Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Salvation

I've been struggling with how to write this post because some of the larger topics I've been discussing are starting to hit a little closer to home, and all of my questions about gay marriage and religion and bigotry are looming larger than ever.

A---- and I are deep into the process of being approved as fost-adopt parents - which means we'll be adopting a child from the foster care system. It's intense and involved and we've already literally handed over our blood and our DMV records and our finger prints, but we haven't even started the home study phase, which is apparently the most intense and involved of all. We are in turn elated and terrified by what we're taking on, and even when we have our doubts, we know it's the right thing for us.

But becoming parents strips away any pretense that we can pass as straight when we want to, and before we're even approved, this new reality is inserting itself in our lives, most notably when it comes to A----'s family.

Over the past five years, I have worked hard to ingratiate myself with the H's. Their dream for their daughter was that she would marry a nice Christian black man. Instead she ended up with a nice Jewish white woman. One out of four ain't bad, right? I wasn't sure whether to laugh or cry when Mrs. H called up A---- after the first time they'd met me to tell her what a lovely woman I was - and what a wonderful wife I'd make for some nice man someday. But three years later - this past April - Mr. and Mrs. H sat in our kitchen on their second visit to our home, and asked me whether A---- and I might like a toaster oven for Christmas. The toaster is surely the most domestic of all gifts, and I took this question, directed solely at me (A---- was at work at the time) to be an indication that they were accepting the two of us as a domestic unit.

All of this was brought about by a careful policy of don't-ask/don't-tell employed on everyone's part. A---- and I visited with them, but did not hold hands or kiss in their presence, and in exchange, Mrs. H stopped telling A---- that she had to change her lifestyle and get right with Jesus. I worked hard not to refer to A---- as "Babe" in front of her parents, even while I made insider jokes with them about their daughter's quirky ways as only a wife could, and they made it clear that they appreciated how happy I made their daughter. All, of course, without ever saying out loud that A---- and I were a couple, or using any of the gay-lesbian-queer-homosexual words out loud.

But this past Sunday, we called them up and told them of our intention to adopt, and all our pretenses went up in flames. Their initial reaction was, on the scale of the H family, quite positive. They were certainly not beside themselves with joy, but nor did they bring up hellfire and brimstone. They responded mostly with a lot of questions, including asking how old the child would be, whether we had any babysitters lined up, and if we knew we were going to have to go to church now. We got off the phone with them tentatively happy at how well it had gone, but a little tense about when the other shoe might drop.

It took only two days. Yesterday I called to wish Mr. H a happy birthday. Mrs. H answered and told me she'd been thinking about me and A---- a lot. There was a long pause while I waited for her to follow up, and she waited for me to give her an opening.

"Anything in particular?" I finally asked. "Or just thinking about us in general?"

"I've been thinking about salvation," Mrs. H told me. "I've been praying for your salvation."

Thunk.

It felt like a soft lob to my stomach, that word "salvation." I didn't know at first what it meant, but as the meaning sank in, the nausea came with it. This woman whose daughter I love and like and adore (with all the subtleties inherent in each of those words), this woman who I had bent over backwards to please, this woman who had slept in my home, on my sheets, and eaten my food - she believes I'm going to Hell.

Salvation.

I will be the first to admit that there are many ways in which I could live my life better. And not just in the guilty California liberal way (I should drive less, recycle more, exercise daily, eat less fat, volunteer regularly, live as one with the earth). No, my real sins are that I can be judgmental and temperamental and I too often speak sharply with people who don't deserve it. I harbor grudges, and as far as I extend myself for those I love, don't always extend myself far enough for them. I am not at peace with myself let alone with the concept of a higher being, but all of this I figure I will work on and work on and work on until eventually I die.

I do not consider my sexuality to be a sin.

And yet. Salvation. Oh, the power of language. I still cannot digest what is encompassed in that word. I looked it up to see if it would help clarify its meaning.

Salvation: Preservation or deliverance from destruction, difficulty, or evil.

How difficult it is to step back from this - that word from that woman's lips - and try to see the bigger picture. Is this really an expression of her beliefs, or is her faith just a smoke screen for her bigotry?

I can write off James Dobson and Ann Coulter and Maggie Gallagher and even Reverend Fred Phelps, whether I choose to consider their positions or not. But I cannot write off the woman who will be grandmother to my children. She prays for my salvation because she cares for me and she believes that I am going to Hell. Her belief that I am a sinner is as engrained in her as my belief that I am not. No matter how many cakes I bake her, or how many times we laugh together at her kitchen table or mine, she may never look past my sin to accept me fully.

And if that's the case, does it matter whether the beliefs are pure or just prejudice wrapped up in scripture? She is working hard to help her daughter save herself from the eternal fires. When I am a mother, I will fight just as hard as Mrs. H does to protect my children - perhaps even from their own grandparents.

1 Comments:

Blogger Joshio said...

Man, I hate religion. In my mind Christianity - at least the hard core born-again type - is every bit as bad as fundamentalist Islamists, or Jews who believe it is ok to act like Nazis against Palestinians or Lebanese people. I'll take a nice Buddhist any day!

It just makes me sick that all of these people feel ok justifying fear and haltered and murder because their divinity says it's ok. No frickin' divinity other than Satan is ok with fear, hatred and murder. Certainly not Muhammad, Jesus or God!

People who really believe in a god - a real, benevolent god - believe in things like being kind, being compassionate, being accepting. They understand that whatever "better place" awaits, it awaits all who are also kind and compassionate and accepting. The haters, and especially those who hate and kill and judge in the name of their god, are going straight to hell!

3:00 PM  

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