Teaching Your Kid About Jesus, When You’re A Heathen

I am not a church goer. I describe myself as a heathen. When I was a kid, my parents didn’t take me to church. One of them grew up a Methodist and the other grew up a Presbyterian, but they wanted my sister and I to find our own way when it came to faith. I dabbled in church in college, but when I came home to Seattle for law school, I didn’t find a church I liked, so I didn’t go anymore.

I have a few friends who are church goers, but Seattle has an extremely low church-going population. We also have an extremely small Jewish population compared to, say, New Jersey. I have a former coworker who is Jewish who once had a chat with me about what it’s like to be Jewish in Seattle. She said everyone invites you to Christmas because they feel bad that you don’t have someplace to be on Christmas, because they don’t get that for people who aren’t Christian, Christmas is just another day. I explained that it’s because Christmas is not a religious holiday to most Seattleites because we aren’t really Christian either. For many of us Seattle heathens, Christmas is a day to spend with friends and family, and has nothing really to do with Jesus, so, why not invite our Jewish friends? It’s not like we’re going to church or praying or anything, we’re just gonna watch A Christmas Story 5 times in a row and gorge on Christmas cookies. I know, I am the nightmare of the War on Christmas crowd, because, I am a heathen.

One year, The Boy asked me what Christmas is about, why we celebrate it. So I told him “It’s Jesus’s birthday.” So he said, “Who is Jesus?” So, I gave him the Christmas carol-inspired, History Channel Jesutainment heathen version: Jesus’ parents had to go to Jerusalem to be counted and pay their taxes, but Mary was suuuuuuper pregnant at the time. When they stopped on the way for the night, the hotel was full, so they had to sleep in the barn, and that night, Mary gave birth to Jesus. And some wise men came and gave him presents, and an angel told the shepherds next door that this super cool baby had been born, so they came and saw him too.

Then The Boy asked, “And then what happened?” So, I explained that Jesus grew up and became a carpenter like his dad, and that he had some great ideas about how people should be nice to each other, but that some people didn’t like his ideas, so they killed him. And as God as my witness, The Boy looks at me with big eyes and he whispers “But he wasn’t really dead, was he?” So I said, “Well, some people think he came back to life.” And he said earnestly, ” I believe that!”

WTF, man. Of all the parenting surprises I have had (having a kid born premature, learning to raise a kid who will. not. sleep, having a child who loves running), discovering that The Hubs and I, a pair of heathens, had raised a kid who believes in Jesus? That’s definitely one of the biggest. Honestly, I have asked myself quite a few times how this happened, but I am completely at a loss.

People have told us this is a phase and it will pass, but so far it hasn’t. He keeps asking about Jesus. In fact, awkward story: we sent him for a sleep over at a friend’s house (also heathens) and they asked all the kids to pick any character to have a story about. All the other kids picked superheroes–Spider-Man, The Flash–and my kid? He picks Jesus. Our friend the heathen was like, “WTF, man.” I was like, “Yeah, I don’t get it either.”

And it’s not just Jesus. The Boy tells us things that he believes firmly, such as “God is everywhere. He’s even IN THIS HOUSE.” Uh, Okaaaaaaaaay…

Honestly, there is a part of me that is a little bit terrified by this. But mostly, I feel glad about it. I think finding a faith that makes you feel happy is a good thing. Now I just have to figure out how to support his choice of faith that I don’t share. I told The Boy that we’d take him to church to learn more about Jesus, on the condition that he had to dress up, including wearing a shirt with buttons. He hates shirts with buttons. I figured if he was really serious about this whole Jesus thing, he’d agree to dress up, but so far he has refused, and so we haven’t gone to church. When he is ready to put on a shirt with buttons, I have picked out a church that I think reflects our liberal values and will be likely to be welcoming to a kid being raised by a couple of heathens. In case this isn’t just a phase.

3 thoughts on “Teaching Your Kid About Jesus, When You’re A Heathen

  1. two years of studying with the Jehovah witnesses brought me closer to the bible and peoples opinion’s on religion, my mom instilled the faith and alcoholics anonymous is helping with the spiritual, I believe that people believe what sounds logical and are as happy as they allow them self’s to be

  2. love this post! especially “I think finding a faith that makes you feel happy is a good thing. Now I just have to figure out how to support his choice of faith that I don’t share.”

    Thanks for writing, Beth!

  3. This is exactly how Jesus would show up. Angels announcing his arrival to shepards and your son announcing his arrival to you. I love this.
    Jesus is, in the words of C.S. Lewis from his book “The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe” , “He is not a tame lion”
    PS: He walked on water and scared the you-know-what out of the disciples. Your son would probably love that story.

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