Monday, October 20, 2014

The Mini-Evangelist: Captain of The Jesus Fan Club by Hilary

This post has nothing to do with Jesus, Himself. As far as I can tell, he's a great guy. It also has nothing to do with Christians who go about their lives, acting out Christian values and raising loving, open-minded children by teaching them respect, compassion and kindness.
This post IS about the group I refer to as Jesus' Fan Club; specifically, a little girl in my son Austin's kindergarten class who has apparently made herself Captain. And now I want to punch her in the tiny, cute face God gave her. I'll call her Ann.
During the past several weeks, my son has been talking a lot about God, dishing out all these new phrases like: 
* "God created you, Mom." 
* "God created the clouds." 
* "God really created our carpet." 
* "Who was the very first person God created? Like, the very first person?" 
* "God is great." 
* "Why does God let dogs shed, if Daddy doesn't like it?" 
One of Jesus' fans put this sticker up to remind us that Jesus is the way, no matter where you're going.

Although our older son went to a Christian preschool, we don't go to church, and we don't talk much about God at home. We talk about our values, like kindness, compassion, and beating up people who need it.
Austin also been talking a lot about this girl, Ann. 
* "Ann says God created everything." 
* "Ann says Jesus is our Savior." 
So here's the thing: In most cases, Christianity promotes great values like kindness and compassion. And I like that. So at first, it didn't bother me when Austin came home with daily news and tidbits about God and Jesus.
Jesus First. Then dessert.

Thursday morning, everything changed. [DundunDUNNNN] 
First, Austin woke up at 1 a.m. with a nightmare. He wouldn't say what the nightmare was about, because it was too scary, but after I took him back to his bed and cuddled with him for a while, he was still scared and didn't want me to leave. This kid's nightmares are RARE. He wakes up maybe once every several months, if that. 
So when he finally fell back to sleep at about 2 a.m., I went back to bed myself, had trouble falling asleep because of my husband's snoring, and got up at my usual 5:30 to work on my novel-writing. My husband's dog was whining, driving me crazy. My dog was chasing the boys' cat. The cat was meowing non-stop.
Austin woke up again, SUPER early, complaining that he was starving, and begging me to let him get up early so he could eat breakfast. Because I was grumpy, I sent him back to bed and told him I'd feed him at the normal time, which was in a half-hour.
At breakfast, I was making lunches, and Austin starts asking me a bunch of questions: 
* "What happens if you say, 'God'?" (To which I responded, "Nothing happens. He just doesn't like it when you throw it out there like 'Oh, God,' or 'Oh, my God," so it's respectful not to say it. It's okay if you're saying things like 'God created the clouds,' or whatever.")
* "So nothing happens if you say it?" ("No, nothing happens. Just don't say it unless you're talking about facts or whatever.) 
Finally, we're driving to school, and I ask him, "Where are you getting all this God stuff?"  
"From Ann," he says. "She says I'm going to Hell."
You can imagine my reaction: "WHAT THE FUCK?!"
Okay. I didn't say that. I said, "Why?" 
"Because I said, 'God.' And because I believe in the Tooth Fairy and the Easter Bunny and Santa." 
You won't believe what I said. I said, "Hmmm. Why does that mean you're going to Hell?" 
"Because you should only believe in Jesus."
"Is that what Ann says?" 
"Yeah. And in Hell, they don't feed you. They starve you and it's awful. Horrible. And if you don't believe in Jesus, you're going to Hell. And you'll starve. And if you say 'God,' or believe in Santa, you'll go to Hell. And starve." 
No wonder this kid was having nightmares and woke up starving!!!! 
(And I get the Mommy of the Year Award for making him wait for breakfast!)
You won't believe what I said. I said, "Hmmm." 
Then I quickly added, "Well, Ann is wrong. Nobody knows for sure whether there is a hell or not. And there are LOTS of very good people who don't believe Jesus was God's son. Jewish people believe he was a great guy, but they don't believe he was God's son. And there are so many different religions. If ALL the people who don't believe in Jesus were going to Hell, that means MILLIONS of people are going to Hell. Like most of the people in the WORLD. She is wrong."
"Ann, we need to talk before you get punched in the cute face I gave you." - God

I refrained from saying, "She's probably one of the people who thinks even men who rape and murder little girls can get to Heaven if they just accept Jesus as their savior." 
Instead, I said, "I'm walking you into school today." (Because, since Day 2, he has insisted on walking himself into school.)
I was shaking with anger by the time I reached his classroom, where I whisper-yelled to his teacher, "Can I talk to you outside real quick?" 
I told her what Austin had said, and she was apologetic. Of course she had no idea these conversations were going on, but she said she was going to talk to Ann's parents and ask them to ask her not to talk about this stuff at school. ("I don't want any of the children being disappointed," she said, referring to the Tooth Fairy and Santa stuff. "I could care less about the Tooth Fairy and Santa stuff," I whisper-yelled. "I don't want my 6-year-old to even know what Hell IS!" She nodded. I'm sure she thinks I'm a crazy person.)

Although, as I mentioned, we're not particularly religious, we are teaching our children to be kind, compassionate and caring, to help others and to accept that people have different beliefs and different ways of doing things. 
I do not need some 5-year-old mini-evangelist spewing her beliefs at my son, telling him he is doomed to starvation in Hell at age 6. 
I can respect her family's beliefs (because obviously, she's getting this from somewhere), even if I think they're nonsense. 
But what I can't tolerate is her telling my son that he - along with two-thirds the world's population (did you know that only one-third of the population is Christian?) - is going to hell. Shoot, he hasn't even had a chance to do anything really wrong yet.
And as this sticker says, "Jesus cares." I'm pretty sure he's not recommending a sentence of Hell for my 6-year-old. 

I can't tolerate parents teaching their innocent 5-year-olds that they're going to go to Hell and starve if they say God or believe in Santa. Fear-mongering is not the way to teach about a religion that is supposed to be based on loving one another. Shouldn't we ALL be teaching our children to respect and love God (if that's what we believe in) and one another?
Rather than threatening them with starvation in Hell for taking God's name in vain, shouldn't we be teaching them that we should follow God's rules out of respect? Knowledge of Hell can come later, long after the nightmare phase. I don't think our children need to visualize an "awful, horrible" place they'll be sent to starve if they believe in Santa.
And from this we can learn that Jesus is a flower.

Instead, our children need to visualize a world where we are open-minded, where we treat others as we want to be treated, and where we lift each other up, helping each other to navigate a sometimes-scary world. Whether this comes in the form of godliness or simply kindness doesn't matter. I think even Jesus can agree with that.

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