Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Table Talk

While enjoying a slab of pizza with my kids, we chatted about the events of the evening.

My son proceeded to tell me about his afternoon:

"When Grandma picked me up from school today, she told me that I couldn't watch any TV at her house".

"Oh, really? Why? You get into some trouble?" (uh-oh)

"No", he replied. "Grandma said that she wasn't watching TV to prove her love to God (read: fasting from television). She said that she wasn't going to permit me to watch any TV since it's her house and her rules."

"Oh, I see. What did you think of that?"

-- I think I even stopped eating my pizza for a moment.

"I respect what she's trying to do and all, but I don't agree with it".

"Really?" I was astonished. What a mature answer for an eight year old!

"Well son, I'm curious now. Would you be willing to stop watching TV to get closer to God?"

"Nope. I like TV too much."


"But what if someone told you that sometimes it takes that sort of devotion to please God?" I tried to pick my son's brain.

"I dunno. I just don't agree with that idea. I respect it, but . . . . I mean, I don't even know if the Bible is real or not. I mean, who was there to write about the first man if nobody was around but the first man? That just doesn't seem to make sense to me."

Wow! Honest . . . I didn't tell him any of that beforehand. I don't even know where he got that specific idea from-- except that I've encouraged him to question ideas and to decide for himself what he thinks of God. I didn't think that anything I said would have caused him to respond quite like that.

He still seems to believe in God. That's fine with me. But he seems willing to question ideas-- even if the ideas come from an "authoritative source". That to me is most important.

He's thinking on his own.

I don't mind if he becomes (or remains) theist. I just want him to learn to think for himself, regardless. Many theists are quite capable of doing this.

And for that reason alone (that he's learning to think for himself), I am proud of my son.

(And I'm proud of my daughter, too. She's learning how to read!)

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Dodging Bullets

Nope, nobody has been shooting at me or anything.

At least, not with real bullets.

I was sleeping-in this past weekend. My kids know the drill. My oldest son clambers onto the kitchen counter and grabs a bowl for himself and his little sister. He fixes two heaping bowls of cheerios for themselves while ol' daddy-O catches up on some Zs.

Mommy's out at the gym.

My kids know how to get to Cartoon Network, Dress Up Who, and Noggin.com. They know how to find their favorite TV shows on our Roku box.

They'll be fine.

Yet, I still wake up with a start after hearing the doorbell. Nobody was expected to visit. Who the hell is at the door?!

My kids get antsy and want to know who's outside.

I try to pretend that nobody is home and hope whoever it is will go away. But the kids have given away the fact that people are home.

It's my mother-in-law.

I like my mother-in-law. I do-- honest. She's not bad, overall. We had a rocky start, but we've long sense cleared that up.

My mother-in-law had left something at our house and wanted to grab it since she was in the neighborhood.

I was really, really wishing this would be more of a "grab-n-go" sort of thing. We established that my wife had accidentally taken what my mother-in-law was looking for with her to the gym. So at that point, I was hoping she would leave.

But nope. She didn't. Rather, she took advantage of the fact that now I'm her captive audience of one and proceeded to preach to me.

Not in a mean, ugly, nasty way. She's not like that with me.

But she started probing deeper than I would have liked.

She asked me a really hard question. She asked me "why".

Why did I stop going to church? Why did I lose my connection with God? Why?

What happened to cause me to lose my fervor?

She told me she could take anything I had to say. She urged me not to worry. She'll understand.

She asked me if someone hurt my feelings at church. She asked if she said something to offend me. She asked me if I saw some injustice that caused me to turn away from church. She asked me if I felt neglected by the ministers.

She expects that I have some grievance with church and church life. She thinks that I'm bitter about something someone said or did. Or maybe I've just become slightly confused about the truth of God's word. She seems to think that if I would just share my hurts and frustrations I would come around because God would give her the words to help comfort me and encourage me to return to church.

She asked if my wife (her daughter) was keeping me from going to church. My wife has openly voiced her disdain towards church with her mom (but not towards God. Those are two very different things, here).

None of the things that my mother-in-law expects is the issue at all.

"Tell me. You can tell me, son", she urged.

I can't. Not now. Maybe in time (not!).

She was persistent, but I managed to dodge the bullet.

I'm not sure how much longer I can keep this up, though.

I know she can handle me confessing to an array of things that keep many people from church. But I'm almost certain she'd be floored if I told her I have become an atheist. I simply have come to doubt god's existence. As a result, the church life has lost it's importance to me as an individual.

I bet I'd leave her speechless, until she tells my mom.

And that thought brings a lump to my throat.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

The Thunder God

The darkness belies the fact that it's 6:25 AM. For an eight year old, this is spooky enough. But worse, lightning flashes across the night-like sky stopping my son in his tracks as we make our short walk to the bus stop.

We've seen lots of rain lately in my region. The ground is soggy and everything drips with moisture today. But as we were leaving out for the bus stop, nature had provided an intermission from the rain fall. Perfect timing. Now we won't get wet waiting for the school bus.

Except that now, my son is afraid to leave the front yard because of he sees yet another flash of light within the clouds.

He wrapped his arms around me and begged to go back into the house.

I try to explain to him that his bus should be here any minute. We'll be fine.

"But what if the lightning strikes us? We can get struck by lightning."

I try to continue our progression towards the bus stop when yet another flash of lightning strikes fear into my son's mind.

Now he starts sobbing.

Oh no. Not this.

Not Phobia.

"Why are you so scared?"

"Grandma told me that lightning can hit you."

Then came yet another flash of light. (I'm not talking about pronounced lightning strikes to the ground or to a tree. Just flashes of light among the clouds.)

My son started to lament, "why does God make lightning? He controls the weather! So why does he keep doing this?"

And with the worst timing possible, a peal of thunder rumbles across the sky warning him not to question nature again. How dare he question the thunder god!

He cried even harder now and buried his face into my side.

Poor kid.

Through his sobbing, he told me that his Grandmother (my mom) told him that God controls the weather and the lightning. She also told him that she was afraid of lightning. I guess my son coupled these two concepts together and now he thinks that lightning is a sign of God's anger and destructive power.

He didn't want to go to the bus stop because he thought God would strike us down.

All at once, he is very scared of this thunder god. And I do not appreciate this very much at all. Only a few days ago, lightning was no big deal to him. I told him of the potential dangers, but he wasn't paralyzed by the fear of lightning until this very morning. Grandma must have had one of her talks with him yesterday evening.

Yes, I know that lightning strikes people.

But if god sits in the sky and throws lightning bolts at people on purpose, then I honestly question either his aim or his choice of targets.

I am troubled by this. I don't want my son's life paralyzed because he fears an unseen, punitive god who randomly throws lightning bolts and makes thunder rumble in the sky.

Looks like the time has come for a good lesson in meteorology.