Sunday, January 13, 2013

Sunday school

Today, I took my kids to church* for the first time ever** in their lives.

I just typed that, then realized that I need to qualify.

*In this case, I took them to a service at the Unitarian Universalist Society, which to a lot of practicing Christians is not considered "real" church at all. Which is part of its appeal to me. As StraightMan observed to me, having the kids attend religious education at the UU is more or less like having them enroll in a course on the anthropology of religion.

**In fact, for Beanie, it was the second time that I had taken her to a religious service. The first time also had been at the UU for a memorial service to remember her beloved music teacher.

I cannot even recall the last time that I attended a religious service aside from a wedding. I had been raised attending church (I even had been confirmed as a Catholic,) but at some point, I no longer regarded it or belief in God to be important, meaningful, or necessary. At least for me.

I will confess that I had been tempted to think that I could look to anthropology as an alternative to religion. Which now that I have articulated the notion, it seems esp. naive and embarrassing to admit. Not unlike the discussions about anthropology "versus" activism that I can recall from graduate school. The gist of such conversations had been that one's work as an anthropologist is not the same as one's politics (although clearly there is a relationship between the two). Either anthropology will fall short of the activism that is needed to enact change in the world - or the activism will fall short of the anthropology that is also needed.

We will see where this leads, but I plan to take the kids to the UU again next Sunday. (The theme being explored this month: Bullying. Topical for both children and grown-ups.)

Alas, this is not a turning to God for which my mother might have been praying :) However, for me, it is a wish for the following:
  • That my kids understand and respect that most of the people in the world participate in ideas and practices about God, whether or not they agree, much less believe.
  • That they learn how to live with (as well as among) other people as members of a community.
  • That they appreciate there is more to us as people than the world that is most obvious to us.
  • That they develop their capacity for awe and wonder and experience moments of grace.
I am not claiming that these*** can be found only in religion, but to me as a parenthropologist, it seems a good place to look.

***As an aside, I also could add the chestnut about kids in our society needing to develop at least a bit of Biblical literacy so that they know the basis of so many of our metaphors and images, also that I am not entirely joking when I say that they need to learn how to sit still for extended periods of time with no screens whatsoever and limited comprehension of what is happening around them. Terrific preparation for fieldwork, I think.


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