Ok, so you know Jesus right?
You don’t really realize how pervasive Christianity is in our culture until you raise a child outside of it. As a child my family wasn’t exactly religious. In fact, aside from the church services at family reunions, I can’t recall ever going to church with my parents. My grandmother used to take me to the Institute of Divine Metaphysical Research, Inc., but that was more about hanging out with my Gran and going to lunch afterward, than some hugely moving religious experience. For the most part the rest of my family would have identified themselves as Christian, albeit somewhat lapsed. I had some basic understanding of church roles and Christian theology and then decided that it wasn’t for me. After exploring various other systems I finally landed on Lucumi as my religious home. Before I had children I decided that I would allow my kids to have the same choice in where their religious home should be, if anywhere. I had no idea what I was setting myself up for until I put thought into practice.
My son is ten and has been to ceremonies with me and church with various family members. He’s never been to Sunday school or Bible study or anything like that. Basically any religious function is the same- a reason to dress up/not wear black and sitting for untold periods of time sometimes punctuated with doing stuff. For my part, he knows some of the stories of the Orishas and knows some of the ritual expectations. I haven’t really pushed him on whether he wants to know/do more because 1) it hasn’t come up and 2) I really believe he should make his own decision when he is ready. I’m pretty sure that there are members of my family who would rather see him as a lapsed Christian than an “other” but they haven’t challenged me on it too much. Most of the time it doesn’t make a difference. His school is public and none of his close friends are church-going people either, but occasionally it does and is always interesting when it happens. Like around Easter somehow the topic came up and it went something like this:
Me: So you know Jesus, right?
Me: So Christians believe that he died on…Good Friday I think.
K: (quizzical look)
M: Yea, I don’t know why they call it good Friday. Ok, so he died, on the cross. You know that thing that looks like a “t”. Then they buried him, and 3 days later he got up again.
K: Like a ZOMBIE!
M: (laughing- yes I know I shouldn’t laugh, but it was funny) No, not like a zombie. You probably shouldn’t say that. Christians don’t generally like it when you call Jesus a zombie.
M: Yes, I know…ok so that’s what Easter really is
K: then he had bunnies…an army of killer bunnies
M: No, ok, so when Christians started to be in charge. When they would conquer people, they wanted them to convert. So they would incorporate some of their festivals to make themselves seem cooler. So, Easter comes from the word Oester and it’s an old celebration of spring. And well, bunnies are fertile and you want spring to be fertile. K?
K: K. It’s still weird.
M: I know…
I know that my situation is not unique, most of the people with children in my religious community have similar experiences. We are made up mostly of first generation converts and we are fairly isolated from major centers of the religion. This makes our situation fairly uncommon. Our children grow up with one foot already outside of the mainstream. Jokes like “a priest, a rabbi and a reverend walk into a bar” go right past them because those are just 3 dudes. If someone says the phrase “peace be with you” or “God is good”, chances are the pre-programmed response in your head fills in the blanks. My boy is just as likely to say “may the force be with you” in response as he is “and also with you”, although I think they changed that recently…I dunno I’m not Christian.
When he gets older, he will probably encounter the same things I do. People can’t seem to wrap their mind around someone being not Christian. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy Christians. I can get with some of their doctrines, but not all of them. It has never been my thing, BUT I respect them, like I respect all religions. I don’t profess to know Biblical history, although I have an interest in part of that world during Biblical times. I certainly don’t know much about the workings of the various churches or the differences between Baptists, Methodists and Lutherans, and chances are, neither will the kid. Sometimes I worry about putting him at a disadvantage. Despite what we want to think, unless it is glaringly obvious people presume that you are Christian in this country. With that assumption comes an expectation of a particular body of knowledge. My boy just isn’t likely to get that. When it comes up, I will share with him what I know, but that isn’t very much. When I look at other people I respect that are also off the Bible beaten path, I know that I can only hope that he picks up what is helpful and doesn’t get swept up in the zealots wave.