I know a gal who doesn’t believe in god. She never has. She went through more than any child should ever have to go through, as many children do. I played her a song about a child who died and the singer asks why wasn’t god watching, why wasn’t god there, for this girl, and the singer imagines the girl, young and full of trust and laughter and playfulness, and she died, she was taken, her body was found beside a highway, and the singer asks why and why and why, and this gal I know who doesn’t believe in god, this gal who has never believed in god, broke down and cried while she listened.
God is such a lovely fantasy. And it seems that most of us look back on moments when we lost our innocence, when parts on the outside and inside of us were broken or taken and at least some part of us wishes that we had been protected from that moment that someone, something, anything, god, whatever, had been there because we were young and we were innocent and we were full of trust and laughter and playfulness and part of us died, and was taken, and we were left behind, alone, undone. It would have been lovely to have been saved from all that. Gods and salvation and happy endings, these are such seductive ideas.
Last night, I sat with Ruby in my arms and played video games with Charlie. At bedtime they sat in my lap while I read a story. I tucked them in and then sat beside Ruby’s bed and rubbed her back until she fell asleep (I always do this, and people always say something like, “oh, that’s so sweet!”, but if I don’t do it, she won’t go to sleep and is constantly in and out of bed). Ruby fell asleep quickly and I stood up and stroked Charlie’s forehead and cheeks (he’s in the top bunk) and ran my fingers through his hair. He rolled over so that he was closer to me and smiled with his eyes closed and then he fell asleep, too.
I’ve given up on trying to sing to them because Ruby always tells me to be quiet and covers her ears. Instead, I tell them that I love them and that they are beautiful and that they are smart and strong and brave and wonderful and make my heart feel so happy—so happy that sometimes it feels like it is going to burst out of my chest. I spend a lot of time telling them that they are good. It may seem like an odd thing to repeat, “you’re such a good girl, you’re such a good boy,” but it took me more than thirty years to shake the sense of guilt that was planted in me as a child and I don’t want them carrying that. Children need to know that they are good.
A couple days ago the CBC was all over a story about how a former high-level manager for the Ministry of Children and Family Development, who was also a director for the British Colombia Youth in Care Network (a foster parent himself) had been arrested for possessing child pornography. I knew this man. During the last year or so of my time working for Covenant House Vancouver (a shelter and residential living program for street-involved youth), he was hired on as an Assistant Program Manager. He was a prick but that’s pretty par for the course when it comes to Senior Managers within the non-profit industrial complex. He was smart and manipulative and was very talented at working people to his side and his advantage. I guess those are skills you want to learn if you’re a Senior Manager or a child pornographer.
I don’t ask why to god about this sort of thing anymore. If there is any god out there, responsible for creating all of this, then all that can be said of us is that we have all been betrayed. We have all been abandoned.
Ni dieu ni maître!” is what Blanqui said and earlier anarchists and socialists and labour movement members agreed with him. They also agreed with him that wealth was not going to be redistributed in the absence of violence directed at the hoarders of wealth. But all of that has mostly been pacified now. Now we have protests full of spiritual-not-religious bourgeoisie eager to point the finger at anyone who breaks a window or tips over a garbage dumpster. Not surprisingly, the rich get richer and the poor get poorer.
Not that anyone I know has a problem with the idea of a justice and peace and love kind of god. A god who can heal all wounds, wipe away all tears, and make all things new? A god who can bring about shalom? Sure, I’ll take four, please. Oh, wait, this god doesn’t seem to be doing much of anything tangible for anyone around these parts? Oh, wait, “the family that prays together still probably dies in the fire.” No point in waiting around here then, especially given all that other things god is used for. And if that kind of justice and peace and love and healing god shows up? Well, what did Heine say? “Gott wird mir verzeihen – das ist sein Beruf.”
But, wait, who wants to be forgiven by a god who has abandoned us? That seems a little backwards to me. Any god who shows up proclaiming, “I forgive you!” is no better than a parent who abandons her children in the middle of a war zone and then comes back thirty years later saying, “I forgive you!” Fuck that.
Ruby likes me to take her by the hands and spin her around when we dance. I painted her nails for her the other day and she was so excited that she gave me a giant hug – lifting her legs off the floor and kicking them back behind her, like we were in a cheesy movie and I was her long lost father and we finally found each other at a remote airport in Indonesia in the rain. She is most ticklish on her legs just above her knees. Her laughter is pure laughter and when I laugh with her
Isn’t that something, eh?
When I walk down the street with her and Charlie in my arms, or with one on either side of me, holding my hands, I may grumble about how much they weigh, or I may complain about my bad knees (am I eighty already?), or the snow in the air and the ice on the sidewalk, but really in my heart I know that I am the luckiest fellow in the world. And I don’t need a god to know that I am blessed and that each one of us is sacred and that the earth we walk upon is holy ground.