10 October 2005

religious education

It started this morning when I overheard James, playing by himself, mention Heaven -- something we've never brought up.

Me: What's Heaven?
James: It's a place waaaay up in the sky.
Me: And who lives in Heaven?
James: Giants. But they're invisible, like ghosts, so you can't see them.

Obviously someone has been giving my son an incomplete lesson in religion. I found out that he'd heard about Heaven from one of his friends in the neighborhood*, so I offered to explain Heaven a little more clearly to him, telling him that some people believe this is where we go after we die (he understands death in a very vague sense), some people believe God lives in Heaven, that it's supposed to be a beautiful place where you're always happy, and so on.

When Greg came in, I told him about the conversation, and, well, leave it to Greg to challenge the fledgling religious understanding of a 3-year-old.

Greg: Heaven is way up in the sky? What about the planets and the stars? (things we've been discussing lately)
James: Well, actually, Heaven is in the Milky Way.
Greg: The Milky Way? But --
James: Well, actually it's up in the clouds.
Greg: But there are clouds around all of the planets.

And so on.

I think this is a great example of the different approaches Greg and I have in dealing with James' questions. I like to encourage James to think imaginatively, to appreciate other ideas and viewpoints. Greg encourages James to think critically, analytically, rationally. We each do some of both -- neither is exclusive of the other -- but we each have our preferred method. I'm reading James books of myths and legends, and Greg is drawing diagrams of the solar system. I've always appreciated that Greg and I have different interests and strengths, but it's becoming increasingly clear to me what a benefit this will be for our kids. They'll have the best of both worlds.

*This happens pretty often in our neighborhood, since most of the Americans here are Christian. The funny thing is, James hears Christian terms and phrases without the other children explaining them, so he's left a little confused. I think my favorite example of this was the day not too long ago when James came home and asked me, "What's Jesus?"

1 comment:

kim said...

James' experience with religious kids reminds me of a story Mom told me about when I was around his age. Elyza and Amie's family came over for a visit and they were much more religious than we were at the time. I think it must have been Elyza who said to me, "I know Jesus." And I replied to her, "Well, I know the Lone Ranger."