the new Missionaries & Santa

The other evening as I was preparing dinner, three young women knocked on our door. They introduced themselves as the “new missionaries” in town and wanted to “share a message” with us. I politely declined, wished them a good evening and closed the door. They looked mildly surprised, but took my rejection well.

Kid2, who was with me when I opened the door, had questions: what message, why did they want to share it, why did I say no thanks.

How does one explain missionaries to a child?

As it is nearing Christmas, I used an analogy that they might relate to. Kid2 does not believe in Santa, and we’ve had numerous conversations about that, so I decided to start from there.

So the first question was why were they going door to door to share a message?

“It would be like if you believed in Santa so much you wanted to tell everyone so you went door to door to share that. You feel everyone should believe in Santa so they can get lots of presents, because if they don’t believe in Santa they won’t get anything.”

Kid2’s brow wrinkled in confusion. Clearly this was not about Santa.

So what message are they sharing?

They’re most likely talking about the story of Jesus. You know, the baby from the Nativity play, and the man who was on the cross in the Mission we visited last summer.

Yes. Looks confused. Why do they want to share that?

Some people believe very strongly, that stories that in the Bible actually happened, and they have based their entire world view off of them. They feel they have to go tell everyone about this, so other people can make people change to their way of thinking.

Why didn’t you want to talk to them?

I have a different world view than they do. I know about Jesus, and I’ve read the Bible, and I don’t agree with their world view, and that’s okay. We can politely disagree with people, and we don’t have to talk to people who randomly knock on our door about religion, it is also time to get started on dinner.

*****

Kid2 took it at that and I’m sure we’ll have more opportunities for these conversations as time goes on, particularly around the holidays, as Kid2 has proudly informed their class that “Santa does not visit our house because we do not have a chimney!” and Kid1 has proclaimed “I don’t believe in Santa, I believe in Mommy!”

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a rainbow does not make up for the annihilation of mankind

Ark on Mount Ararat By Simon de Male

The other night Kid2 wanted to read the story of Noah’s Ark. We have an older children’s copy probably first published sometime in the 70s. It was my husbands when he was a child, and as great flood stories are common in many cultures, I figured why not.

I did my best to read in a non-judgmental tone. Paraphrasing here, as book is back on the bookshelf and really, we all know the story, if you need a refresher, you can find it in the Bible, Genesis 5:32-10:1.

Noah and his wife live together with their children, and one day God tells Noah to build an ark. So Noah goes about building an ark, and collects two of each kind of animal for the ark.

So far, so good. Although Kid2 notes “thats a lot of animals.” Yes, yes it is.

Then God gets angry and sends a lot of rain and floods the world and kills everyone — except Noah and his family.

Kid2’s eyes got big. “That God is mean.”

I can’t say I disagree, after all “That God” just finished drowning (almost) all the the inhabitants of the earth simply because “they angered him.”

So Kid2 and I brainstormed better ways of dealing with people who anger you, then we worked our way to the end of the book.

God shows Noah a rainbow and promises not to kill all the humans again.

Kid2 does not think a rainbow makes up for mass drowning, and wanted to be assured it was “just a story.”

Yes, Kid2, it is just a story.


Martinmas Meditations

Our school recently celebrated Martinmas. As darkness fell, we gathered in the cozy classroom and were told the story of Martin, a young Roman conscript who gave half of his warm cloak to a beggar on the side of the road. Later that night Martin had a dream (vision?), an angel was wearing half of Martin’s cloak, and it told Martin that it had been the beggar on the road – Martin went on to convert to Christianity, but that part was left out of the story. The focus was on Martin’s kind heart, and willingness to share what he had with someone less fortunate than himself.

There was a mood of reverence as we walked from the classroom with our lanterns. In the dark, with only the quiet singing of the children, I contemplated the story. Martin did not give the beggar his entire cloak, he gave him half of it, this was not a story of total self-sacrifice, but of sharing what he could. Would Martin be cold with only half a cloak? Certainly, but the beggar would be warmer with half than if he had none at all.

The Martinmas Festival marks the middle point between Michaelmas and Christmas, the light of Martinmas fortifies the soul for the dark winter. I’m not feeling a lot of light right now, the darkness feels pretty overwhelming.

I have been struggling this past week with the election results. I feel both compelled to speak out, and compelled to withdraw and protect my family. I have been saddened by the news of attacks on people based on who they may or may not have voted for, their gender, the color of their skin, or their religious views.

As a former Christian Scientist, it would be easy to revert back to my old ways, to “only see the good” and to “know all is harmonious.” That is not how things work. The question, could I be doing more haunts me. I know the answer is yes, but I’m not sure what “doing more” looks like right now.


More on St. Martin & the Martinmas Festival

Image via https://www.pinterest.com/taoofcraft/waldorf-lanterns-martinmas/

“how many gods do we have mommy?”

The other day, on our drive home, my eldest spoke up about his day:

Eldest: We went and saw the -th-grade play today. It was about a blue god with a big beard.

Me: Do you know which god it was?

Eldest: No. I only saw it once. (pause for a second or two) How many god’s are there mommy?

Me: It really depends on which religion you follow. Christians, Muslims, and Jews all have one god. The ancient Greeks and Romans had many. Different religious traditions have different views of god and gods.

Eldest: How many gods do we have?

Me: How many would you like?

The little one, who has been listening to this, pipes up: ZERO!

Eldest: One. The blue one with the big beard.

Little one continues to chant: ZERO!

Me: That’s fine, you can have one, or none, or as many as you like.

The eldest seemed okay with this answer. The little one seemed pleased too. Then they started talking about farts. Because, farts.

How do you handle these questions?

The Slut Shaming, Sex-Negative Message in the Virgin Birth—It’s Worth a Family Conversation

I had Sunday School teachers who insisted that Christian Science takes the “inspired” word of the Bible, and that the stories were “allegorical.” The virgin birth story (inspired allegory or not) always made me a bit uncomfortable. See also, http://valerietarico.com/2014/12/09/the-not-so-virgin-birth-of-the-christmas-story/ on how Jesus’ birth became more virginal and miraculous.

AwayPoint

Christmas - AnnunciationThe birth story of baby Jesus celebrates the promise of new life, but for girls it also sends a harmful message. How can we acknowledge this without spoiling the rest?

Most Americans, even many who are not very religious, look forward to Christmas as a time to celebrate warmth, friendship, generosity and good cheer. Familiar festivities weave together stories and traditions from many cultures, which makes it easy to find something for everyone. But maybe it’s time to look a little closer at the Christmas story itself.

The birth story of the baby Jesus is heartwarming and iconic—the promise of new life and new hope in a time of darkness. It has inspired centuries of maternal art and is the best loved of all Bible stories. It also has a darker subtext, especially for someone like me—the mother of two daughters.

In the story, an angel appears to a virgin…

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what I’ve been reading: things that make me angry

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CS prays for healing at http://www.tampabay.com/news/health/linda-osmundson-casa-director-and-christian-scientist-prays-for-healing/2206547

Why does God Kill So Many Children in Idaho? at https://www.vocativ.com/culture/religion/faith-healing-deaths/?page=all

Birthing Book Linked to Death of Baby at  http://www.theragblog.com/metro-lamar-w-hankins-birthing-book-linked-to-death-of-pursley-baby-in-east-texas-cult/

Religious Freedom vs. Child Protection at http://www.csicop.org/si/show/faith_healing_religious_freedom_vs._child_protection