Sunday, September 14, 2008

"Maintain a relationship"

Religion and homosexuality sometimes seem like oil and water: it's just hard get them to mix. Not anymore, mind you, for me or my husband. Rather, it's hard for them to mix in the minds of my husband's family.

My husband's parents did not attend our wedding. Nor did two of his three brothers. This is entirely due to their religious beliefs that we were making a grievous mistake. Unfortunately, we also had many other absences from his side of the family, due to another wedding on the same day. Because of this, we decided to have a reception in October in Texas for everyone after yet another wedding on that side of the family.

As all family is invited, it has been surprising, yet somewhat confusing, to see who has decided to attend. The surprises are for my husband, as his parents and a second brother have decided to attend. According to his mom, this is because she wants to "build" and "maintain a relationship with [Topher]." His Southern Baptist pastor brother has also decided to attend (with caveats) so that he can "maintain a relationship" with "you [Jonas] and Topher."

Perhaps you picked up on it, but the phrase "maintain a relationship" has been thrown around a lot, not only in regards to the reception, but also over the past year when my husband and I decided to marry. As I've learned, there is much to this phrase.

For one, it implies that attending or not attending an event influences whether a relationship will or will not be maintained. I agree with this. When I attend important events in my friends' lives (weddings, birthdays, etc.), I feel a deeper part of their lives, and I believe they also feel a deeper connection to me. Our wedding was just such an occasion, where some friends I had worried would not come decided to attend, and I feel a deeper connection to them now. On the other hand, I had friends who I had hoped would attend, but instead cited religious reasons for not attending. This pained me and lessened (though did not dissolve) the bonds of friendship.

But the phrase "maintain a relationship", when used as it has by my husbands' family, is pushed beyond the implication listed above. It is used in that a relationship can consist entirely of attendance at an event. I take exception to this meaning. The thought apparent during discussions is that by coming to the reception, they will have a relationship simply through their attendance. It is not just their starting point, but the end, as if a relationship is bought by 2 hours at a luncheon. They see their attendance as covering over a multitude of disagreements about marriage and the Bible and God and more.

The saddest part has been watching people who have a strong familial love attempt to barter into their son's/brother's life, rather than spending time to pay out the real love that will make the real difference.* The transparency of it all makes me want to push back and say to his parents and brother "No, if that is your motivation, stay away. Do not come simply to buy a relationship from me. Our reception is a celebration of us and our marriage, not an opportunity for you to salve your consciences."

[*Note: in a way, this is too harsh. His parents, in particular, have done almost everything I could imagine to display real and caring love, while considering their deepseated religious convictions.]

But then, can I really turn down their offer, however small? Or should I take a hint from those who wish to evangelize me into their worldview, instead accepting their invitation and hope that it is they who are proselytized into our world?

No comments: