A few weeks ago, as Annika was falling asleep for the second time, she sleepily whispered, “Sing Jesus Loves Me, Mama.”
I complied. And as I sang the song, well-known from my own childhood, I felt a strange separation closing in. Not just the song, but the symbolism of the song, was a part of my childhood I had never planned on introducing to my own child. She learned the song from her dad. He sings it to her as a lullaby.
It’s totally his prerogative and I have already made peace with it. But it had never occurred to me that she would ask me to be involved in the introduction to religion. It never occurred to me that she would ask me to sing that song to her.
When I was pregnant, one of the biggest disagreements between Toyin and I was what we would teach to Annika about religion.
I have strong feelings against organized religion. To me, organized religion is a manner of control. It’s filled with lies and mythology. It is, to say the least, misleading. And to say the worst, it’s fear-based mind control. I believe that the majority of it lies somewhere in between. Like everything else, we hear the worst of it in the media. But teaching that bundle of fear to my daughter, as a way of life, is something I could not bring myself to do as a mother.
I will always tell my daughter the truth.
But she’s Toyin’s daughter too. And whatever his reasoning, he believes that it is the right thing for him to teach to Annika
So we made a deal. I would not stand in his way of introducing Christianity to her (because, really, how could I anyway?). And in turn, he would not stand in my way of introducing her to Eastern philosophies like Buddhism. We both kind of liked the idea of giving her an eclectic mix of doctrine.
I genuinely want her to know Christianity, because much of the world doesn’t make sense if you don’t understand religion. I just hope that she will view it with a healthy skepticism. I had always thought I would have introduced it to my child/children in a more academic manner, but that’s not how it turned out.
So, anyway, I sang the song, because to her, it’s just a lullaby (I think). And as I did, I picked it apart in my head.
It’s so clearly written by a human, a weak human, giving up their own power to some all-knowing faceless god. And such a clear sign that some power-hungry church leader understood human psychology well enough to know that you have to start breaking them down at a young age.
“Jesus loves me this I know. For the Bible tells me so.” (I only know things because it’s in the Bible. Don’t question anything.)
“Little ones to him belong. They are weak, but he is strong.” (You’re weak and powerless. Give all your power to a faceless, mysterious God.)
“Yes, Jesus loves me. Ditto. Ditto. Ditto…. The Bible tells me so.” (Reiterating your helplessness and ignorance.)
The problem I have with this song is the message. And it’s the problem I have with organized religion. I have no problem with many of the messages in the Bible, or scripture from other religions. They all teach much of the same things. Love people. Love yourself. Do good works. Have faith. These are good messages. They are powerful messages.
What pisses me off are the messages we get from the human beings in these organizations. Human are weak. We are ignorant. We can’t think for ourselves. I don’t believe those messages come from God. I believe those messages come from weak, mean-spirited human church leaders who want to control a population in the name of spreading good in the world.
And while the message that we are weak is not entirely false, it shines the spotlight on our weakness, instead of our strength and goodness.
Yes, we are weak. But WE are also strong.
Logically, without one, there cannot be the other.
Weakness defines strength. Strength defines weakness. The message of this song and other religious jargon, we are the weak ones, and God is the only one with strength. That’s what’s wrong with religion. It’s a wrong message.
We define He. He defines We.
Religion teaches us that without HIM, God Almighty, that we are nothing.
Well, logic tells me that without US, he would be nothing. Right? So, he needs us as much as we need him. Therefore, we cannot be the only ones who are weak.
These are all rhetorical questions, because truthfully, I don’t know what’s out there.
You may assume at this point I am agnostic. I’m not. Nor am I an atheist, which, most people who know me, even very well, assume. I believe in a higher power. I believe in a god, or perhaps, gods. I just don’t like religion. Religion and spirituality are two totally separate things.
What I do believe about God is that we don’t know. We don’t know what or who God is. It is incomprehensible. She/he/it is something that we cannot understand.
And all that said, I still find solace in the Bible. I believe in the power of prayer, if only because it connects us to our inner voice and gives us time to reflect and send healing thoughts and strength into the world.
I actually enjoy going to church because it connects me to a time in my life when I did believe. And strangely enough, even though I’ve spent many years being angry at the false messages I received as a child, lately, I’ve begun to recognize that I got a lot of good out of the spiritual life.
I think I’ve always carried the idea of Jesus and God with me, even through my angriest moments. I’ve never stopped praying. Sometimes lately it comes in the form of meditation. But it’s still a strong force in my life.
So, what I will teach Annika is to believe in the power, to believe in love, but most of all to believe in herself.
Because yes, she is weak, but SHE is also strong. And yes, Jesus loves ALL of us. Maybe he was the son of God. Or maybe he was just a weirdo who liked hookers. Either way, he’s cool in my book.