James was watching the history channel a few months back. This particular show covered the background of the Catholic church. Needless to say, with our beautiful history of popes being exhumed and re-hung in protest, countless wars started over land and more than a few disagreements over grown men not allowed to have sex (with children, women or men), this documentary didn't sway his viewpoint that "going to church with me will be good for the kids!"
Even less encouraging for him was Nick's reaction to a picture of Jesus he saw on his journey between eating Cheerios off the kitchen floor and grabbing his favorite Thomas the Train car. James had paused the documentary for a minor pee break, and left a still frame of Jesus hanging on the cross. Not a happy smily Christ (if there is such thing as a happy portrayal of a man bleeding from all orefices on a crude wooden post). No, this savior was clearly an unhappy camper, each bead of sweat painted in perfect Baroque detail, each drop of blood about as red as the little train Nick held in his puffy little mitts. Nick, transfixed, dropped Thomas, looked at us perplexed and asked "Who's that man?" And I, as calmly as possible, said "Oh, that's Jesus." Long pause. Nick (very concerned): "Jesus needs a bottle". Me: "No, Jesus is okay." Nick: "No, Jesus is not okay. Jesus needs to come down!" Me: (turning from hip uber mom to Bible belter in less than 2 seconds): "Jesus did come down, sweetie. He's in our hearts." Nick: "Oh. I go bye bye." And he left.
I looked at James and told him that despite what just happened, Jesus is important in our lives. James chided "Oh, yes, the Jesus from the tv that just terrified our two year old? Or the Jesus that hangs on the cross at your church.. that will probably terrify him also?"
James was right, I had to admit. In a way, teaching a child about Christ on the cross is like telling a toddler "Hey, Santa is cool! He brings us presents! But first, let's look at this photo of him being stomped on by reindeers... There, there... don't let the blood on the snow or the brains on his beard scare you. Just think of how much effort this dying fat man went through to bring you joy, before he died for you. Well, enjoy your new teddy bear!"
I want to give Dominic the bright side of the Catholic church, and there is a lot: the community, the ritual, the idea that we come together as a family once a week to thank God for all our blessings. But like any religion, there's definite downsides to organized religion: the hypocrisy, the confinement, and the question of family being "why does Mommy and Sophie and Nicky go but Papa stays home?"
Call me a girl who likes the chalice half full, but I'm hoping I can instill in Nick a positive view of God. It's not like I didn't do the homework. My family is half Jewish, so if anyone knows their way to and from a temple, or a deli, it's me. I've visited Mosques. I've church shopped. There is no perfect house of worship. All we can do, like any human being, is the best we can. I want Nick to have an anchor in this world, and I'm putting my bet on the Catholic church for now. I'll be there for him when he has questions. If he's sixteen and tells me he wants to have sex, I'll teach him what the church says (abstinence) and then make James buy him condoms (For Godsake, I don't want to be a grandma at 50!) Does the fact that I'm taking a liberal approach to Catholicism make me one of those hypocrites at mass? Maybe. But the alternative is like doing Christmas without the tradition of Santa. And what fun is a Xmas tree without gifts? Come to think of it, maybe believing in Jesus is just the grown up version of believing in Santa... except instead of being told at eight or nine that Santa isn't real, we get to go our whole lives believing the Jesus dream. Some people will say this dream is called faith, and they believe it without question. Good for them. I have my doubts sometimes. But at the same time, I couldn't face this insane world thinking there isn't some higher power out there, so for now, I'm hanging my hat on Jesus.
Who is hanging on a cross.
Who, according to my son as of yesterday, needs a bandaid for his boo boos.
This Jesus thing is a work in progress. I'll keep you posted.