Another post from Dustin Christian of Daddy Geek: Raising the Dungeonmasters of Tomorrow. Today he talks about reconciling the differences in his wife's and his faith and beliefs.
To me, “Christian” is nothing more than my last name. It's a last name that my wife loves because it's applied to her for as long as she can remember, but it's just a name to me.
Rhonda grew up with God as a constant presence in her life. I grew up unsure if God even exists.
I wasn't raised as an Atheist – most of my family considers themselves Christians (the church kind, not the last name kind) and would probably answer the classic question “Have you accepted Jesus Christ as your lord and savior?” with an automatic, knee-jerk yes.
I've been to church, I even know the Lord's prayer by heart, but I've always been the type to question everything and forge my own path. Most church leaders I met didn't like it when a kid constantly questioned their faith, even if I was just trying to understand and reconcile what I saw as inconsistencies. Being constantly told to sit down and shut up, and seeing hypocrites like Jimmy Swaggart and Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker on the television (and hearing about the worst kept secret of pedophile priests) left me full of distrust and disdain for organized religion in general and evangelical Christians in particular.
I went from being Christian by default to agnostic to atheist to... undefined. I've studied and dabbled in other religions, faiths, and philosophies, and developed my own spiritual ideas. I could write thousands of words on the subject, but I now call myself an open-minded agnostic, for the sake of simplicity. I tend to believe there is probably a higher power, but I don't think it matters what you call that higher power – or if you even decide to call that power anything at all – as long as you try to be the best person you can possibly be.
I've never reconciled myself with closed-minded hypocrites of any faith, however. I doubt any one faith has all the answers, and they have to many commonalities to dismiss each other out of hand.
I'd reached the open-minded agnostic, live-and-let-live stage by the time I met Rhonda. But people who were extremely vocal about their faith still made me nervous, and Rhonda definitely wears her faith on her sleeve. As someone with such strong faith, she had never even considered spending her life with somebody who didn't share that faith. And, since we both had kids, any relationship had to beviewed with a consideration towards long-term implications.
While we were very interested in each other, religion was a potential deal-breaker.
When we talked about what we really believed, though, we found that we actually agreed on most things. Rhonda was raised in a Christian family in a heavily Christian small town, but had her own ideas about what was right and what was wrong. While she was without a doubt a Christian, she could see the value in other belief systems and agreed that, as long as they were focused on trying to bethe best person you could be, they were on the right track.
I believe that we've come to the same point from different paths. If I had been raised going to church every Sunday, I'd probably have a lot more faith. If she was raised away from church, she'd probably be a lot more skeptical – though I hope not as cynical as I am. I know that we've influenced each other. I've made Rhonda question things more and consider life from perspectives other than the Christian viewpoint, and she has caused me to have more faith and become more spiritual.
But I digress.
No matter how much we might agree, there was still the big question – once we were sure that ours was a long-term relationship – of how we would raise our children. Rhonda had never considered anything other than raising her kids as Christians and, while I had moved past my issues with Christianity, I wasn't comfortable with my kids being taught that there was only one way. Besides, I'm still not comfortable with a lot of the “morals” that many Christians profess.
In the end, we decided that the boys will make up their own minds about faith and religion. It's inevitable that Christianity will be the first thing they're exposed to. In this country (and particularly this state), they'll also be exposed to Christianity most often. I'm not looking forward to the day when I have to contradict some of the things the boys will hear (especially from their grandfather who is born-again and thus insists there's no other way to be), but at least I can do that without getting angry. I'm sure there will be bigger fights over the racism and homophobia they'll eventually hear from Rhonda's uncles and other bigots.
Rhonda had the idea of taking them to mosques, temples, and gatherings of other faiths, and I would love to do that – if they show interest. I'm not forcing anything on them. If and when they have questions, we'll answer them as openly and honestly as we know how. I hope it can wait long enough that they'll be able to grasp why Mommy and Daddy don't believe exactly the same things, but we'll do what we must.
The most important thing I can teach my kids is that everyone is different, and different ideas are not only okay – they're essential.