Wednesday, July 13, 2011

I'm worse than a Tax Collector? Really?

So, I'm trying not to let this thing bother me.  It's a little thing.  A little thing that was done with no thoughts about me.  A little thing that was not intentional...certainly not done to hurt me or upset me in any way.  I'm usually pretty good about not taking offense where none was intended.  Life's too short to get your feelings hurt when nobody was even out to hurt them, right?  Life's too short to get your feelings hurt by something that was done thoughtlessly. 

I'm quite certain that I hurt people or offend people thoughtlessly.  I'd apologize, because I hate to be responsible for bringing negativity on someone else, but you can't apologize if you don't know.  That's the frustrating thing about thoughtlessness. It's just like insanity.  If you freaking KNEW you were being insane, you'd stop, but that's not how crazy works.  People who are crazy don't know it. And people who are thoughtless don't know it.  If they knew it, that would imply thought, which would thereby take them out of the Thoughtless category altogether, moving them on over to the Intentionally Mean category.

I don't think I'm hurt by this unintentional thing that was done.  I mean, it was done by someone I don't even know.  By someone who doesn't know me. There's no target on my head - nobody is being mean "to" me or anybody else.Yet, I'm bothered.  Annoyed.  Pondering. Ugh, and probably a little hurt, after all.  Because this has to do with children.  Inadvertently, with my children.

Here's the situation:
I moderate an inclusive homeschooling list.  I'd say about 99% of the members are Christian.  If you put Texas and Homeschooling together you get Christian Families. So to me, it makes sense that if you are Christian and you have your choice of ninety billion Christian homeschooling groups - and you choose to join the only inclusive group in the area to join - you are saying, "Hey, I'm Christian. But I don't care if you're not.  I don't care if your kids aren't religious.  We joined an inclusive group and we freaking EXPECTED to meet a few non-Christians and we're cool with that."

Now before I get to the actual little incident that's nagging at me, let me just say that most of the co-ops and organized activities that are discussed on this list are Christian in nature.  They'll say things like, "We're going to be using Christian themed lessons, or a Christian Worldview, or Evolution Will Not Be Discussed...." yada yada.  And that's okay, right? Because the next person might post that their group is going to be doing things from a Buddhist perspective.  That's what inclusive IS.  Of course, I've yet to see that happen...the Buddhist thing...but people know that it could happen, and wouldn't say anything if it did.  The groups that post are letting you know what you're going to get if you decide to attend so you're not surprised and uncomfortable once you get there. There are non-religious families doing things with religious groups within this inclusive list, believe me.  And it's not a problem. I personally do not attend these types of groups/events because they do tend to make me uncomfortable and I can do my socializing with the Christians in settings where it's the things we have in common that have drawn us together (of which there are usually plenty), and not the things that might tend to separate us. 

Last week someone posted an announcement that seemed different to me....a little out of place for an inclusive group....even though definitely acceptable according to our guidelines because hey, we have to include them, right?  Even if it's an openly exclusive group.

A woman posted a message about a teen homeschooling group.  It was a long message of the We're Going to Have So Much Fun!! variety.  She listed the things they'd be doing and they did, indeed, sound like typical fun teenager-ish things to do.  The types of things my kids and their friends do.  And even though I wasn't really interested in the group, because quite frankly, we've just got enough to do and enough people to do it with, I still became....offended? Irritated?  Hurt?...when the message ended with something along the lines of..."There is no statement of faith but..."

Ahhh...the But.  If you're unfamiliar with what a statement of faith is, it is a line that people have to sign or verbally agree with that usually states that the person signing or agreeing accepts Jesus Christ as his or her lord and savior.  Sometimes more detail is given as to EXACTLY what it means to accept Jesus Christ as your lord and savior.  In case you were under the impression you had done so but had still missed the mark in some not understanding the terms "lord" or "savior" in the context of Christianity.  In case you've just been walking around mistaken about the whole thing (something I actually did for several years). 

Anyway, so people sign these things, and sometimes...if the group or association is big enough or organized enough to have really cool activities...well, I know a few people who sign the statement even though they don't agree with it.  Personally, I've got no problem with this.  Camille is a Scientologist, after all.  *Long story but let's just say it involves vaccinations and her desire to participate in a group activity that required her being vaccinated and did you know you can actually download a form stating that you don't vaccinate for religious reasons?  See?  I'm not kidding.  I've got no qualms.  Also?  Not that it's any of your business but there are specific reasons why Camille is not vaccinated and she's no danger to your kid if your kid is vaccinated because DUH your kid has been vaccinated so BACK OFF. 

Oh my, that's what Sardine Mama sounds like when she gets a bit, where were we?

Oh yeah.  The woman who posted her exclusive activity on the inclusive homeschooling list...she's going on and on about how much fun they're going to have doing all kinds of non-religious types of activities like movies, parties, swimming, skating, games...and then states that there's no statement of faith but only families with Jesus in their hearts should attend. In other words, what she's saying is:  No Jews, Muslims, Pagans, Unitarians, Buddhists, Hindus or Atheists (and in some cases, depending on the particular brand of Christianity and why a statement of faith is sometimes Catholics or Mormons) need apply.

Is it just me, or do you think Jesus is offended? I think he's offended. I mean, My God (literally), if this dude sat down with prostitutes and the dreaded tax collectors, don't you think he could stomach a few sardine teenagers at the skating rink?  And, if the stories about him are true, don't you think he WOULD? Like...joyfully?

WHY is this bothering me?  WHY do I care?  I'll tell you why.  Because I have 3 great non-religious teenagers.  I have 3 teenagers who will not make fun of you, talk behind your back, or exclude you even if you have this syndrome/disorder or that. They will not be unkind in any way.  I have 3 teenagers who go out of their way to include kids who might be a little different or quirky, who have been raised by the Golden Rule, and who understand what it means to be a friend, even during stormy adolescent times.  And they're somehow...what..not good enough to hang with these guys?  Not Christian enough. 

What does it mean to bowl as a Christian?  Do Christians bowl, skate, or play Monopoly differently than us? Well, I guess apparently some of them do.  Some of them do it exclusively, with their backs turned and their circles closed.  And that just doesn't seem very...Christian. And yet?  I expect it more from the Christians than I do the non-religious.  I have yet to meet a non-religious homeschooling family that excludes religious families from entering their social circles.  And yet it's the religious folks who own the market on Good and Kind.  Doesn't make much sense, does it?

You might say that parents have the right (and they do) to protect children from dangerous outside influences.  They have the right to protect their children from secular folks who might not subscribe to the same values.  Because we all know that the Christian Stamp means Good People, right?

Well, I don't think most parents are actually trying to protect their kids from Bad People as much as they're trying to protect them from considering that maybe not all non-Christians are bad...or that not all Christians are good.  That's really why they don't want their kids hanging out with mine.  What if their kids like mine?  What if their kids decide my kids are (gulp) good and decent even though they don't have Jesus in their hearts? What if they're forced to actually think about how a good and decent friend who they like a lot is DOOMED to eternal damnation?  And what if they do think about it and it doesn't make sense? And if that doesn't make sense, what if they start to think about other things and decide they don't make sense? What if they become actively engaged in discerning what their spirituality means and how they wish to apply it to their lives?

Okay.  Never mind.  I get it and she's right.  This could lead to all kinds of crazy sh*t. She really shouldn't let her kids skate with mine.  It could end Christianity as She Knows It.

Now if you're a Religious Type or the Church-Going President of the Sardines in a Can Fan need to comment that Not All Christians Are Like That. I know that already. Most of my friends are religious and obviously, they're not like that.  I get you. I understand you.  I don't always agree with you but I know where you're coming from and it's generally a pretty good place.  No need to defend the faith unless you just really want to, in which case you're completely entitled and feel free to have at it.

I feel much better now. Thanks for listening.
Signing Off as A Non-Christian But Pretty Decent Sort Anyway Sardine Mama


  1. Being "better" than you, I think I need to weigh in! Just kidding, I got nothing to say really. We're on the same page. Those that feel the need to remind people that they are "Christian", have real problems. So I'm Catholic, right. I'm trying to think back, over my Blog, to see if I ever called myself a Christian? I wonder! Anyway, yes, you should be offended. But don't worry about Jesus, he couldn't care less. That's right, I just got off the phone with him after reading your rant. He says he thinks you're cool and eventhough you have slowed down on your blog entries, he still enjoys your writing. Oh, and he wants me to tell you that you totally "get it" and that he'll see you soon enough. Wild, right? I know!
    Listen, Karma will bite these bastards right in the ass. You just need to hang in there and watch it happen. And when it does, please write about it. m.

  2. I won't say what you told me not to say... But I will say that I'm embarrassed to be in the same, albeit misidentified, group as her. And I know you know all of this already, but I'm sorry, mostly that you are not being loved as you should be.

  3. Glad you chose this topic. Been on my mind a lot lately. Passed up some amazing outreach opportunities because of that dang statement of faith thing telling me exactly what Christianity needs to mean. Somehow..seems to be missing the point. Know what I mean...jellybean??? Anyway..want to ditto Marks comments. Love you and your great kids.

  4. I know you said not to comment but I feel the need to do just that. Reader here for over a year and have wanted to comment before but wasn't really sure how to write what I felt. As someone speaking from belonging to an exclusive Christian homeschooling group I sometimes wonder. I do want to protect my children to a certain point from outside influences but I am not worried about their spiritual life just because they might have a conversation with someone from a different background. We need to teach our children to be compassionate and kind even when we don't agree but still be confident in our faith to be able to have an intelligent conversation about Christ instead of an agruement. How else can Christians spread the gospel if we only associate ourselves with other Christians. Lots to ponder. A most thought provoking post.

  5. Yeah. Or should I say, YEAH. I think Jesus would joyfully, madly, wildly skate with your Sardine gang! I think he'd dance under the roller disco lights; he'd hold their hands and do the Whip. Remember the Whip? (Or am I the only one who knows about the Whip?)

    Anyway. Thank you for your words. I wish the world could be as your kids are. I think that's what Spirit is, for me: it is inclusive and loving; there's kindness splashing out everywhere, great lashings of it, gobs of it landing on every single person. (Okay, now it sounds like I'm describing a pie fight).

    Kind and welcoming—arms wide open—is what all faiths should be; after all, that's the message almost every religious story boils down to, doesn't it? (Though I'm not so sure about the plague of boils, but maybe there were good intentions and everything got way, way out of hand?)

    So you care, and that's glorious. You've said it, and that's important. You're willing to put it out there, and that's real and true and fine. I love this kind of searching, bare-bones honesty. I love YOUR honesty, and I'd love to meet your awesome kids, and I am incredibly glad to be here, reading these words.

  6. I'd have gotten my feelings hurt, too, and agree that any exclusion kind of thing doesn't belong on the board of a specifically inclusive group. I mean, seriously, that's just tacky. And hurtful. They've got dozens of choices if they want that kind of Christian-only group. :( I think as moderator, that it might be appropriate, actually, to remind people that this is an open and inclusive group. You might not be the only person who found that hurtful and thoughtless. I'm sorry. But I'm glad you wrote about it!

  7. I didn't read every word of your post, but I find the most offensive thing about religion (among several possibilities) is how people use it to exclude others! I don't like dogma.

    So Carol, did you really say in your profile you were a "child bride"? If you were, then so was I! I feel younger already, ha ha!

  8. I have 7 comments. Now, if I were Mark - I'd leave 7 separate reply comments, thereby upping my comment count to 14. When Mark does this, he ups his comment count to a Bazillion. But alas, I am too lazy to leave that many comments. But let me just say thanks to all 7 of you for being so rocking awesome. And Diane - thanks for commenting for the first time!! I hope you do so again. So I can compete with Mark. Also, because you said some good things.

    Now then, when I re-read my post I realized I had gotten all overly excited and typed at a feverish pace while spewing spittle and all - and I actually identified my kids as non-God-loving....which is a) weird and b) probably not entirely true. I actually don't know how they identify with Creation/Spirit/God at any given time, because they're encouraged to let that be a fluid and ever-changing process. My language was alarming (!) and unnecessary and disrespectful to my children who might possible turn into holy rollers at any moment. Yes, I'd be disappointed. But I'd love them anyway and even support their right to marry other holy rollers.

    As for inclusive homeschooling groups - I want to be clear that I think they're fine. Sometimes you just want to hang out with your own flavor of jelly bean, right? If you're an unschooler - it's nice to have a group of unschoolers. If you're attachment parenting, it's nice to have a group of folks who don't faint when you breastfeed your 4-year-old. Sometimes you want to say Amen as often as you want, or let it all hang out and not have to bite your tongue. I GET that. But would you then plan an activity or activities unrelated to that particular commonality - post it to an inclusive organization - and then tell them openly that some of them can't come? That part is weird to me. And in this case, it insinuates that the people in question are undesirable - the people in question being children. It wasn't saying, "most of the kids will be Christian so be prepared for that..." it was saying, "please don't come if you're not Christian because we don't want you." It's a subtle difference - I'm really not afraid of religious people - I'd prefer they not be afraid of me :). That's all.

  9. I just want to say a thang bout the whole Christian thing. It's just like religious, just like Jewish, just like vegan, just like marathoner...none mean their definitions to the people who wear the label or to one who is proud to be near that label unless they live up to the definition or I guess true and real definition. It is so irritating how people rely and trust labels because what really matters is what people do/act. I personally know, right now, a few people who voraciously call themselves church goin' (yup, every Sunday) who hate, judge, gossip, lie, harm, and I really believe they feel they are really superior to others. So, I think this is what I got from your words, labels (which people so stupidly rely on and BELIEVE as " gospel" are so completely annoying, especially when there is a group of people sitiing together talking when one says something about Jesus and another says "oh, it's ok, we are all Christians here".....

  10. Oh, I don't like reading this because I may never come down to Texas then. Especially as I'm technically Muzzie. What kind of statement would they make me sign then? A statement that takes me to Gitmo?

  11. Julie - Yes I did say that! Otherwise I would sound old.

    Annonymous...thanks for commenting.

    Dinster - The nice people leaving comments would treat you quite kindly - just like they do me :). Texas is weird - we're full of issues tempered with Southern Hospitality. I used to see Muslim homeschoolers at an inclusive park day we went to....they probably have their own statement of faith! I have no faith and therefore I can make no statement :). I'm actually more of a problem than you are.

  12. Dang! I could have milked 3 replies out of that! Are you watching this mark?

  13. Oh yes, I'm watching alright!
    And so you wrote your post while being "overly excited" while "spewing spittle". Relax, you're a chick. You're all nuts! I have a daughter who is quickly becoming one of you people. We all just look at her like "WTF"?
    Seriously though(I hate being serious), any normal person knows where your heart is and even though you wrote, "non God loving", I knew what you meant. I wouldn't hang out with you if you were Haters. Plus, I see more Christianity going on in your house than in most churches that I visit. How's that?
    Your Friend, m.
    Now reply to my comment directly and don't clump me with the rest! How rude! m.

  14. In the words of the great John Lennon: "Imagine...."

  15. Amen! Or whatever it is an agnostic is supposed to say...

  16. So would it be offensive if I mentioned that the comments for this post are as interesting and entertaining as the post itself? (Of course, a large number of the comments were posted by the author so I guess it's ok.)

  17. I live in the same area as you and this is why I have chosen not to join any homeschool groups. They say inclusive, but things seem to change around election times, holidays, etc. By the way my boys have taken chess and tae kwon do with your boys in the past and they seem like perfectly nice kids. I personally wouldn't want my kids skating or playing Monopoly with any kid who wouldn't want to play with your

  18. Dee - Right On! Coble Family - Agnostics say Right On!

  19. Julie - I'm not offended. And that's lucky for you because if I were I would have to blog about it. Obviously :).

    Dena - I don't know you WHY?

  20. We live in La Vernia. I am not sure if your boys remember my boys or not. They took tae kwon do with them a couple of years ago. Their names are Tyler and Trent. Trent also participates in the chess club in Floresville. We tried the local homeschool group when we moved here, but they spent too much time talking politics. I didn't share the same views and didn't feel comfortable with the tone. We had been homeschooling a while and decided we were o.k without the support of a group. I personally would love to be a part of a group with different people. I often wonder how people can ever understand people who are different than them if they never associate with them.

  21. Dena - you should e-mail me privately. We'll get together. I truly thought I knew all of the renegades in the area...all 3 of them. And then you pop up! There is a local group that disbanded (was it during an election year?) because one member refused to stop talking about religion and politics, even when we set up a separate yahoo list specifically so that she and the rest of her choir could continue preaching to each other - but guess what? They didn't want to preach to the choir! That was no fun! They wanted to preach to the WRONG people (being me and 2 other women). Anyway, now that all the troublemakers who thought it was their godly duty to homeschool their kids have stuck their kids back in school (isn't that the way it always works with people who are extreme? their eyes are all lit up for homeschooling and they're all fervent about it until they discover it's impossible to maintain that level of enthusiasm through 12 years of "schooling") the group is active again and the people in it are awesomely respectful and fun with great kids. I am no longer In Charge...a friend reopened the group. She also runs a natural parenting group. The new rules are less wishy-washy than when I ran things; the new rules being if you talk about religion or politics you're removed from the e-mail group PERIOD. Amazing how well that's worked. Oh, and the post that caused this whole conversation was in a different group (in San Antonio) - and that woman really wasn't trying to be controversial or combative...the offensive nature of her post was just a neat-o and unforseen (by her) bonus.

  22. Carol, just in case you haven't seen this: