This is a philosophical question that I often ask myself, “could I have inherited my spiritual feelings from my mother’s distant parental lineage?”
Where I am coming from is that I grew up in a religiously divided household. My maternal grandfather was a Methodist missionary who went to Oklahoma to “save the heathens,” and married a full-blood Choctaw (Native American Indian). She converted to being Methodist, and that is the religion that my mother observed.
My father was Roman Catholic. He grew up in a strict Italian Catholic family. He was required to bring up his children Catholic in order to get permission to marry. However, by the time I came along, they sorta had forgotten that. My oldest nine siblings were baptized in the Catholic Church, and the other six of us are a mix (some are more observant of organized religion than others. For example, my twin brother eventually went through training and became Catholic. I was not baptized in any church, nor have an interest in doing so.)
I attended both Methodist and Catholic churches until my parents stopped forcing me to go. Growing up in a predominantly Jewish neighborhood, I also attended a number of Jewish religious services (Bar- and Bat-mitzvahs and weddings). I had always questioned what religious leaders said about certain things. Later in life, when I acknowledge that I am gay, I had a lot of trouble listening to the statements made by the Catholic Church about homosexuality.
I love my man. I am no less in the eyes of the God in organized religion because I love someone of the same sex. However, hearing all that negativity and being subjected to shunning by the UltraCatholic branch of my father’s family just drove me more away.
But that does not mean that I do not believe in a greater spirit. I truly think there is something bigger and more powerful out there that is guiding me. I can’t call this higher spirit, “God,” but I can refer to spiritual leadership.
As I was exploring my feelings of spirituality, I had some long discussions with some Choctaw Tribal Elders. I learned that how I think and feel about a Great Spirit is consistent with their form of Spirituality. I believe in the importance of maintaining harmony with nature and fellow humans. I believe a lot in the Light of the Sun, as the Choctaw do. What is odd to me, though, is that I was never directly exposed to any form of spiritual teachings from my mother’s People. I only knew my grandmother and some distant cousins. My grandmother had become an avowed Methodist before I was born.
I have been wondering for a long time, “can spirituality be inherited?” I think there is something to that, but I don’t know. Meanwhile, I will keep smiling, because I remember and continue to employ this quote by H. Jackson Brown, Jr.: Today, give a stranger one of your smiles. It might be the only sunshine he sees all day. Sunshine, be it from our nearest star or from light on another’s face, is clearly a major part of my spirituality.