I had toyed with the thoughts of a 9/11 post, but since I’ve come to think that my memories of that day are mostly irrelevant, I’m not. It seems almost arrogant for me to consider my memories and feelings at all important when compared to those who actually lived those horrible events in person and not from afar like I did.
Instead, let’s talk religion. Since becoming a parent almost three years ago I’ve been fretting over how to impart our faith to our child. I’ve decided it’s an almost impossible task for me.
Some background– my faith is, to say the least, a little unconventional, especially for someone living in the Bible Belt. Though I grew up Southern Baptist, I never subscribed to any concept of divine providence even as a child, and I gave up on the concept of a personal God probably in high school or college.
I’ve struggled with religion my entire adult life (even though I’m now in the laid-back Episcopal denomination), and had a serious religious crisis about 8 or so years ago. Out of that crisis I was finally able to admit to myself that I didn’t believe in the divinity of Jesus, i.e., that Jesus was literally the spawn of God. I’m not sure I ever did. To be clear, I still consider myself a Christian, even though most other people wouldn’t call me one. I believe in the teachings of Jesus, who in my eyes achieved a level of divinity in his short life akin to achieving Buddhist enlightenment. In fact I see a lot of parallels between Jesus and the Buddha. So my religion has morphed into a sort of liberal Christian-Buddhist mix in which I think we all have a divine spark within us, and some people on this earth are better at getting in touch with that spark than others. And I’m comfortable with that. So is G, at least now– when I first announced my “revelation” concerning the nature of Jesus, he literally worried that I was going to hell. It made him even more uneasy when I told him I didn’t believe in hell so that didn’t matter to me! Now, he’s pretty much on board with my view and is a self-professed Deist. [An aside– where do you find a Deist-liberal Christian-Buddhist congregation in Louisville, Kentucky?]
As you can see I’ve got a sort-of unconventional faith. It’s not one easy to explain to a child– definitely not as easy as the Southern Baptist faith of my childhood. So, like I said, we’ve struggled about how to impart this to our child. Maybe I’m wrong, but I have a feeling she can’t understand the subtleties of our individual faiths. In fact, I think you’d have to go through a kind of journey to get there, anyway. I’ve argued to G (not arguing in an angry sense– just discussing) that for that reason, and since we live in the Bible Belt, Bug needs to be exposed to mainstream Christianity. We just haven’t been able to find a good way to do that yet.
Our chicken sh!t answer? Send our child to Catholic school! I only say that halfway in jest– I’m actually pretty down with the Catholics on big picture topics, other than those pesky reproductive freedom issues. Catholics don’t believe in a literalist interpretation of the Bible, and they believe in science. So far so good. Our Bug can get her background in the fundamentals of Christianity, and we can refine that instruction at home.
I guess what I didn’t expect were conversations like this within the first three weeks of kindergarten:
Bug: Is God a person?
Bug: But Jesus was a person, wasn’t he?
Bug: But if Jesus is person, and he’s God, why isn’t God a person? And what is the holy spirit?
Me: Don’t worry about it. It’s called the trinity, and nobody really understands it anyway.
Bug: Did God make everything, including us?
Me: (after a split-second pause, running through the options) Yes.
On that second exchange, I’ve thought a lot about whether I lied to my child about what I believe. I’ve decided I didn’t. I believe in the big bang theory and evolution, but down deep part of why I still believe in the divine is because something had to exist before the big bang. I can’t tell you what that was, but I do believe there is something out there bigger than us, something that is unexplainable. So I guess I don’t think I’m a total liar when I wimped out and told my five-year old that God made us.
Did I screw up? Or was that a logical way to start my daughter’s religious education? And what do you do with a five-year old who is already parsing the concept of the trinity? Yikes!