Friday, September 25, 2009

religion on the brain

So Oliver and I (and Lucy in the sling, of course) were swinging in the backyard.  We do this quite often - my kid can swing for hours.  And we were watching the planes coming to the land at the City Centre Airport.  We do this a lot, too.  (Oliver is obsessed with planes.)   There was a helicopter flying pretty low overhead, and I told him that the helicopter had the word Canada written on the side.  Oliver was sure that I was in fact wrong.  "NO mama. That helicopter says Ramadan!"  Ramadan has just recently entered Oliver's vernacular because we live in "Little Lebanon," and there are lots of streamers up at the local market for Ramadan.

So I, yet again, explain to Ollie that Ramadan is a special celebration that people who are Islamic celebrate.  "Can we celebwate too?"  he wanted to know.  "No buddy..." ... "Only people who belong to the faith of Islam celebrate Ramadan."  He looks confused, so I try to clarify.  I am grasping here.   "It's just like people who are Christian celebrate Christmas or Easter."    And just as soon as it slips out of my mouth, I think "Oh crap - now I've stepped in it!"  I hold my breathe waiting to hear the inevitable question to follow.  It doesn't come.  Instead he stares blankly at me for a second, then smiles and says "I like Christmas!"  Phew.  Exhale.  He's not ready for this conversation.  Clearly, neither am I.

The truth is, I don't know what I'd have said if he'd asked if we were Christian.  We're not.   But it seems kinda wrong to say "No buddy, we just like the presents, chocolate and eggs hunts."  (And that isn't the whole truth anyways.)

This isn't the first time religion has come up, either.  Our neighbour, a sweet little old Italian lady, keeps asking "When she baptismed"? of Lucy.  I haven't had the heart to tell her we're not even remotely catholic (although you'd think the queer bit might have tipped her off).  Anyways - I've sort of  been waiting for him to ask about that one too.   (And again - what do I say about it?)

I have to admit that I have a knee-jerk response to organized religion.  People use the Bible (and various other religious texts) to excuse all kinds of hatred and exclusion, even persecution, especially when it comes to us 'Mos (that's shorthand for Homos, in case anyone isn't up on the lingo :-).  Although I have known and still know plently of sweet, wonderful, non-judgemental Christian folks, when I hear the word Christianity, I still immediately conjur up images of Reverand Larry Phelps picketing the funerals of gay men with signs saying "God hates fags."   I think of the selective use of bible passages like Leviticus to justify hatred of gays and lesbians, while they ignore other bible passages that say things like touching the skin of a pig on the Sabbath is a sin (think Sunday night football here people). I think of the "justifications" used to stalk and shoot doctors who perform abortions.  I think of the millions of women who are told that they can't control their fertility without seriously pissing God off.  I think of my grandmother being told by her priest to go back to the man that beat her,over and over, and all of the other women who have been told the same thing.  I think of people being told that exploring and enjoying their sexuality is sinful. 

So I guess I'm pretty clear on what I don't believe in.  

But what do I believe?  (And how do I impart it to my kids?!)

I'm not an atheist.  I consider myself to be a spiritual person.  But what the H does that mean?  Ummmm - I'd certainly like to believe in Karma.  I believe in people's capacity to do good in the world (even though too often of late, this capacity seems vastly underused).   I think I believe in some kind of otherworldliness, though not in a way I can easily articulate.  I believe that the divine, whatever that is, is inside of each person  (but I can't imagine telling my kid I think God is inside him.  I can just picture this poor kid being freaked out about some person called God is in his tummy :-) 

All this pondering makes me think about a quote from one of my all-time favourite shows . . . Roseanne. 

D.J.: I just had some questions about God and stuff.

Roseanne: Well why didn't you come to us if you had questions? There are no two better people to answer your questions than me and your dad.

D.J.: Okay... what religion are we?

Roseanne: I have no idea... Dan?

Dan: Well... my mom's mom was Pentacostal and Baptist on the side of my dad. Your mom's mom was Lutheran and her dad was Jewish.

D.J.: So what do we believe?

Roseanne: Well... we believe in... being good. So basically, we're good people.

Dan: Yeah, but we're not practicing.


Kids have this amazing way of challenging our taken-for-granted assumptions in life.  Clearly I'm going to have to do some more thinking about this (and a gazillion other things) before Oliver really does start asking the hard questions.

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