You woke up this morning looking forward to getting coffee with a great friend today. You haven’t seen this person in ages, but hope they’re doing well. That afternoon, you get to the coffeehouse first and go ahead and order. You sit down in one of those enveloping velour chairs and wait to hear the chime of the coffeehouse door. Clink, clink. Your friend is here! Oh, how excited you are to update her on your life, you can’t wait to share how well you’ve been, how excited you are that you’ve met someone new and you’re just dying to introduce her to this person. She orders, sits, and you start to chat. She fills you in on everything going on in her life, and asks what you’ve been up to. You bring up your love interest, saying they’re the best thing that could have ever happened to you, and she seems thrilled. All the way up until you tell her, “Her name is Lynn.”
She sits quiet, stunned.
Then, she gets up, excuses herself, saying she completely forgot she double-booked, and must run off to her other appointment, hoping that we can “catch up soon.”
I can’t imagine actually going through that. In fact, I can’t imagine ever having to tell someone I didn’t approve of their relationship, as long as they were genuinely happy.
Telling someone you don’t approve of their marriage because the bride is a woman, and the groom also happens to be a woman, just boggles my mind.
My parents used to be very, very deep-rooted in their faith. From when I was very little, they would ask me, “Where does Jesus live?,” and I’d proudly reply, “In your heart!” We went to church every week, most weeks on Sundays and on Wednesdays. Once we moved to Charlotte from Boone (where I was born), they were part of a brand new church start-up. The first church met in a rented office space, started by a group of couples that all moved from Boone together. I don’t remember much from that church, except the worship service songs. To this day, I still remember the worship service songs, because my parents were part of the service every Sunday. They sang and my Dad played instruments. They were really close with our pastor. I was really good friends with the pastor’s son, and hung out with my little church group all the time. I was a good little girl, and I prayed all the time. I prayed before bed, I prayed when I was alone by myself. I thought about what heaven would be like. I figured I’d see all my friends there eventually, because we were all good and we all prayed so that meant surely we’d get to live in heaven together.
The grassroots efforts in starting a church were successful, and after a few years there was enough money to build an even bigger building. The church was growing rapidly, and we were still going every week, usually twice a week or more. A good number of my elementary school friends were kids I went to church with, and we hung out all the time. This was the norm until I was about 12, in which we switched churches again.
This time, to a different church completely across town.
And did I say church? I should have said university. Because that’s about how big this church was. Finding a friend was next to impossible, because one week I’d meet someone fun to hang out with, the next week they weren’t there – it was a completely new group of kids. Thankfully, between my 7th and 8th grade years, my Dad accepted a new job in Atlanta and we moved.
Once here, my parents didn’t seek out a church. I met a girl at school who went to an Episcopalian Church and I decided to go with her. I started going with her every week. Her parents would come pick me up and drop me off after the service. At 13, it wasn’t because I was interested in what the Good Lord had to say – it was because of the cute boys in the youth group. And I went twice a week, every week, for about two years. I even got confirmed into the Episcopal Church. Eventually, when my friend and I grew apart, I quit going to that church. And I haven’t actively gone since, for boys or otherwise.
The rest of high school I didn’t really think much about religion. Too many other enticing things to think about (e.g., getting away and going to college). In college, there were too many other things to think about, like classes and graduating. I didn’t ever question my faith until after I graduated from college. But, I never really thought about it, either. I had always considered myself in the likeness of the Transcendentalists, viewing my relationship with the divine as something I didn’t want to share with anyone else, and I didn’t.
But that led me to avoid talking about religion altogether.
I didn’t really start to pick apart my faith until I met the man I was going to marry. He’s an atheist. And for the longest time, I had a big issue with that. Mostly because he was so comfortable with the idea. I worried after we got engaged how I would break the news to my older relatives, who are still very involved in their respective churches. It was a tough decision to make, but we ultimately decided that we wouldn’t discuss it unless they brought it up. But I sometimes feel like I’m hiding this dark secret. And it’s not even mine.
I admire him, though. He’s respectful about his beliefs, and doesn’t throw unwanted advice in anyone’s direction, which is more than what can be said for most believers of any kind. He doesn’t judge; doesn’t cast the first stone. He believes in people, in the power of wanting to be a good person for humanity’s sake, not because it will guarantee him a slot into heaven.
And I find myself agreeing with him more and more each day. Am I comfortable enough to call myself an Atheist? Not yet. But I am comfortable not wanting to be a part of any religion that would deny someone a basic human right. If I had to label myself, I’d say I’m an Emersonian. I think Ralph Waldo Emerson had the right idea –
“Good and bad are but names very readily transferable to that or this; the only right is what is after my constitution, the only wrong what is against it.” I am ashamed to think how easily we capitulate to badges and names, to large societies and dead institutions.” If you maintain a dead church, contribute to a dead Bible-society, vote with a great party either for the government or against it, spread your table like base housekeepers, — under all these screens I have difficulty to detect the precise man you are.”
“God will not make himself manifest to cowards.”
“The faith that stands on authority is not faith. The reliance on authority measures the decline of religion, the withdrawal of the soul.”
(I’d like to dedicate this post to my dear friend Mark.)
I’ve wondered if I could marry an atheist as well. I am Christian in faith, but consider myself to be more spiritual than religious. By that I mean I don’t believe traditional organized religion is the sole, or even the most valuable, means of obtaining spiritual growth. But I guess if I were ever able to find that special someone who, like you mentioned, had sound morals I could learn to accept that. Great quotes from Ralph Emerson, very thought provoking.
Being very much an atheist, I can tell you how hard it is from the other perspective… Having to wrap your head around the fact that the person whom you love so much and would like to spend the rest of your life with believes in something that you consciously have decided is inherently false. Also having to avoid the topic with their family for fear of their immediately, unfounded disapproval.
I’m with Oscar on this one… I choose to be a good person not because I fear eternal damnation but because I understand that it makes this world a better place for all of humanity. I find much more gratification in knowing that I am playing my part in society and thus aiding its smooth course.
I think it’s great that you’re open-minded enough to reconsider things that you assumed to be truths and that you are able to admire your husband’s morality despite your differences. 🙂
@Tellie Thanks – Emerson is probably my all-time favorite writer. He provokes the most thought in me.
@Kim Exactly. He belives in people, not a deity. And I guess, he belives in me, cuz we’re married, after all. 🙂