Having Relations


I talked to 2 girls yesterday at a family picnic.  They were daughters of my first cousin.  One girl was 11 and the other 18.  The 11-year old announced they were half-sisters.  I had always been afraid to ask the question of paternity.  I certainly knew my cousin had never married. 

The morning after, it dawned on me that neither girl had first cousins.  The children of a single mom not only were missing a father, but they were missing the extended family.  I had 38 first cousins on this side of the family.  From the sounds of it, the 18-year old does not know much of anything about the other side of her family.  She was starting her senior year and was particularly articulate.  But she rattled off how many schools she had attended in just the past 4 years.  It was 4. 

She was honest and forthcoming, and had her act together.  Her mother never did.  Her mother, who could have been a model, was not at the picnic.  I would have liked to have seen her mother.  Her mother never had seemed connected to much.  Not even to her parents, except when she needed money.  The struggle of all of us was to be connected.  David Popenoe is an author of a 1996 book Life without Father whose research showed that 70 percent of long-term prison inmates are fatherless and 60 percent of America’s rapists came from fatherless homes.  It would seem as a corollary rule to his research that a hostility developed among those who were not connected, through no fault of their own. 

I grew up rather privileged in my community.  As one example, my father had a parking pass at the airport.  He had no association with the airport commission or an airline.  But so much of life was about knowing somebody. 

Life was all about relationships.  Even the individual relationship I did or did not have with God.  I did not particularly care to hear someone publicly talk about God without a theological background.  Those with academic backgrounds with doctorates in theology seemed to build off that to come to their own understanding of God.  Some liberal, some conservative.  That was the conflict between Catholics and evangelicals.  And actually, this was the conflict with the one billion Catholics amongst ourselves.  The Anglicans had the same pains.  And I was educated through the age of 22 by those with doctorates in moral theology.  They had had an impact.  They had taken time with a stranger to share their knowledge.  And there was nothing in it for them. 

Politics and religion.   Who was liberal, who was conservative within a religion?  It was the same conflict as in politics.  Politics and religion were so much alike, in the way of likes and dislikes.  But the real relationship that came out of religion was focused on prayer.  Who were the Chosen People of today? Conservatives.  Liberals.  Ultimately, it was about your response, what you did with it all.  It was about the depth of your relationships. So much of life was about knowing Somebody, and if it worked out right it grew into true intimacy. 

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