This week, rather than do our normal routine, we took the kids out of school for a few days to go camping at a lake that’s a four-hour drive south of Addis Abeba. Along with our crew, there were a few other families camping who I was quick to identify as born-again Christians given some of the language “we are so blessed…” etc. One child asked his parents where watermelon came from and the answer was “God put it into the ground so we can eat it.”
I can spot “believers” because that’s how I grew up. I was taught that God ruled us, had a plan for us and loved us just because we believe in him. And if there was no believing, then a firey, teeth-gnashing death it was.
I stopped going to church some time after I learned the meaning of the word ‘hypocrisy’ and there was a click-click in my brain. It explained a lot of mixed up feelings I had about not wanting to go to church but feeling like I should go to church.
To raise children and to deny science, even at the basic level of plant biology – seeds are planted and grow to be watermelon, and then we eat the watermelon – seems like the thickest of tricks. As a parent, to love your children, and to tell him the giant man in the sky rules all our lives seems cruel. That story quickly falls away as life progresses.
On the other side of this though, my children are also loved but have not been told there is any divine hand in their lives other than hard work, luck, and their own brain. Some might consider this to be cruel as well. We see plenty of beauty in the world – my oldest is quick to point out a particularly beautiful tree or a brightly lit sunset. But as far as a set spirituality goes, we don’t have that as a family.
Religion is also used as a way to bring up children morally, teaching them right and wrong “because Jesus said so.” At our house, our own family is used as the standard – “we are Woubishets and we don’t do [x] behaviour.”
While visiting with a neighbour, she asked me my religion and I told her I didn’t have one. She found it very strange and asked what I did when I was upset or confused; if I didn’t pray, then how did I handle a stressful situation? I told her I simply reflected on my problems and attempted to change my thinking. I continually find writing helps me achieve balance; rather than expect a Being to change the situation, I expect myself to navigate my own emotional mine field. And if I’m really struggling, I go to my Bible – “A New Earth” by Eckhart Tolle. I have never read that book cover to cover but always jump to a section that rings with truth for me. Oddly enough, “A New Earth” covers a spirituality gamut but I can’t accept both spirituality and science; I believe in rational thought. “A New Earth” is my spirituality because it’s always answering my questions. And reading/writing is my spiritual practice. Praise be.