Religion in Search of Tolerance

Having shared Wole and I’s difficulties heading toward marriage, this post is a tough confession, but I’m being honest with myself, so here it is….

I want to believe I will not be hypocritical when it comes to my daughters’ dating lives.  I want to believe I would be open to any race, nationality, and sure even gender.  My daughters should never have to go through the hell their father and I went through right?  Unfortunately, in soul searching there is something I would judge a future mate by and probably fight a match.  That something is religion.  Now before you shut down and tune me out, let me clarify.  I am not saying anyone who comes along that has any kind of religious leanings is out.  But, if you are fanatic of any religion, it would be hard for me to silence the red flags that would start waving in my face.

I consider myself a Christian.  My face automatically cringes even as I type that.  It is not that I am ashamed of God or the teachings of Christ, but I am ashamed of the acts and horrible words people spout invoking Christ or God’s name as an excuse.   Whenever a reality show personality speaks the words, “I’m a Christian,” usually stupid, bad things are about to happen.  The main teachings of Christ are wonderful words of advice to live by:  love others as yourself, don’t judge others, and don’t be materialistic. (I’m paraphrasing, but I could find the verses if you wanted.)  That message often gets lost, as Christians find small details to judge others by and start a tally of the things that will get you to hell.

Christian fanaticism has been on mind in particular of late, because of my now daily encounter with Nigerian Christianity.  Currently my in-laws are staying with me for a few months, which is wonderful, but does bring some culture shock for both of us.  Mummy and Daddy are both lovely people with sweet dispositions and I adore them, let me make that clear.  However, Mummy in particular, is part of the Nigerian Christian warriors.  (Which has almost wiped out the Yoruba culture, but that’s a story for another time.)  Nigeria’s religious state has no moderate setting, something Wole was keenly aware of growing up.  There is church, various meetings at the church throughout the week, and of course nightly fellowship.  Basically life is church with a few other things sprinkled in on occasion.  This was never more keenly felt than Mummy’s last visit where we were at a friend’s house over New Year’s and we partied instead of spending the night praying.  Mummy was so frustrated at one point, she went to the basement to pray, undoubtedly for our wayward souls.  She also complained to every nearby Nigerian ear she could find that we don’t do nightly devotions.  I have my routine I do with the girls of reading a picture and chapter book and singing lullabies and Wole prays with them about what they are thankful for.  It works for us and I’ve been happy with the kids spirituality.

This visit Mummy has determined to rectify our heathen ways and force fed devotions the week after she arrived.  Daddy was also recruited to chastise us, offending me with the comment, “Is there even a bible in this house?”  I acquiesced, but quickly saw I needed to reclaim and take over the endeavor when Mummy had my oldest reading a passage about a prostitute.  Even scarier, when Wole asked her to keep things more child appropriate and understandable, Mummy started explaining what a harlot was, until we screamed for her to stop.  I found a kid devotional the next day, but even that was a struggle.  Every devotional I found mentioned listening to the voice of God on every page.  Sounds inane enough, but that concept has been troubling me of late.  I have heard many a person excuse bad decisions or even put off obvious, easy decisions, because “God told me to.”  That ends all discussion, because we can’t question what God said to a person.  I also long felt like I wasn’t spiritual enough, because I never heard this mysterious voice.  It’s all in God’s word right, but let’s face it, I can interpret that word to whatever I want it to mean.  So what I really want my kids to learn is to listen to advice, consider if a decision will fit with loving your neighbor, and feels right. The other teaching I was weary of is the “gospel of prosperity.”  Churches and preachers that ask everything of their congregation in promise of blessings here or in heaven make me slightly ill.  When well meaning elderly are giving you all their retirement money that you took in the name of God I have a problem.   I eventually found one devotional I could live with, that’s first lessons were on the value of work and being thankful.  Wole told me later that after we did that first kid friendly devotional and I took the kids to bed, Mummy asked if that was going to be all we did?  I’m proud to say, he told her yes and that was the end of the discussion.

This explain my weariness of fanatic Christianity, but what about other religions?  I believe there is something beyond science and reason and a higher power out there.  Christ’s teachings make the most sense to me and the Methodist tenants, of do no harm, do good, and belief in a loving God make the world seem better to me, but I don’t think that is the only path.  I am mildly aware of the basic tenants of other religions and if you are a moderate in them, tolerant of others, and based in love, I see no issues for us.

At the beginning of this post, I said, I would have to raise concerns with my child if they wanted to date or marry a fanatic of any religion.  What fuels all of this?  Someday I want my children to feel as loved as I feel and as much as I love their father.  I believe and I love, but the God I want in my life has to be okay with my family coming before anything else, church included.  They are my heart and heaven here on earth and I wish the same for my daughters.

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2 thoughts on “Religion in Search of Tolerance

  1. I find your patience with this sort of ‘cultural shock’ to be saintly. Though I am a Catholic and am raising my kids as Catholic, I have an extreme repulsion to religious fanaticism of any kind. And I know you are dealing with a different culture here, but interfering with the rearing and upbringing of other people is unacceptable too, even if they are grandparents.

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