When looking at influences on any aspect of my life, including my faith, it’s not surprising that my parents are pretty significant. My mum goes to church and my dad does not but both of them have had an impact on my faith.
Tractor Girl asked a few posts ago for my reflections on the SCM Liberating Gender Conference. I re-realised during that conference quite how atypical my upbringing was in terms of looking at gender. My parents, my mum in particular, were very big on challenging stereotypical gender stereotypes. I was dressed in pink, given dolls to play with, read children’s books with strong female heroes (‘Rita the Rescuer’ was apparently a favourite) and generally being taught that there was no difference between what boys did and what girls did. This made the SCM conference very strange for me as I realised that, although I recognised the stereotypes people talked about really didn’t ring true for me. Whilst I could grasp the workshop which talked about boys toys being very muscly and full of big guns, that didn’t marry with my own childhood experience where I wasn’t even allowed a playmobil fort!
This I suppose has informed my understanding of God and of humanity. I was brought up to not really see gender roles, and so the idea of a genderless God wasn’t such a stretch. Obviously, I went to school in the ‘real world’ and became gradually more and more aware of gender differences and my parents influence was diluted. But the basic understanding remained – that there is not set difference in what girls and boys do.
Also, with the strong non-violent influence (I was given dolls were because many of the ‘boys toys’ were all too violent), peace and non-violent philosophies and theologies are also second nature to me. I was always taught violence solved nothing and that lesson applies now just as much to how I view global conflict resolution as it did when it was my Mum telling me not to hit my brother.
My mum and I are very similar in lots of ways and I think that’s reflected in our approach to our faiths. Like my grandfather, and like me, she places a lot of emphasis on a stimulating sermon but she also likes her quiet space for contemplation. It’s from her that I first got an appreciation for Taizé worship (even if I only properly got to like it when I left home to go to uni).
Dad describes himself as ‘spiritually blocked’ which I find quite a useful image. He says he just doesn’t get faith; he can engage with some of the ‘theory’ of religion and with the traditions and rituals but doesn’t believe in or understand God. He comes to church at Christmas and Easter and came whenever we were involved in services as children. But he’s coming for the rest of the family and the occasion rather than anything more. I think my Dad is one of the influences that make me sceptical about evangelism. It seems to me that some people just don’t see life in a way that involves God and I have a certain respect for that.