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There was no God at my wedding. We both felt it was just too
With my secular Jewish background, and my husband's practical rejection
of his Catholic one, the thought of finding both a rabbi and a priest who would
work for us seemed like a headache we really didn't need. Also, it seemed slightly
dishonest. We weren't members of any synagogue or church, and we weren't
planning on joining one just so we could get married there. So, no God.
It was the first time the question of religion had seriously
come up in our then seven-year-old relationship. My family's Judaism primarily consists
of a Passover gathering once a year and possibly lighting a menorah next to the
Christmas tree. My in-laws were welcoming and quietly relieved that I had
replaced my husband's previous girlfriend who was a Buddhist.
But when our daughter was born, the question returned. Should
we baptize her? My husband wavered. He remembered the good things about his
years of Sunday school. The community. The structure. He made joking references
to Limbo, and how he would be lonely in heaven someday without the two of us. I
laughed and shot back, "Are you sure you're still going to heaven after all the
premarital sex we had?"
God was not a part of our lives. We said no prayers,
attended no services. We had our own, strong framework for morality, ethical ideas
we deeply believed in and hoped our child would share. Where was the need for
It was the same question my grandparents had asked 70 years ago when they both rejected their devout Jewish upbringing. My
grandmother refused to take part in any organized religion, alarmed by what she
saw as institutional sexism and the suppression of individual views. (This was
after they kicked her out of Hebrew school.) She found her own God in the love
between people, in kindness and generosity. And she never wanted her children
to feel labeled or excluded. "Why join the Jewish country club?" my grandmother
asked after moving from New York City to the suburbs in 1953. "It's just as
snobby as the one where Jews aren't allowed."
My husband is realizing now that maybe being raised with God leaves a mark that years without church can't completely erase.
My husband's issues with Catholicism were much the same. It
was in his nature to question authority, to ask why he was being told to judge
or hate others. He couldn't accept the Pope as an infallible source of God's disapproval
about homosexuality or contraception. And when the appalling revelations came
out about Catholic priests sexually abusing children with the full knowledge of
church hierarchy, it was the final straw. He gave up debating with his priest
and left in disgust.
But becoming a parent is kind of like being in therapy. You
know, all those childhood issues that you thought you dealt with years ago?
They start showing up again and punching you in the stomach.
My husband is
realizing now that maybe being raised with God leaves a mark that years without
church can't completely erase. He misses the Catholic community in his small
town, its warmth and kinship. Living so far away from both of our families, he
wonders if our daughter will feel that same security with our loose network of
friends scattered around Los Angeles. I remind him that I grew up in New York
City where community is the people you make eye contact with at your subway
stop. I don't know community. And I don't know God.
But I know how I felt at our wedding. It was like being
lifted up by love, being so completely surrounded by caring and kindness that
nothing could ever hurt us. During the ceremony, we asked our guests to recite
a pledge to support us in our new married life, and I think it was about as
close to a prayer as I will ever get.
We pledge to unite
in love and support
For Sarah and Benjamin.
May they be happy.
May they be healthy.
May their home be a refuge
from the storms of life.
In times of ease and
joy will you join with them in celebration?We will!
In times of difficulty
and struggle, will you offer them the best of your care and counsel?We will!
If God could make my daughter feel like that, I might just have
to give him another shot.