child into the world during the Dark Ages? Or around the time of Genghis Khan when a continent lived in fear? and I think about these times – because as humans, we got through them and moved past them, I can only hope that we collectively pull our sh*t together and solve some of our current and near future problems. Seems like you are working through some serious existential hurdles – keep working, I would love to give my unsolicited opinion 😉 Oh and I think your children will learn by the compassionate, caring example that you will inevitably set for them 🙂

    • LOL – you know, it’s funny because you totally tapped into something that I was trying to think about and keep in mind: putting the concept of parenthood in perspective. When you compare the world we live in to, oh I don’t know, getting pregnant during the Black Plague – I’m thinking we’re pretty ok! But it really makes me feel a lot better to know that I’m not the only one worried about the world we’re trying to bring our children into. I worry about the environment too – especially since I’m pretty sure many of us are dealing with IF precisely because of environmental factors. It’s kind of ironic but I was never really any good at science or especially interested in it in school – but I have to admit that I definitely believe in evolution etc. And please, by all means – keep your “unsolicited” opinions coming, it’s definitely nice to read your comments & get your perspective on things. Here’s hoping that what we’ll pass onto our children – whether part genetics and part upbringing or otherwise – will pave the way for change in the future…

  5. i believe you should go ahead and continue to have those “conversations” that you miss with God. It’s about your personal relationship with Him…not about other people’s views or what kind of relationship or religion they have. hugs!

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