A couple of weeks ago, the family is walking out of church, and we are stopped by the Childrens' Minister. She places her hand on top of Orangeboy's head and leans in to DH and I, in her conspiratorial way, and quietly says, "I want you to know, that we had a little challenge today. During prayer requests he requested that something mean would happen to his sister - which made her cry."
She told us that she had to take the boy outside and have a talk. He told her that he did not think there was anything to pray for or thank God for and that God isn't real anyway.
I was embarrassed but really wasn't terribly surprised. He had also recently written in his Bible,
"God isn't real, this is all a trick."
I knew something was clunking around up in those cogs in his noggin. I had decided that not giving it too much attention was the best initial attack plan.
I talked to the minister again later in the week and found out that the previous Sunday's incident was not the first time he had shocked and confused his young peers in Sunday school by voicing his doubts and agnostic philosophy.
After talking it over with a couple of people, I decided that I should just explain to Orangeboy that arguing and disagreeing with what was taught in Sunday school and church was best done at home. Or he could ask a trusted adult his questions in private. He said "Ok" without much commitment or enthusiasm.
This past Sunday night, while tucking him in to bed, I followed up and asked if he had any questions about what he had heard in Sunday school. There was a long pause while he seemed to be thinking with his eyes closed, and I waited with nervous anticipation of a deep theological question. I was expecting something broad and challenging; like, how do we know God is real? or How can we believe the Bible?
He finally admitted, "Well, I have two questions."
"Ok. Will you ask them now and if I have to do some research I can get started?"
He grins uncomfortably and asks, "Do I have to?"
"I would appreciate it." I reply, while cringing inwardly.
"Well...the first one is... what did King David do wrong?"
(What?!) "Umm. He, uhh, did several things wrong and made mistakes."
(I'm thinking fast about why he wants to know, and picturing naked Bathsheeba taking a bath on the roof while the King drools on a nearby rooftop...)
"Well, he mainly was in a lot of wars and so God didn't want David to build His temple because he was a man of war."
(Orangeboy doesn't look satisfied - too vague - I still can't stop thinking about the Bathsheeba incident.)
"Also David did a VERY bad thing. He sent a man to a dangerous war and put him out front so that he would be killed and then King David married that man's wife. That was VERY BAD and David paid the consequences. He even cried later."
(Orangeboy looks a little surprised but says nothing. Too much info this time?)
"What do think? Is that sort of what you wanted to know?"
"Well, I guess so." (silence)
Me, trying again, "I think we are supposed to learn from David's story that even though we mess up and do wrong things, God can still love us and use us to do good things." (more silence)
"What was your second question?"
"Well... how many kings did David have to go through?"
"Go through? You mean - like kill?"
"Yes, you know, to get to be king."
"Well, it's not like a video game. He didn't become king by racking up enough points and getting through the other kings. David was chosen by God. A prophet came and said that God had chosen David to be the next king. And he was only the second king of Israel. So he really didn't have to go through anyone, he just became king next after Saul died."
So now I think I understand my little agnostic a bit better. His main focuses in life have always been: what sort of things can one get in trouble for?, and how many points do I have to get? That's what he wanted to know.
Maybe too, that's the basis for his "beef" with God. The Bible isn't too clear on exactly what is going to be on the test and how many points are necessary to be a high scorer. There are also a lot of things you could get in trouble for. And sometimes the stories indicate harsh consequences and other times individuals seem to get away with it and please God anyway.
When it comes to spirituality and religion, there is just a lot of grey area and quicksand for a guy who prefers the black and white of life and who feels safest on the solid ground of known and memorizable facts.
But I think I did pretty good with my answers after all.