In the Christmas spirit, this past weekend we went to a live reenactment exhibit. We brought the kids, sat through 45 minutes of concert and reflection in the church's sanctuary and then headed out with our color coded group for the "Journey to Bethlehem." We liked it and the walk felt as authentic as I might have imagined it, based on what I know from the book, "The Bible in Pictures for Little Eyes." My 2 1/2 year old daughter said she was having fun when my husband asked her repeatedly about it, but really she was scared of the live goats and camels and the men playing Roman guards shouting at us and demonstrating the need for a Messiah. ASAP.
When we arrived at the suburban church to park, my daughter spied the canvas tents, wooden stalls, and open fires and asked whether we were going camping. Insensitive to the fact that D has no context for the story of Christ's birth or his significance, our family conversation went as follows:
ME: No, it's not a camp. We're not going camping.
HUB: No, it's the story of the birth of baby Jesus.
ME: He was a very important man, the son of God.
HUB: So we're going to see the story of when baby Jesus was born.
D: Is it a camping story?
With that, we unloaded and headed into the church to pick up our tickets. Later, after D had seen the sights, enjoyed some honey-butter Challah bread, and I was unbuckling her from her car seat, I asked again whether she had fun and what she saw. She said yes, and that she saw the "baby cheese."
This my friends, is where my useful role in my children's religious education ends. If not already painfully obvious, I was loosely raised Christian, but my family did not attend church. As a result, while I had access to abbreviated versions of the Bible, I believe I was a college graduate before I understood that some people actually read the whole Bible, cover-to-cover.
This left a hole. One that I was determined to fill - or at least speculated about filling - at an early age. When I was about nine, sitting in the back of my mother's brown station wagon, a/k/a "Brown Betty," on the way up the hill from town, I smugly informed my parents that, unlike them, "when I grew up, I was not going to smoke, and I was going to church!"
I handily accomplished the first goal, helped in no small part by the three deaths-by-lung-cancer in my mom's family. My commitment to church attendance has been much more sporadic. Mostly because of the time requirements and the fact that I know almost nothing about the Bible. Now that I am beyond adolescence and have experienced some of the cruel, cruel world, I try not to stockpile experiences that make me feel like an imbecile. As it turns out, this lack of knowledge - lack of connection - has become the deal breaker.
But I have tried. I actually hunger for the stories, the beautiful framework for solving moral dilemmas, the road map for living. I love attending two or three services at churches with smart, compassionate, and eloquent ministers. But then I fizzle out. My hub is no help. He was raised Presbyterian, his mother was the director of the church preschool, they attended church regularly (but without dad - he stayed home on Sundays). Hub was eventually confirmed, and then he graduated from high school. And that was that. Although it's more complicated than this, Hub stopped attending church like he quit the tennis his mother pushed on him.
So now we're two hopeless souls on the church front. We erroneously view faith as a hobby and as a way to meet people. The problem, of course, is that we're not willing to put in the time to get good at it, like the kid on the soccer team who played forward at age four, and then rode the rainbow of positive reinforcement to victory in the adult weekend league.
Instead, we stick to field trips and Christmas cookies, and leave the question of what (and how much) religion the kids will experience to another day. You know, the day when we will have the inclination to get up before 9 am on a weekend.