Turn off the autopilot. (musings about why people seem to worry about the fact that I don’t have children and don’t go to church any more.)

I don’t have children, and I no longer go to church. Somehow these facts seem to bother people. I’ve started to wonder why they seem so upset when they find this out. So this is an attempt to work that out. I’ll talk about not having children first because I’ve dealt with those questions a lot longer.

People tend to freak out a little when I tell them that I don’t have children. They aren’t really sure how to process this. Surely I want children, right? They wonder if perhaps there is something wrong, some biological reason that I don’t have children. They start to get concerned.

When I tell them that, no, there isn’t anything wrong, I just don’t want children, they get even more concerned. They feel a need to reason with me. “Your feelings will change once you have them” they say. My answer is “But what if they don’t?” Children aren’t like puppies. You can’t give them back. There are way too many unwanted children as it is. Why would people find it necessary to talk someone who doesn’t want to have children into having children?

Yet, for some strange reason people feel it necessary to try to talk me into having children all the time. The oddest part is when they try this after complaining about their own children, and about how hard it is to have time for themselves.

The worst time was right after I got married and everybody thought my fertility was their business. I can understand family members and friends asking if I’m going to have children. I do not understand why strangers think it is something they can ask about. It doesn’t concern them.

There are way too many people on this Earth as is. You’d think that there would be a push for people to stop having children, to reduce the impact on the Earth. Too much demand (people) and not enough supply (natural resources) is a bad combination. Yet we in American society seem stuck on the idea that having two children is a great idea.

The best answer I’ve come up with is this (and again, I shouldn’t have to defend my decision), I tell them that I want a dog. But dogs require a lot of time and money and patience. I know I don’t have any of those things. So if I am not mature or stable enough to have a dog, I certainly shouldn’t have a child. People then agree with me. They say they are glad I have thought about it. I had thought about before explaining it to them, and they weren’t glad at all. I had to justify my decision to them.

So my question is why do they feel it is their right to challenge me on this? Are they afraid of their own decision to have children? Does the fact that I don’t want children make them feel self-conscious? Or perhaps they were unconscious about having children. They did it because that is what you do. They didn’t realize that they didn’t have to have children – it is an option.

I think it is terrible to have children when you aren’t mentally, emotionally, or financially capable of properly raising them. Children are a huge responsibility, and require parents to be totally self-less. Children are dependent on their parents for many years. If they are raised by immature parents, they suffer for the rest of their lives.

I feel there are way too many people who have had children just because that is what you do. Perhaps they got challenged by well-meaning family and strangers and they didn’t have an answer. Perhaps the unthinking questioners need to start thinking about their questions.

Are we suffering from some sort of psychosis? Why do we keep doing the same things just because we’ve always done it that way? Why are we unable to change what are obviously bad habits? They need to stop being habits and start being intentional actions.

I’m beginning to experience the same thing with church. When people find out that I’m no longer going to the church I’ve gone to and been very active at for three years, they ask where I am going instead. I’m not. I’m revising my whole perspective on church. I don’t think there is any church that fits the bill. So I’m studying and praying and walking this journey with the Spirit. I’m staying at home during the church hour and reading religious books. I’m not confining myself to one particular tradition.

That alone freaks people out. It freaks me out, truth be told. But I’m in good company. There are countless people in the Bible who walked away from everything they knew, all the usual trappings of life, and walked out in faith. We read about them every week, yet most people aren’t brave enough to see them as role models.

I think if children are a huge responsibility, then the care of your immortal soul is even more important. Life is precious and shorter than we realize. It is important to be the person God made us to be. That is never one-size-fits-all.

You’d think with so many denominations, there would be a good match, or at least a near fit for everybody. But sometimes the near fit just isn’t close enough. It chafes. It causes blisters. It rubs you the wrong way.

This is not because of the rules. We all need rules otherwise we grow up wild. It is because what is said in the Bible isn’t what is practiced. There are too many people in church who feel fully justified in their homophobia. There are too many people in church who feel uncomfortable if someone who doesn’t look like them (read “white, middle class”) comes in the doors and sits next to them in the pew.

For me, right now my issue is with the entire structure of church. I feel that ministers hold all the power, and don’t teach their parishioners how to connect with God and Jesus and the Holy Spirit. The ministers don’t equip the parishioners to be ministers. Perhaps it is an ego-trip.

I recently read this quote on a Facebook meme. “People may hate you for being different and not living by society’s standards, but deep down, they wish they had the courage to do the same.” While the author is unknown, the sentiment rings true. Perhaps this is the answer. Perhaps people freak out when I tell them I don’t have children and I don’t go to church because deep down, they wish they could do the same.

I’m not saying that people shouldn’t have children. I’m not saying that people shouldn’t go to church. I’m saying that both of these things should be conscious decisions. They should be well thought out, and not done because that is what everybody else is doing.

Life is too short to run it on autopilot.