the divide over religion

Not talking about the Israeli Palestinian conflict here.  Actually they could take a page over how to agree to disagree and move on, even share the same space from my religious house divided growing up.

Nothing as dramatic as a Christian and a Jew etc.  More a churchgoer vs a non-goer.  Mom the churchy one, Dad, um, not so much.  you can read more about my  mom aka Pollyanna in other blogs on my site.

My mother settled into the First Christian Church of Pecos TX in 1962 as a newlywed.  My father had grown up in First Methodist but as a less than regular attendee she did what she want and how she was raised in the Christian Chuch, Disciples of Christ,  This always presented a bit of confusion in explanation for me as a kid when someone asked “what are you” churchwise.  you know, baptist, methodist, presbyterian, catholic etc.  I would answer Christian and would get well yea me too, no what church group.  Not Church of Christ people.  The Christian Church.  So the answer would always be some flimsy, “you know the Christian church, like First Christian downtown”.

Anyway, my dad does not go.  We were that Norman Rockwell picture of the prim mother with hat and glove and children dressed just so following behind like ducklings passing behind dad in his chair and pajamas with the newspapers.  that would be the Collie house on Sunday.  I am not sure they had much of a discussion.  She said she was going he said he wasn’t and that was that.  We would be going regardless.

This goes to the problem of a not unified parental front on an issue.  When we got older it was like well why do we have to go if Daddy doesn’t?  there is no good answer and your mother will just be irritated by the question because for her he should be going.  Instead she is doing her best to pray for his mortal soul that is sitting at home reading the paper.

My dad’s reasons for not going have root in that his mother was the daughter of a Methodist minister and she didn’t miss church.  Ever.  The doors are open the preacher’s family is there. Period.  When she grew up and married my grandfather I think they went to the Methodist church but apparently my grandfather was the only electrician for all of West Texas, like the nation of.  To El Paso and all points in between.  So he did work on Sundays some.  There came a point that my grandmother chose not to go, but my dad, she took him up to the church and dropped him off.  He had to she didn’t and guess what?  he resented it and did the same damn thing when he got old enough to make a choice.

There isn’t an option with my mother.  If you can’t go to church that day you can’t do anything else that day.  Lucky for us she didn’t push Sunday nights and Wednesdays at church, too.  (Listen to me, lucky for us she wasn’t pushing more church, now really isn’t that sad in some way? maybe could have used more churching….naa)

When we moved to Austin in 1974 when I was in the middle of 5th grade, first order of business was visiting churches all over Austin to find the right one.  We started with Christian churches, but Austin in the 70s was definitely a hotbed of non-denominational churches, the precursors to the mega churches we all enjoy today.  My personal favorite was the one that until they had a permanent building used the imported luxury car showroom of a dealership.  Yes, Mercedes were the reflected stain glass of this particular church which is now Grace Covenant and does have a building these years later, for those Austinites reading.  Always thought it was quite an interesting juxtaposition of preaching among luxury cars.

After many unsatisfactory attempts by mother to find THE church home for our continued quest in eternal salvation, she settled on another non-denominational church, also without a permanent home.  However, this location’s weekly use was a child care center called Rabbit Hill.  I don’t think I have to say this but my dad didn’t do the visiting with us to find THE church.

I have always called this church with my brothers, “The Color Cat Church”.  In the large room used for a sanctuary and main church services, there are these color cats.  cut out cats to teach children colors.  There is a yellow cat and a blue cat with a green one in the middle.  Get it?  yellow and blue make green.  these were all over.  Welcome to my-colored-cat-stained-wall-instead-of-glass church world.

I’m sorry but there is something about church that is supposed to be stained glass and pew for me.  I’m sure it has to do with the fact that my first church was just that.  Baptismal font for the dunking up behind the preacher sort of a mysterious tall tank (we are dunkers, not sprinklers in Disciples of Christ, and furthermore we are debts and debtors in the Lord’s Prayer, none of this trespasses/trespassers business which always sounds like we are letting them off the hook too easily).

My brothers were baptized in the swimming pool behind the center where they teach little kids to swim.  I am sorry this just isn’t right.  Although I am pretty sure my dad showed up for that.

Daddy did show up sometimes under duress and christian threat of death for holiday services or if we were doing something, like the baptism.

The only time I remember getting out of church in Austin was when my dad made the executive decision to take the boat to Lake Travis that day.  Thankfully my mother deferred and wasn’t an ironclad churchgoer so we got a reprieve.

So here is a question, what is the best way to impart a sense of religion to children.  My brothers and I take our families to varying degrees of church life and membership.  We all have or do have what we consider church homes, whether we are involved or only on holidays attendees.  Which I guess is more than my dad was with us, we all do it as families.  So I guess my mother got something she wanted out of it for us.  My dad has gone more for my mother on occasion.  there was a flurry of attending activity on his part after I nearly died drowning in the shower (another story for another time).  Not sure if it was one of those hastily promises to God we make in a crisis like if I was ok he would show up for awhile or just an impulsive maybe there is a “God” kind of moment for him.

I do know that unlike religious wars all over the world the religious divide with my parents never led to harsh words or yelling.  (There was muttering under breaths of my brothers and I walking out the door sometimes) No swords drawn, no bloody skirmishes, death count still stands at 0.

They agreed to disagree on his attendance.  She didn’t like it I am sure but tolerated it.  I am sure he would have liked to do something on nights when she has choir practice.  They live in the same house or share the same plot of land but do so in some kind of religious tolerance and harmony.  She has grave concerns for Mormons (it is a cult) and various other groups.  Strong opinions of where they might end up. But she has yet to use suicide bombers to get her point across.  My dad would like to just be left alone on this.  Suicide bombers, mormons on bicycles, etc are not going to make a point with him.

The religious zealots of all sides could take a lesson from my childhood home.  These are pick your battles kind of issues.  My biggest “religious” wish for anyone is that each of us have a faith to anchor us.  We did get that.  We will pray for you and go on our way, and hope you do the same.

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