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Posts Tagged ‘Faith’

It’s the happiest season of all, right? But what to do if you’re not Christian, or even a lapsed-Catholic or Christian-light, or maybe Jewish or Muslim? Well, child psychologists can always tell us what to do, and lately they’ve been taking all the fun out of December.

First it was, teach your kids they don’t have to hug Aunt Fannie – that relative you see maybe once or twice a year who insists on a hug and a kiss. And now, we are being told to spill the goods on Santa – don’t lie to your kids about Santa!

“Do you believe in Santa Claus Mommy?” the Love Bug asked my daughter in the car the other day. Why do they always come up with such earth-shattering questions in the car? Of course I wanted to know what she said, but the Bride only said she stalled, making me feel like somehow I’d failed. Because even though Bob and I were raising our children in the Jewish faith, I never gave up on Santa Claus

I mean I didn’t leave him milk and cookies. We didn’t have any naughty elves sneaking around our bookshelves. There were no blinking trees in our living room either. And they never knew when Santa would arrive, silently gliding down our chimney – it might happen during Hannukah, or maybe on Christmas morning. But I felt it viscerally, that memory of a big, kind guy in a red suit visiting children all over the world to fulfill their wishes. And I wanted to keep that magic alive in my family.

But according to this BBC article, if a child is old enough to ask about Santa, they are old enough for the truth. No, Virginia, there is nobody.

“You shouldn’t lie about Santa because you are encouraging your children, usually with made-up proof, to believe a morally ambiguous lie. I’m not alone in being devastated learning of my parents’ elaborate deceit about Santa, leaving me to wonder what other lies they had told.

Santa supposedly encourages imagination but, as noted in this article, and others, you’re really asking children to suspend criticality and believe a fiction. As this piece suggests, fantasy and imagination work because we choose to believe what we know isn’t true. Far from promoting wonder, the Santa story encourages children to be consumers of others’ ideas.” http://www.bbc.com/capital/story/20181211-why-you-shouldnt-lie-to-your-children-about-santa

Today is the sixth anniversary of the shooting at Newtown Elementary School. Those children, who were the same age as my grand daughter, will never have the chance to ask about Santa Claus. They will never go caroling again with their parents. When our government failed to pass any meaningful gun control legislation after that, long before Sandy Hook, I lost my faith again. Only this time, it was with our country.

Last night we read about a 7 year old Guatemalan girl who died of dehydration and exhaustion at the border of New Mexico. She was in OUR custody with her father for more than 8 hours before seizures began. This actually happened last week, according to the Washington Post:

“The ACLU blamed “lack of accountability, and a culture of cruelty within CBP (Customs and Border Patrol)” for the girl’s death. “The fact that it took a week for this to come to light shows the need for transparency for CBP. We call for a rigorous investigation into how this tragedy happened and serious reforms to prevent future deaths,” Cynthia Pompa, advocacy manager for the ACLU Border Rights Center, said in a statement.”  

So maybe we should tell our kids the truth, always. Because buying into a fairy tale, quasi-religious belief that leaves Mrs Claus at home in the North Pole while her husband gets all the credit for one night’s work does seem antiquated. Maybe we must be brutally honest with ourselves first. And not expect falsehhoods to turn into facts simply because a great, orange-headed beast keeps repeating them…

It’s almost like selling someone a bill of goods about fossil fuels, and promising to fulfill all your wishes, just because you have your name on a few buildings.

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Bob sat down next to me at the graveside service, a handful of dirt in his hand. I gave him one of my most scathing looks and whispered, “This is not a Jewish ceremony, don’t throw that dirt in my brother’s grave.” On top of the purple and gold flowers cascading over the casket, the pall bearers filed by placing their boutonnieres in the arrangement. Then the minister started to speak about how in their reform (Presbyterian) tradition, emphasis is placed on the afterlife, and not on the body. And while reciting the prayer “…ashes to ashes, dust to dust,” the solemn/seersucker/suited/Southern preacher threw a handful of dirt in among the flowers. Bob turned and smiled at me.

“Isn’t religion useful?” I said, while driving along on our twelve hour road trip home. The book NPR was discussing with its author was What Happened to Sophie Wilder, by Christopher Beha. http://www.npr.org/2012/07/26/157424289/christopher-beha-on-faith-and-its-discontents Beha is a lapsed Catholic, a non-believer like me, and he wrote a fictional account about an old college love who converted to Catholicism. I was riveted. After the radio interview, our discussion ran deep. Losing a family member, even when it was expected and an end to endless suffering, can bring some clarity into our own lives. Life is fragile, hang onto the good times, and yes, isn’t religion “useful.” Bob and I were talking about the service, the minister’s warm and heartfelt tribute to Mike, who had told him time and time again, “You’re doing my funeral, you’re MY man!” No one could refuse my brother.

I grew up super-Catholic because my foster parents were Catholic and my dead Father had been a church-going Catholic and not a “cultural Catholic.” Sacred Heart School, Camp St Joseph for Girls, maroon beanies and bow ties followed by khaki shorts and mass every morning in the summer. Beha was asked when he lost his faith and I was thinking about my own fall from grace. Remember, I was 11 when I went to live with the Flapper forever. She married a Jewish man, a judge in our small town. I acquired Jewish step-siblings and my brother Jim went to Columbia University. My first foray into a temple was for Purim, when kids dressed up in costumes and made noise like a Jewish Halloween! The polar opposite of the Latin Mass. I was hooked. Dinner table talk became enlightening, expansive. The Flapper loved Buddhism and wanted to travel to Hong Kong; she had been raised Presbyterian I believe, but always said that organized religion was for sheep. Sundays became a day for sleeping-in, the New York Times and lox and bagels with whitefish – no more church-going for me. But since I could first form a thought in my head, I never did buy the idea that only Catholics would get into heaven…and limbo? After 9/11, I was permanently done with religion of any kind.

So what is faith and how do we keep it? Mike grew up Catholic, married a Baptist, and was buried near William Faulkner by a Presbyterian. My Jewish MIL bought my cemetery plot near hers, soon after I married her son. Was this marriage counselor trying to tell me something about ’till death do us part? My step-father is buried there, and so is Bob’s brother Richard. I once knew a rabbi who said we haven’t really grown up until we plan our own funeral. Mike lived his life his way, not looking for accolades but working tirelessly. We will never know all of his good deeds, because for such a powerful man, he was pretty humble. That was rule number one from the nuns. He loved Great Danes, and his elegant Carmen never left his room. Frank Sinatra was playing, and a brother-in-law spoke about the dog sculpture that always sat on his Vikings desk. Emblazoned on its backside were the words, “If you’re not first in line, the view never changes.”

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