Alisia and I received a package about three weeks ago from her Grandma. In the package we found a long, very heartfelt and articulate letter about what her faith means to her, and a copy of the Book of Mormon.
We’re a secular family. Alisia was raised outside of faith and away from church, and since becoming an adult I have shunned the morality (mostly) that I was sort-of-kind-of made to accept as a child. We aren’t looking to be saved, changed, or to have any type of faith-based awakening come into our life. In fact, every time someone has attempted to convert me to their ideology I have fought back, and at times have become extremely insulting.
Example: Between the ages of 17 and 20 my Grandma Mary, Grandma Alice, Uncle Jim, Aunt Janey, my friend Dugie, and my Mom’s friend Judy all died. It was one of the hardest times in my life.
Somewhere in the middle of that I lost a very important friendship because of an unwanted attempt at proselytizing.
My then-friend had found Jesus through, of all places, rap music. All those times that a rapper thanked Jesus my buddy Seth grew a little more religious until one day Jesus Christ of Nazareth was his personal Savior.
Sometime after one of the deaths — I think Grandma Alice, but each of those death tends to bleed into the others really — I was hanging out with Seth, playing NES. At one point we got to talking about everything in my life and I confessed to him that I was at a crisis: Why had God chose us?
For the life of me I could not figure out what the Duganzs had done to deserve such a raw deal. Admittedly I felt very Job like during this whole ordeal. And as I said this to Seth he confessed to me that he’d prayed for me. I was in no mood to hear of a loving God, I was at the time coming to terms with a string of deaths (with more to come) and though I had not read it yet, I was siding with Nietzsche–God was dead.
So as he attempted to tell me that Jesus was not the destroyer, but a loving savior, I argued with him–foolishly. I insulted his faith, and spat on his belief in an everlasting beauty in our end. I told him that there was no God, and that he was an idiot for believing in one. Then I stormed out. We have rarely, and only superficially, ever spoke to each other since.
I now know that he was trying to help me. He wanted to make me feel safe and taken care of in the same way he was. But I was much younger, and in too much pain to see that. So I did what any angry, sad kid would do: reacted without thinking.
Sitting in our bedroom watching me read the letter Alisia wondered if that would be my reaction to her Grandma’s gesture. But this letter, and this book were somehow different to me, maybe because I’m older and I’m more secure in how I feel about religion/God/Allah/YHWH/Jehovah/Jesus/Buddha/Krishna/ghosts/spirits/[insert Hindu god(s)]/etc.
As I stared at her words, and at the Book of Mormon she’d given us (to which we do not have a complimentary Bible for since we gave it to a friend as a joke), I just felt moved. Not moved to convert or believe, but moved to think that she felt that way about me. I’m not about to come around to a religious worldview, so I could appreciate what her gesture meant.
Grammie believes that there is a Heaven, and that she will go there. This was her inviting me and my wife to be with her, her saying, “You’re part of my family and I want you to be there with me.”
People like Grammie are not the same as the charlatans from TV, or the door-knockers who think 8:30 on a Saturday is Jesus-talking-time, they are just saying, “This is what I believe, and what comforts me, and I want you to have that same feeling.”
I just hope that those same people who reach out to me, will accept me even after I turn down their offer. I know Grammie will.