So, my wife and I quit Church over the weekend. Not that we’ve stopped believing in salvation or redemption or following the Commandments or any of that…it’s that we’ve stopped believing in the LDS Church in particular. If you want the whole, detailed story, you can email me and I’ll share.
So the question that we’re having is: what about our son? Giovanni doesn’t particularly care about going to Church. He won’t miss it, but he never really objected to going, either. It was a thing. We don’t want him to grow up without having some sort of idea that religion is a thing that deserves a couple of hours of dedicated God-time every so often, but we’re not particularly happy with any of our options right now.
So, we’ve been chatting about going to the Unitarian Universalist church, which is pretty big here in Olympia. Like, ‘it has just built itself a new parking lot’ kind of big.
And Now for Something Completely Different
But what we’re doing next religion-wise isn’t really the point — it’s what got us here that’s been plaguing me. Because I’m starting to see a pattern happening in my life. I’ve noticed that basically everything that I dislike in my life boils down to one single thing: how people dehumanize one another.
The problem that I’m having with the LDS Church is that the upper levels are dehumanizing the rank and file, essentially treating them as tithing machines. The problem that I’m having with the school is that they’re trying to dehumanize my child and reduce him to a diagnosis that they can solve with a pill. My problem with the Republican party is that they’re trying to dehumanize women, soldiers, poor people, and minorities so that they can protect their money. My problem with the Democratic party is that they’re trying to dehumanize rich people, white people, male people, and religious people so that they can protect their money. My problem with the Libertarian party is that they’re trying to dehumanize society as a whole…so that they can protect their money.
To quote a Cracked article that absolutely everyone should read, “there are intelligent, well-thought-out arguments on both sides of (almost) every issue.” What they imply but don’t outright say is that there are ten times more ridiculously lame arguments on both sides of every issue, and those lame arguments inevitably involve declaring some group of people to be somehow unfit to continue taking up society’s collective energy.
That’s annoying enough — but it’s something that we can (almost) cope with. What we can’t cope with is when an institution gains enough power that it’s able to define a certain category of people as being less than human. Even if they don’t explicitly say so, you can clearly see it by the way they treat that group. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, for example, treats rank-and-file members with a very clear agenda: get you paying a regular tithe at all costs. To quote the regular Church magazine, The Ensign, from December 2012:
“If paying tithing means that you can’t pay for water or electricity, pay tithing. If paying tithing means that you can’t pay your rent, pay tithing. Even if paying tithing means that you don’t have enough money to feed your family, pay tithing.”
That is completely insane. And directly contrary to the Bible: “But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel.” — 1 Timothy 5.
Rehumanization and the Worth Economy
My wife’s vision of the worth economy is intended from the ground up to introduce rehumanization into our vocabulary. We’re trying our hardest to make sure that we don’t casually dehumanize anyone. We struggle with this, naturally, but we’re doing our best.
If we can remember the lessons of the worth economy and use them to teach our son that dehumanizing people is the closest thing to Real Evil that exists in the world, we can show him that when we do things like distance ourselves from the church, it’s for a good reason.
So on Thursday, my son’s teacher called us at close to the end of school, and told us that Giovanni was literally out of control. I drove there, and when I got there, his classroom was empty except for four teachers and my son, and it was a disaster. My son had thrown every single pencil, colored pencil, marker, and crayon onto the floor — as well as every single sheet of at least three different stacks of paper. When I got there, he was breakdancing on top of the papers.
It turns out that in Washington State, it’s actually illegal for the teachers to touch a child (except for high fives and pats on the back — not even hugs are allowed) unless they are physically harming another person at the time. My son is smart enough to have figured out that they cannot stop him if he decides to throw a fit.
I got there, and of course he knows damn well that I’ll crack down on his ass if he gives me any shit. The instant he heard my voice, he was on his feet, looking embarrassed, and immediately got his butt to work cleaning up his mess.
As I drove home, I had a talk with him. We talked about stories, and heroes and villains — and I told him that in this story, he was the ‘bad guy’. His little fit had ruined school for not just his teachers, but all of his friends who had to be escorted out of the classroom while the teachers called me and I drove to the school. I left that message percolating in his brain and we drove in silence for a few minutes until we got home.
At home, my wife and I decided that the correct course of action was to have my son write a letter apologizing to the class. We emailed the teacher and made sure that she had him read the apology out loud in front of the class — because until you really drill home the fact that you hurt someone, you don’t understand how bad your actions are.
We essentially just humanized our son’s classmates — made him realize how his actions completely disregarded all of them as people, and he couldn’t do that.
In a way, this whole process of becoming a father started when I realized — because of my wife’s intervention — that I was dehumanizing my own son. I’m almost entirely over that, Alhamdulillah, and my wife is much better than I am. Now it’s time to make sure that my son learns the same lesson. And also, along the way, that he doesn’t have to take that crap from anyone else…which is exactly why we left the Church.
Ha. See? Took that shit full circle on ya. You like that? I thought so.