Sometimes I wish I were a Catholic.
It sure would be nice to pick which time to attend worship services. It’d be nice to hear a paid professional deliver a thought-provoking sermon every week. I wouldn’t mind shopping around for the best priest free of any guilt about abandoning my assigned congregation. I like getting out of the pew a few times during the service — even if just to kneel down or get a cracker. God knows I wouldn’t mind trimming and hour-and-a-half to two hours off my three hour Church meetings.
But more than any of that, it’d be nice to see different kinds of people meeting together in Church as equals.
Luckily, our Mormon congregation is more diverse than most American Mormon wards by just about every conceivable metric. It is certainly much more racially diverse than most. But the Mormon Church has a silly obsession with idealizing the 1970s sitcom family. We’re talking a mommy, a daddy, 12.5 kids. There are certainly plenty of single parents in our congregation. There are lots of senior citizens whose kids are no longer living at home. There are some single people without kids (though most of them are inexplicably siphoned off into “young single adult wards”). But the power players in the ward? The people who get the assignments in our run-by-assignment Church are moms and dads with children in the home. (Makes sense: who has more time on their hands — a father with a seven- and a two-year old or a single man?)
But I digress ever so slightly. The point is that there are kids and mommies and daddies everywhere we turn at Church.
My wife kind of loves it. Today, she got to hold a friend’s two-month-old infant for the entire three hours of Church. Other weeks I find myself happy to entertain a child by letting him or her draw in my notebook, play a game on my cell phone, or read a book I stashed in my backpack hoping to get a child’s attention. All of these are perfectly acceptable behaviors. At church.
If my wife and I tried any of these on a bus. . . Let’s just say if I sat a kid down next to me to read Hop on Pop, anonymity would be a lot tougher. You’d probably be able to look me up in a database complete with my photo, address and the contact info for my parole officer.
In Mormonism, as in most cultures, one of the easiest ways to find yourself on the outside looking in is by not complying to its norms. Being a married couple of four years without a kid? That’s pretty bizarre.
People talk — sometimes about us, sometimes to us.
“Why do you think they don’t have any kids yet?”
“When are you going to have kids?”
Because we’re trying to do our part in wiping out the human race within the space of a generation and when amazon.com starts selling them, respectively, thankyouverymuch.
Going to Church is a kind of double-edged sword. It provides us with more wonderful chances to interact with children than we would have otherwise. But all that fun is painfully intertwined with our realization that the child is not ours. As amazing as it is for my wife to hold a baby for three hours, she realizes that she can’t realistically expect to do so on most Wednesdays. I can watch a kid dump a box of crayons out on a Church pew and kneel at it to draw a purple dog. But she’s not going to be doing that on the floor of my apartment. It cuts deep.
The other edge is just as sharp and just as damaging. By virtue of our genetics’ (or our luck’s) nonconformity to the expectations of the culture in which we live, we alienate ourselves from it. Every week that we show up to Church without an announced due date, we become a little bit more of an oddity to the people we’d like to call our friends and confidants. Ironically, if our struggles go on much longer, we may want some friends in whom to confide. But the struggles that would make us need them so desperately only make such friends that much more difficult to come by.
Of course, there’s always the chance that our days as the childless couple are numbered. Here’s hoping that we’ll have to bring a diaper bag to Church in nine months.
Who knows? Maybe the good news is coming in the morning and this is the last time I’ll ever post to this blog.