There’s been a lot of talk about Jesus in our house lately. Which is odd, since we are not Christian in the least. In fact, we balk at any idea of organized religion. My husband and I are both products of Christianity: he attended a Baptist church when he was younger, and I spent my formative years in a Catholic school and heavily involved in our local church. But I became disillusioned with the church and my faith once I got old enough to realize that it didn’t fit with who I was and what I truly believed. I could write a novel about my feelings on religion, and Catholicism, but I will leave that for another day. Suffice it to say that when my kids started coming home talkin’ ‘bout the J-man, I was slightly uncomfortable.
I mean, I knew it was coming. We made the decision this fall to take our daughter out of home care and put her in a local preschool. A Christian-based preschool, mind you. But, we had heard great things about the staff, and I got a warm fuzzy feeling from the moment I walked in, so I did my best to ignore the CD of Bible songs that they gave us when we enrolled, and the “Jesus Loves You!” signs in the hallway. When she came home telling me how “Mary Angel” was her friend, I just nodded and smiled. I even thought it was cute when she decided to say grace before dinner one night, and finished it off with “Ahhh-mek!” (she wouldn’t believe me when I tried to tell her it was Amen).
My son attends an after school program at the same center, and he’s been diligently practicing for their Christmas concert at home. When he came home with the song sheets and I noticed a song about– you guessed it– Jesus, I tried to act normally. But inside I was squirming. On the one hand, I felt guilty that he was singing about something that we completely don’t believe in. But another part of me feels guilty because I haven’t introduced any sort of faith into my kids’ lives.
Growing up, religion wasn’t just about the prayers, hymns and Bible stories. In fact, that was such a small part of what I remember about church. What I really loved was the community aspect of it all- working together to clean the church on weekends, baking treats for the annual bake sale, volunteering to give back to the community, and seeing my friends and their families every Sunday. I have realized that my kids don’t have anything like that in their lives. I mean, they have a lot of close family members and friends, neighbours, and schoolmates, but nothing quite like what I had. And I wonder if they are missing something by not having that. Will they feel less grounded and secure if they don’t have some sort of faith to fall back on? Will they be less empathetic and generous if they don’t belong to a community that encourages morality and altruism?
It’s a tough question, and I am sure I am not the only parent who has pondered it. I suppose the best thing I can do is to keep teaching my kids to be open-minded, and to respect different beliefs, cultures, and traditions. And to have love and compassion for the world and everything in it. After all, no matter what religion you practice, there always seems to be one simple, common theme: love one another. And really, what more do you need?