Thursday, February 08, 2007

Jew In Progress II...

Growing up, my mother liked to quote Frederich Nieszche a lot. "That which does not kill you will make you stronger," she often liked to remind me when I came limping home, either emotionally or physically from playing in the neighborhood. But her favorite mantra of all time was,"God is dead, Namaste. The rest is just man's way of coping with mortality."

My father, on the other hand, was something called a "Lapsed Catholic". While I knew that my mother's atheism had to do with her anger towards something really big called "organized religion", I didn't have a clue what it meant to be "lapsed". However, when I did the research and realized what "sin" meant, (which I preliminarily pronounced as "sign"), it didn't take me long to figure out that my father must be a sinner for marrying my mother, the non-believer. By the time I was 10, I had finished reading the Old Testament, and on my way through the New. I had no idea what I was reading, but I paid careful attention to what the big people said around my little ears. I secretly began to compulsively worry about my parents' fate to burn in hell, and, yes, I prayed for them every night before I went to sleep, just like my grandmother taught me. 3 Hail Mary's and one Our Father...sometimes two. I would end these prayers with the request:

"God, thanks for not sending little children to hell, but I really love my parents, and I would appreciate it a lot of you will forgive them of their sins when they die so that we can all be in heaven together. They may be kind of dumb, but they're really not that bad."

Meanwhile, my mother's younger sister, Aunt Stella, claimed to have "found Jesus" sometime in the 70's. One time I asked Aunt Stella where Jesus was (location-wise) when she "found" him? Outside or inside? In a tree or in a house? What was he wearing? Was he hungry? Did he miss his parents? She laughed and told me that she found him in her heart, just like I was in her heart. Then she told me that if I wanted to go to heaven, I had to believe that Jesus was my savior and that he died for all of my sins. I told Aunt Stella that I was too young to have any sins, but she insisted that this was because of the Jesus guy had already saved me with his love, whether I knew it or not. She went on and on about how he was a lamb, and we were all lambs and sometimes lambs get sacrificed to God? The whole thing was disturbing. I was neither interested in being a lamb nor being sacrificed as one.

Upon hearing the sacrificial lamb bit, my little brain started to shut down. It was just too brutal to me. This whole sacrificial lambs stuff seemed to involve way too many angry men carrying large, wooden crosses on their backs and nailing people to them. Not cool. Moms used to say a lot of things about Aunt Stella's religious conversion to the Baptist church being a reflecting of her emotional instability. After Aunt Stella refused to take me to the pool one afternoon until I swore with my hand on the Bible that Jesus was my savior, I thought that she was pretty crazy too.

After my bible-swearing religious conversation in Aunt Stella's kitchen, however, I was pretty convinced that I must be a Christian. I figured that the Jesus guy seemed like the plausible way to go, since (outside of my parents), the majority of people around me seemed to be doing it. Still, I wasn't so clear on the Son of G-d thing versus G-d himself. I left that to the Bro to figure that out for me a few years later...

7 comments:

Mujer Morena said...

Your Mom and my Mom should meet. "God is dead" vs. "You better thank Jesus for blessing you with parking space so close to the front of the mall." It might be interesting.

VJ said...

Well if you got past the Baptist divide by professing in the kitchen, it may take awhile to get to the Jewish part, right? Crazy non religious families vs. crazy religious families, who wins in the knife/gun fight? Discuss. Cheers & Good Luck! 'VJ'

Leaf said...

Reading your posts always guarantees to get me thinking. I will try to keep this short since I tend to run on and on about religion. First, the title of these posts, Jew in progress, is appropriate in many ways because even those of us who are born Jewish are really just in progress. Secondly, to be witness to such divergent points of view at a young age and not come out a mess is amazing. One of the reasons I dislike the idea of original sin or that we are all sinners is that it seems like an awful lot to expect a child’s mind to handle and you reading all that in third grade is astonishing. I also happen to not believe that you can just ask for forgiveness and just be “saved” and that bribery thing your Aunt pulled seems a little cheap. Shouldn’t you at least mean something like that in your heart when you swear it? Now, I am not exactly sure where you are going with this, but I will say that after being raised in a mixed religious/secular family I can say that religion is a personal thing and you don’t have to limit yourself to just one set of beliefs. I have read up on Christianity and Buddhism, know a little bit about Islam and spent years in Hebrew school, after all that Judaism to me stood for all the right things. I think it really comes down to action, which is why I really like the principles of Tikkun Olam. Now whether you intend to convert to Judaism (maybe you have) or not in my mind does not matter, but if you live your life with an open mind and commit yourself to making the world a better place I think you will find yourself in Heaven, if there is such a place. Doubt is not a hindrance to faith, but having absolute certainty that only one way is right is sure to keep you from living up to the highest standards of humanity and that in my opinion would be a shame. Good luck on your progress and Shabbat Shalom.

ryguy9296 said...

"Doubt is not a hindrance to faith, but having absolute certainty that only one way is right is sure to keep you from living up to the highest standards of humanity..."

That is a quotable quote, my friend. And true enough throughout history.

FSOgirl said...

Great comments. For someone like me, with a strong spiritual sense but also high levels of doubt and skeptical intellectualism, the role of religion in my life is a constant struggle. I also checked out Buddhism and Bahai faith and am reading a lot now about Judaism. As a lapsed Catholic (I think one of the largest religious groups in the world ;)) I know there is something bigger out there but am doubtful that the archaic rules of organized religion are useful. My BF (jewish) and I were talking -- theoretically of course -- about kids and mixed religious families and how to raise them. Would the kids be both baptized and have a bris? Would that make them more exposed or more confused? Would it mean their lives were some kind of lie? And yet I found my religious upbringing to be useful -- if only to give me the choice of one day turning my back on it with full knowledge of that foundation. Oh well, I'm one of those lost souls for now... Great post, Namaste, Full of Grace.

Phil said...

Like the Bible says "For God so loved the world that He sent His only begotten Son, that whosoever agrees to believe in Him in order to go to the pool shall not perish, but have everlasting life."

FSOgirl said...

So what happened? Where is Part III?