Friday, October 9, 2015

Making Religion Tasty

Wine a little
Did you ever read The Best Christmas Pageant Ever? Excellent book. The only reason the Herdmans came to church was for the refreshments. Food brings people in. My middle son's CCD teacher knows this and is using food to teach third graders about religion. 

He told me calmly that she used an apple to teach them about creation. Made sense. But he was delighted to tell me she used Doritos to explain the Holy Trinity. Triangle food, get it? I have to admit, she's onto something. A kid who fought CCD every step of the way now doesn't argue about going at all. God and third graders love that nacho cheese crunch. 

This past week she used jelly bean flavors to explain how in life we don't always get what we want. I'm down with that lesson, too, and down with using food to teach. Frankly, I've found it tough to explain religion to my kids. Let me rephrase that: I've found it tough to explain some aspects of our religion to my kids. Back when my middle son made his First Communion he received a LEGO version of the Bible and read it almost cover to cover. Some of the stories in the Old Testament are crazy! 

For Catholics, the whole Mass centers around a meal, known in fancy religious terms as The Last Supper. It was the meal Jesus shared with his disciples before one of them turned him into the religious authorities. The meal at Mass isn't anything wonderful, basically some plain, tasteless bread and a small optional sip of wine. I imagine the real Last Supper was a lot more delicious.

Even though it's barely a bite and a sip, my kids like eating at Mass. My middle one who is notoriously picky loves the tasteless bread and my older, foodie son drained the wine sample he got before his First Communion. He takes the wine at EVERY Mass. 

Sharing food is an important part of Jesus's life (loaves and fishes, wine at the wedding, fishing). 
That makes sense to my kids and me because eating together is one of our favorite family pastimes. 

I just wish all of the teachings of the Catholic Church were easy to explain with tasty each flavored corn chips. I mean, it's hard enough to talk to my kids about how we're supposed to believe we are eating the body and blood of Christ. Like, real cannibalism. I have a really hard time with that one. 
But what kind of food can we use to explain that we're not supposed to use contraception? Or that priests can't marry, that women can't be priests, and that married people can't get a divorce or that two people who love each other can't get married and create a loving family?

Not too long ago my middle son asked if he could wait outside church until it was time for communion and then be called in. When I told him no, he asked me if he could choose another religion. I said sure, then he asked why I decided to be Catholic. Part of the reason was because I grew up Catholic, but a big part of me wondered why I stayed Catholic when there are so many things about this religion that I disagree with and that go against what Jesus taught. 

One thing that really got under my skin lately is the conversation I had with our pastor. I asked if he would support gun safety and start a conversation about gun violence in the church and he said he couldn't. He said it would divide the congregation. But there are plenty of things I am guessing already divides the congregation. And guns are killing people. Women as priests aren't. Guns are.

He did say he was in support of reduced gun violence as a right to life issue and all I could think of was the nun who argued most "right to life" supporters are really just pro birth. I do oppose the death penalty and oppose gun violence but I do support a woman's right to choose.

Sometimes the church just seems so out of touch with Jesus's big message of Do Unto Others. We focus on that message a lot in our family when we discuss our religion. It's a lot easier to remind them to treat people with kindness and respect. And it makes sense to do this in ways my kids can really understand, like feeding people facing hunger in our community. So we dedicate a lot of our volunteering and charitable donations to food bank programs. And we do donate a lot of Doritos.