Sunday, December 21, 2008

The First Christmas

I know, I know, by looking at the title you think I am going to wax all philosophical about the birth of Jesus and go all Midwestern Religious nut case on you. And if you were going by context clues, Short, fat, bald man, with no real education in religion, living in Oklahoma.... then you would have valid reasons to think that way. Then again, if you ever read this freakin blog, you might know, Opprobi don't roll that way.

No, I tend to keep religious beliefs to myself and stray away from as many nut cases that dominate the ext reams on either end of the spectrum. AND THEN I BECAME A FATHER OF CHILDREN. I know, I know, all those holier than thou wingnuts told me I was setting the stage for disaster if I don't beat the fear of God into my wee little ones. Instead I focused on respect, honesty and hard work.

I figure I am not an expert on Algebra or Religion, but I made sure my children went to the places where they would learn about both. I am not real comfortable around zealots, and I really wouldn't want that for my kids, but a strong moral foundation is important. And the Judea Christian faith is based on morals (10 commandments, turn the other cheek, only throw rocks at hookers if you never bought a BJ etc) so how could a guy go wrong there? Right?

OK, I never suspected that my own personal bias would effect my kids. When asked about religion I would tell my kids it was personal, and they needed to decide for themselves what they believed. Their mother took them every week to the church I was a member of, but had stopped attending due to personal conflicts. Who knew my daughter would grow into the same moral conflict?

So for years we talked about switching churches. Last Easter we checked out a less politically driven congregation. At least they were skewed more towards our personal beliefs. It felt right. It felt good. And we have all joined, as members, in the past several month... all except one. My daughter is still a hold out, but she willingly goes, she participates in Sunday School, she leads in prayers, and I think she is accepted and loved by our little church. But she refuses to join because you are asked if you believe Jesus is your savior who died on the cross. Did I mention I stressed respect and honesty all her life? Damnit!

So tonight, we celebrated the first of several family Christmas gatherings. We had a great time of gifts, food and laughter. For the record, the memorable moment was "Your cousin is riding on your new tricycle... and he is NOT wearing pants!" Later, after we had all reluctantly hugged and started the long drive home, my cousin called me. The father of the little boy without pants. We talked about my nephew and his tattoos, piercings and eventually his religious beliefs.

"He seems very proud that he is an atheist," I told my cousin. "It seems the cool thing right now to say atheist or agnostic."

"Really!" my cousin said, in more of a judgment than a question. My cousin is nine years younger than I am, he is an attorney in Oklahoma City and he is a very devout Catholic and family man. He seemed hurt and insulted when I told him about my nephew. Finally after he thought about it for a bit he said, "Hey, tell your nephew if he doesn't believe in Christ he needs to give me my Christmas presents back."

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