Five years ago yesterday was the anniversary of the signing of papers that ended my marriage of eighteen years. For some it might represent promises broken, a stage in life filled with happiness, fond memories, and love, ending. Without going into too many details let me simply say, that this was not the case for me. My marriage had begun as union of obligation and duty and had probably never really altered much beyond that in eighteen years. So I celebrate it-- not because it was the day of any actual freedom but as a symbol of something that actually began some years before...
I was a glacier, breaking slowly away from the life that I had been born and raised to-- a life that had suffocated and suppressed as surely as if I were given half the oxygen I needed to live on. After all, the burqa and nun's habit habit are merely exterior symbols of what religion does to the soul. It began with a friend that broke one supposition (14 years ago already?) when he shockingly announced to me he was gay- yet he seemed as good a christian man as I knew. God didn't make gays! Did he? DID HE????
Later, I decided to take a seminary class that gave me some peace about the question of homosexuality but shattered so many more of my old belief systems that I had to take a second look at myself to be sure I was the same person... really? You used to believe that abortion was wrong? wow.
Yet another class... this one deposed another layer of assumptions my life had been built upon-- an Old Testament class whose archeological information fascinated me as much as it frightened me and I realized that so much of what I had been spoon fed as a child like baby food were simply stories, mere myth- and often frightening ones at that, I suddenly realized. (Why do they tell those stories to impressionable children?)
Further and further away from that originating point-- the one that had begun so many years before...
Then, suddenly there was a sudden slope downwards which accelerated my motion when an old and dear friend, whom I had traveled many a tear-stained road with, was telling me of a book she was reading, Dance of the Dissident Daughter by Sue Monk Kidd. I began reading, no, inhaling it, ingesting almost faster than I could digest it. The last shreds of this Truth that I had lived, that I had carefully constructed my life on were gone and like the house that was built upon a very tall and mercurial mountain of myth, I found that I was left lying there in the muck, crying.
For others, this might not have been as devastating as it was me. They might have had a little crisis of faith, sought someone to pad their house of lies and then gotten up and gone on with BAU, after all most people simply aren't looking to change or transform their lives. But I had sworn to myself that I would never live a lie. I hated hypocrites and those that feared to face the truth. I hated religion for religion's sake and had always sworn to myself that I would seek truth wherever that took me. And here I was, stripped bare, without any of the truths that I had always known, without any of the familiar beliefs that had always kept me surrounded by church...
That was six years ago this fall.
I had a husband and children. I was a leader in my church. I had a whole life to lose.
But I couldn't live a lie anymore. I'd married this man based on the truths of the words of that religion. I thought those promises would mean something and they had turned into dust. I had a loveless marriage and my children were suffering because of it. My daughters in particular. I needed to leave and I had to leave the church. But I knew that when I left it would not just be "getting a divorce" and not just "dividing the friends" like it is for some couples. This would be real Life Altering Change and I knew that... or I thought I did.
I expected tornado and what resulted was closer to tsunami. Friends... Well, he got the friends (yes, all of them but one and the one-- we're not terribly close anymore).
My parents and brothers cut me off for a long time. And then when they decided they wanted to have contact again, they interfered in ways they had no right to. They interfered because I am no longer in the church and I am no longer one of Them and as such, they treat me with utter disregard. As a result when I have contact with them (and I haven't for a long while), they resort to emotional blackmail. It is the way of the church. It is their way and so in order to keep my sanity and to keep my truth, I simply stay away from them--
My daughters were angry by what they saw as a betrayal of them and their father, and fueled by outside forces, we fought for years. As they grow older, they now see that the relationship I had with their father was unhappy and they are glad that I am free of all that and that I am happy. They have their own ambiguities with the church, the elder of the two is happy to live and let live while the second daughter is a "non-believer" or perhaps agnostic. They have a long way to go to understand the choices they have been given- that I never had, but I am happy that they have the freedom to make those choices. Life is good with them now.
My son, on the other hand, has done well with the divorce from that life. He's flourished with Maurice's guidance and being away from his father half of the time. I spend plenty of our time together reminding him of the importance of his education and the possibilities that lie before him if does take advantage of his options. I sometimes think, although he doesn't really understand this part, about things that might be closed to him if religion were still mediaevaling our family's minds (after all, the only really honorable profession is to be a preacher in my family...) and I know that he is a far better off where he is than he would be if my trajectory had not changed radically six years ago, eight years ago, fourteen years ago, and I had not shot off into the wilds of the universe to find myself on a colorful planet called Earth.
And I? I love having the world in front of me. I will be honest and say that I am angry at times that so many choices I could have made were not an option for me. But I also know that I am not alone and many women my age were limited in their choices for one reason or another, and many still are because of being raised in particular religious sects. I am just glad that I got away from it before it was too late.
So this year, I had cake to celebrate five years of freedom-- five years of living far away from the type of institution that has kept women in burqas and habits and religious garb for thousands of years.
I had to open my big mouth...
After making this statement, "It's time to stand up and be the squeaky wheel that makes the cart go forward!...education should not stumble around religious sensitivity-- it's just not compatible with learning" the joke is on me! I no sooner wrote this than I had a conversation with my son in which I learned that he was having a test on the big three "Western" religions in Geography (Islam, Christianity and Judaism). Not just about where they originated but on some basic tenets of their faiths and some erroneous ones at that. For example, Abraham is the father of Judaism... "bzzz" wrong answer, Mr. Teacher! Judaism was in fact originated by a class of priests in 700-300 B.C.E. Old Testament scholars concur that while some verbal stories may have been floating around prior to these dates, the religion was established much later than Biblical mythology such as the stories of Abraham, Moses, King David and Solomon allow for. Many Jews accept this bit of archeological information but Christians have a hard time with this information and generally do not accept these dates.
It's not so much that I expect the teacher to disabuse his students of any misinformation they may have concerning the three big religions. On the contrary, I think it most inappropriate for the teacher to approach this subject at a public school at all. And I guess it's time for me to put my money where my mouth is!
Update: The stuff my son is learning in class is Jefferson county curriculum as I suspected. The Assistant Principal and I had a pleasant conversation about it today and she said she would call me with the name of the person that I am to contact to protest. This ain't over!