Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Uma Thurman Says...

I was reading an old Reader's Digest last night, and saw an interview with Uma Thurman. I've never seen any of her movies and hardly knew who she was, but I recently read a review of a book by her dad, Robert Thurman. It's part of a series on the Seven Deadly Sins; Thurman wrote the one on anger. (Here's part of the review online.)

So this caught my eye in the RD interview with her:

RD: Your mother was a model. Your father, a former Tibetan Buddhist monk, teaches at Columbia University.
Thurman: Because of him, I often get asked if I'm a Buddhist. I always say no, because I have such respect for the rigor of being a practicing religious person. I'm an actress and a mom, and I probably don't have enough of an active spiritual life. And I don't know why people run around calling themselves by the names of religions when they don't actually practice them.

Hmm, interesting.

First of all, I agree with her that people are quick to use the names of religions they don't practice. (I say that as a Christian, not as a Buddhist.) But I was more interested by her opinion that being a busy mom is somehow incompatible with having an "active spiritual life."

What do you think?


Lori from PAM said...

Hi Ruth,

I think that the popular definition of a religious life is incongruous with being a mom; or, at least, being an active, involved, attached mom.

Here's why: popular notions of being spiritual or religious almost invariably are based upon outward actions: traditional church attendance, Bible study, community service, daily Bible reading/praying, etc. These are all GOOD things, and clearly supported by Scripture, and, for adults without younger kids, I think are a good ruler with which to measure one's spiritual commitment -- obviously not perfect, but good.

However, when one becomes a mom, our lives change, drastically, and that change is reflected in our walk with God, as well. Perhaps better said that becoming a mom redefines all relationships, shifts our focus, re-aligns our priorities.

Not that I am suggesting in any way that a relationship with God is no longer vital, or prioritized. I just mean to point ot that our lives change, and our outward proofs of spirituality change, as well.

Making and accepting that shift was really difficult for me when I had my first child. I knew that being a Christian was about relationship, that God cared more about the attitude of my heart than whether I had read the Bible that day. But, still, I had never heard a leader, or another woman, even, give me permission to be a mom, and allow God to teach me and speak to me through my caring for my child; that getting enough sleep on those marathon nursing nights was more important that showing up at church because, frankly, I would learn more about God's character and His love for me by sacrificing myself to my child than hearing a sermon; that cuddling this miracle of life would be more intimate and profound than 100 Bible studies; that learning the balance of discipline and compassion would make me more humble in the face of God's forgiveness than a lifetimes worth of communion; that my instant and deep and growing love for my child in the face of his faults would serve as more proof of God's love than any book on apologetics.

I have often said that aside from my initial conversion, I have learned more about God's love through attachment parenting than any other religious experience.

That said, my kids are a little older, and we do attend a traditional church, and we do read the Bible every day, and we do involve ourselves in community service. And that is all good. But no way could I have kept up that committment with little kids, and I thnk that that Christian community does a huge disservice to new parents by: 1) not encouraging the parents to serve their new kids first, and 2) by not surrounding and supporting new parents with meals, companionship, or whatever else is needed.

What do you think, Ruth?

Ruth said...

Wow, Lori, you've expressed this so beautifully.

For me, the intellectual side of spirituality was very important (and still is). It was hard not to be able to hear sermons, for example, because I was taking care of a baby. It was (and sometimes still is) hard to go through times when I couldn't finish a thought. But I think you're absolutely right that there are many aspects of parenthood that give you a fresh appreciation for spiritual realities. As you said, Christianity is about a relationship, and just as any human relationship does, our relationship with God changes and has different seasons. He doesn't change, but our situation does.

In Buddhism, as in many "brands" of Christianity, there's a strong element of monasticism. If you define spirituality by solitude, meditation, silence, extended periods of uninterrupted prayer, then yes, a mother with small children is going to fall seriously short. But being a mother of small children is also a life of service that can be done to the glory of God just as much as any more "glamorous" service can.

Deb said...

I for one appreciate Uma's honesty. Would that people who are supposed Christ-followers (aka "Christians") be the same way.

When I talk with teens or young adults and they tell me they are "Christians" I ask them why? or how do they know they are? If the the first response is "well.... I go to church..." then I use the late Keith Green's line:
"going to church doesn't make you any more a Christian than doing to MacDonald's makes you a hamburger!"

The only thing I take exception to is her suggestion that working and being a mom stops her from practicing her faith (whatever she wants to claim). As Brother Lawrence said:
"We ought not to be weary of doing little things for the love of God, who regards not the greatness of the work, but the love with which it is performed."

That's motherhood - a whole list of "little things"!! (or little people!)

bless you Ruth!

Troy & Tara Livesay said...

I don't think nearly as much or as deeply as any of you ---- but I liked reading what you wrote. Ruth- I got behind on your blog ... I hate that --- but I am all caught up now. Beta is not all they tried to make it out to be -- is it!?!?!? Hugs.

Ruth said...

Thanks for your comment, Deb, and the great quote.

Tara, you can't fool me! I read your blog - I know you are a deep thinker!

So far I like Beta OK, but I had a rough time swapping over - I'll email you about it.

Lori from PAM said...

Hi Ruth,

Yes, I, too, thrive on the intellectual. Give me a good debate, any day, and my mind is occupied for weeks. That is probably the hardest aboutbeing a mom -- giving up intense intellectual pursuits. I love to pick things apart, understand the history and development of ideas, etc., and with parenting, I just get short spurts of opportunity for that kind of thinking.

The most dependable intellectual stimulation I get is reading a good book while the kids are falling asleep/nursing. That is a treat.

BTW, I have devoured 3 Julia Alvarez books, but am lagging on the _Butterflies_ book...I think I am just saturated with the subject material. What are you reading? I have _A Tree Grows in Brooklyn_ next on my list. Then, it is back to Caribbean lit.

Ruth said...

Right now I'm reading The Laments. I have a huge pile on the bedside table, but I've been spending lots of time reading student drafts!