Today’s WTF: Jesus vs. the Easter Bunny

I’ve been having an interesting issue with my daughter this week. I have to admit, I’m not sure I’m handling it completely the right way, although I’m trying my best. But she’s dragged me into some unfamiliar territory, and I’m not certain how to navigate it all that well. I know some of you have kids, so if any of y’all have comments/advice to share, I’m open to accepting that. Feel free to post anything useful in the comments.

Here’s the deal:

My kid is a pre-teen, which means she’s over the whole Easter Bunny thing. We still do an Easter egg hunt for her every year, because she’s not yet over the chocolate goodies thing (and, come to think of it, neither am I). But recently, she’s been spending a fair amount of time with with a family who lives in our neighborhood. I actually know the family very well and like them a lot, and my kid is good friends with their kids. Now, one of those kids is about to have her first confession, which is a big deal for Catholics. My daughter has heard them talking all about the classes that must be taken and the preparation that must be done before this sacrament is celebrated, and the talk has piqued her interest.

So she began asking me about religion, and Catholicism in particular. She knows that I was born into a Catholic family, and that some of my family still practice the faith, and she wanted to know why we don’t celebrate Easter or attend church the way our neighbors do. I explained to her that, even though the family I was born into was Catholic, everyone has to come to their own decision about their faith. They may find they feel more comfortable with a different religion than the one they were raised with, or they may find they don’t feel comfortable with any one particular religion at all. I also told her why I’m not a practicing member of a particular church – mainly, the reason is that, after I started learning about other religions besides Catholicism, I realized that there were way too many different ideas about God for all of them to be right, and I didn’t know how anyone would “know” which one was “the right one” to follow. I explained that faith means exactly that – belief in something that you can’t necessarily prove, but something that you feel in your heart is true nonetheless. And I explained that I don’t have that sort of faith in any God in particular. I could have gone on about that, and at some length, but I figured that was enough for the purposes of our discussion.

My daughter wasn’t sure how to process this information. She has been OK with the idea of Easter being a family celebration up until now. But, after spending time with the neighbors and hearing their own traditions, she wonders if we should be “more religious” about it too. I decided that, since she was showing an interest, it would be a good time to break out a book I’d bought ages ago, in anticipation of the fact that I’d be sharing it with her when she was ready.

Book available at BooksAMillion.com

It’s called The Kids Book of World Religions, and it is a really good, objective and comprehensive collection of information about the many different faiths of people all over the world. I had always assumed we’d get into this discussion at some point. And when we did, I wanted her to hear from me that there were multiple belief systems, not just the one or two she always sees and hears about, and I wanted to present these to her in a non-judgmental way. This book does the job very well.

After we got into it a bit, she was definitely interested to find out more about the subject of religion. Still, she felt as if she was drawn toward Christianity in particular. Some of it was based on how her friend next door was discussing it with her.  “It seems really nice that Angelina (the neighbor kid) has this whole confession to do, and she gets a dress and a party and she gets treated like a grown up more for being closer to God after she does it”. But beyond that, she was also interested in the Easter story, and she was asking if we could go to church this Easter.

Now, that one threw me for a loop, y’all. I haven’t set foot inside a church since my grandfather’s funeral a few years ago. Neither my husband nor I had any plans to attend any type of service any time soon, and only then if it was because we had a wedding, baptism or funeral to go to. I think it’s important to let my kid explore her questions about her own spirituality, but I also feel like some of this might be a temporary thing, based on how ‘cool” she thinks it is for her friend to be getting a dress, and a party, and fabulous cash prizes.

I ended up telling her that we would not be going to church this Sunday. As it happens, we are driving down to spend the day with my folks and my grandmother, so we would be hard-pressed to make a service and still get to their house on time. But in the meantime, I told my kid that we’d spend some more time learning about and discussing Jesus and Christianity, and other religions as well, so she can see if any of it makes sense to her. I have no problem doing that, and I want her to be satisfied that, if she feels a genuine pull toward some specific belief, she has the freedom to follow it. I also want her to know that it’s OK not to decide on a religion, or to decide that the concept of religion in general is not her thing. She will have to make her own way on this subject, just as I did. I expect it’ll be a while before she knows what seems right for her, but the process of figuring it out has to begin sometime, and for her, that time is now.

At least she’s still willing to do the egg hunt and share some of her candy with me. Her interest in learning about religion is something I can handle. But if she ever turned her back on Peeps and Cadbury, then I’d be truly concerned for her welfare. Not to mention my sweet tooth.

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15 thoughts on “Today’s WTF: Jesus vs. the Easter Bunny

  1. Kids…gotta love’m huh? They’re so suggestible at that age, to anything that excites their emotions. I believe you did the absolute right thing. They need something to believe in and you’ve planted the seed of follow your own heart into her. I think she’ll be fine…Happy Easter

    • Thanks for the comment, and the support. I honestly don’t know how all this is coming across to my kid, but I want her to be open-minded and inquisitive (not just about religion, but in general), so hopefully I’m setting the right tone for that to develop. And if not, I can always start saving up for her therapy now. Never hurts to think ahead! 🙂

  2. I say let her explore, and do some yourself, you never know what could happen! I don’t think you will ever find a perfect “religion” but you might find a comfortable place to worship, and pray. I began looking into different religions, and churches, I don’t know what I am, but I’ll tell you what I did find, I like to worship God, not like a Catholic, or a Baptist, I like how they did it in the Bible, when it involved dancing and singing and playing instruments. I like a big loud crazy church myself, because I feel like THAT is what ‘they’ did in Bible times.

    • You doubt yourself, but your response to her was so good that I wanted to hug you and give you a big gold star on the parenting chart! (I never have sense enough to respond so reasonably when my children put me on the spot.) Have you ever read Life of Pi? It’s a story about an Indian boy who ends up stuck on a lifeboat with a Bengal tiger. But, before that, the author provides quite a bit of backstory about the boy’s need to worship. He visits a Hindu teacher, a Christian priest, and a Muslim leader, and he decides he likes pieces of what all the faiths have to offer. When he incorporates some of all three faiths into his own worship of a higher power, it horrifies the individual teachers who pounce on him in a group confrontation. His response, “I just want to love God,” shuts down their insistence that their ways are the only ways. Your daughter may discover an innate need to worship some higher power, and the ability to choose is so important. It’s the same reason we don’t want our lovers to love us because we’ve given them Love Potion Number Nine. We want them to choose to love us. The same applies to whatever deity we select for our devotion–the devotion is worth so much more when given out of our own choice rather than just lifetime indoctrination. This comment’s kinda long…sorry!

      • I read that book a few weeks ago & loved it.

        I have the same issues with religion in my family. The kids have been to vacation Bible school with friends, but I don’t take them to church. I went to a Christian school as a kid and got enough of all that back then. My son thinks it’s all BS, but my oldest daughter is questioning what she believes. I am just letting them find their own way and trying not to inject my opinion into it. The hardest part for me is when a loved one or a pet dies. I don’t believe in heaven, but I want to comfort my kids. I like to believe that we go on to another form of existence, but I don’t know. I feel like I am lying if I say anything other than “they are at peace and will never suffer pain or sadness again.”

      • awriteablelife:
        Thanks so much – it’s been a long while since I got a gold star! Yay me! 🙂 No, I haven’t read that book, but it’s an interesting premise. Might be worth looking at. And no worries about the length of the comment – I’m always happy to have others chime in with their 2 cents, even if it turns into 4 cents or even 10 cents – as long as they’re reasonable and respectful, it’s all good.

        brabbler: Glad to know I’m not the only one who isn’t always sure about how to handle this topic with their kids! But it sounds like you have a decent handle on it as well. And I’m glad to see you liked that book, now that 2 folks have recommended it I will see if I can find it in the library when I make my weekly run.

  3. I heard a pastor explain the different religions this way, they all make up the body of Christ, (coming from a Christian point of view) different body parts do different things, and thumb doest it’s job, the ears do theirs, but they are all attached to the one body.
    A lot of religions, when you boil it down, just want us to love one another, and say thanks to God.
    All prayers go to God, he can fill the need a in us that nothing else can. I know to some people is all sounds like a crock of 08&6, but when it sinks in, you get more comfortable with it.
    I’ll shut up now… I have a tendency to ramble 🙂

    • Yeah, I agree with what you’re saying, in terms of the idea that many religions are variations on a similar theme. I took several courses on world religions in college, and was struck by the similarities I saw in many of them. As you said, they are all different paths that head in (basically) the same direction. My personal situation is that I was never compelled to head in that direction, regardless of the path. It is a faith thing, as I said in my post. I think you need to have it before you can commit to any type of worship, and I have never had that faith in that way.

      Having said all that, I know my daughter might, and so I’m not going to discourage her from learning about things and asking questions. We’ll see where it leads, but as long as it’s her path and she’s following it for the right reasons – and not because she wants a party or a dress! – I’ll be open to it. 🙂

    • And most of us have a Christian point of view due to “location”…but all the world’s main religions share some common tenets and the celebrations or traditions of each are nice to share with other like-minded believers. And even though the institutions of worship try to indoctrinate a cooky-cutter worship style; we can teach our children that what they believe in their hearts is private and personal.

  4. Hmmm… this would be tough. I have no children, and too old to have any now. Although I am an atheist and would probably raise my child being honest with them about my atheism. And, I do also like the Kids Book on the World of Religion. and honestly, I would supply that to my own child. I only became an atheist after I (informally) studied several religions (plus 12 years of science, geology and paleontology in college mixed in there). I firmly believe people need to decide for themselves and not let others decide for them. It’s amazing how much more content I am when I finally accepted what I truly believe and quit trying to believe what others think I should believe.

  5. I have always told my 3 daughters that if they never read the whole Bible, they should at least read Matthew, Mark, Luke and John (the Gospels); mainly the red highlighted lines that are words attributed to Jesus. If they just embrace those words, pray or meditate upon them, and practice them in their day-to-day lives – they could have a fulfilling spiritual relationship. (Proverbs and Psalms are pretty cool too.)

    Btw, I will be posting something related to this issue on Easter Sunday!..It hilights an article by Carl Medearis, and feel in him I have found a kindred spirit in the way he approaches Christianity, with out the evangelizing and hypocrisy – you should google him, when you get the chance.

    p.s. I was raised Catholic too…I have a 30 year-old daughter and 19 year-old twins…I have to admit, sometimes I regret not raising them with the whole first communion, confirmation, etc…every culture has those religious traditions and I think it wouldn’t have harmed my children, and they still could have settled upon their own personal spiritual lives – as so many Catholics have.

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