READ, READ! READ-READ!
“Have ye walked, keeping yourselves blameless before God?” says Roseli, as she begins reading out loud from the Book of Mormon during breakfast this morning.
“God isn’t real,” interrupts Joshua.
“Who told you that?” asks Roseli.
The answer was obvious. I never say it exactly that way. I don’t believe God is any more real than the Easter Bunny, but I know that in our home I have to make it clear that this is my perspective, not an absolute truth.
“Dad,” said Joshua.
“That’s my opinion,” I clarify, standing at the kitchen counter, “Mom has a different opinion.”
“What Papai meant to say was that he belieeeeves God isn’t real,” says Roseli. “And I belieeeeve that God is real.” I was impressed by how calmly Roseli reacted to Joshua’s comment. It wasn’t long ago that such a comment would send Roseli spiraling into a day-long funk.
“I made up my mind that God isn’t real,” says Joshua.
But you’re only four! I think.
“Well, God is as real as you want Him to be,” Roseli says, looking down to continue reading.
What a devastatingly revealing comment!
Do you know what comes up when you Google “* is as real as you want * to be”? The three most common results are “Santa,” “superstition,” and “opportunity” (referring to a get-rich quick scheme), followed by “Jesus Christ.”
No one would ever think to say that something as undeniably real as, oh, the sun, say, is “as real as you want it to be.” The sun would continue to exist in the complete absence of human consciousness. Santa, superstitions, opportunities, and God, on the other hand, are socially constructed concepts, inventions of human thought.
Above the chatter of three utterly disinterested boys, Roseli continues, “Wo unto such an one, for he is not prepared, and the…”
“I AM BUZZ LIGHTYEAR, AND I COME IN PEACE!” announces a toy, which I then try, unsuccessfully, to coax from Elijah.
“Yea, come unto me and bring forth works of righteousness…”
“READ, READ! READ-READ! READ, READ! READ-READ! READ, READ! READ-READ!” Elijah chants.
“…shall not be hewn down and cast into the fire…”
“TO INFINITY… AND BEYOND!”
“Notwithstanding a shepherd hath called after you…”
“BUZZ LIGHTYEAR TO THE RESCUE!”
Roseli persists, finishing her reading for the day with these last two appalling verses on the page:
“…and if ye will not hearken unto the voice of the good shepherd, to the name by which ye are called, behold, ye are not the sheep of the good shepherd. And now if ye are not the sheep of the good shepherd, of what fold are ye? Behold, I say unto you, that the devil is your shepherd, and ye are of his fold; and now, who can deny this? Behold, I say unto you, whosoever denieth this is a liar and a child of the devil.”
“So every good Hindu, Jew, Buddhist, atheist — a majority of the world’s population, in fact — are shepherded by the devil,” I say. “Verses like these only serve to create an us-versus-them mentality. You either accept Jesus or you’re of the devil! It’s incredibly divisive!”
After a moment’s thought, Roseli says, “That makes sense.”
Well then why, I think, would you want to read such verses to the kids? You know… pick out the nice bits and reject the nasty. That’s what most people do.
Part of the reason, I think, has to do with social pressure. The Primary has an incentive program in place whereby the kids are rewarded for reading the scriptures. Each week we get an email saying, “Here’s your friendly reminder to send me the days your kids have read this week.” I think Roseli would be embarrassed to report that she hadn’t been reading every day. This isn’t to say that she doesn’t genuinely want to read the Book of Mormon to the boys, but she’s been much more consistent about it since she’s been held accountable by a weekly email.
I’m all for reading, including from sacred texts. The president of American Atheists, David Silverman, has said, “I gave a Bible to my daughter. That’s how you make atheists.”