Just before Christmas I took my daughters to the art museum. As we walked through the Renaissance section, they were totally transfixed by the paintings of the many saints and martyrs. And when we got to the portrayals of Jesus, they really started asking questions. Mommy, why did they nail Jesus to the cross? Why are his ribs sticking out? Why is he bleeding? What are those people doing? and so on.
I have always been extremely candid with my children. I am not one to pussyfoot around an issue or sugar-coat things. It is a matter of personality, but it’s also a matter of what I perceive as truthfulness. I think children can take reality a whole lot better than many adults believe they can – if, that is, it’s presented to them in a way they can understand. Therefore, I do not lie to my children ever. When they ask me a question, I answer them honestly, and I communicate my answer to them to the best of my ability, so that hopefully they at least understand or get a glimpse of what I am trying to explain. When they still aren’t quite getting it, I remind them that we will talk more about this as they get older, and that in time, they will understand.
For this reason, they have known since birth that there is no santa claus, no easter bunny, and no tooth fairy. These fabrications were created in part to manipulate children into behaving in an “acceptable” fashion, and I see no value in perpetuating such lies. My kids understand that Christmas is a celebration of the birth of Christ, and we exchange presents because of our joy and thankfulness at such a gift. The same goes for Easter – we celebrate Christ’s resurrection. We eat candy b/c we like it, not for any symbolic reason. And when my older daughter loses her teeth, she gives them to me, I place each in a bag with a description, and I put a treat for her under the pillow. So you see, my children are not being deprived in any way, they simply know the truth. The truth that their parents love them and therefore don’t lie to them.
So when my girls started asking me those very pointed questions about Jesus in the museum, I knew it was time for real answers.
I was raised as an every-Sunday church-going Methodist and I am a Christian. I believe in God, I believe in Jesus. My husband is more of a Unitarian. He believes in God, but isn’t firm on anything else. He wasn’t raised in any faith other than celebrating secular Christmas & Easter at home. We do not regularly attend church and never have as a family. We do say prayers every night with our children and frequently read stories from the Bible. But now that our girls are getting older, we are sensing it is time for church – or at least more disciplined, if not totally “organized,” religious study.
We have done some “test-driving” of churches. Our experiences thus far:
We attended a Presbyterian church in our neighborhood several times, and initially liked it very much. We were friends with some of the people already and the older British pastor was an engaging orator, reminiscent of C.S. Lewis. Unfortunately he left to take a position in Minnesota, and the replacement pastors (a married couple acting as co-pastors) didn’t fit for us. It only got worse when the couple left following a scandal involving the husband and a female member, which pretty much tore the church apart.
We’ve visited a very historic Methodist here in Philly. The building itself is gorgeous – all white and stark and New Englandesque – but the congregation is tiny, and they have no sunday school.
We attended another local Methodist church, just the one time. The service was fine, but afterwards when we went to collect our girls from Junior Church, we discovered they’d somehow “misplaced” our younger daughter. We spent the next 15 longest minutes of our lives scouring the enormous very gothic church, WORRIED OUT OF OUR MINDS, finally finding her in the pitch-dark basement clutching a door knob. I am still traumatized by the experience. Long story short, this visit left us (especially me) scarred and I can’t even drive near – let alone past – that church anymore.
Just before Christmas we attended a Mennonite church around the corner a couple times. The service was extremely low key, with lots of beautiful singing. The message was genuine. It helps that the congregation are almost exclusively from our immediate neighborhood and we already know or are friends with many of them. This church would be perfect, except for the fact that sunday school meets after the service.
Not a very wide search so far, but there you have it. We’re looking for a fairly traditional church – preferably one with a service we can attend while our children are in Sunday School. But we don’t want someplace too big, too small, or too “pushy.” My husband and I are both very turned off by interrogation tactics, especially when they involve personal religious beliefs. Neither one of us enjoys being put on the spot and asked whether we’ve been saved. I love God and don’t need an intermediary. My husband took a job in IT precisely to avoid dressing up, ever. He is not interested in a Sunday fashion show. and neither am I. We do not want people looking us up and down, judging our family when we go to church. In summary, we are looking for a group of people sincerely interested in worshiping God and serving their fellow man humbly and unpretentiously, with a traditional service that meets at the same time as children’s Bible school. It is a tall order. Wish us luck.