Shannon is a social worker, counselor, avid traveler, scuba diver, adventurer, and mom.
Open Letter to Certain Members of My Son’s Church:
My son is a member of your church. No, he is not just a member, he is a youth leader. He plays in your youth band. He participates in missions and camps and outreach. He diligently attends services two, three, sometimes more times per week. Sometimes, he wakes up late and goes to your services with messy hair and wrinkled clothes in a rush to be sure that he attends. My son wants to be a youth minister and is collecting scholarships and grants to realize this dream in a Christian university. My son isn’t just a member of your church; he is a dedicated member and a true believer. My son is amazing. He does this alone.
You know him. You’ve seen him attending church, alone, without his family. You tell him that you pity him.
You don't know me. I am his mother. I am not a member of your church. I do not share your faith. I have my own. I am Buddhist. I have been Buddhist for almost two decades. And because of this, you pity my amazing son.
My amazing son on a mission trip in El Salvador
My son loves his church and therefore, I love his church. His church provides him with undying support and encouragement. His church is a blessing to him and he loves it. And I love those members and pastors and youth pastors that embrace him and lift him up. You have my gratitude and respect.
But, I have some things to say to you other certain members, those of you who pity him. My son didn’t find this church on his own. I found this church for him. My son didn’t wander into Christianity or your denomination or your church accidentally. He made an informed decision. I gave him that opportunity. Before he attended your church, he attended another. Before this, he explored several different faiths. I gave him this opportunity; the same opportunity given to my other two sons. The same opportunity will continue to be offered.
My son doesn’t have a car, a job, money or transportation. I pay for those mission trips and camps and leadership activities. I drive him where he needs to go. If not me, then his brother or his stepfather or his grandparents. If no one else can, I take off work early on Wednesdays to ensure he makes it to his youth activities on time. You may not know this, but he is homeschooled and I choose his curriculum. His electives include Christian Studies by my choice. I’ve completed the financial aid applications and communications with the Christian university of his choice.
You’ve even seen me at the church a time or two; sitting in the congregation for services of a faith that is not mine. You’ve seen me there a few times, supporting my son. You saw me take pictures of his baptism and wipe a tear away from my eye. You saw me cheer when his youth band played for that special service. And some of you, certain members, even spoke to me when I attended services for a faith that was not my own to support my son.
Some of you did not.
So I ask you, you certain members, why do you pity him? Why do you insist on asking him about his family and why they do not attend with him, not just once, but multiple times? Why do tell him that you are “proud” of him for attending church DESPITE his family? When my son leaves the church and gets in the car with me, he tells me the things you say; the questions you ask. I've asked him if he’s told you that I was Buddhist. He said that you laugh when he tells you that.
You laughed at my faith to my son.
You said you’d pray for me. You’ve asked my son over and over again if I’d decided yet to come to church with him. You’ve said you’ll pray that I find my way. You’ve encouraged him to talk to me about it.
I want you, you certain members, to really, honestly ask yourself if you would be willing to do what I have done next time you feel that you need to pity my son for his lost and wayward family that you judge. If your child asked to attend Buddhist temple with me, would you let them? Would you drive them to the temple and buy them a mala and attend meditations or celebrations with them to show your support? Would you find them a temple when you’ve moved to a new town and let them be embraced by the monks and the other members of that temple? Would you embrace those members and monks as well?
Would you allow me to guide your child in his faith; a faith that is not your own? Would you allow your child to study Buddhism and facilitate avenues for them if they chose to become a monk? Would you do for your child what I have done and am doing for my sons?
Would you tolerate anyone pitying your child for not having you there with him/her because you practice a different religion? How would you feel if you knew that your son or daughter was being pressured and guided to convert you to Buddhism instead of YOUR own chosen faith?
Ask yourself, honestly, would you do or tolerate any of this?
What you are doing is undermining the very foundation of what I have taught him about tolerance, open-mindedness, kindness, compassion, acceptance, and the idea that spirituality is a very personal and important individual right.
What you are doing is undermining the very foundation of what I have taught him about tolerance, open-mindedness, kindness, compassion, acceptance, and the idea that spirituality is a very personal and important individual right. Just as my son has been free to choose YOUR church, YOUR denomination, YOUR God; his family has been free to choose as well. Next time you want to ask my son where his family is, when his family will start attending church with him, laugh mockingly when he tells you his mother and brother are Buddhist, pressure him to “save” his mother or brothers, tell him that you will pray that his family "will find their way", STOP, look inward, and pray for yourself.
We do not need your prayers for our salvation and nor does he. Our hearts are good. But perhaps you need to have a conversation or two with your God about what is in your heart.
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Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on March 29, 2018:
Dr. Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. had that doctorate. Theology and Sociology degrees and that means he studied comparative religions. And he studied religion's impact on society. A great Christian.
How can "members" think that other religions should be shunned at all when they know nothing about them.
Even the great Roman Catholic church incorporated local customs and beliefs in their into their evangelism.
I suggest that you not worry as these gossip mongers are really only punishing themselves. By experience I also know that good people like your son are placed in their lives in order to convert them to real Christianity.