Tuesday, April 14, 2009

A Shared History

Judith Warner's most recent post had me captivated. She shares her upbringing as a combination of Judaism and Christianity in the following NY Times.com post: This I Believe - Judith Warner Blog - NYTimes.com and raises questions around how we all treat our own faith and religion as well as the value placed on that for our children.

Personally, I admire the dedication of the Jewish people I know who fast every year for Yom Kippur and honor the tradition of Passover by eating Matzoh for 8 days following two very long Seder dinners. We Christians tend to decide one way or another if it's proper to take communion every week or once a month. To use real wine or grape juice. To give up something for Lent or not. (Personally, I spent the first 6 years after having kids not giving anything up for Lent because I felt I had already given up enough. I trust God understands where my perspective was at the time). However, all of that said, what I was missing from my Christian upbringing was the emphasis on the fact that Jewish or Christian, we all started from the same place - if you follow the story of Genesis. And I do.

I was about 30 years old when I realized that Jesus was Jewish! His final meal with his disciples before his Crucifixion was a Seder dinner. It makes so much sense as an adult to think about this, but one must keep in mind that while I was in Sunday school 30 years ago this was not a widely publicized fact.

So, how do we present faith (and religion) to our children in a way that doesn't take them 30 years to figure out how intertwined the Jewish and Christian faiths are? This is something that, as with many other things, only became important to me once I had kids. It's as much in the spirit of giving them an accurate understanding of the Bible (as much as one can really digest the complex path and stories of the Bible) as well as to teach tolerance. Just because we share different holidays doesn't mean that there has to be such a strong separation between faiths (although it seems that gap is shrinking every day). In theory, when we Episcopalians take communion every Sunday we should go home and have a Seder in honor of Jesus' last meal with his disciples. Or maybe the Seder should be on Saturday night and then Communion on Sunday. I don't have the answer but I for one had a much greater appreciation for the bread and wine served in church after watching The Passion and seeing how the last 12 hours of Jesus' life played out.

My goal as a parent has always been to give my children the tools they need to make their own decisions; and faith is no exception. You can choose which religion to follow (these would be the rituals we follow while enclosed in the walls of a religious institution) but faith, I believe, goes much deeper. Faith comes from that which we cannot see. It comes from, as in Warner's case, a Jewish upbringing with 9 years in an Episcopalian church or in my husband's case a mother dragging 4 kids to church but a father reading the Bible, or in my case, a light bulb going off. At the time of Easter and Passover, when many sacrifices were made to get God's point across, it's good for all of us to take a step back and be thankful for what we have.

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