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Topic: Looking for advice/commiseration (non-religious viewpoint expressed)

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Subject: Looking for advice/commiseration (non-religious viewpoint expressed)
Date Posted: 9/25/2008 8:17 PM ET
Member Since: 12/12/2006
Posts: 1,080
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My husband and I are both in the agnostic/secular humanist camp.  I was raised to be Catholic (I never really believed in any of it and rejected organized religion when I was 16) and he was raised Presbyterian (he was an active church member, even taught some Bible classes when he was in high school, then started thinking for himself when he was in college and came to realize he didn't REALLY believe).  We are pretty much in harmony with what we believe in and what values we hope to pass on to our child(ren).  Now that I am almost 13 weeks pregnant, the issues of church and religion are very much on my mind.

Here's the problem.  I was open and honest with my parents about not being a believer in organized religion when I was 16 Which wasn't an easy thing to do, I knew they'd be upset and hurt, especially my mother and I was right...I also knew I would have to contend with accusations of just being a rebellious teen and that it was just a "phase" which was just annoying...yeah, it's been a "phase" for the past 18 years of my life! It's something that today I can discuss with my mother without acrimony, my mom still wishes I were Catholic, but she at least respects that I believe what I believe and that's that.  My husband hasn't been open and honest with his folks.  He left the farm and went to college, and outside of going home for the summers until he graduated, and visiting a few times a year after he graduated from college, he pretty much stayed in the city where he went to school (he also has spoken with his parents every Sunday since college, and communicates via email).  He never went to church again as an active participant after leaving home, I mean, he'd go (and still goes) to church with his parents when he visits for the weekend and that's it.  His parents know this, but they chalk it up to laziness and the fact that he is NOT a morning person.  But they think he essentially still believes what they raised him to believe.  But he doesn't.  And at 43 years old, he can't admit otherwise to them, because he doesn't want to upset them and he doesn't want them to think badly of him.

When we were engaged, his mom shot off an email about how we should start looking into what church we would like to attend together.  My husband let her know that we had already agreed that most likely we would be attending the Unitarian Universalist church in midtown Manhattan.  She replied that that wasn't a valid option because the UUs do not believe in Jesus Christ as the Lord and Savior.  Well.  Neither do we.  But instead of DH (then of course DF) gently letting her know that this was the best church for us based on our beliefs, he said nothing.  Being freshly engaged and having met his parents a total of 4 times at that point, I didn't feel comfortable letting her know that while I wasn't going to begrudge her strong hint that we find a church to go to, she didn't get veto power over our decision.  *sigh*

Shortly thereafter my DH and I discussed issues and I found myself agreeing to have our kid(s) baptized, at the very least.  I was completely and utterly done in by the pleading in his eyes when he asked me, and I agreed because it would have made me feel like a heel to say no.  I did remind him that we had discussed the topic often in the past, and I reminded him of my thoughts about baptizing any children of mine (it'll be a very hypocritical thing for me to do, is what I feel), but that in the grand scheme of things having a ceremony and party that would make the grandparents happy would not be the end of the world.

Well, here we are, pregnant after 2 years of infertility.  I had my first trimester screening yesterday, we saw the Kiddo waving it's tiny arms and legs and arching its back and jumping around.  So cute!  So REAL!  If all continues to go well, we will be blessed with a child in 6 months!  And, I don't think I can do it.  I don't think I will have it in me to waltz over to the Episcopalian church in Hoboken (which we attended once, and it was a very nice church) and attend enough services to fool the pastor in agreeing to baptize our baby in a church we have no intention of raising them in.  It would be a LIE.  I don't want to involve my baby in a lie like that.  I love my husband dearly, and I really like and respect my in-laws, but I don't think it's fair be expected to bend over backwards in order to please my in-laws in a matter that should strictly fall under the purview of the *parents*.  It would be a different story if baptism was important to my husband from a religious standpoint, then I could see myself relenting because this is his child, too.  But he doesn't.  His parents already raised two sons in the way they saw fit, and I don't see why we shouldn't get to do the same without guilt.  I do have sympathy for my husband, he's sort of between a rock and a hard place.  He's either going to have disappointed parents, or a resentful wife.  I vote for the former, since he doesn't live with his parents anymore, lol. 


What I'd like to do is just start attending UU services soon so we can get a feel for things and have a better understanding of how the UUs operate and so we can make the final decision to bring our Kiddo there for services.  And then just keep mum, until the inevitable moment when I know my MIL will ask about church.  Then I fiugure I'd let them know our plan, and my response to any objections would be "well, I understand and appreciate your objections, but after careful research and consideration, this is the best option for us".  And just repeat variations on that theme till I'm blue in the face!  I think I can get DH on board with this, I hope I can.  He's so non-confrontational, he has a very amicable and congenial relationship with his parents, and I know he doesn't want any friction.  Me on the other hand, lol, my mom and I argue all the time.  But I think congeniality can be overrated.  I might fight with my mom in a way he would never argue with his folks, but my folks definitely have a better idea of who I am than his folks have of him. 


Well, I've gone on and on.  I feel better letting this out here, thanks for "listening".

Last Edited on: 9/25/08 8:22 PM ET - Total times edited: 4
Date Posted: 9/25/2008 9:49 PM ET
Member Since: 7/5/2006
Posts: 4,669
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hugs, Lissette.. I know this is a tough decision.  I'm a secular/humanist, DH is a Mthodist preacher's kid, but is much more liberal in his beliefs now than when he was younger.  I attended church with him when we first got married, and spent most of hte time day dreaming or writting my lesson plans in my head.  We did "christen" DS (I refuse to call it baptism) at his church, but mostly for the rental units.  As DS's grandparents they wil be raising him too, and imparting their beliefs as well.  I'd suggest strat going tothe UU church now. If it's anything like th eone I used to go to, you'll love it.  Great adult discussions.  And the children's programs at UUs are usually top notch (lots of inter-cultural learning and  peace studies).  They have a beautiful ceremony to welcome children into the congregation too (LG can tell you much mroe about UU).  I suggest that maybe FOR the in-laws you let them host a christening at their home with their pastor for your dear little one, but YOU don't need to do anything, since that is not of value to you.  (am I making sense???) 

Date Posted: 9/25/2008 11:41 PM ET
Member Since: 4/17/2008
Posts: 161
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Hi. Lisa. I agree with you about whos "side" your DH should be on, Yours!

IMO he should have said something before you became pregnate. Mosseltov!!!  A baby is so wonderful!!!  But it will add stress to your life and the clearer the rules and boundaries are with the kids/parents/God thing the better.

Please try the UU church, I attend one and I am happy and comfortable. Something I never was in all the churches I had to attend growing up. My parents are JW sort of and maybe a little fundamentlist thrown in for good measure. I have two kids of my own and I vowed they would not be raised as I was. So I understand a little of what your going through.

I know these are you in-laws, so DH is really the one who will have to step up. He's your husband now, not their child. I had a hard time with my parents and when I caught my dad trying to recruit my son not too long ago I was very upset. I have always told them that I am raising them how I see fit and when they are grown if they want to become christains thats fine with me. But I will not force them to blindly follow anything right now. I want them to think for themselves. Please understand that this won't be a one time thing. This will be ongoing, for the rest of the child's upbringing.

Good luck dear, and feel free to vent all you need to.



Date Posted: 9/27/2008 8:09 AM ET
Member Since: 12/12/2006
Posts: 1,080
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Thank you, Sam and Amber :).

T. -
Date Posted: 9/27/2008 5:53 PM ET
Member Since: 1/21/2007
Posts: 9,989
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Congratulations, Lissette & Hubby--I hope the next 6 months proves very fruitful!

We went through something similar when my kids were very young.  It was difficult, but I resisted and my girls were never baptised and neither have I.  My inlaws held that against me until the day they died.  It's a choice you two have to make, and by making the choice you must live with whatever consequences.  I like to go with Shakespeare's "To thine self be true." (from Hamlet)

L. G. (L)
Date Posted: 9/28/2008 9:45 PM ET
Member Since: 9/5/2005
Posts: 12,412
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Oh hon, I am *so* with you!!  We are in the same boat - DH's family and especially his Mom, are really religious.  We have been nagged about finding a Christian church, etc. ad nauseum.  You just really have to stick to your guns, IMO.

FWIW, UUs have a child dedication ceremony that is similar to a baptism without the hellfire and brimstone, and without the *traditional* religious meaning of a baptism.  Depending on your beliefs, you can include "God" or not, dedicating the child to God, the Earth, Universe, all of the former,  or however you want to approach it.  If you include God, it might be a compromise between the two camps.  They also have an awesome Religious Education program, and while it might not be your in-laws "brand" of religion, the fact that the child is being raised in an atmosphere that respects and teaches about Christianity might cool their jets a bit.

Good luck - there are no easy answers.  The bottom line is, s/he is YOUR baby and you get to decide. :)

(And I know I said it before but congrats!!  I am more than thrilled for you!!!)


Date Posted: 9/29/2008 3:47 AM ET
Member Since: 12/19/2005
Posts: 5,091
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Congratulations Lisette. 

I wish I could provide words of wisdom, but all I can do is offer moral support.  I hope that you can find a way to resolve this issue and that it doesn't become an on-going problem with your family.

Date Posted: 9/29/2008 9:59 AM ET
Member Since: 4/22/2007
Posts: 2,461
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Heh heh... well, I kinda went through something similar, but we were very vocal about being opposed to having our kids baptised in any church with both my parents and in-laws.



I'm very certain that the sneaky sh*ts (my parents) when they had my kids one weekend had them baptised.  Now... am I angry?  At first I was, but then to me... its only words and water... words and water.  They would also be too little to remember it.

How do I know this may have happened.  My oldest at the time; he was all of 2 1/2, said to me that a man kept pouring water on him at the place with benches.  At first I was mad, but then my husband and I laughed and laughed because he was so cute when he said it. 

Date Posted: 9/29/2008 11:57 PM ET
Member Since: 10/17/2006
Posts: 1,427
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Ahhhhh, the memories that these posts touched off!    Once, Dr. A. Powell Davies (eminent U-U minister in Washington, D. C.) advised a group of us young people who were concerned about upsetting our parents and grandparents with our "unorthodox" religious views that we should just smile gently at them and reassure them again that we love them.   

I sat in a back pew in a Lutheran church while the in-laws and hubby presented the baby and her 'big' sister for baptism up front.  It didn't hurt the babies, and it made the old folks happy.  Hubby was a full-grown man, and knew I was a U-U when he married me, so it was up to him to figure it out for himself! 

I'd like to suggest a paraphrase of what Pres. Lincoln said about fooling people-----"You can please some of the people all of the time, or you can please all of the people some of the time, but you can't please all of the people all of the time."   Just, when you children get a little older, be sure to get them to understand that they should NOT ever make fun of someone else's religious beliefs, and that they may have to resist others' proselytizing them.

(I bet there are a LOT of people out there like your husband----in a way I think of them as having taken on "protective coloration", or camouflage, sort of.  It's a touchy position to be in, not wanting to sadden one's parents or alienate one's spouse.  I don't envy him at all.)

Date Posted: 10/9/2008 11:00 PM ET
Member Since: 6/30/2006
Posts: 2,303
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In our church we do not "baptize" babies, but they are frequently "blessed" in front of the congregation. In our church baptism involves covenants and commitments. Based on that I would agree with you when you say of baptizing your child into a church you do not agree with "It would be a LIE.  I don't want to involve my baby in a lie like that."

I also agree that "He's either going to have disappointed parents, or a resentful wife.  I vote for the former, since he doesn't live with his parents anymore" . (Genesis 2:24 "Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife...) His parents should be told, probably by him. His parents should hear from him that this is his choice, or at least your choice as a couple, and that he is planning to raise his children this way (and NOT that it is something you have forced upon him!) I'll leave it to you to decide whether in the case that he doesn't tell them, you can say "Mom, Dad, there is something that your non-confrontational son has neglected to tell you and I think you deserve to know...."

Our daughter has disassociated herself from our church and attends another. We respect her right to follow her own course. She and her husband had some kind of baby ceremony for their daughter at the church she attends. (It might have been called a baby dedication?) Our family attended her church that day in addition to our own.

Congratulations to your growing family. Do start attending UU to have a clearer idea that it is what you want.

Last Edited on: 10/9/08 11:06 PM ET - Total times edited: 2
Date Posted: 10/27/2008 4:59 AM ET
Member Since: 12/12/2006
Posts: 1,080
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Wow, I haven't looked here in a while & didn't realize I got all these responses!  Thanks, everyone! 

Thankfully, the in-laws have yet to ask about our intentions regarding baptism.  So far I think my husband is on board with me, but I know he is nervous.  I did that tell him that while I would in no way support an official baptism, if it REALLY mattered to his folks nd it was good enough for them, they could sprinkle a little water on the baby's head and baptise them themselves--on an informal level like that and without my husband and I promising to raise the kid in a traditional Christian curch, it would just be words & wter to comfort my in-laws.  If that's not good enough for them, then TOUGH.  That's the most I'm willing to concede--at least for now.  I have NO idea if I will change my mind on even that once Kiddo is here. 


I'll leave it to you to decide whether in the case that he doesn't tell them, you can say "Mom, Dad, there is something that your non-confrontational son has neglected to tell you and I think you deserve to know...

LOL, that's an awesome suggestion! If it cmes right down to it, I will!  And I'll be sure that this is how I found their son amsot 4 1/2 years ago, I didn't "negatively influence" him.  They just don't know their son as well as they think they do.  Which makes me sad.