30 November 2007

Spirituality for the main characters

Here is another thing to think about.

I've described Sarah as a liberal Christian who attends a Unitarian Universalist congregation. Given that, and the traditional Christian churches' rampant homophobia, I am starting to think about Sarah's spiritual upbringing, and how much of it will be included in the novel.

First, I need to think about how religious Sarah's parents are. I could make Sarah's mother, Ellen, a bit religious, in line with her upbringing under conservative Grandpa Warren. However, this also needs to be reconciled with the hippie background of Ellen. I need to figure out what kind of role American churches played during Ellen's college years in the 1970s; while the conservative religious groups, such as Moral Majority, started to form back then, being an American Christian in the 1970s would've been a different political (certainly less conservative) experience as compared to today. I also need to figure out Sarah's father, Kevin, and his religious background - or for that matter, his entire childhood, which is a blank sheet to me at this time.

Once I establish some sort of Christian order for Sarah's parents, I could send little Sanford to church with them - and as the churches, first the American expat churches in Europe then the mainline congregations in California, turn ever conservative in the 1980s and on, explore how the homophobic sermons (especially the ones on Deuteronomy 22:5) will affect Sanford and his gender confusion. It will certainly be a very negative experience, and even more so once Sanford grows up into a teen, and those feelings intensify. As the adulthood (and womanhood) starts for Sarah, it'll hit a point where Sarah will no longer feel comfortable going to a church - until finding the Unitarian congregation in Berkeley a few years later (where she meets Kirsten).

Despite the negativity, I do want to keep Sarah a liberal Christian, believing only in the very core values of the faith, such as the coming of Jesus. Sarah will reject the prevailing Christian notion of God as a mean, judgmental figure - and mankind as being sinful by default. That'll draw Sarah away and away from traditional churches and toward the Unitarian belief system, even though Sarah will always consider herself a believer of Jesus.

Meanwhile, I expect Sarah's parents to find some compassion and support at the Church of Christ congregation. There is one a block away from Sarah's high school (I visited the church grounds in May 2006), and it will fit Kevin and Ellen's personal theologies - and needs - well.

Of course, Kirsten goes a step further than Sarah, and becomes a Goddess Woman. I could write out Kirsten's spirituality based on my own beliefs.

I don't expect Perfect Girl to delve heavily into religion and spirituality, but I do want to make the Christian homophobia (and the resulting discomfort for Sarah) well known, and have it play a role in Sarah's upbringing. To eventually find comfort in the Unitarian belief system will be a huge plus for Sarah (and similarly, Church of Christ for her parents).

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