A couple days ago the missionaries knocked on my parent's door, and my mom, though a former LDS member, let them in to talk for a while. Many of her grandchildren are or have been on LDS missions, and so she, of course, wanted to offer these kids her hospitality and let them do their thing. She used to even pay the church some tithing when I came around to pick up the offerings.
Anyway, the whole visit went downhill fast. Small talk led to "the talk," which is fine; she's used to attempts to convert her and has seen it all before. Heck, a group of local relief society members made her into a project a couple years ago for about 6 months. When pressed by this missionary for areas where she disagrees with the LDS church, she eventually brought up my family and the church's active involvement in changing the constitution to keep us from equal rights. Then it got ugly.
Fortunately it was just the one missionary that became combative, while the other kept quiet. This kid began telling my mom our family was illegitimate and sinful. He told her we were selfish because we weren’t raising children. Then, when she corrected him and showed him a picture of her grandkids, he reversed and told her that we were selfish because we were raising children, and even suggested they weren’t really our children because they weren’t biologically related to us both. So are they not “really” someone’s grandkids too? (I don’t think it’ll ever cease to surprise me that so many people do or will consider children they parent only theirs if it’s by biology, as if a change in DNA sequence would change their love and devotion. It’s kind of depressing to think on it.)
Finally the guy had the nerve to say his faith had nothing against either Rob or I. They just want us to basically break up, and pay more in cash and legal intangibles than they do. See, that’s okay, in his eyes. That, in his doublespeak, is treating people with love and respect.
Now my mom, as has been her nature as long as I’ve had the fortune of being her son, didn’t get upset and remained patient but clear (fortunately, my dad wasn’t at home ;-). He'll outright fight for us.). In fact, she related the encounter to me with some amusement. And, at first, it was kind of a funny encounter to me too. But, as I’ve been thinking about it, about what that kid was trying to do, it’s starting to look much worse.
What was this guy’s ultimate goal? To turn my mom on our family? To get her to (“lovingly”) begin to see our home as illegitimate, evil? Our home that arguably has the best, most stable marriage of any of her eight children; that’s what he was hoping to end? To get her to hope, as he was, for us to split up our kid’s home? And then I start to wonder, did he want her to impart such “values” to our children, during the many visits they all enjoy by living so close to us? To teach our children to undermine their very home?
I'm a bit upset. No, more than a bit upset. Today, I’m feeling outright nervous and combative; I’ve even been wondering if staying here is ultimately best. I’ve began to even worry about the LDS kid in Brian’s class who keeps talking to him about going to heaven. I know it sounds minor and it wasn’t a bother until now, but trying to temped our kid’s with the idea of heaven leads to the dogma and allegiances that are the supposed price for that reward.
And I, being agnostic, can’t ethically suggest such rewards and punishments as heaven and hell. I can’t compete on promises of pleasure and pain alone; all I can offer their young minds is a complicated lecture on why I’ve come, after a long path, to see doubt as the more correct and more humane position. But I’d never want them to give that lecture in school; I’d lay down the law if they even tried to debunk Santa there. But this little kid is promising Brian a great deal already, an escape from death for himself and those he loves, and goodness knows that the human mind can talk itself into a lot of varied and mutually exclusive beliefs for that comfort. The research on our coloring of experience alone is quite striking. So what, when faced with these pressures, will happen to our boys?
I don’t know. Such a worry simply comes with being a parent, I guess, along with many others, and I don’t mean to pose it as extraordinary.
I do know no missionary from any faith could turn my parents on us. In that case, it’s just the thought of the missionary’s goal and his complete disrespect for family (if the anatomy isn’t “right”) that makes me upset. But I know, in my teens, I wandered quite a bit from the positions of my parents, and they always encouraged my inquiry. I was everything from Baptist to Buddhist (1, 2); I was even LDS and could have been that missionary, arguing against my family at some point in my life. And I’m sure our boys will wander too… Looking back on it now, I have to admit, I want them to wander. It will hurt, but it’s one of those trials a parent shouldn’t stop (as I guess I already knew :-)).
Eh, and I’ll get over this combative mood too; I always do. All our neighbors and family here in Utah are great, and I’m close to sure none of them hope for us to split up our home. These border skirmishes, however, put me on edge. They start me wondering about when, not if, the local culture will want to intervene in our homes in ways more damaging than making us constitutionally unrecognized. Just the thought that such a huge organization in my state is sending people door to door saying such things about my home gives me chills.
Maybe, when this particular missionary gets married, I’ll go to his in-laws house and try to talk them into understanding how wrong his family is and that they should encourage his wife to leave him. Sure, I’d have little chance, but at least the returned attack might make me feel better ;-).