My oldest daughter, who’s 10, doesn’t like church. It’s not a phase. She’s never liked church. Oh, she was more or less fine with it as a baby, but once she got to be about two, she just didn’t want much to do with it anymore. You know how cute it is when little kids will spontaneously bear testimony about how much they love Jesus and get all excited whenever they see the temple? Yeah, that’s not a shared experience. Those who read my personal blog will probably remember the story of my two-year-old princess throwing herself down before the chapel doors and screaming, “NO CHURCH! NO JESUS CHRIST!” I know I’ve told it more than once, but it’s just so perfectly representative of her history with religion.
I suspect that part of her problem with church is an autistic thing. (She has Asperger’s Syndrome.) Some of it is sensory-related. She’s never been fond of the organ, and a lot of the Primary music drives her nuts. Her nursery leaders told me they just had to give up on “Do As I’m Doing” because every time they started singing it, she’d start punching herself in the head. When she was a Sunbeam, the birthday song would make her run out into the halls screaming. (I must confess, I’ve had similar impulses during certain renditions of “I Believe in Christ.” But that’s another blog.) Aside from the unwanted stimuli, however, there’s the fact that autistic children have difficulty understanding abstract concepts. As one specialist told me, “If they can’t see it, they don’t get it.” Since faith is the substance of things that are hoped for but not seen, that can certainly pose a problem for an autistic child.
I suspect, though, that her lack of piety has just as much to do with her personality as her disability. (My younger son, who also has autism, has no particular problem with Jesus or church, aside from the sitting still part.) At age five she informed us that she definitely did not want to be baptized when she turned eight. Certainly we had no intention of forcing her to get baptized ever, but she just wouldn’t let it go. Like, for two years she wouldn’t stop talking about how much she didn’t want to be baptized. And then sometime during the year before she turned eight, she decided it would be okay. So she got baptized. It was a sweet experience to watch her come out of the water, looking so happy and right with the world. It took almost a month for her to start regretting it.
In her words, “I’m just not a very religious person.” I’m not sure that’s true, though. I think she’s like her mother. She wants to believe. She just doesn’t know how. Unlike her mother, she can’t yet appreciate the ambiguities of faith. She wonders why it seems so simple for other girls her age. They all seem to like church. If they’re bothered by the fact that there aren’t any women in the Book of Mormon, they’re certainly not standing up in the middle of class and screaming about it. (Not that, ahem, we’d know anything about that.) The worst part is that they all apparently have testimonies, and she just doesn’t. As she says, “I’m at a very difficult age.”
A couple weeks ago I had to spend Sacrament Meeting sitting with her in the foyer because she couldn’t handle being in the chapel with all those righteous folks. She complained a whole bunch about us forcing our religion on her, and that it was a dumb religion with dumb rules, and why couldn’t she belong to a more normal church. (One of her current beefs with Mormonism is the temple sealing ceremony, which she understands lacks color and has no music. She thinks that’s a rip-off. Really, you’d expect eternal marriage to be a little more exciting.) I didn’t want to have that conversation again, so I told her she should just go ahead and make up her own religion. I got out a notebook and a pen so she could write down the basic doctrines.
She called it “Corpse Bride-ism.” Corpse Bride is her favorite movie and favorite topic of perseveration. Believe me, she does not lack the evangelical spirit; she merely channels all her energies toward convincing the rest of the world to be as obsessed with this film as she is. And yes, she is just as insufferable as all those other religious nutcases out there. But in case you’re interested, here are the tenets of Corpse Bride-ism. (It’s instructive, to say the least. Apparently the girl can take herself out of Mormonism, but she can’t quite take the Mormonism out of her.)
1. No R-rated movies.
2. Watch Corpse Bride at least once in your life.
3. Women have same rights as men.
4. No smoking.
5. No saying bad words.
6. Scriptures: Corpse Bride book, parts of the Bible, parts of Book of Mormon (no women getting killed; only bad people getting killed).
7. No naked people (except in bath tub).
8. No lying, unless it’s a difficult situation.
9. No stealing.
10. No murdering.
11. Obey your parents, except when they tell you to do something evil. (There will be talks at church about exceptions.)
12. Go to church. Don’t worry, it’s fun.
13. Church must be fun. Anyone who’s not having fun has to go home. Don’t ruin the fun.
14. No Disney channel.
15. No watching stupid TV shows. Parents decide what’s stupid. [Well, thank you for that.]
16. Spread the word about Corpse Bride.
17. No saying that fashions are out of date.
18. Don’t be mean. (Listen to church talks for exceptions.)
19. Don’t act like women are aliens from outer space. [I swear I never told her about Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus. I don't know where this came from.]
20. Weddings can be as fancy as you want.
21. All churches must have at least one stained glass window.
I might add a couple more exceptions for naked people, but other than that, it’s not all that restrictive. Thusfar I’ve resisted the temptation to start my own religion, but I know that if I ever did, I would definitely have a rule about worship services not lasting more than an hour (none of this “70 minutes” crap–what’s that about?), and singing hymns at half tempo would be punishable by stoning. I won’t make up any more rules now, though, because I don’t want to draw you all away with my flattering words that are pleasing to the carnal mind. I’m in enough trouble as it is.
What’s in your religion?