Talking to Your Children About God AS LGBT Parents
by The Rev. Robert Warren Cromey
Many lesbian and gay people have been told that God will punish you because you love and have sex with partners of the same sex. Sex between men and men and women and women are condemned by God’s law and subject to God’s capital punishment in this life. With this heritage, it is not strange that lesbian and gay people have turned from churches, synagogues and houses of worship that proclaim such a hateful God.
When you have children, you have a dilemma. You may disavow God but the children go to pre-school, meet other kids and there is talk of God and your child comes home and inquires about this God stuff. What to do?
Even if you are not a believer, you might take a look at the idea of God now that you are a mature adult. Chances are you have not thought much about God since you were a child and certainly not much since you rejected God. That is your life script so far. Here are some ideas to think about.
- God is not religious, nice, one of us, an American nor a capitalist. That by the way is the name of a book edited by D. Brent Laythem, Brazos Press, 2004. It is a rather scholarly look at inadequate views of God.
- God is not a being, God is being itself.
- God is the ground of all being.
- “God is love and God is kind, and God is, in God’s own self, gift and receptor. God is the fullness of life…”
- God is neither male nor female.
- God is not a bearded, grandfather person, sitting in a divine computer room counting up your sins and peccadilloes awaiting to confront you after you die and then consign you to heaven, limbo or Hell.
- God is not peering over your shoulder or any other part of your anatomy making sure that you are doing it right.
The famous author Joseph Campbell was asked if he believed in God. He replied, “Of course, I know a good metaphor when I see it.”
A metaphor is “language expressive of humanity’s aspirations toward or the experience of God.” That God is love, power or justice are metaphors for characteristics of God.
We can arrive at some ideas about God as I suggest some ways of talking with children about God.
You can say to a child, “God is like your father and our mother. God creates us, feeds us, and cares for us just like our fathers and mothers do.”
“God is love. That warm and safe feeling you have with your parents is the presence of God.”
As a child develops, God can be presented as justice. God is present as human beings seek what is right, when people are fed and have homes. God is present whenever we seek peace, equality, freedom and safety for others.
These are metaphors for God. God is ineffable, cannot be defined precisely.
An excellent book for children is In God’s Name by Sandy Eisenberg Sasso, (Woodstock VT: Jewish Lights, 1994). The author has children tell the story of creation in their own words.
Another way to help children discover God is to look at the life of Jesus. We Christians have the idea of the incarnation, that God became a human being. Look at the life of Jesus and perhaps you and the children will grasp a sense of who God is without worrying about whether you believe in the incarnation or not.
Jesus called on people to turn from bad ways to good ways. That is called repentance.
Jesus healed people who were lame, blind and insane. God wants us to be whole and healthy.
Jesus fed 5000 people with a few fish and some bread. God wants us to share our food with others and wants all of us to have enough to eat.
Jesus walks on water. God wants us to be open to the mysterious and unexpected in our lives.
Jesus wants us to forgive everyone including our enemies. God wants us to love each other even though it is often very hard.
Jesus gives bread and wine to his disciples so that they will remember him. God wants us to eat together in a loving community.
Jesus prays. God wants to communicate with us and we want to talk with God.
Jesus talks about the kingdom of God. God wants us to live in peace and harmony with each other but it may not happen in this world we live in now.
Political and religious leaders killed Jesus. God tells us there is suffering and pain in life, so be prepared.
Jesus rises from the dead. God want us to know that somehow death is not the end, that there is a hope of everlasting life.
Now all these are metaphors of God. Choose the ones that work for you and your children. Don’t be afraid to say, “I don’t know.” Or “I am not sure.” Let the kids know what you believe or do not believe. Don’t lie, don’t pretend. Keep it simple and deal with the questions as they come up.
Nurture the children’s belief by praying with them, reading the great Bible stories and the Life of Jesus and books of other religions.
Providing yourself and your children a sense of awe and wonder, a sense of transcendence in nature, art, music, and silence will open you and them to a sense of the sacred, the holy. Perhaps those may be ways of having an experience of God.
The Rev. Robert Warren Cromey is a priest of the Episcopal Church, retired and living in San Francisco. He is also a Marriage and Family Therapist, licensed by the State of California. He has three daughters and six grandchildren.
Copyright 2007 by Robert Warren Cromey
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