3+ME: Fantasy, faith, and the trouble with church (part 2)

The world is full of beliefs, and we want the kids to understand that

In a dark world ruled by dragons, a band of heroes comes to the rescue of hundreds of imprisoned humans.

The heroes try to persuade the humans to escape with them to freedom.

But the people don’t trust them. Instead of blindly following, they question. They argue. They doubt.

“These humans are fools,” an elf says in frustration.

“No,” another elf replies. “If they were fools, it would be easier.”

As much as I’d like elves to be real, this isn’t a true story. (Surprising, I know). It’s from a novel I recently read, “Dragons of Autumn Twilight.”

But this part stuck with me because it hits how I often feel about religion.

As much as I’d like religion to be real, I question it. Like those humans, I argue. I doubt.

And I wish I didn’t. I wish I could just unequivocally accept it.

I used to.

If I still could — or if I could find answers that satisfy my particular questions — it would be easier.

It would be so much easier.

Not only for myself, but for my family, too.

My husband, stepkids and I do go to church (see last week’s column), despite my own struggles. My hope is that it’ll help give the kids some concept of what Christianity is all about, so they can make their own decisions about what to believe someday.

There are just so many options about what to believe, that it’s difficult to decide which is the right one to actively advocate — not only for myself, but for my family, too.

So we just try to keep an open dialogue about the fact that, yes, there are a lot of beliefs out there.

When my stepson showed interest in a kids’ book of mythology (he’s into Norse and Greek culture thanks to the “Magnus Chase” and “Percy Jackson” books), we got it for him for Christmas. (He’s read it multiple times since then.)

“This is more stuff that other people believe,” we pointed out. “People used to believe, or still believe, a lot of things.”

When we were playing Mad Libs, we needed a noun on my husband’s turn.

Buddhist temple!” he said.

“What’s that?” my stepdaughter asked, and we explained that Buddhism is another religion.

When my stepdaughter was playing with stickers, and stuck a small one to the center of her forehead, I had her take it off before we ran errands.

“Sometimes people from India wear dots on their forehead like that,” I explained, “as part of their religion. So we don’t want to look like we’re making fun of them.”

“What religion?” she asked.

“You know how we go to church? Some people from India believe Hinduism; that’s another religion.”

As timing would have it, we were planning to go to Patel Brothers Market for spices, so we brought the kids there for their first time that very day.

“This place is so cool!” my stepdaughter exclaimed when we walked inside.

Even my stepson seemed intrigued by how different the store was from the usual Stop & Shop.

“Remember the Hindu religion we talked about?” we said. “That started in India, where all these foods are from!”

With a world full of so many different beliefs, my husband and I hope we can show the kids just a smidge of what’s out there.

He and I have discussed actually going to different places of worship with the kids. A Jewish synagogue. A Catholic Mass. An Islamic mosque. The Buddhist temple in Raynham. Maybe even the Zen Center in Cumberland.

We haven’t done it yet. Honestly, because I was so very Protestant growing up, it still feels like blasphemy to even consider visiting something that isn’t a church.

But maybe we will someday.

Just this past weekend, for her bedtime reading, my stepdaughter picked a book my parents had given her, called “God Gave Us Easter.”

As she and her dad took turns reading the dialogue in the book, she stopped. “I don’t think Mommy believes this stuff,” she observed.

(As if deciding on a religion for yourself isn’t hard enough, add in the dynamic of a blended family.)

But my husband stuck to the same message we’ve repeated to the kids before.

“Different people believe different things. And ya know what? That’s OK.”

What matters, he said, is being kind to everyone, no matter what they believe.

And for now, that’s the one truth I don’t feel like I have to question, argue, or doubt.

Originally published in The Herald News on March 31, 2019.

Leave a Reply