Sunday, March 23, 2008


When I was little, growing up in Puerto Rico, there was no way of avoiding or ignoring Holy Week. Even if I did not go to church, even if I was being raised by an atheist, I knew what Easter was all about. You could not help it. Puerto Rico's culture is very much drenched in religious tradition. Holy Week is a big deal. Everybody goes to the church via crucis on Good Friday. Absolutely nothing else happened that day. There was no school, no work, no stores open, and the only thing playing endlessly on the 4 TV channels we had was old movies about Jesus' crucifixion and resurrection. My favorite was El Martir del Calvario, which I watched over and over (and rolled my eyes at) throughout my formative years. I don't recall much of it now, other than the fact that it was incredibly cheesy and over the top melodramatic.

I do not go to church by choice. I do not consider myself a Christian, although I was baptized Catholic and attended both Baptist and Catholic schools. I do not believe in Heaven and Hell. Sure, there is good and evil in this world, but not due to the influence of angels and demons. I don't believe we need a book to tells us what is wrong and what is right. I am grateful I am in this world, and I intend to make the best of this life I have, because once it is over, that's it for me. My role in life is to live the best way I can, without hurting others or taking advantage of them. I guess you could say I believe in secular spirituality.

Consistent with this is the way I am raising my children. I am trying to teach them to treat others with respect and compassion, to not be greedy, to look inside them for the light and to appreciate the wonders of life. They do not need to have the fear of a Christian God in them to be good people.

My daughter, Paula, does not know much about Easter, or about the story of Jesus. She vaguely knows that Jesus is the son of God, but she does not know the details of his story. I found out about this last night, as Gabe and I were watching some History Channel documentary on the life of Jesus, and Paula started asking questions about how he died and what had been done to him. I realized my daughter was blissfully ignorant about his plight, and that has been on my mind since. Is it my duty to teach her about this? Should she be aware of the basic tenets of Christianity, as a strong element of the culture we are immersed in? Should I teach her so that she has the right framework to understand the cultural waters we are navigating?


  1. if you are making a conscious choice not to raiser her a christian,, i do not feel it is your obligation to teach her any more about jesus than you will about muhammad or buddha or whoever else you might consider a great "holy" man...

    all three essential taught the same thing:
    just do the next right thing
    follow your inborn sense of right and wrong
    and treat others the way you wish to be treated

    above and beyond all that has been reconstructed by control freaks wanting to use the words of a wise man to their own advantage....

    just my thoughts of course....

    happy easter anyway......

  2. I don't think that you are obliged to teach her all of the exact rules of Christianity. My parents' religion that they raised me with does not involve Christ or the Bible, etc...but I still learned a lot from watching movies like The 10 Commandments and The Passion of the Christ, etc. It helped me understand why people were very headstrong about "Christ dying for our sins."

    I have to confess that it was a little annoying growing up because I would often be told that I was going to hell by people that I didn't even know when they learned that I had no belief in Christ.

    But, today, I am very comfortable with my spirtuality...and remind others that give me any grief that, at one point in my life, I was "agnostic." I've come a long way in my eyes...and that's all I need to remember. :)

    I think you are raising your daughters with a great basis for religion/spirituality. Sorry for the long comment...:-P

  3. I am not Christian and not raising my children as Christian -- although we do celebrate things like Christmas and Easter in a secular way (as winter and spring festivals). I haven't taught them anything specific, but try to answer their questions about Christianity as they come up.

  4. Muy interesante este punto que has traído a consideración. Yo creo en Dios, pero estoy en conflicto con la religión en general. Para mí lo que hace es causar divisiones. En cuanto a tu nena, tener conocimiento nunca está de más. Es bueno que sepa de qué se trata la historia de Jesús porque al fin y al cabo sus enseñanzas son hermosas. Y ella a su debido tiempo tomará la decisión de creer o no. De todos modos, le estás enseñando a ser un ser humano de bien. Te felicito.


  5. you are THE MOTHER and YOU ARE ALLOWED to CHOOSE what you want to expose your daughter too.

  6. Thank you everybody for the comments. I appreciate them.

    Paisley, I especially liked when you said this:

    "i do not feel it is your obligation to teach her any more about jesus than you will about muhammad or buddha or whoever else you might consider a great "holy" man..."

    It made me realize that it is my cultural conditioning that made me second guess myself. Of course, when she comes with questions I do try to answer. But I do not have to feel bad for not indoctrinating her.

  7. You know I'm with you on this. What I plan to do with Cassie is to teach her the story of Jesus in the same way I'll teach her the story of Hansel and Gretel, or of Paul Bunyan. These are stories that are part of the cultural tapestry we live with, and it's important to understand them in order to understand the people and texts that reference them. It's part of being a generally educated person, i think. It's why I teach some of Genesis to my 12th graders. but I teach it as literature, not doctrine.

  8. Yes, Shannon. That's it! My concern is not that I want her to be a Christian, but that I want her to know these things, so she can understand the culture she lives in, and all the references embedded in texts all around us.