The Gospel according to a little old lady

2011-08-16 19:34

A friend of mine, who goes by the nym “borealis” on a few forums, posted a thread entitled My Mother’s Religion on a forum I hang out on. I repost the text here with permission:

My mother is 85 years old. Most of her life has been lived quietly and necessarily frugally in a rural area. She married the love of her life in 1948 and had three children in the next twelve years. The greatest sorrow of her life came in 2001 when my father died. Other than that, and the other family deaths which always are cause for sorrow, she’s led a pretty good life.

The religion of her childhood was fundamentalist – Gospel Hall – but she joined the United Church of Canada after about twenty years of marriage because that was the church of her husband, and she was very much a ‘follow your husband’ kind of woman. She has been a devoted ‘church lady’ until recently, when age has slowed her down. Always ready to help with the cleaning, the cooking the washing up, that every church seems to require of its female congregation. And she sang, her beautiful alto decorating the choir until very recently.

But during that time, any mention she made of theology was to complain about the shockingly ‘modern’ beliefs promoted by the UCoC. She almost left the church over their acceptance of gay ministers. She once told me evolution made absolutely no sense to her, it sounded like crazy talk. She wouldn’t go so far as to say Satan planted all the fossils, but I suspect it would have eased her mind if she could have believed that.

I never directly discussed religion with my mother, and certainly not theology. All three of her children have always protected her from our more radical ideas about God, especially me, being an agnostic. Only a few years ago, that admission from one of her children would have filled her with terror regarding our fate. So we didn’t talk about those sorts of things.

Two weeks ago, I was home with her, and in the evening I played guitar and she played her keyboard and we sang a lot of old songs and a few gospel tunes, and we talked. And when she said “I’ve been reading the Bible a lot lately.”, I braced myself for a sermon. Imagine my shock when she hesitated briefly, then said firmly: “I think half the Bible is just made up! It’s mostly a bunch of men telling stories and making themselves sound important. I was reading and it just came to me, a lot of it makes no sense and I can’t believe God is like that. I don’t believe it.”

It was a struggle to haul up my jaw, but when I did I asked her if there was some particular thing that bothered her. No, she said. Well, perhaps it was because of something she’d been thinking about for a couple of years that seemed wrong, and it got so it seemed so wrong she couldn’t accept an inerrant Bible anymore, and when she felt there was one thing wrong, a lot of other things began to look suspect.

And there it was, the last thing I would have expected to test my 85 year old mother’s faith. Homosexual marriage. because about ten years ago, a more than middle aged gay couple moved in down the road. They’re in their sixties, have been together over thirty years. They have a couple big friendly dogs, a pretty garden. And they are tremendously open hearted and generous men. They’ve become great friends with my sister’s family, and they are very well liked throughout the community, invited everywhere and always ready to offer a cup of tea to visitors. Over the years they’ve helped my mother with any number of little chores, especially when my brother in law was recovering from heart surgery.

And if my mother has any say in it, they are not going to hell. And probably nobody else is, either, because my mother has taken her eighty plus years of worship and prayer and belief and told God that parts of the Bible are just wrong and no decent deity would ever act like that.

And this is the Good News that the early Christians used to preach: God is not mad at you. You do not need to do anything, you are not in trouble, go be nice to people. Love your neighbors. Not because you are required to, but because you should.

One can only imagine how joyful she must be.

Peter Seebach

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