Wednesday, May 27, 2015

In which I write a bit about my religious background

My parents were very religious people. By that I mean they both believe in an extra-human, non-earthly plane which had a certain amount of control over the human condition. My father is from Virginia, and his religious tradition is the faith-based, orthodox Protestant Christianity. My mother didn't really grow up in a religious tradition, although she was nominally Lutheran. My grandparents weren't active, so my mother spent a large part of her adult life sampling from the religious smorgasbord available in the US. When I was born, she was a member of an Anabaptist congregation, and so my earliest church memories are there. However, all I can remember is that I won a bible (King James Version, natch) for bringing the largest number of guests to Sunday School. The bible had a white leather cover--perfect thing to give a small child! I don't think the pastor expected the winner of said contest to be a child under the age of five.

My parents divorced by the time I started school, and I really don't have any memory of my father being around. He was in the military on active duty and spent most of my early childhood in Vietnam. My mother didn't really like the fact that my father *requested* long-term hazardous duty because this meant he was gone most of the year. (My father requested such duty because of the extra pay. He felt his role was to provide for the family. He grew up poor in the Virginia mountains, and his father died when he was about 7 years old. His mother put him and his sister in an orphanage for a few years until she could financially support them, and this experience left a deep scar on my father's soul. He swore his kids would always be able to be with their mother, no matter what. So he did what he had to do. He succeeded, even at great personal and emotional cost to himself.)

So my mother married again and converted to Mormonism. I don't know if they were married first and then converted, or she converted and then married my step-father. My mother had a turbulent childhood--an emotionally (and often physically) absent father, and an abusive, alcoholic mother. The Mormon tradition emphasizes the family; indeed, they believe that the family is truly sacred. So here's a woman, twice divorced in a time when divorce wasn't very common, with children and a new husband. She craved that strong family connection, and despite being twice divorced, she really did want traditional gender roles. She wanted to be a housewife and mother.

But the 1970s were an era of great social change regarding women. My mother was caught between the old and the new. She was just a bit too old to be caught up in the Women's Liberation movement, but young enough to suffer all the fallout from it.

My mother and stepfather jumped feet first into Mormonism and then the church totally failed my mother.

And that's where I will pick up next time.

Monday, May 25, 2015

In which I start to write again

(blows dust off blog)

Um, hello. Rather surprised to find out it's been just over three years since I last posted here. Not too surprising, I suppose. I was suffering a bout of major depression that wasn't successfully treated until the end of 2013 and during the depression, the last thing I wanted was to ruminate in my brain. And during 2014, I spent most of my time doing things that I couldn't during the depression because said activities allowed the Sadistic Voice in My Head free reign. So during most of 2014, I spent my free time playing video games (oh Dragon Age, how I missed you!) and knitting.

But now I want to write again. Over this past year, I have been trying to come to grips with events in my past. I guess I'd become addicted to angst. But honestly, I think it is finally growing up. To face those issues with a bold heart and say "you don't frighten me anymore".

But I felt I couldn't talk about it to many people because a lot of it involves re-evaluating the religious tradition that I was raised in. Many of my friends are recovering Christians of several flavors, and many others are wholly secular for whom the appeal of organized religion is frankly baffling. Here in the US, religion is a choice in that a person is not obligated to belong to any denomination. However, if you are raised in a religious tradition. religion isn't a choice. It becomes a part of your life that you are always reacting toward or against. Perhaps I speak only for myself, but organized religion has a Place in Life. Like just about anything involving a community of humans, there are wonderful aspects and there can be lots of awful things too. Unfortunately in this country, the loudest voices in the Christian tradition alienate most secular people and many other Christians too.

So I am restarting this blog to chronicle my journey to put these issues to rest. Will I find a place in the tradition I was raised in? I don't know. Will I find a place in ANY Christian tradition, I don't know that either. What I do know is that I have spent too much energy reacting against this, and frankly, I am tired.

Did I choose a religious upbringing? No. Did I choose to be raised amongst a bewildering, confusing, and often contradictory buffet of religious traditions? No. Did I choose to be raised in Central California, in a small town with churches on every corner, a place in which organized religion is a major issue whether you like it or not? Absolutely not. I also didn't choose to be raised by a single mother struggling her own battles with mental illness (and honestly, not very successfully). But I was, and all these elements created a web of experiences that created the person I am today.

I welcome you to read along, if you are interested. I welcome constructive criticism, although be aware that most of my writing will be stream of consciousness so there will be typos and grammatical inconsistencies. Some things I write will sound offensive or even cruel to some people. I realize now this is one of the reasons I couldn't write before. But hard questions sometimes result in unpleasant answers, maybe even wrong ones. But I am not afraid of being wrong, I am no longer afraid of being hurt. It's just time for me to make this journey and this is my travel diary.