View From Table 9

July 5, 2007

Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny and Jesus

Filed under: musings — table9 @ 11:23 pm

Lately my son has been excitedly wiggling a tooth, waiting impatiently for it to fall out so he can put it under his pillow for the tooth fairy. He told me she leaves a gold dollar for him, takes the tooth up to heaven so baby Jesus can give it to a new baby waiting to be born to use.

This from a child who hasn’t set foot in a church since he was, oh, about two. That would be about the time our ‘new’ Catholic Archbishop in Virginia announced that a good Catholic couldn’t take communion unless they followed every single Church teaching completely, including those on birth control (being a sin), abortion, etc. That would be when I once again had it with the Church.

My son is fascinated by the Baby Jesus. Thinks about him, talks about him, wonders what he’d like for Christmas (his birthday). He came up with the Tooth Fairy thing completely on his own. Well, not the dollar part. That’s the other kids in his school. But the part about the teeth going to heaven for new babies – as far as I can find, all his. It just astounds me, his ability to create meaning.

Which makes me think: What is it about Baby Jesus that bothers me? Why am I perfectly fine, encouraging even, of other social constructs such as Santa, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, even delighting in them and dreading the day he discovers the deception? Why do I thrill in the magic of their belief, yet feel slightly sick at the concept of Baby Jesus?

As a child, I liked church. Loved hearing the stories. Thought the ideas were pretty good – love each other, don’t lie, cheat, steal, don’t kill, etc. As I reached conciousness, I remember being quite shocked to see that all these people professing these beliefs – my parents even – ignored them the rest of the time. I mean, they all pretty well followed the “Big 10” but the other things – like feed and clothe the poor, be charitable towards other, don’t envy or covet, don’t speak ill of others, etc. – nah.

Now to be Catholic, Italian and Irish is to have the faith woven in the fabric of your world. Leaving the church is like cutting part of you off – it’s so woven in your life you can’t figure out what threads to pull out without it all falling apart. So I became a ‘cultural Catholic’ like so many others around me – following the rituals, marking the days, all while realizing we’re all hypocrites. Eventually I stopped going altogether, except for family rituals, visits home, and mostly holidays.

Then my son came, through amazing circumstances. And I was astounded by him and his world. Rekindled my faith, found a Catholic church I really liked and a pastor whose words really spoke to me. Found a community. Then, an Archbishop changed and the wheels came off. Back to hypocracy. I mean does God really care whether you vote Republican or Democrat?

Yet I feel conflict when I see my son reveling in the wonder. I recognize that the Church, for all it’s flaws, gives us a cultural, spiritual, framework that for me seems childish now but for my son, the child, seems to find strength in. His world *is* black and white, brilliant colors, magic and miracles. Greys, pastels, and reality have not found their way into his world yet. I hope it’s a long time before they do.

So, maybe I should give him the joy of Baby Jesus, teach him the Big 10 and the importance of loving others, caring for the old, clothing the poor and feeding the hungry. He will at some time I’m certain see the hypocracy I do in Organized Religion. What I hope will endure in him, as it has in me, is that little burning ember in my heart, that belief that we really can do all those things, and that they’re important. Maybe that’s enough.

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