Teaching religion to children can be quite tricky. Their natural inquisitive minds tear right through walls of dogma. Initially, I thought it would be a piece of cake. I learned religion the way my forefathers learned their religion from the conquering colonials.
It was shoved through their throats.
Picture this: glowing white men with bayonets and guns came off a boat with their fancy gay dress. They arrived in this archipelago which was humid and hot and they were stinking and sweating and they saw the native residents enjoying themselves walking around half-naked.
The fancy pants men were envious of the half-naked men and called them savages.
Then they loaded off their things including several wooden statues and started praying over it.
The half-naked men thought the fancy pants men were funny, kneeling over wood.
“This is God,” said the fancy pants men. “What’s yours?”
“We have so many gods. We have the sun, the air, the wind, those animals,” said the half-naked men. “I’ve got a god right under my g-string, too.”
“This is the one true God,” said the fancy pants men. “Your gods are wrong.”
The fancy pants men were so white they must be right. Some refused to believe the fancy pants men so the fancy pants men killed them all.
End of story.
Of course I’m being simplistic.
It didn’t happen that way.
The Spaniards came and offered trinkets to the native residents of this archipelago and they planted their flag and called it the Philippines, to honor their king.
They held on to the 7,100 islands for 400 years forcing everyone on sight to believe in the wooden icon … until the Americans came to help the rebellion of the native residents of the islands. Then the Americans bought the country from Spain and, in effect, stole the victory. Those who refused were killed. And those who killed American soldiers, 10 native residents were killed: men, women, or children. Then the Japanese came and bombed the hell out of Pearl Harbor and they kicked the Americans out of the Philippines.
The Americans were pissed and they, too, believed in God. So they sent the godless Japanese to meet God and dropped the Atomic Bomb in Hiroshima and Nagasaki till thy kingdom come.
There went the ballgame.
Quid pro quo.
Or quid pro quo too much.
Given the wounded soul of the Americans over Pearl Harbor, vengeance was a natural reaction; however:
General Dwight D. Eisenhower, in a personal visit to President Truman a couple of weeks before the bombings, urged him not to use the atomic bombs. Eisenhower said (in a 1963 interview in Newsweek):
“It wasn’t necessary to hit them with that awful thing . . . to use the atomic bomb, to kill and terrorize civilians, without even attempting [negotiations], was a double crime.”
The fissionable material in Hiroshima’s bomb was uranium. The Nagasaki bomb was a plutonium bomb. Scientific curiosity was a significant factor that pushed the project to its completion. The Manhattan Project scientists (and the US Army director of the project, General Leslie Groves) were curious about “what would happen if an entire city was leveled by a single uranium bomb?” “What about a plutonium bomb?”
The decision to use both bombs had been made well in advance of August 1945. Accepting the surrender of Japan was not an option if the science experiment was to go ahead.
To this day, Hiroshima and Nagasaki are stains to human decency. Not even the godless Japanese deserved that. The Americans could have annihilated the Japanese army, that’s the price of war, but innocent children?
There are no winners in wars … there are only losers, and it’s usually both camps.
So forgive me if I’m having a bit of struggle explaining to my child the concept of religion and which one he should take among the many that claim to have a direct line to God.
Ever since the Spaniards came to rename the 7,100 islands of this archipelago to Philippines, it’s become the largest Catholic country in Southeast Asia. It’s actually the only country on earth where divorce is not allowed, despite the fact that Spain — which rammed through its religion to the half-naked offsprings of this country, already has divorce.
Even the Pope sways little influence to the highly conservative and highly corrupt bishops of the Philippines.
How’s that for dogma?
But my struggle is teaching the story of Jesus the Christ.
The flaw in the Christ stories was that Christ, who didn’t look like much, was actually the Son of the Most Powerful Being in the Universe.
Readers understood that, so, when they came to the crucifixion, they naturally thought …
Oh, boy — they sure picked the wrong guy to lynch that time!
And that thought had a brother: “There are right people to lynch.”
People not well connected.
Think of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
If the story of Jesus was rewritten, it should be like this:
Jesus really was a nobody, and a pain in the neck to a lot of people with better connections than he had. He still got to say all the lovely and puzzling things he said in the other Gospels.
So the people amused themselves one day by nailing him to a cross and planting the cross in the ground. There couldn’t possibly be any repercussions, the lynchers thought. The reader would have to think that too, since the Gospel hammered home again and again what a nobody Jesus was.
And then, just before the nobody died, the heavens opened up, and there was thunder and lightning. The voice of God came crashing down. He told the people that he was adopting the bum as his son, giving him the full powers and privileges of the Son of the Creator of the Universe throughout all eternity.
God said this:
From this moment on, He will punish anybody who torments a bum who has no connections!
Hopefully, a real dialogue of faith can happen:
But, of course, the inquisitive mind of my child would not rest with that:
“Somebody once said that when the Americans dropped the bomb, mankind got to know what sin is,” I said.
My son: “What is sin?”
Ok … there was this Naked Woman … it always starts with a naked woman, my son.
Son: “They’re the problem?”
Me: “If you believe all the religious books, if you believe the FPI, they say they’re always the problem. Can you picture your mom as a problem?”
Son: “Only to you.”
“Got that right, son, but let’s not tell your mom.”
Son: “So has anyone seen God?”
Son: “Did He write the stories?”
Me: “No, but there was a bush where spoke.”
Son: “A speaking bush! Like in the fairy tales? You said fairy tales are not true!”
Me: “But …”
Son: “So they really turn water into wine? Like magic?”
Me: “It’s a symbol of…”
Son: “But you said drinking soda or wine is not good.”
Me: “Just not too muc…”
Son: “So it’s OK to drink inside the Church?”
Me: “But just because you can’t see God doesn’t mean you can’t…”
Son: “Do ghosts really exist, Dad?”
Me: “There are a lot more things that we cannot explain because the spirit…”
Son: “About that, do clothes have spirits too?”
Me: “Of course, not. Don’t be silly.”
Son: “Then why they say they see ghosts wearing clothes? Shouldn’t they at least be naked?”
Me: “Son … have you heard of the Crucifixion?”
Son: “What’s that?”
Me: “They made Jesus carry this huge wood around town, whipped him real good, then they nailed him to the cross, put him up in the air, and stabbed his side.”
Son: “Mamaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa ….”
That certainly shut him up
His Mother: “What’re you doing scaring your son?”
Me: “I was teaching him religion.”
His Mother: “And you couldn’t break that gently?”
Me: “Well the sooner he learned that life is tough and that wars happen, the better prepared he’ll be.”
His Mother: “War? What do you know about war? I dread covering wars.”
Me: “I wore an ROTC uniform and played with a wooden gun.”
His Mother: “Yeah, a baby in a war — like the ones in the room.”
I nodded that this was true. We had been foolish virgins in uniforms pretending to be ready for war. I certainly would’ve followed orders and shot everyone on sight, including a returning Jesus Christ.”
Me: “Maybe I should write about the horrors of war.”
His Mother: “But you’re not going to write it that way, are you.” This wasn’t a question. It was an accusation.
“I — I don’t know,” I said.
“Well I know,” she said. “You’ll pretend you were men instead of babies, and you’ll be portrayed in the movies by Tom Hanks or some of those other glamorous, war-loving, dirty old men. And war will look just wonderful, so we’ll have a lot more of them. And they’ll be fought by babies like the babies inside the room.”
So then I understood. It was war that made her so angry. She didn’t want her babies or anybody else’s babies killed in wars. And she thought wars were partly encouraged by books and movies.
So I held up my right hand and I made her a promise:
“Kathy,” I said, “I don’t think this book of mine is ever going to be finished. I just said I could write a book about a war. If I ever do, though, I give you my word of honor: there won’t be a part for Tom Hanks.
His Mother: “You can’t even kill a cockroach! Go stick to your funny stuff. That makes people laugh. War, if ever you’ve seen it, is not fought by old men. They’re fought by babies. If ever you write a book about it, call it The Children’s Wars … and there are no Angry Birds there, only dead ones. Jeez, here I am doing the best I can I don’t get sent to cover wars and you’re glorifying it?”
Me: “Don’t take the name of the Lord thy God in vain.”
His mother gave me a stern look.
I don’t like religion and war stories anymore.