Saturday, April 28, 2007

Losing My Religion

I don't always know how strict to be with our religious practice and instruction with the kids. We are Orthodox Christians, but Luke, in particular, seems drawn to quite a spiritual smorgasbord. And, truth be told, we aren't strict at all. I'm always happy when my kids show some sort of spiritual inclination, even if it isn't within our religious tradition.

I think it all started when Luke was about a year old. We were at a long, crowded Orthodox service, and I took Luke outside for a walk. He immediately toddled over to the Baptist church next door where there was some great singing and dancing going on, and walked up the steps. He stood, enthralled, for about ten minutes, which was nine minutes longer than he had ever stood still at our church.

Then, when Luke was three years old, he started attending a Waldorf school. This type of schooling is based on the methods of Rudolf Steiner, who founded the Anthroposophy movement, which is basically a philosophy/religion. So while the school isn't a religious school per se, it is informed at every turn by anthroposophy--which, I might add, is pretty kooky. But we do love the school. Except there is this little detail: Luke prefers to say his school "blessings" before we eat rather than our Orthodox prayers. So as we light a candle, he says "Fire fairy, fire bright, thank you for your golden light." Then, making lovely little hand gestures, he sings something like, "Sun, that gives us golden light, earth, that gives to us this food, dear earth, dear sun, we won't forget what you have done." Now, it is probably all about the singing and the hand gestures, and also about doing his own thing, but I sometimes wonder if we should allow Luke to cultivate these little pagan-like rituals.

And then there was that time that Luke met his Guardian Angel. It was downtown in a Subway restaurant. Chicago was hosting the Gay Games, which I can't believe was a coincidence. We dashed into the place to escape a huge thunderstorm, as did many others. All the tables were taken except for one, and on it were four lovely, feathered, white wings. At the table beside the wings sat two men, both dressed in all white. "Excuse me," I asked, "Are these your wings?" They did belong to the men, who politely moved them. Luke then began to quiz them.

"Are you Angels?"

"Yes," they replied.

"Why did you take off your wings?" Luke asked.

"Because we are taking a break from flying," they responded.

"Why did you leave heaven?" Luke questioned.

"Well, we are on an exchange program," was their answer.

Later that night, when I said the Guardian Angel prayer with Luke, he said excitedly, "I may have met my Guardian Angel today!" I hmmmmmed a lot and left it at that.

Also, Luke is obsessed with Greek Myths. And Russian Folk Tales. And The Arabian Knights. Anything in the "Myths and Legends" section of our public library. All of which, obviously, go into great detail about other systems of belief. I don't broach this too much with Luke, besides an occasional, "Are these real gods?" question, which Luke always answers with a no. And then we usually laugh, because, really, what kind of a god would get mad at people and do mean things to them? Well, except the Old Testament God, I guess. But no problem--I overheard Craig telling Luke that the Genesis creation story is a metaphor. Whew! I'm glad Luke has that cleared up. I don't want him to get confused or anything.

Henry loves church. Every time I ask him if he wants to go to church, he says, "Yes! Church! God! (Father) John!" But Luke--not so much church love there. So I think I'm okay with his exploration of spirituality in all of these various forms. Who is to say, after all, that he didn't meet his Guardian Angel that day? I'll bet if Jesus were here today, he would visit the Gay Games.

And then, the other morning, I overheard Luke talking to God. He was muttering, "Dear God, let us all have a good day today. Let me be nice and let mommy not be too crabby."



Molly Sabourin said...


After your supportive comment, I linked over here and, as always, was so very glad I did. I think you are an amazing mother...God only trusts His most spirited, brilliant, and complex creations with those whose love, patience, and vision can stretch a little bit farther than most. Thank you for sharing, and for consistently making me smile.


Julia said...

O.k., first of all, this post is hilarious-- maybe the most hilarious on your blog so far. But it also addresses a really serious aspect of being a parent, I think. My sister's youngest child is on the autistic spectrum ("high functioning," but still autistic). When he was about five, I remember that my sister, who is evangelical, was really distraught because, after explaining all about Jesus and salvation, and praying with him to receive Christ, etc., he later asked a question which implied that he wasn't sure if Jesus was actually God's son, or daughter, and seemed generally confused about the whole thing, which he had previously appeared to understand. I remember thinking how pointless it was to be worried. Of course, I wasn't a parent then, I'm not evangelical, and she was probably just generally on edge at the time trying to sort out some of the communication obstacles that come with parenting an autistic child. But still, it was just so clear to me, standing outside of the situation, how misplaced her worry was. Now that I'm a parent, and already experiencing irrational flashes of fear about Esme's future relationship with God, I'm realizing that it isn't that clear when it's your own child. Her distress was probably natural, because as a parent you do feel somehow that you are responsible for an eternal soul, whatever soteriology you prescribe to. But I hope I can do what you're doing with Luke and just take it on a case by case basis, see God in unlikely situations, and RELAX!

Sorry this comment is so long!

Ser said...

Aaaw, thanks so much, Molly and Julia. Molly, your way of looking at the situation (a challenging child) is so very kind and gracious. I'm always tempted to feel guilt and fear over Luke's behavior. Your words help a lot.

And Julia, you can post as long a comment as you want, anytime. It is delightful to hear about other parents struggling with these same sorts of things.

Ser said...

Okay, I now realize that "delightful" isn't really a nice way of explaining how I feel when I hear about other parents struggling with their children. I mean that it makes me feel less fearful and more normal.

Lucy said...

My comment is short: Luke is hilarious. I adore him, albeit from afar.

Dove Knits said...

Eh, I was an atheist until I was 7. It'll be ok either way.

Luke cracks me up.

Anonymous said...

How much worse is that than believing in Santa Clause, the Easter bunny, the tooth fairy, etc. I think it is good to let kids believe in what can't be seen. I'll bet if you guys were attending the Baptist church on a regular basis, Luke would have toddled over to the Orthodox church and been enthralled with the smell, candles, icons, robes, etc...
You are an amazing mom, Ser.

so yung said...

I'm on the scene late on this one. I'm a little suprised by Luke praying on his own to God.

Amen ... let us all have a good day today.