When we interviewed for our daughter to attend Catholic elementary school, we informed the school that we wanted what we were teaching at home to be reinforced at school not undone at school. We believed the education of our children to be a circle between home, school, and church. My husband and I taught Sunday school and I sang in the church choir. I think we were relatively happy with our choices until the government started talking about allowing same sex marriages.
We were (are) a theatre family and not just a theatre family but a musical theatre family. This meant that we had (have) many gay friends (like, so many). Our kids were familiar and comfortable with this, because that is life - everyone is different, and we accept everybody. We did not consider that this required a conversation until our priest started a petition against gay marriage and people started saying nonsense like, “God made Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve.” (Excuse me, sorry, I just barfed a bit repeating that..) Now I have to be completely honest with you. I am a conflict avoider, and I did not want to antagonize the members of the congregation nor the parents of the kids my kids went to school with. I also felt that any protest I would make would fall on deaf ears.
Now, because of the priest’s ignorance, we did have to have a conversation with our kids, and we shared with them our response: We believe that everyone is entitled to their opinion. It is good to be respectful of other people’s opinion and it is not ok to force your opinion on someone else. These people, or your friends at school, may try to talk to you about the petition. We believe that Jesus did not preach to judge and hate others. Jesus said to love your neighbour as yourself, so based on the teaching of Jesus, we cannot condemn another person based on who they love. We communicated to our kids that the priest was just a man and human beings are capable of making mistakes. We also expressed to them that the church was just a building and that God didn’t care if we were saying thank you to Him, from the Catholic church building or a United church building or even out in the nature that He created.
Thankfully, no one approached us to sign the petition and no one bothered our kids about it. We considered changing churches, but the priest was reassigned (perhaps due to preaching hate?). Because of this and because of my previous experience in high school, I began to fall away from the Catholic church. We attended until our daughter graduated from high school. Coincidentally, at that point we began to have rehearsals for shows on Sunday mornings anyways and it was much more gratifying to congregate with like minded individuals, raising our voices to the heavens in the songs of the musical theatre cannon.
As I fell away from organized religion, I opened myself up to other possibilities. I still believe that God doesn’t care where you thank him and I think an “attitude of gratitude” or some sort of gratitude practice is paramount. I personally don’t care if your higher power is God, Confucius, Buddha, Jesus, Muhammad, Krishna or the Universe, but I do believe that there is a higher power. I think the basis of almost all religion is the Golden Rule: to treat others how you want to be treated. This is the most important spiritual lesson to follow and attempt to adhere to on a daily basis. May the Golden Rule - kindness, compassion, empathy - be the north star of my moral compass. Amen.