Apr 17, 2009

How Were You Raised Religiously?

I missed this article in the NY Times last week by Judith Warner, a virtual religious mutt who was raised Jewish, but also attended an Episcopal school and sang in their choir.

Having a very abstract sense of faith – or religion, or God, or whatever you want to call it – works perfectly for me. According to Newsweek this week, having such a “post-modern” form of faith is becoming increasingly common among many other Americans as well.

But how do you pass that on to children? Can children apprehend religion or spirituality or even uplift in such a nontraditional way?

My children’s school is ultra-self-consciously secular. They’ve never even learned the words to “Kumbaya.”

My girls prepare the Jewish holidays with my mother, much as I did. But they do not drive, as I did, out to Brooklyn on the second night of Passover, for a non-seder dinner with my father’s relatives, my grandmother at the head of the table, matzo balls mysteriously designated for particular people. (“Monogrammed,” my father once mumbled.)

That world is gone – dead or dispersed.

My mother, like my father before her, when he was alive, performs our seders very quickly, skipping pages peremptorily, reciting the prayers almost ironically. I think it started as a rebellion against the interminable-seeming seders of her – and his – youth. (My Gourmet-reading friend’s mother says hers, in Hebrew, were incomprehensible.) Now it’s a habit. Instinctual, almost.

Read her whole article here. Does she reflect your experience? I think she reflects much of what happened to a lot of Gen-Xers whose parents rebelled against their religious upbringing or perhaps were simply apathetic to it. Often there's no axe to grind, but rather a simple indifference to formal religion in favor of an amorphous sense of God and an ecumenical spirit of "spiritual tinkering" that Robert Wuthnow the great Princeton sociologist considers to be the norm today with regards to religious practice.

I say similar things in Googling God but I'd really like to know what your religious experience has been. So pass this post around and comment on it and share your thoughts. I'll even comment on my own experience in the comments section as well.


St Edwards Blog said...

I am 51 - soon to be 52. I was raised Catholic, in a primarily Italian-American environment with a big dose of Irish-American on the side. My mother was Irish Catholic and my father was 1/2 Italian and 1/2 Eastern European Jewish and was raised as a Jew.

The long story made shorter is that I left the church in 1972. I did not have the classic stereotypical mean nun and angry priest experiences... it is too long a story, but I just left.

Then I spent many years searching for... whatever. I never lost my faith, but I was looking for something that I did not think the RC church could give me.

In 1990 I came back, quite by surprise. In 2009 I am employed by one parish, deeply invested in ministry at another, a graduate student in theology and immersed in my Catholic faith and life. I moved to Albany from NYC less than 2 years ago and due to this life of faith and connection, you would think I lived here forever. (I can't wait for you to see what a treasure we have here, when you come to Spring Enrichment Mike.)

I get that people want to sample different things but I also feel so strongly about being part of a community and all that that entails. I also love the sacramental elements of our faith and the regular practice of that.

People are often looking for God and I truly believe that God wants us to look for Him in one another. That feels like what I do in my various communities.

I have many friends who are atheist, agnostic, "spiritual but not religious," and who like the woman in the article, at home in many places. This also includes many of my friends who are much younger than I and come out of a different experience. You are much younger than me for that matter! I will look forward to hearing your story and I must read your book.

To each their own, but there is something to be said about being in the life of a community for me.

However, this is not a way of life that came to me from birth or overnight, but over the long slow pull of time as God worked in my life.

Am I verbose tonight or what?


Anne Levinson Pappas said...

Holy cow! I never comment on web sites but this calls for it.
I am Jew who went to Episcopalian school who became Catholic, marrying a Greek who also became Catholic, which puts us in a church that is made of Palestinians, many of whom hate Israel, a country I would die for.
Yet the reason I am responding to your post is that my Mother celebrated Passover exactly as you described: ironically, skipping pages—and yet, despite all that, I, during Holy Week, drag my late grandmother’s Haggadah—her (Reform) Jewish gray Passover prayer book, off the shelf, and read through it, pausing long and longingly at her old address, and think of those Passover Seder’s long, long gone.
Ann Coulter ruffled many feathers when she said that Jews were completed by Christianity, but I have given my whole life to Jesus and his Church because I see no other way that my Judaism makes sense.
Any way, I just stumbled across this site via Busted Halo, which I recently heard in the car, and wanted to say “Hi!” and “Amen.” I can never think of today, the Sunday of Thomas, without thinking of the remarkable Bob Dylan concert I attended a few years back where the so called “voice of a generation” and the patron songwriter of Jews who believe that Jesus is the Messiah, opened with a bluegrass Gospel song, “I am the Man, Thomas.’ It is beautiful, and if you ever have a chance you should listen to it.

Googling God

Googling God
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