Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Unapologetic

I have a policy of not opening my door to strangers. There are various reasons for this policy, with safety concerns coming in considerably farther down the list than my desire to avoid Animal Control representatives attempting to enforce my city’s absurd cat-licensing laws. No matter how often I remind myself that I am under no obligation to talk to random people who knock on my door, there’s always a kind of siege mentality when I hunker down in the basement while someone bangs on the door, rings the doorbell, and then bangs on the door some more. That anxiety is proportionally higher when I’m lying on the couch in full view with the door open and my children prattling happily on the floor, as I was this afternoon when two pleasant young gentlemen came by. They knocked. They rang. They knocked again. During this time, Bub asked to play the piano, so I put both children up on the piano bench and they banged away happily. Finally, having inexplicably failed to take the hint that I wasn’t interested in talking to them, one of the young gentlemen said, "We teach families about Jesus Christ. Are you interested?"

I wasn’t.

"Thanks for your kindness and hospitality!" he called out as he left, and as I was processing the fact that he had just been sarcastic with me for choosing to spend my time playing with my children rather than talking to men in creepy-looking suit-and-backpack combos, he added (in case I had missed it), "That was a JOKE by the way!"

I guess I should count myself lucky that he didn’t call me "bitch."

Once they were gone, I checked my mailbox to see if they’d left any pamphlets with a number I could call to report them for rudeness and lame joke-telling (along with some advice – if you want converts, try scaling back the nastiness while you’re doing door-to-door evangelism).

Those men are two reasons I often get all flushed and sweaty before admitting that I’m a Christian. The Christian homeschooling mommy-blogs I occasionally stumble across often provide additional fuel to my instinct to duck for cover (suffice it to say that I didn’t feel the need to ask permission from my husband or my father before starting a blog, nor do I plan any posts in the near future extolling the virtues of wifely submission). I’ve made no secret of my faith, of course, but every allusion to church or Sunday School, to C.S. Lewis or my high-school youth group has been the result of some exasperated self-talk (along the lines of "Stop being such a coward/ninny/sell-out"). After all, I know that you aren’t going to suddenly view me through a lens of stereotypes and presuppositions, assuming that as a Christian I must be a cross between Mandy Moore in Saved and Kirk Cameron in Left Behind. You are open-minded people, capable of discussing religion without judgment or rancour. Some of you are even – gasp! – Christians yourselves.

The possibility for civilized and open-minded discussion has been most recently demonstrated by a pair of posts from Blog Antagonist and Veronica Mitchell about the relationship between faith and science (or, more particularly, Christianity and evolution). And since BA has put out a call for further posts on this topic, I’ve been wondering if I have anything to say about it (and, I’ll admit, I’ve wondered whether the topic would simply drive my readers away in droves). Like Veronica, I don’t believe that the first two chapters of Genesis were ever meant to be seen as a literal play-by-play of real events. Which is not to say that I dismiss them, but rather that their meaning lies elsewhere for me than in the various hotly contested debates about the age of the earth or the precise length a "day" might have before the invention of the sun.

In the beginning, God created heaven and earth. … And God saw everything that he had made, and, behold, it was very good. (He seems kind of surprised, there, doesn’t he? As if he put the conditions of the world in place, intervening here and there to cut off some possibilities and realize others, but mostly let the world unfold itself, even incorporating a degree of randomness so that the process would be as rewarding as the product. And each day ended with the same words: "And God saw that it was good." A surprisingly hedonistic text, this one.)

Right now, I am sitting at my kitchen table, and I can see the maple tree on my front lawn. In autumn, that tree turns scarlet; in winter, the bare branches let the sunlight through to flood my living room with light. The first chapter of Genesis tells me that I’m not alone; my joy in the colour of that tree is shared with the One who made me. The delicious smell of the Pie’s smooth skin, the way she reminds me of chocolate and graham crackers, is a side-effect of hormones that serve an evolutionary purpose, tying me to my baby, ensuring her survival, and thus the potential for my DNA to be passed on to the next generation. But it’s not just that. Evolution may tell me how my brain was formed, but it tells me nothing of why (except when, occasionally, it steps beyond the boundaries of science to insist that there is no why – that there is only competition and natural selection; science concerns itself only with what can be observed and measured and proven, but it isn't scientific to say that what can be observed and measured proven is all that there is).

My baby’s velvet skin has meaning and purpose; it is why the world was made. She is very good.

20 comments:

Peter said...

I am Catholic and have come to the conclusion that religion is only mans attempt at answering his own questions of concience.
Each religion presents a story to explain right from wrong, all the stories are good and most are remarkably the same.
When a person or relgion determines that their story is the only story, that is when I get nervous. xy

Peter said...

Don't know what the xy is at the end of that sentence
.Peace

Antique Mommy said...

Excellent well-put thoughts over which I must now go ponder.

lildb said...

while I know you know where I'm at w/religion, it's certainly not b/c I've been able to bare it on my blog. I commend you for feeling brave enough to say where you are, right here in a post.

and, of course, as beautifully and articulately as usual.

Lisa b said...

I love your take on this.
I'm a High School Science Teacher and I taught at a Catholic School for many years. I like to think of it much the way you do. Science concerns itself with the how and religion with the why. There is certainly room for discussion but I took a whole course on it last year and quite frankly it was not that interesting of a discussion
Far better to spend your time focused on the lovely skin of pie.

Veronica Mitchell said...

Very well said.

And "science concerns itself only with what can be observed and measured and proven, but it isn't scientific to say that what can be observed and measured proven is all that there is" -- those were the words I was reaching for but couldn't find. Thank you for them.

sunshine scribe said...

While I've not yet been brave enough to talk at length about my relationship with religion, I really applaud you for doing so. And for doing it in such an open and beautiful way.

Rock the Cradle said...

This subject holds both fascination and frustration for me...for the reasons you described.

It's so refreshing to read non toxic postings about faith. To often it seems that it you profess what you believe, someone takes it as a personal attack or threat and responds accordingly.

I have a not-to-old post on faith and agnosticism here:
http://rockingthecradle.blogspot.com/2006/07/white-baby-girl-jesus.html

but hope to write something more up to BA's challenge.

Emily said...

Great post. And none of this surprises me, I sort of assumed that you accepted evolutionary theory and understood much of the Bible's content metaphorically. It seems to me that a lot of Catholics share your viewpoints. Take our friend Peter, for example. Yeah, Catholics rock.

bubandpie said...

You agnostics/atheists rock too. Thanks guys. This was a stressful one for me. (Could ya tell?)

Christina said...

I have yet to fully explain my religious leanings, but I agree with much of what you said. To me, the scary people are the ones who think their way is the only way, and they must make you see their way.

I'm basically a unitarian. I think we can find truth in all religions, and like you, I think science and religion can co-exist peacefully.

mamatulip said...

I think that this is one of my favourite of your posts so far. Well said. Well done.

I love this:
My baby’s velvet skin has meaning and purpose; it is why the world was made. She is very good.

Mom101 said...

Wow this is wonderful. I also am interestind in you saying how the extremists scare you and taint the entire faith - that's something it's hard for me to say since I'm not a Christian myself. So I do appreciate hearing your perspective.

I love the idea of a bumper sticker on the asses of those door-to-door guys that says "How's my proselytising? Call 1-800-I AM 4 GOD"

Mom101 said...

oh and usually my proofreading skills are better. eek.

Trish said...

Why do they do that door to door thing? It will not work and they could get shot (In Texas at least)
On another note, I do not answer doors. Period. My front door has glass and I'll look right at them while they ring and if they see me I just don't care. I have babies. I won't answer. Kiss my hiney. My little boy is used to this and sort of ducks away, poor baby.

crazymumma said...

YOur honey is very good....she gives it all meaning....

Mommy off the Record said...

Wonderful post.

I am Catholic and consider myself a spiritual person. (Yes, I DO believe you can be Catholic and still be spiritual--lol). I go to church occasionally, though I don't agree with all of the Church's rules, and I am certainly not a fundamentalist. Like you, I believe that science and religion can co-exist. I don't understand people that insist on translating the Bible literally.

cmhl said...

look at her HAIR!!!!! gorgous.

Rebecca said...

Hello. I came, I read, and I loved.

Mrs. Chicky said...

An interesting perspective. Not that I would expect anything less from you at this point. :)

I have my own hang-ups with religion for various reasons. I think you could safely put me in the Agnostic category at this point because I do believe in a higher power. But I like your views on your religion. Brava.