Wednesday, October 06, 2010

'Cause I've gotta have Faith? Or according to Glee, a gruyere on whole wheat.

*Spoilers ahead. If you watch Glee and haven't seen this week's episode yet, you may want to save this post for a later date.*

My husband and I don't go to church. My children have only been in a church for Christmas service and the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit are not usually invited into our home. Jesus is a name we invoke only in fits of pique and other than the occasional blaspheme my children have little knowledge of the presence of Jesus Christ or God (dammit).

Mr. C was raised Congregationalist, went on retreats, sang in the choir, and participated in youth programs led by his parents who were youth leaders. I was raised Catholic, we were Saturday afternoon Catholics to be specific, and while I also spent many, many hours in the church, even attending a Catholic elementary school and singing in the chorus myself, I have my own reasons why I don't support or follow the teachings of the Catholic church any longer. Good reasons, I might add, but that's between me and God for the time being.

Yes, I believe in God or I try to anyway. To this day, I still want to believe in the existence of a higher power. But I struggle with His (or lower case, his) existence.

The fact that we haven't thrown our hat into the church-going ring, that we haven't adopted a local church of our own, that we haven't exposed our children to the teachings of the apostles and the New Testament, is a thorn in my Mother in Law's side and if my mother and grandmother were still alive, I have no doubt it would bother them too. Mr. C's mom is a spiritual woman who thinks that families are stronger for having a church to grow up in and around and my mother and Gram, God rest their sainted souls, held steadfast in their belief that the Catholic church, though hypocritical it may be, was the way to go.

I cannot, in good faith, hang my hat on either of those beliefs.

Last night I sat down to watch my favorite show, Glee, and Glee did something it rarely does - it disappointed me. I spent the entire hour watching the show horror movie-style: With my hands over my eyes, splayed fingers allowing only glimpses of the train wreck to get through, such was my fear that the writers of the show would "go there". They did. Well, almost.

Glee Tackles Religion is not something I thought I would ever see. Glee tackles Prince, yes. Glee tackles the musical stylings of Burt Bacharach, most definitely. Glee takes on the existence of God and the importance of allowing Him into your heart? *sigh*

The gist of the show was this: Finn gets hungry and makes himself a snack and upon inspecting the toasted cheese sandwich he cooked on the George Foreman, he sees the face of Jesus. The Grilled Cheesus. Praise gouda.

Finn decides that it's a sign and begins to pray to it for typical teen things - Please let him get his position as quarterback back, Please let him feel up his girlfriend. Spiritual things like that. Then Kurt's dad has a heart attack and ends up in a coma. This is when the host really hits the fan.

You see, almost everyone in the Glee club believes that God is good, God is great, God gives us chocolate cake. Not only that, but everyone needs a little God in their heart to get through life's trials. Everyone, that is, except Sue (more on her later) and Kurt who, bless his atheistic heart, believes in the Flying Spaghetti Monster and deems a morning at Mercedes' church is worthy only because he can wear a fabulous hat. "Very Christ chic," he says when appraising the congregation.

For her part, Sue has her own reasons for not believing in God and I'll give the writers props for making this a real issue and not a punchline. She worshiped her disabled sister and other kids made fun of her. Why would a God let something like that happen?

I don't have a problem with finding comfort in faith. In her darkest days, my mother found much comfort in God and the church and I respected her for that. What I have a problem with is how the show portrayed the only two non-believers as flawed, sad people who might eventually be swayed with the right miracle. To that I say, shame on you, Glee. And shame on you for that over the top "Papa, Can You Hear Me" number.

Does faith = God? God = faith? Are they two great tastes that taste great together? Personally, I believe you can enjoy your chocolate without your peanut butter and your faith without a God.

I need to ask, do we really need religion, or even the belief in God, to be sympathetic, well-rounded citizens of the earth? Can an agnostic, an atheist, a secular humanist, be seen as a person who can be trusted to find their own way and comfort without the presence of a higher power?

I've already asserted that I am not an atheist because I want to believe there is a God, though I have dabbled in Atheism in my younger days. I do not consider myself a Catholic, though I was baptized in that religion, or even a Christian, though I believe in and practice certain Christian principles. Do I need to be converted and will my children miss the benefit of a religious upbringing or even thanking His Almightyness for the mac and cheese at dinnertime? I don't have an answer for that and though I think some might have a strong opinion on this, we both know there are no hard and fast rules concerning faith.

The thing I think the producers and writers of Glee missed last night (emphasis on "I think", maybe I saw it differently than you did) is the presence of faith without the belief in God or religion. I believe in the beauty of nature, the soulfulness in my dog's eyes, the beauty in my daughters' laughter. Is that God's work? I'm not sure but it gets me through the day. I'm sure Kurt believes that music can move you and the right outfit can make your whole week. Sue believes in the power of discipline and... well I'm not sure what else Sue believes in but she loves her sister with a fierceness that displays a tiny bit of the good person hiding somewhere under that track suit.

The only points redeeming last night's show was the fact that Kurt did not "find" God when his father moved his fingers. He did not go to Jesus and neither did Sue, though she allowed her sister to pray for her. And that musical number with young Kurt? Tear. Jerker. But I don't feel like the point was driven home - Kurt didn't believe in something he couldn't see but he could reach out his hand and hold his father's. He believed in that. They missed the mark asserting that there are many people who don't need the presence of God or religion to be good people and whether some like it or not, their reasons and methods are sound.

There's no clean way to wrap this up. I have no desire to go into Thomas Henry Huxley's views or to debate whether God is dead or running for office in the Republic party. If going to Sunday mass grounds you and helps you be a better person, please continue. If a walk in the woods is enough to keep you from going postal on your neighbor and his barking dog, I'm all for it. If you feel the need to ram your idea of faith down my throat, don't let the door hit you where Buddah split you. Keep your dogma on a leash but let's talk about it like rational, thinking adults.

In the strangely coherent words of Puck, "It seems to me true spirituality or whatever you call it is about enjoying the life you've been given."

My name is Tania and I don't believe religion is for me right now and I'm not sure I believe in a single God, but I do believe I would enjoy a tasty grilled Cheesus right now.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

What's in a name? Well it has nothing to do with a rose, I can tell you that.

I've been a parent long enough to know that no matter what I do, no matter what I say, I will always, inevitably, mess up something.

Little gaffes will go unnoticed by everyone but me. Slightly larger ones will be noticed by my husband or a close friend. Big parenting fuck ups will have tongues wagging long enough to make me want to hide in my room with the covers over my head until the next scandal. Thankfully, I haven't made one of those mistakes yet but let's face it, it's only a matter of time. This is me we're talking about.

Then there are those parenting failures that no one considers mistakes but I know they are and there's nothing anything you can do to make me think differently. So there.

Case in point, I named my child the wrong name.

Back before we had Caroline* (AKA - CC.) I asked for help in naming my child. That's right, I asked the internet, complete strangers in some cases, to help me name my baby. And you did help and it was awesome. I not only got help narrowing down my search for the perfect baby name but you also shared stories with me about naming your own children and in some cases the story behind your name. And then we all sang kumbaya and ate some s'mores.

The list had all the names my husband and I considered worthy of our blessed spawn and methodically I worked through that list and crossed off one name after another for one reason or another until we came to an agreement about which we liked best, to be revisited once we could look upon the baby and give her a name that suited her best. I call it an agreement, Mr. C calls it taking into account his wishes for one specific name and then summarily squashing that idea and choosing one I liked better. Potato - potahto.

Finally (seriously), the magical day came when I pushed an 8 pound baby from my lady parts who really, really did not want to come out. There was much rejoicing and crying... maybe more crying than rejoicing - pretty sure she was holding on by her fingernails in there - and when the nurse, or maybe the doctor (fingernails, sharp ones), asked what my perfect cherub of a daughter was to be called, I said, "Caroline."

And then I wanted to kick myself in the kidneys because it wasn't right.

But it seemed too late to correct it. Everyone was calling her Caroline. They were cooing her name, "Sweet, sweet Caroline". My husband was, probably intelligently, keeping his mouth shut about the whole thing. We told our then two year old that her sister's name was Caroline. She called her "Baby Sister Carowine". It was such a perfect moment it would have made a bystander want to smack someone in the head, so overwhelming was the adorableness.

For the next couple of days I tried out the name on my perfect, beautiful, angry, squalling infant. For the next few weeks I tried out the name on my perfect, beautiful, angry, refused to sleep more than 45 minutes at a time infant. For the next few months I tried out the name on my perfect, beautiful, OMG CHILD WILL YOU PLEASE FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT IS GOOD AND HOLY SLEEP FOR ONCE???

What was I saying?

Then when she was around four months old it hit me - The Perfect Name.

I can't believe it hadn't occurred to me before. The Name was a perfect combination of my Nana's name and Mr. C's Nana's name. It was a name that could easily transition from childhood into adulthood and could even be shortened into a cute nickname. Not to put too fine a point on it but it really was The Perfect Name.

And no, I'm not sharing it. I have a hard enough time not referring to my kid in private by the name. But don't think I don't think about it. A lot.

Not only did I goof on her name but I gave her a name that there is always a chance will be either spelled or pronounced incorrectly. After living with mine for as long as I have, I swore I would never do that to my kids. Now people refer to her as Carolyn. Oops, my bad.

In the grand scheme of things this really isn't bad. Let's call it a Whoopsie. One day she'll ask if she was ever going to be called something else and before telling her I'll remind her of that time I picked her up from school 30 minutes late in mismatched shoes with my hair not brushed and insisted on slowing down in front of that cute boy from school while yelling, "Yoohoo! Want a ride, sailor?"

It should soften the blow.

Introducing Murgatroyd Sparkles Sarsaparilla. It's so obvious, I don't know why it took me so long to think of it.

*After five years of blogging I think it's time to use their real names. They're both somewhere on this blog anyway.