To: Samuel Wagar (cross/ Feminism) 13-Jun-93 01:45pm Subject: From My Body

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From: J-Mag To: Samuel Wagar (cross/ Feminism) 13-Jun-93 01:45pm Subject: From My Body =/= My Prop (Crossposted from FEMINISM by Bob Hirschfeld) Friday June 04 1993, Samuel Wagar writes to Randy Horton: SW> Hi, Randy. I had an interesting conversation for a month or so on our SW> local Parenting echo about this with a politically conservative SW> fundamentalist Christian woman. I was delighted (though I think she SW> was appalled) to discover how much common ground we had. But our SW> solutions were so different. This reminds me of something that was printed in our regional Mensa newsletter _InforMensa_. It was written by the other SysOp of The Round Table (1:106/1393), Steve Godbe, and, although I asked for permission to post it in echos, he didn't specifically know it would show up here. An old friend called me the other day and told me that he was planning to join a rigidly authoritarian and fundamentalist church after years being a vocal and confirmed agnostic. It took me quite by surprise since we'd grown through childhood together in just such a particularly restrictive church, eventually leaving the faith together in the seventies along with droves of other baby boomers disenchanted with the established and 'trusted' institutions and their apparent too human failings which were dropping into plain sight under nightly televised investigative reports like particularly noisome insects on the floor of a service station john beneath a Shell No-Pest strip. We'd sworn back then that we'd never go back to the days of our wide-eyed and devoted blind acceptance of others' views of right and wrong, and yet here was my friend planning to do just that and treating me as his confessor before the fact. When I reminded him of just what it had been like back then and, still perplexed, asked what had happened to change his stance, he finally admitted, "It's my *kids*, Steve. I want them to know right from wrong, to have good sound moral values to guide their lives by and I'm not sure that I'm the one to teach them that." Suddenly, I understood what he was really saying and how it meshed with other ideas I'd recently had surrounding the separation of church and state ideology and the current agenda of the 'religious right' in opposition to it. I just started talking about these ideas with him, of how to me, a non-parent admittedly, it appeared that what he and those other baby boomers reportedly flocking back to the church all these many years later are actually doing is declaring not so much a statement of faith in God, but a LACK of faith in themselves as educators and as parents. It seems to me almost a fearful abdication of parental responsibility by turning the instructional duties for how to live a moral life over to an institution. Then, in just a few years, and especially in the case of my friend who admits he is still very much an agnostic, that child is going to realize that his father doesn't really believe in much of what that church stands for. So Dad's lesson for the day and many before it will appear to be supreme hypocrisy, even though he had the child's interests at heart. It would be a great shame to destroy a child's trust like that, perhaps leaving them only the institution to believe in. And of course, children are ripe for the picking by some of those who thrive upon such starry-eyed and desparate faiths. We certainly had been, touring the state in revivals lining the pockets of just one such spiritual manipulator. These days, the children may become the shock troops of a new political agenda, children and the young apparently having become the troops of choice for all manner of political movements these days from Houston's own "Rescue America" to the Cambodians' and Vietnamese' Khmer-Rouge to Peru's Shining Path. I'm not seriously comparing the fundamentalist churches to murderers mind you, but as the many womens' clinic fire-bombings and the recent killing of Dr. Gunn outside his abortion clinic in Florida demonstrate, the distance isn't always as far as it might at first appear. This became particularly obvious when the leader of "Rescue America" told the international press that Dr. Gunn's killing was "morally justifiable" a few days prior to his leaving to teach his groups' protest methods to would-be activists in Great Britain. Houston now apparently exports terrorism. "But it's HARD being a parent," he said, "and is it so wrong of me to seek some help?!" I thought... and asked him if help was truly what he'd be seeking in that church. Was it help, or was it in actuality seeking to finish the act of turning child instructional duties over to institutions... with first the public schools and later a church, in this case, one he was at odds with, but had attended when he was a child. I asked if there was a religious institution he would feel comfortable with, and he related he'd been happy attending services at a Unitarian church... before he'd begun to feel guilty about not being financially able to tithe... and so he'd dropped out, but that somehow he'd thought the fundamentalists were the proper choice for moral instruction. And then he was silent for a long moment. "Damn," he said, "I REALLY almost did it and without thinking!" I asked him what he meant and he said, "I almost asked someone to make those decisions for me *and* my family again, just like my father did and his before him... I *still* want to look to others for answers, even after all these years." I just sat quietly wondering if all fathers made such hardly-considered decisions for the same reasons and the heavy pressures of knowing that you're completely responsible for your child's development... and if the battle for the separation of church and state didn't really get fought inside ourselves, in moments just like these. I wondered at what he'd said..."It's HARD to be a parent!" Then I thought about how difficult this phone call must have been for him to make to me. He decided to take his children to the Unitarian church in the end because he felt the children would have an opportunity to decide for himself about God, and because there was a place for both of them there without the stench of mendacity and yet full of a supportive community to share learning and teaching duties with. I think he decided a lot more than just that, and I also think Uncle Steve just might go see what he's talking about... and try to pitch a hand in more often with his kids. We're going to see the Astros play on Friday, and perhaps do some learning together, the children about American traditions and values, and us about the wonder all about us but which children see best... and the challenges posed by that daunting look of absolute trust and faith in a young child's eyes. He's right, it *is* a lot for one person to carry. - J-Mag --- DB 1.51/907494 * Origin: >>>Religious Preference? None of your business!<<< (1:114/74.2) SEEN-BY: 13/13 133/2 151/1000 1003 152/20 241/6001 363/320 374/1 14 SEEN-BY: 374/98 302 800/857 3607/1 3638/13 3641/1

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