I recently read Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Adiche again and I realized that she reflected with the character “Jaja” an attitude or decision making point that people (especially the curious ones) get to. We all get to the point where we question the religion we’ve found ourselves in and reasons why we do what we do or follow religious doctrines, especially if you were born into it. The point where we have to make the decision to remain in our chosen religion/ place of worship or find somewhere with more solace or somewhere that gives us better answers to our questions. We do not ask questions out of rebellion but in search of better understanding. To know for sure why we do what we do and why we have chosen to believe in the existence of a God or not believe in the existence of a superior being. Why we’ve chosen a denomination and why we have decided to stick to it.
If you have not gotten to this point then your stance is questionable. You haven’t exactly made a decision (decisions are made based on availability of other options, weighing of pros and cons). Some get to it earlier than others. Jaja got to this point and he referred to the communion host as a wafer and the communion blood as wine and he had a father that perceived this as sin. A man who beat his wife like a child to the point where she lost her pregnancy because she probably did something he perceived as unholy (on one occasion, she felt nauseous as a result of her pregnancy and wanted to wait in the car while the other members of the family go to greet the priest). He put his daughter’s feet in hot water to the point where she burnt her feet because she omitted the truth. He punished anyone that did not serve God the way he wanted, liked or deemed fit. So you can imagine how he took it when his son referred to the Holy Communion as earthly common snack and wine.
I’m not saying it was bad that he wanted the best that he has seen or probably experienced in years of dedication in his chosen religion and wanted the people around him to experience this too (probably his way of evangelism). I’m saying his approach was not the best. I may be wrong but I’m of the opinion that you can only force a horse to the stream but not force it to drink water. Share the truth that you know (based on your experiences or information access) and let them make their choice. You can’t force or compel people to serve God or stick to a particular religion. If he probably explained to his teenage son that the wafer and wine represented more, he would have gotten a better picture and shared his concerns. Make your life the Bible or Quran people read and emulate. I also don’t think parents should force their kids to practice their chosen religion.
Let me put it this way, LIFE IS A PERSONAL RACE. According to religious beliefs, everyone would be judged individually. It is beyond having a title as a Christian, Muslim, Buddhist etc. it is about the relationship and dedication to the spiritual being you’ve chosen to worship and the people around you. It is not about the fear or hell, the beauty of heaven, the promise to return as a bird or human in your next life, the promise of 7-40 virgins, etc. It is about the relationship. People that are forced into a religion never really “Live their religion” they just practice doctrines out of compulsion. Spirituality is a way of life not a religious practice. It requires obedience based on understanding and not puppet obedience (which is equivalent to punishment). If your child(ren) ask(s) questions, answer the questions. If you can’t then find answers for them that way you learn too. Don’t punish them for seeking knowledge or out of the insecurities your ignorance is causing you. It is far easier and more profitable to obey what you understand. It keeps you rooted and unwavering.
Don’t be brutal to people that don’t share your beliefs rather love them. Everyone responds to love. Accept them as they are and gradually they’ll be fascinated by your love. Love is the best evangelism. Never be scared to question principles, rules or beliefs because questions precede enlightenment and understanding. Until you ask questions, you can’t find answers. Ask the right questions!