As most of my friends probably are aware, my wife and I do not agree on a lot of matters that pertain to the spiritual, philosophical, and/or religious realms of life. This has been little more than a minor concern most of the time, but the opportunity does exist for it to be a cause for great suffering.
My wife is a wonderful Christian woman, and we have raised our son (now seven years old) based on that faith. There is some logic to this:
- She is Christian and has had a stable reliance and relationship with that spirituality since birth.
- I spent nearly ten years associating with the Christian faith, at one time feeling very strongly about it, before realizing all of the negative attitudes I built up in myself connected with it.
- Although I’m establishing my spirituality in Buddhism, I’m unwilling to introduce a lot of ideas that will be spiritually divisive in my family, and more importantly, into my son’s thinking.
This said, our son has embraced the Christian faith fully, and desired to be baptized. I have been hesitant since his birth to commit to having him baptized, mainly because I was always of the belief that baptism was an outward symbol of one’s understanding and choice to commit to Christ and acknowledge Him as one’s savior. As a newborn is completely incapable of having that level of understanding, I drew a line in the proverbial sand of my mind and ignored any part of the discussion that fell on the other side of the line.
This is called hard-headedness, for anyone who isn’t aware, but that is how it happened, and for seven years I kept the idea in the back of my mind and out of sight.
Now, as I said, our son wanted to be baptized, and after some discussion with him on the matter, I settled any concerns I had as it pertains to it. As such, today it was done, and it was a very pleasant service. Mind you, this is only the second time I’ve been in her church for Sunday services since I started considering myself a Buddhist, so I have had some apprehension over the past few weeks in not only going there, but being up at the altar involved in a religious sacrament. Michelle did much to assuage my fears, so to speak, and I have come to see her church as a different sort of Christianity (ahem, non-fundamentalist) than the type that I associated with a decade ago.
Of course, there is a little more to the story; Alyanna was baptized at well today. I think my original objection still exists, partially, but only at a superficial, selfish level. Setting that aside, when she was born and the subject of baptism came up a couple months ago, I informed my wife that I would not interfere with her choice to have the rite performed, but ultimately I would also not back up the commitment should Alyanna grow up to not follow that faith. I think I was diplomatic and reasonable, and having been so probably helped to prevent a lot of stress (for everyone involved) that would have served absolutely no purpose but to aggravate the family.
Today’s service, while brief, was actually a very pleasant expression of faith on the part of everyone present. While I cannot promise to share my wife’s spiritual and religious beliefs, I think I can live with the idea that Michelle has the right to assure that her faith is properly propagated to our children. I don’t think that necessarily forbids me from talking about my own spirituality (a subject that has come up more often of late with Dalton, unsurprisingly), but I don’t really want to go out of my way to mess around with something that is clearly working for both my wife and our son. Of course, it remains to be seen whether Alyanna will adopt their spirituality as her own, but this isn’t a competition for me; my spirituality is, quite frankly, not something I feel I have to compel anyone else to go along with.
I did have the occasion during church to do a little thinking while I was there. First, the thought occurred to me as I entered the sanctuary that I ought to take off my shoes (like at the monastery), although I did not as I did not want to draw that extra attention to myself. More importantly, I realized that I was actually listening to Pastor Andrew, the hymns, the spoken bible verses, all much more attentively than I had ever in the past. While I did not sing or speak in effect of prayer, I actually felt like I appreciated and respected the whole process and place more than before (and that certainly isn’t to say that I had any particular lack of respect in the first place).
Further, my mind was able to take the Biblical verses I was hearing and correlate them to Dhamma verses I recalled from memory, reinforcing the notion that truth and peace may be found under many different banners. It was… inspiring… in an odd way, and makes me feel more at peace with the spiritual differences between myself and my family. It proved to be an interesting test of, and possibly even a boost to, my own spiritual confidence.
And even more curious, actually hearing and conceptualizing the parallels between my Buddhist spiritual constructs and those of Christianity, I have to wonder whether I’d find similar repetitions of truth and compassion in, say, Islam, just to name a religion I know of off the top of my head.
I imagine I would.
So today, my children were baptized. Ultimately, they will both choose their own paths, regardless… Even if those paths diverge from either of us, and go some other completely different way, I will be happy. I hope you can find confidence, peace, and true compassion today, and possibly consider how truly open you are, or are not, about your religion, your god, and the way you handle it all in respect to others who might not share your sight.
Thank you, and be well, friends.