Children and God – World Religion Essay
Robert Coles, a Harvard Physiatrist authored The Spiritual Life of Children after going back through his work with children realizing the common threads of spirituality among all children. Children by nature are questioning and curious about our world. Where we come
from? What are we? Where are we going? The inquiring nature of religion and the prominent figures throughout history have been those who have been willing to question the status quo. The greatest figures in Judaism where willing to undergo great sacrifice so their questions would not go unanswered. Jesus pushed modern day thinkers of the time to question and look deep within their beliefs.
Children seem to yearn for the truth but at the same time except the mystery of spirituality with a more open heart. This relates to all new experiences that children come upon everyday. They are much more likely to touch, feel, and explore the unknown in a very physical way where as adults are more likely to avoid the unfamiliar. This could be in part because children are not so trained to think about what they might lose as a result of a poor decision. This type of innocence is what is required to accept the concepts and or messages that are presented to us via religion.
We are story telling creatures and in fact story telling is behind the root or most all religious celebration. Children know how to understand and interpret stories better then adults because they do not find it necessary to over think every detail but rather they can accept big picture ideas. Also, children do not have the same level of ego so they are perhaps able to accept meaning from a story that only they see. This is quite common in modern book clubs where people choose reading that is easy to understand because they afraid to be wrong about what they draw from the book. Children are more accepting that there is not just one right answer. An important part of story telling is picture drawing and it was rather interesting to hear the responses from the children about why they were not able to draw God. When one child was asked if God was a man or a women they replied “God is God”. A child does not need to define God in such close comparison to themselves.
Children accept mystery as simply a part of life. This would make sense based on the fact that everyday children are faced with so many foreign ideas, concepts, and items. God would be a natural extension of this mystery filled world. Even childen from secular backgrounds show an extreme amount of curiosity into questions of ethics. “What is right, what is wrong?” Children understand moral conflict and show a thirst for information that adults seldom hold on to. Children understand that there is moral conflict in the world but often struggle to understand why it exists. Why is this world this way, why do people say things to others, why can’t people get along with each other? Adults are often made uncomfortable with these questions and discourage children from asking such tough things.
Carol Dittberner is an international trainer for the Good Shepard Montessori School and she believes that children are very deep theologians that simply need the vocabulary to express the ideas that they inherently know. When presenting a parable to a child it is as though they already know the story or the meaning behind the story. I tend to think this has less to do with the inherit wisdom of a child and more to do with how much the secular world uses these exact same story lines in cartoons, shows, and movies. Children are not dumb, they simply have less experiences on which to draw from.
Diane Komp is a semi-retired Pediatric Oncologist who has worked with children fighting cancer over 4 decades. She claims that she was agnostic but through her experiences with her patients that she has come to understand God. She claims that a child facing death is extremely aware that the adults around them struggle with excepting what is going on and that their suffering is causing a great deal of pain for those around them. Her patients have expressed complicated ideas about the mystery of life and importance of not sweating the small stuff in great amazement to Komp.
Komp read a passage in her book that revolved around a young boy dying of lymphoma. 80% of children with lymphoma recover fine and never once did this boy ask why he was in the 20%. When she asked him about some of his beliefs in science and the bible he replied that neither one is the absolute truth but rather coming to the conclusion “It’s not the details that matters, it’s the moral of the story”. Komp leaves the listener with “Mystery is apart of human existence and it remains a secret as much as we want to solve it. You want to know more about mystery in life then get close to a little kid”.