I am really in pain folks. It just hurts too much. I feel like I have nowhere to turn. Last night I had a moment to talk to my son about his upcoming ordination to be a deacon. He will not turn 12 until this summer, but I felt I needed to at least talk to him about it. I started out by asking him if he understood where I am at with the church. He said, "Yeah." I said, "So where am I at?" He said, "You don't believe." So I said, "Do you understand that kind of makes it difficult for me to be able to give you the priesthood since I don't believe?" He said, "I guess so." I could tell at this point that he got really sad and didn't want to say any more. Now, he may have thought that this meant he wouldn't be able to receive the priesthood at all (a thought that had not occurred to me until later when I talked to my wife about it and she brought that to my attention.), which may have contributed to his sadness. I tried to convey my unconditional love and support for him and what he wanted, but that I just couldn't perform that ordinance and be able to live with integrity. At one point I asked him if he were in my shoes, would he just do what he wanted me to do and perform the ordinance in spite of where I am at? He said, "Maybe."
At this point I can't help but point out that I may be the worst father in the world and that I am placing a huge burden on a young man that he doesn't really deserve to bear. However, I think that deep down my son is capable of understanding what I am going through (at least I hope anyway). It is so difficult to be where I am at. When I try to think back to when I was his age and what my reaction might have been to the kind of news I was trying to relate, how would I have felt? It would have been awkward, confusing and hard for me, I think. I don't know why I continue to insist on living with integrity anymore. I feel like I am sort of worthless because outside of believing that the church isn't true and that God may or may not exist in any form that we can relate to, I can't offer much. My belief system right now pretty much consists of no belief. My thinking right now is that, if this is the case, and I truly don't have an alternative belief system that can drive and motivate people to do good because of the prospect of a hereafter, what harm is there in tacitly supporting the belief systems of my wife and children to contribute to their happiness? After all, I don't know for sure that they are 100% wrong. I do know that most of it is crap and mostly made up, but I am not 100% sure of this (99.99% sure, but not 100%).
Sometimes I think I am just being selfish. Why can't I just go to church and be the good Mormon father that does everything the church teaches that Mormon fathers should do. I think realizing I could just be a cafeteria Mormon would be helpful and maybe I could just try to focus on my family and the good things that belief in something, even though I can see is messed up, is better than belief in nothing at all. My former beliefs have brought me a lot of good things in life. I wouldn't have my wife and children if I wasn't active in the church as an RM around the time we met. I wouldn't have my current job if I weren't active in church at the time I met my present boss, I wouldn't have been able to enjoy so many friendships with people (that just seemed to come automatically at times) because of my activity in the church through the years.
On the flip side there is that whole living with integrity thing. I am beginning to think that living with integrity is overrated. I really believe that a lot of people get ahead and are able to enjoy fabulous opportunities on this planet because they are able to justify things to some extent. I mean, looking at corporate executives, wall street bankers and politicians, it seems that as long as you perfect the art of speaking out of both sides of your mouth you can really get ahead in this country.
I have felt for the last couple of years that I really didn't want to go to church because I was standing for some ideal. It was the principle of integrity that I clung to. I also excused my lack of attendance by saying that it was because church just infuriated me and caused me to be someone that took out rage on my family. Now I feel like there is potential for me to not be so angry if I go to church, but I just don't know how long this will last. Part of me wonders how long it will take for me to become enraged and that maybe the reason I have been able to let go of some of the anger is because I haven't been going to church. I wonder if it would be possible for me to ever get over it and just focus on the things that I can find that are praiseworthy.
I don't know if I can ever get to a point where I am able to pray or actually perform ordinances at church, but at least I would be there to support my family. So, I don't think it solves the problem of me feeling like I am letting down my son in his desires to ordain him, however, at least he would see me there and coming to church to offer some stability in his life. Would I be a total hypocrite if I went to church on Sunday, but secretly didn't believe any of it? What will my children think of me when I tell them that I never really believed but I decided to go to church anyway? Do I want them to have an example of someone living contrary to their beliefs to please others? This is what I have kind of been also hanging my hat on as far as a reason for not going to church. I want to show my children that I have integrity regardless of how meaningless it may seem. I want them to be true to themselves regardless of how much others tell them to be someone else. Can I teach that while not living it myself?
Maybe I am just blowing much of this out of proportion right now and the lessons I think I am teaching are just not that important if they drive family members away from me. Maybe the pain I am causing my wife and children is far outweighed by any future potential for them to realize that I had integrity and lived according to my beliefs, regardless of how shallow they may seem. Can I still teach my children to be true to themselves while pretending to be active in church for their sake? I wish I had more answers. I really need some advice. Unfortunately, my desire for advice is balanced by the understanding that where ever I turn for advice, that is the advice I will get. If I ask believing (and some not believing) members of the church what I should do, the answer will be clear that I should go to church. If I ask the postmo community, I suspect that the answer will be to stick to my guns.
I already did receive some advice on this question from an old friend from high school. She is agnostic and pretty much said, "Would it be so difficult to sacrifice for your family to go to church?" She said she has gone to church for friends (for special occasions) and granted there is much time spent rolling the eyes and trying to stave off the boredom, but, since it was important to that person, it was important to her. Maybe I just need to focus on that. I so wish I were not in this position, but here I am. Any thoughts would be most appreciated.