#59: Out of the Mouths of Babes


Mom and Dad are not religious,
and have not yet taught their boy much
about the wide array of stuff
people believe in their
hearts and homes and churches,
but the boy’s starting to catch on
with or without their intervention
and today it was clear, to Dad anyway,
that some intervention will be necessary soon,
possibly as early as right now,
as the boy tells his father’s brother
(the real minister in the family)
that God is dead.

No, he wasn’t quoting Nietzsche;
he’s only seven and is woefully
underschooled in existentialist
philosophy. Far from
the young lad making any kind
of atheistic statement, he was probably
just talking about what he knows,
that Jesus did in fact die a long time ago.
But that’s not how it was heard
by Dad’s brother the pastor,
and it’s not the way Dad heard
it at first either.  Subsequently,
Dad is mortified and embarrassed and
kind of angry, even though the sentiment,
even if it were some kind of child pronouncement
of anti-faith, is not terribly far afield of Dad’s worldview.

Here’s the thing he wants his son to know:
Even if you think someone’s beliefs are bunk
(and you’re probably too young to come to that),
you don’t say the thing you know they will hate to hear
because you will either hurt them, alienate them,
make them think of you poorly, hate you,
or make them want to kill you.
And what good is that?
So we apologize for disrespecting
our family member’s religion,
even if we didn’t mean any harm
and even if its a religion our parents
seem not to be practicing. Dad knows,
and the young boy on the edge of his eighth
birthday is learning fast:
We’re navigating rough waters, now.

Published by michaeljarmer

I'm a public high school English teacher, fiction writer, poet, and musician in Portland, Oregon

One thought on “#59: Out of the Mouths of Babes

  1. I remember feeling similarly mortified when Nikki, an invited guest at a friend’s bible camp, explained that she wasn’t “a big fan of Jesus.” She then clarified to the stunned group that she believed in the “ape God.” Cringe-worthy stuff.

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