20 August 2017

Theology with the Kids [1985]


[written 20 August 1985]
H
eaven is an imaginary place in the sky where dead souls go, says my nephew Brandon [age 5]. The souls go fluttering up like butterflies, and God catches them and puts them in His oven for Him and his family to eat. And what can you tell me about God, Brandon, I ask. I know everything about God, says Brandon. You can ask me anything. Fair enough, say I. Who is he? God isn’t a man, says Brandon incredulously. A woman, then? I ask. God isn’t a man or a woman, says Brandon impatiently. God is the floor of a black hole where all the dead people go. The floor of a black hole? I repeat. A long long time ago, when we were all Catholics, says Brandon, then we all used to go to heaven. But now, he adds, now we don’t go anywhere.
Which is real? my nephew Sage [almost 7] propounds. Jesus or God? Well, uh, I don’t know I reply, I guess they’re both real in different ways. You mean like in another dimension? asks Sage. Well, I mean like Jesus is a real person in history, I say, and he was really executed by the Romans for rebellion against the state— I don’t believe, says my niece Rachel [age 11], that a man could really walk on water. How do you know the priests didn’t just make him up? Well, say I, we don’t really know that anything ever happened in history, but the evidence is— What about God? interrupts Sage. Well, God belongs in a different order of reality, I say. You mean, says Sage, that God doesn’t exist. I mean, I say, that God is a symbol we use for the things that are good and true and beautiful. I mean that God is how we express the purpose of the universe. I mean that God is as real as we make it. Oh, I’m sure, says Rachel, like I’m sure God is real if somebody believes in him. Something’s either real, says Sage, or else it’s imaginary. There’s only one kind of reality. But, Sage adds in consolation, there are three kinds of infinity.

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