Me: (bouncing happily to the dinner table) The pumpkin seed is asleep.
Me: I can eat with two hands!
Hank: I have a question.
Pai: Diz (tell).
Hank: What is batizado (baptized)?
Me: It means to be baptized. It is a ritual that links you to a religion.
Hank: Oh. Am I batizado (baptized)?
Pai: No. Why do you ask?
Hank: Because a boy at my school asked me if I was batizado (baptized) and I said I didn’t know what that was and he said if I didn’t know then I wasn’t and everyone should be batizado (baptized).
Pai: That isn’t true.
Me: But certainly many, many people feel that way. (pause) As the only person at this table who is baptized may I take up the reins on this conversation?
Hank: You aren’t baptized either, papa?
Me: Hank, I was baptized as a little baby. Your Grammy and Grandpa Snitch are very active in the Lutheran Church, a church that follows the teachings of Jesus. I was raised in the church, sang in the choir, participated in the youth group, went to church camp, even seriously wanted to join a missionary Christian rock band.
Me: Yes and I am very happy that I grew up learning the teachings of Jesus, but when I got older there were some things that the church and I didn’t agree on. Not Jesus, per say, but the people who follow Jesus’ teaching.
Hank: (chewing) Like what?
Me: The church at the time I was a member believed it was a sin to be gay and that being gay was wrong and I couldn’t understand that. They also believed that Jesus should be the world’s only teacher and I also took offense to that because I think all religions and teachers are important and equal. Because of this I asked a lot of hard questions and the pastors, or the church leaders, and I couldn’t come to a resolution and in the end they felt that it would be better if I worshiped quietly and stopped bringing up my questions in front of the younger members of the church and this hurt my heart.
Hank: Why did they say that?
Me: Because these men, the preachers, were scared. They were scared my questions would make other younger members of the church have similar questions and at the time they were not prepared to answer them. Now, please remember these are only two people and not a whole church. The world has changed a lot in 20 years and people do silly things when they are scared.
Me: So when I left the church I read a great deal about other religions and when I met you papa I was introduced to my friend Jenelle. You remember Leif’s mom?
Hank: Oh yes.
Me: And her teacher is Buddha and just through her life and her faith I learned so much about strength and that we all have the power of god within us and since then I consider Buddha as my teacher. When you were born your Grammy and Grandpa Snitch asked to have you baptized and that was a beautiful and special thing to ask, but you papa and I wanted you to make your own choice about who your teacher would be, so we said no, but asked them to share with you stories and books and take you to church and if you chose Jesus to be your teacher when you were older then they could help you be baptized.
Hank: I like my Grammy’s church. I like getting dressed up and they have a big toy room downstairs.
Pai: We wanted you to make your own decision.
Hank: There are classes here I can go to with Irina.
Me: Yes, and if you want to go you may.
Hank: My teacher says that all kids should go to catecismo (catechism).
Pai: SHE believes all children should go to catecismo, you shouldn’t do something because it is what other people believe. You should do it because YOU believe it to be true.
Me: In my opinion that was wrong of her to say, because she knows that you and Mariama do not follow the teachings of Jesus. That is saying to Mariama that her teacher is wrong and that hurts my heart. Mariama’s teacher Muhammad and her religion Islam is one of the most beautiful religions in the world. In your teacher’s opinion she is saying this to help you find Jesus. But why must she believe that Jesus is better than another teacher?
Pai: Here in the north people are catholic and very religious, but being religious doesn’t mean you have to be right and someone else has to be wrong.
Hank: Ok, because I like you teacher mama, and I like Jesus I don’t want to choose.
Me: Then we have made the right decision and when and if you want you can choose a teacher to help guide your life you may or you can continue to be who you are and let your heart guide you. You have a very special heart and it won’t steer you wrong.
Hank: Ok… Can I have some more pasta please?
Molly: (crying from the other room)
Pai: I will get the pacote (package).
Me: Sure, buddy. (smiling at my beautiful family)