Marta and I are both non-believers. That is, in regards to God and his son Jesus Christ. But two weeks ago we went to church anyway.
This is what Lubbock has driven us to do.
As you might have gathered from some posts on this blog, we’re not all that happy here. Lubbock is the second-most conservative city in the United States. We are a liberal, bi-national, lesbian family. We don’t exactly “fit in”
But we’re living here now, so we’re trying. We really are. Marta’s created a calender of any and all community events that are even slightly interesting and/or child-friendly. We went to a bird fest at the lake museum several weeks ago. We went to see free music outside the Cactus Alley concert hall. We’ve gone to every farmer’s market we can and we go to the Science Spectrum, our local kids and science museum, about once a week. We take Nico to swimming lessons and I’ve organized that GLBT family group. We scan the horizon for liberal-looking potential friends at any and all opportunity.
But still, we’re lonely. We don’t have a lot of friends and we’ve especially had trouble getting close to any other couples with children. So recently I decided it was time to go back to therapy. This is something I do from time to time (probably because my mom is a therapist and she taught me it’s healthy rather than taboo). This time I chose a male psychologist–and a rather blunt one.
After our first session, he told me I should get out of Lubbock as soon as possible. But while I’m here, he encouraged me to try EVEN HARDER to make some friends. He suggested the MCC church, which is a historically gay and gay-friendly church. I mentioned that my lack of faith might be a slight problem. He said, “Ah, that’s not important! Lots of people go to church and don’t believe. They like the music or the community.”
Or maybe the little wafers and sip of wine?
Either way, I agreed to give it a try. And, really, what else do we have to do in Lubbock besides go to church?
So two Sundays ago, while my mom was in town, we put on some moderately nice clothing, strapped Nico into her car seat and headed down to the MCC church.
I will say this: it was probably the most enthusiastic greeting we’ve received since coming here. The pastor was at the door when we arrived and he ushered us in with a huge welcoming grin. Other people came over to welcome us or to tell us Nico has beautiful eyes or is “adorable.” All around us gay male couples and lesbians were taking their seats, greeting each other like old friends. It was sweet. It felt safe. We relaxed in the back pew and let Nico remove and replace the donation envelops in the hymnal holder in front of us (she’s really in to removing and replacing objects in their place at this moment, a fact that probably means she’ll grow up to be a good bureaucrat).
We sat down and the service began. There was singing, which was really nice. And then there was the greeting, where everyone stands up and says hello to each other. Some give hugs. My mom quickly made several friends. I was thinking, Hey this isn’t that bad.
But then the sermon began, and I remembered why I don’t go to church. The sermon was about Jesus, of course, and how much he loves us, NO MATTER WHO WE ARE, which felt sort of icky to listen to. Not that I think the idea of a loving Jesus is a bad thing, but that I always feel like an imposter when I am in a room of people listening to a story about Jesus and everyone else in that room actually believes he was the son of god. I feel like I should stand up and declare my disbelief. That just by being there I am complicit in some faith-based conspiracy.
When I told my therapist about this reaction this week, he told me I was being “too intellectual.” And then he suggested I try volunteering for the local chapter of the Democratic party. “You just got to keep trying!” he enthused.
I think I might just have the wrong therapist. Or maybe the wrong city.
But I probably will try to volunteer for the democrats. Because maybe it will be fun? Because my therapist is probably a little right. You do have to make an effort. You do have to compromise and do things you wouldn’t normally. Especially when you live in a place like Lubbock.
But you also have to have your limits. I will not be stopping by an NRA meeting, for instance. And I don’t think I can stomach another church service, even the “more contemporary” one a hip young gay guy invited us to on Wednesday nights as we were on our way out that Sunday afternoon. “This service is a little, too….traditional,” he said and gave us a knowing smile.
It wasn’t the traditional part that did it for me, though. It was the Jesus part. Maybe I am “too intellectual,” but I just can’t go to church and ignore the whole Jesus-thing. Or close my eyes and bow my head for prayer. Or say amen. Or–god forbid–receive a “personal blessing,” which is something they offer at the MCC church.
Nico, though, had a blast in church. Lots of older gay men to flirt with. Lots of singing. Lots of attention. And no idea whatsoever that all of it was not about her, but rather about some man-god, who luckily she doesn’t yet know was supposed to have existed and is supposed to be really, really important.