Tuesday, April 18, 2006

God Is Bill Cosby in a Silver Bed, Isn't She?

I was raised Catholic. I was even a church organist for several years, from age thirteen to about age twenty-three, playing for the children's choir, the teen choir and the young adult choir -- sometimes all three in one Sunday. In those days, I practically lived at church. I still identify myself as Catholic, although I don't usually attend Catholic Mass. (The reasons for that would require a separate post if anyone's interested.)

My son's dad was raised Baptist, and he was baptized at age eighteen. He still has a bible with his name engraved on the cover, which he received that day. He doesn't attend Baptist services nowadays, and spent a lot of time as New-Ager. Now he's still a New-Ager, but he also attends the occasional Methodist service and sometimes takes the kiddo along.

I still believe in God and give thanks for blessings like my son and the work that comes my way. It's just that my definition of God is evolving from the bearded-father image I held as a child. I've attended Catholic Mass a handful of times in the two-and-a half years that we've lived here, and I've taken the kiddo along. I've also attended Quaker meetings a handful of times, and taken the kiddo. I've researched Buddhism as well, but haven't sat with Buddhists.

Again, the details of my spiritual search would require a separate post, and I would have no idea where to begin it.

The kiddo isn't baptized, much to my mother's distress. Right after the kiddo was born, my mom would ask, with a pained face, if we were going to have him baptized. My father recently told me that when the kiddo and I lived with my folks, he secretly baptized the kiddo himself, presumably to satisfy my mom and to ease his own doubts about the kiddo's soul. I told him he is to check with me before doing anything on that level again; I also looked up baptism by laypersons and his wasn't "legal." But I digress.

Although I'm still sorting out my spiritual journey, I know that I want my son to have some religious education, at least as a starting point. It pains me that he has very little religious education -- much less than I had at his age. Oh, the guilt! I want him to know God...even if I don't have my own knowing sorted out. This was important enough to me that I battled my son's dad for an additional Sunday with the kiddo when we were going to court. Normally the kiddo goes to his dad's house on the first, third and fourth weekends every month (I keep him on the second and fifth weekends -- if you're counting, you'll notice there are only four "fifth weekends" per year) but I managed to secure that fourth Sunday, so now I have two Sundays with the kiddo, in addition to the rest of our time. (Recently my son's dad casually tried to get me to give up that other Sunday; he seemed to think I wouldn't notice, and he was critical when I wouldn't give it up. Again...separate post.)

Maybe none of this makes sense. Anyway.

Yesterday in the car on the way to the bank, my son and I were talking about kindergarten and school in general. I told him that soon he would be enrolled in some kind of Sunday school (probably through the Quaker meeting, although maybe through the nearby Catholic church).

He asked me what sorts of things he would learn there, and I told him he would learn about God and all sorts of bible stories. "God is only pretend!" he told me. Not so, I told him. God isn't a person you can touch, but God is everywhere. How does one explain God to a five-year-old who believes heaven is a place with gold and silver beds? How does one explain God to a five-year-old without saddling him with that bearded-father image? I'm working on this.

The kiddo asked what sorts of bible stories he would learn, so I told him about Noah's Ark. As I spoke, I tried not to confuse the Genesis story with Bill Cosby's Noah routine. To my credit, I did manage to avoid saying, "VOO-pah, VOO-pah!" or "Riiiiiiight," although I did almost do the echoing "NOAH!" a la Bill. But again I digress.

We pulled into the bank parking lot and I unbuckled the kiddo's seatbelt while continuing the story. "That's not going to happen to the Earth now, right?" asked the kiddo. I'd forgotten his fear of floods, born during the endless news footage of the awful tsunamis.

I assured him it wouldn't happen and tried to skip over the obvious implications of a worldwide flood -- like all the death that would occur -- focusing instead on the dove with the olive branch that came after the flood. I explained that this is a symbol of peace, although I wondered if I was perhaps mixing up two separate stories. It's been a long time.

As I told the story, digging deep in my memory for details and hoping he didn't ask how male and female animals could produce baby animals, I started to feel inadequate as a religious teacher and even, perhaps, as a parent. When I finished the story, my son stood up...and unexpectedly applauded.

Maybe there's hope for us both. One thing's for sure -- we're on this journey together.