During the first holiday season when my son started school he started learning about dreidels and Christmas and Kwanza, he came home and asked me, “Mom, what religion are we?
Uuuhhh…..How do I explain to my six year old that I am a spiritual eclectic who believes in God, celebrates Christmas, meditates and does yoga, but doesn’t practice any traditional religion?
The best answer I could come up with on the spot (one of the finest arts in parenting) was, “We are the religion of tolerance and kindness.”
He said, “Ok” and went back to organizing his Pokemon cards.
Whew…got through that one and I was pretty proud of myself. I then, of course, immediately started thinking that I should take them to some sort of Sunday School. I was raised a part time Catholic, part time Methodist. I remember thinking that somehow the Catholics must be better because they had all that gold stuff and smelly incense and they were the ones that said, “We are the one and only something or other.” That was dad’s church.
Mom took us too the Methodist church in our small town and I remember that one was more fun, because we got to do plays and make crafts. But mom had said we went there because she wasn’t allowed to go to the Catholic church anymore because she had gotten a divorce. (It didn’t occur to me at the time that my dad had also gotten divorced and I never wondered why he was still allowed to be in the “One and only club”.)
As I got older I started to question this whole religion thing and have ever since been on a quest to find my own relationship to God.
Now, what was I going to give my kids so that they could discover this for themselves?
We started attending the Buddhist temple on Sunday mornings where they held a non-denominational “Prayers for World Peace”. It was perfect. They had a class for the children where they would teach them about kindness and cherishing others.
As we walked home last Sunday morning, my now 9 year old son asked me another question.
He said, “Mom, you said our religion is tolerance and kindness, right?”
I knew one of those hard questions was coming.
“Well on my vocabulary test at school they told us that tolerating means accepting something even if it is wrong. But today at the temple we learned that other religions aren’t wrong. So, how come are we tolerating them if they aren’t wrong?”
I just looked at him. And stopped. It was something I had never thought of.
I must have not said something for a long time because he looked at me with that face only children have (before they are teenagers) waiting for their all knowing parent to set the world right again.
Instead of making something up, I told the truth. I said, “Honey you are right, I didn’t think of it that way before. What do you think would be a better way to say it?”
“I think we should just love all people so much that no one worries about what religion they are. And we should be kind. It makes people happy when you’re kind. Can we change our religion to love and kindness?”
And so it is, out of the mouth of a child…….maybe the future of our planet is in good hands.
You can follow Cherie’s blog here