Child of God.

This last weekend was untitledhusband’s younger (adopted) sister’s confirmation. She is 16 and – I don’t know if I’ve ever talked about this before – she is mentally challenged. As we were sitting there at the party, satisfied by the fact that we were able to pilfer a corner piece of cake and avoid the Brazil nuts amidst the bowl of cashews, I sensed an awkwardness in the air.

In many aspects, this was like any other party. People came from states away. Cakes were baked. Punch was made. Gifts were given. Yet I wasn’t the only one who noticed that at the center of it all was this girl – a child – who has trouble combing her own hair and still watches Arthur from time to time. Aside from Christmas and Easter, she has very little concept of God. And to her, this whole confirmation thing was more about getting an iPod than anything else (which makes her just like every other 16 year-old, I guess).

But still, I say shame on us for confirming someone who doesn’t really understand what confirmation is. I’ll even go one further – shame on us for baptizing or confirming anyone into any organization before the age of 18. What kind of cult wants you to sign on the dotted line before you can even drink a beer? I believe it’s the Amish who send their 18 year-olds out into the world to live independently before they decide if they’ll spend the rest of their days harvesting wheat with a machete or playing “Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas” with their homies and smoking hydroponic fatties. I expect as much wisdom from those who carve rocking chairs out of an Oak tree with little more than a pocket knife.

Certainly, it won’t hurt untitledsister-in-law to sit in church every Sunday and recite chants that she and probably half the church members don’t understand. But let’s just say I’m a little skeptical about any organization that would confirm a girl like her, at this point in her life. I’m all for her being part of a church if it brings her joy. But make no mistake – churches are businesses. They want members, because they want to grow. They want to grow, so they can bring in more money. They want more money, so they can keep the Pope in red velvet Armani slippers.

This girl isn’t going anywhere. And I doubt if she’ll be dropping a 20 in the offering plate anytime soon. So how about waiting to confirm her until she is a bit older, people. Like until she’s able to microwave a bean burrito or wash her own underwear.

15 thoughts on “Child of God.”

  1. Let me just say this: I hate to see the church used as a “setting” for what amounts to family traditions and social rites of passage. Where baptisms are an excuse to throw a party and introduce the baby to the relatives or churches serve as pretty backdrops for bridal fantasies and photos.

    Some people exploit the church and some churches exploit their members. It sounds like an oxymoron, but I try to separate my church from my faith.

    I love the article you linked to under Clickables. It explains the whole dilemma so well.

  2. I am a recovering Catholic. I could tell you stories that would make your head spin (yeah kinda like L.Blair). My kids will decide on their own which church if any to join. I will guide but not push. We believe in God but I have a huge problem with each religion thinking their way is the ONLY way~so tell me, which people are the ones going to heaven and which are going to hell? My father was an ass-drank, beat, etc. yet when Mom divorced him (waaaay back in 1964) she was told she was not welcome in the church…yep they wanted her there but only with broken bones and a broken spirit-but married. There needs to be alot of changes made. Thanks for the opportunity to vent 🙂 Chris

  3. I go to church every week but not for the religion. I purposely picked a church (Unity) that does not have a dogma and does not discriminate.

    For me, church is like family. They are people I can share with and care about and help out and who are happy to see me when I show up. I realized at some point that the more good people you have on your team, the better your quality of life is.

    And for an IPod, I might just get confirmed as a Catholic, too, as long as I didn’t have to sit through too many classes.

  4. I really appreciate that you teased out that it is irresponsible for the Catholic Church to confirm a person into a church tradition as a full member, when that action implies that the person understand what is going on. It just doesn’t make sense.

    As a United Methodist minister, we baptize all people, because for us, baptism is an “outward sign of an invisible grace” – just a symbol that God has already acted and will continue to act in this person’s life. It does not :::poof!::: magically bring salvation, nor does it require the person to understand what is happening, because God loves them no matter what.

    (good lord, after reading that, I can SOOO tell that I am a seminary student, too. woah.)

    You had a great observation. Thank you for being honest. Too many people are not when it comes to religion.

  5. Nice post and good comments on both sides of the discussion.
    I am a pretty simple person and here’s my interpretation:
    It’s true, Churches like members for the reasons you have given. It’s true that there are some questions about Confirming someone without full understanding.
    However, Confirmation for Catholics (can’t speak for anyone else as I sadly don’t know enough about most other faiths) is not a guarantee of salvation. We are called to so much more. Confirmation is the descent of the Holy Spirit onto that person, bringing special gifts and strength to help to live as a Christian, with all that entails.
    The Man Himself said that bit about being like little children. Your young sister-in-law received a wonderful gift. Perhaps her understanding is not complete, but who are we to judge? God is with those who want Him, no matter how much or how little they understand.

  6. I’ve been to approximately 4 church services (including 2 baptisms … or maybe christenings …) in my whole life. I was never baptised or anything. My mom was raised Jewish and my dad was raised Catholic. I am not religious AT ALL and I’m a semi-atheist. I like to belive that there is a god, maybe not God-god but a god. Someone trying to take care of us. I try to think about it and believe there is a real plan but I have doubts some times (last week, one of my friends, who is 14, same as me, his father died in their house when my friend was with him). I don’t want to offend anyone, but I don’t think that your untitled-sister-in-law should be confirmed until she realizes that she is actually being confirmed. Religion shouldn’t be something you’re dragged into. It should be choice. And it should be your choice.

    That sounded kinda preacher-y at the end, didn’t it?

  7. I would say I’m Greek Orthodox because when I was six months old I was baptised as a Greek Orthodox, but I’m not. I’m not anything. I’m agnostic leaning towards atheism.
    In no way do I frown upon people who have CHOSEN their faiths. The keyword here is of course chosen.

    I live in Greece and haven’t baptised my children because I believe that faith can’t be forced upon anyone. A person should be given the opportunity to study religions and then participate in a church of his/her choosing.

    The Greek state is closely interwined with the Greek church and Greek Orthodox is taught in EVERY single grade of elementary, junior high and high school. The exception being one year in high school where the other religions are introduced and compared to Greek Orthodox. (!) A local field trip consists of going to the local church and communion. If you ask the teachers to exempt your children, then you have to deal with the narrrow-mindedness of either the school staff or the parents of other students. It’s a never-ending battle for freedom of choice.

    A few years back, the European Union passed out a new directive to all its state-members that new identity cards should NOT have the citizen’s religion printed on it, which unfortunately was the case in Greece. The Greek Church went bezerk and organized rallies and demonstrations against this. In the end, thankfully, we Greeks got our new identity cards and joined the ranks of open-minded europeans.

    You made an excellent point untitled. I hope I haven’t tired you out with my rant.

  8. I’m curious…why did you feel it was necessary to point out that untitled-sister-in-law is adopted?

  9. WOW, I’m totally impressed with the well balanced commentary going on here. I really checked back with the assumption that there would be lots of trolling and flaming. You know, talking about religion usually brings the best out in people.

    I appreciate the church-going folks politely informing, and the non-religious folks politiing expressing their opinions. All have provided food for thought. Not something you find often in blogland! Congrats!

  10. That’s a good question sparklykatt — I debated whether or not to include that bit of information. There are a couple of reasons that I did. One being that it’s true. But the main reason is this: untitledsister-in-law is mentally challenged because she suffers from Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. I haven’t written much about this situation, but I want no mistake to be made — untitledmother-in-law had nothing to do with it. She is simply the adoptive mother. Perhaps I’ll write more about that in the future, but I wanted to be clear on the facts from the beginning.

  11. lin – for some reason your comment was caught by the spam catcher. Sorry about that. Hopefully my response to sparklykatt helps to answer your question as well.

  12. What more is there to say?

    I concur.

    I have often felt entirely uncomfortable with the fact that at 12 I was confirmed when I didn’t want to be and didn’t even understand the concept.

    Sure, I was given an option… after I finished the classes, with my friends and family, the dress was bought and it was a week before the ceremony. Because you know, at 12, you can tell your uber religious family who has already planned out your entire life that you don’t believe in god, right?

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