This post is part of our month-long series featuring different ways that parents of various religions have talked to their kids about God.
We don’t talk about God in my house. We debate God.
This is something I could never have anticipated–that two brothers, 18 months apart in age, given the same religious education, books, and influences, could disagree so completely about matters of faith. But this is how it goes:
Mose is 7. He thinks God is probably not real. But he believes in “nature and patterns.” He came up with this himself.
Lew is almost 6. He believes in God as traditionally as one can. God has magic powers. God split the Red Sea. God is watching.
These two brothers share a room. They have little beds about four feet apart. This is where the debate plays out. In bed, at night, in the darkness. Often, it begins with a book. Like Bagels from Benny (available from PJ Library). Or it starts with a holiday, like Passover.
“Do you really think God sent down bread from the sky, when we were walking in the desert? Really?” Mose will ask.
Lew ponders this question. “If he didn’t, what did we eat?”
Mose has no answer for this. But he’s still not buying it. “I don’t know,” he says, “But bread from the sky?”
It doesn’t bother them that they disagree. They spend their lives in disagreement. That’s what it means to be brothers, 18 months apart, separated by four feet of darkness. They disagree about ice cream flavors, the most powerful Jedi, and now bread from the sky.
But what I find amazing is that while he questions God, it doesn’t occur to Mose to question the desert, and it doesn’t occur to him to question the we. Both of my boys have accepted their own place in this community, this history, as well as the story of the journey itself. Whether or not God exists, we marched through that desert. Of this they are both certain. And because they are both certain, it is absolutely true. This fact brings tears to my eyes.
I have always been a grasping agnostic. I have always felt a little outside my religious community. Unwilling to just say the words and eat the bagels. Even today, I don’t know whether I believe, as Mose does, in nature and patterns, or if I believe as Lew believes, in the voice on the mountain. Maybe I want it all.
But here is the magic, the transformation, the faith at the core of my story. I made two boys capable of developing their own little theologies, and while they disagree about the nature of God, both of them feel completely Jewish. Both of them belong. This says something to me, about how miraculously smart kids are, and also about how flexible Judaism can be.
So when Mose tells me about patterns, I see them. And when Lew tells me about God? I believe in that too…
More than I ever have before.
Laurel Snyder is most recently the author of Baxter, the Pig Who Wanted to Be Kosher (a picture book) and Penny Dreadful (a middle grade novel). She lives in Atlanta and online at www.laurelsnyder.com.
To read all of the post in this series, click here.