Recently USA Today released an article concerning adoption agencies and Catholic charities. It was basically in defense of religious bigotry because "at lease they are helping children get homes." Of course, it ignores the families who are being turned away for not being the right religion or having lifestyles that the church considers sinful. Warning, if you go searching for this article, you will bump into my comment where I am not exactly being incognito so you will learn my "true identity". I made the following comment:
The problem lies in that in some states, all the private agencies ARE religious. So you have the choice of working with either the state (who focuses primarly on foster care and reunification) or a private religious agency (who does both foster and adoption, sometimes focusing on babies). And if those agencies refuse to work with you because you aren't religious or because you are some variation of "sinful" in their eyes, then you are just out of luck. That makes me question whether they really care about finding children homes or if they are more concerned about conversions and maintaining their religion. In my state there are several agencies that require prospective parents to sign "statements of faith". A problem for me since I am not religious. This left us with only two choices of private agencies, both of which are still religious, but don't seem to care so much about my personal faith. We adopted a teen in April and I find it appalling that any child would be denied an opportunity to have a family because someone's personal life doesn't line up with a religion. Bigotry is still bigotry, even if the organization is doing something charitable.
Someone, of course, replied with a "But what about standards? Shouldn't there be standards?" Sure. Absolutely. My husband and I had to do a 30 hour training course mandatory for all foster parents whether they plan to foster or adopt. We also have to do an additional 24 hours of training over the 2 year period that our license is open. Our home was inspected by a case worker who went through our drawers and asked us dozens of questions. We had to fill out a 30 page questionnaire that asked questions about our philosophy of parenting, what our relationships were like with our parents & siblings, what our support network looked like, hobbies, any infertility issues, and even our sex lives. I had to hand over tax returns and list out, in detail, our monthly budget. We had to be fingerprinted and then state and federal background checks were run. (in some states you have to pass a drug test) In our home, which was inspected by a case worker, we have to have two fire extinguishers, a double-locking case for all medication, a locking case for the refrigerator, knives in a drawer, and an escape ladder in the kid's bedroom. I had to have a fire inspection and escape routes hanging up in our house. Dangerous chemicals have to be locked up. On top of all that, we have to fill out a mountain of paperwork each time our child went to the doctor, dentist, hospital, or took any medication, of which he has several. A social worker then came once a month to review our paperwork and to ask more questions to be sure that we weren't abusing our kid and were meeting his needs. Most biological parents will never have to go through all that to have a kid. So yeah, I would say there are a lot of standards in place. Do crappy parents still slip through the cracks? Sure. Some of those people lie because they know how to swindle people. Some may start out as decent parents or thought they would be good parents and then quickly discover that they aren't, and then instead of quitting the system, they stay in and just become abusive. Those people are problems, but not the ones my commentor was referring to.
No, he is suggesting that the standard by which we judge someone as being a fit parent IS religion. That despite all the rigorous things that a foster/adoptive parent has to go through in order to be a parent, those aren't good enough if you don't worship God. And you know and I know that they only mean one particular God. They aren't going to accept a Muslim adopting at a Catholic adoption agency. I've been around the religious most of my life. I've heard this rhetoric before. I absolutely know that the aim, the goal, is not just to find families for kids, but also Christian families.
I also know that religion doesn't make a person a good parent. My mother, despite loving us dearly, was abusive when I was younger. She screamed at us all the time, called us names, and was verbally abusive. It took me a long time to come to terms with that, because I love both my parents dearly. Mom also resorted to hitting when angry and would aim at whatever was in reach, meaning that spankings often turned into getting hit on the arm, shoulder, back, head, or legs. Spankings were often done in anger and in the heat of the moment, which means instead of one or two swats you could get upwards of 12-15. Eventually my parents took some parenting classes and learned some techniques for better parenting and things got a lot better. But there are still some incidents that happened well into my teen years that we just don't talk about today. Incidents that most definitely would be considered abuse by anyone's standards. Religion didn't magically make my parents better at parenting. All it did was make them self-righteous about it. I got punished for being sinful, disobedient, or wicked. I was reminded that in Bible times rebellious kids like me would have been stoned. I was prayed over in church to remove the spirit of rebellion from me. Mine is not an isolated past. Most of my friends grew up in very similar environments. Between all the hugs and guidance and family times, there was also an underlying threat. It's why so many people justify and normalize spanking, because it happened to so many of us. And for the record, my husband is not a better parent than me simply due to his religion.
So no, religion should not be the standard in which we judge whether someone will be a fit parent. There are a billions of people on this planet who are religious and some of those are also some of the shittiest human beings you will ever meet. I had a friend at fifteen, who told me that her step-father was sexually abusing her. He ended up going to jail for 5 years because of it. He had also been a deacon at his church and was training to be a pastor. He would have passed any religious standards to adopt. Religion is probably the least reliable "standard" for deciding whether someone will be a fit parent.
With over 107,000 children in the US available for adoption and waiting for families, I find it criminal that any organization would deny them that opportunity based on personal opinion and bigotry. I absolutely believe those organizations that discriminate based on religion, sexual orientation, or marital status should not be tolerated, in the same way that we wouldn't tolerate them discriminating based on skin color. And I think atheists and other non-religious organizations need to start stepping up and creating organizations that are open to all. If religion, particularly Christianity, is going to dwindle and die, the non-religious must step up and fill those voids. We need humanist or even more interfaith organizations that will meet these great social needs. I'm afraid my gifts and talents do not lie in starting my own non-profit business, but I would definitely volunteer with and champion the cause of those organizations. We, the non-believers, HAVE to stop allowing the religious to dictate charity.
Last night husband and I went to the theater to see the Broadway tour of The Book of Mormon. I laughed a lot and gaphawed several times as well. For those not in the know: The Book of Mormon is a musical written by Trey Parker, Robert Lopez, and Matt Stone. If some of those names sound familiar, it's because you probably have seen them listed on every episode of South Park. Robert Lopez was the Broadway genius of the group. Together they wrote a play where two characters, Elder Cunningham and Elder Price become an unlikely mission duo sent, not to the sunny streets of Orlando, but to Uganda. Upon arrival their bags are stolen and they quickly discover they are surrounded by extreme poverty and very reluctant converts. So reluctant in fact that there has not been a single Mormon convert since the LDS showed up in the area. That is until Elder Cunningham begins to preach a rather...interesting...version of the Book of Mormon. Within all this Elder Price struggles with his beliefs and the expectations that have been put upon him by himself and others.
The play is irreverent, rude, crude, and downright hysterical if none of those things bother you. I've heard of Mormons who say they like the show, which I find fascinating because the show really is showcasing how absolutely ridiculous the Mormon faith is....and takes a swipe at all religions while doing so. The show is also smart and really examines things like racism, savior complexes, attitudes toward African, short-term missions work, and beliefs.
My favorite part of the show is it's focus on missions. If you recall, I have been on several short-term mission trips ranging from one week to two months and have some strong opinions about their utility. I've heard some criticism regarding this element of the show, but I really think those people are being too "woke" for their own good and completely missing the point. In the show, these white Mormon boys travel to Uganda, a place they can't even find on a map. Neither knows anything about the country nor do they actually care about the people in the beginning. The stereotypes they have color their opinions of the people there and make it hard for them to relate at all. Nevermind that the religion they are trying to spread has no relevance to these people at all. Elder Cunningham has to lie to them in order to get them to even listen. It also forces the audience to stop and think. As you are laughing at the song 'Hasa Diga Eobowai' it occurs to you that this IS what you imagined Africa and by extension Uganda as being like. And intellectually you know it isn't true. That what you are seeing on that stage is your own stereotypes being thrown back at you. You as the audience are being forced to watch a stereotype that you know is wrong and that makes you laugh and uncomfortable at the same time. Perhaps the best part is near the end when one of the characters says to the heartbroken Nabulungi (girl, love interest, true believer), "You didn't actually believe all that stuff did you? It's a met-a-phor." As if these people with a lack of education and inability to read can see more clearly than the people who came to witness to them or the true believers.
I know a lot of people who would be offended by it on every extreme. The Christians think it is cool that they are making fun of Mormons until they actually see some part of the show and realize that it's really making fun of all religions. The social justice warriors hate it for displaying African/Ugandans in such a "prejudicial" way. And then there is the rest of us who understand that comedy has a funny way of being both hilarious and a societal mirror and one can enjoy it for both reasons.
My sister-in-law is not well. She hasn't been for quite sometime. Despite being in her late twenties, her body is slowly but surely shutting down on her. My SIL has epilepsy, a condition she was born with but went undiagnosed until her early twenties. People just assumed she was clumsy, forgetful, not paying attention. But all those episodes where she seemed to zone out or where she would fall down, we know now was a result of seizures. At one point it was determined that she was having anywhere from 9-12 micro-seizures every hour. These don't look like your "typical" TV drama seizures. She doesn't fall down or foam at the mouth, although she has been known to black out. (subsequently she can't drive anymore) Instead, her hands shake, she loses focus, her speech slurs just a bit. The worst part to what is happening to her is inside. Her body is so busy trying to repair the damage that constant seizing is doing to her brain, that it is neglecting all her other parts. Her joints have become loose, she has difficulty exercising, she's constantly tired. Seizure medicine is not helping and now the doctor is talking to her about death. Yes, death. She's in her late twenties with four children and her doctor is trying to prepare her for the idea that if this continues to progresses, eventually she will become brain damaged and then her body will shut down. This is terrible knowledge for anyone to process, particularly someone so relatively young. They (my brother and SIL) have been exploring their options.
They traveled to a state where cannabis oil is legal to see if it helped. It did. Are they willing to uproot their lives and move away from family for that? Perhaps. I would greatly miss my little nieces and nephews, but I would completely understand if they decided to do this. SIL is determined to not let this stop her from enjoying life either. Last time she visited us we went to the science museum and pushed her around in a wheelchair. This isn't the life she wants, but it allows her to spend time with her kids and husband. Someone once shamed her by stating that if she was so sick what was she doing going out all the time? What they didn't see or know was that she spent the next three days in bed after that little adventure, in pain and barely functioning.
I have not always gotten along with my SIL, but I also don't harbor her any ill will nor would I want my nieces and nephews to grow up without a mom or my brother to not have his wife. I'm also really glad that despite her being an essential oils enthusiast, she still goes to the doctor, takes medication, and is looking for alternative solutions for her problem. Of course, as you would expect of the devout, she also believes that God can heal her. A part of me understands. It's the reason why people play the lottery. Even if there is an infinitesimal chance that you may win, it's still a chance, so why not? Prayer and healing seem to meet that same need.
As we are talking on the phone the other night she said that the reason she posts about her health on social media is because "I believe in the power of prayer." Except I don't think she does. Traveling to another state to try cannabis oil and going to the doctor, sometimes weekly, tells me that you know that you have to do more than pray. What I think she likes is the idea that people are praying for her. It makes her feel loved, especially since she doesn't get out much anymore. If people are praying for her, then they are thinking about her. That means she is not forgotten. That her problems aren't too much that people are abandoning her. I completely understand that feeling. I imagine how nice it must feel to have someone take you aside at a party (the first time you've gone out in weeks) to tell you that their daily prayer list that they faithfully pray over. And not just them, their sisters also pray for you.
Obviously, based on how often there is miraculous healing, this isn't going to do a damn thing, but people are thinking about her. Since she does believe in a god, there is also that tiny bit of lottery hope that this god will listen to your prayers and magically heal you even though he never has before and there is no evidence he has done it before either. Being pragmatic, I am worried. I am worried that they don't have a living will. I'm worried that her health, which has been quickly declining, will send her into an early grave. I'm worried that my brother will become a widower in his thirties and that my nieces and nephews will lose a mother. And based on all the available data, that is looking like a very real possibility.
This is a personal, but secret, blog archiving my deconversion from a Christian to a non-believer.