Some thoughts on children and the Passion of Christ
My son learned about death and violence – at least in the abstract - at church. Counter-intuitive though that may seem, it does make sense. The Christian story is most certainly not G-rated, turning as it does on the execution of Jesus. Add to that all the talk of sin and sacrifice and repentance and what is a modern-day, liberal sort of parent to do? It’s not that we think our children are blameless innocents. We just don’t think that fear and groveling and self-loathing are appropriate life lessons. “Jesus died for your sins” is a complicated thing to say to adults– how much more so to say it to a child!
So, as Holy Week draws near, what do we say to our kids?
As with so much of parenting, I think the beginnings of the answer to that question are to be found in what we say to ourselves. Why do we think Jesus died? How do we understand sin in general and our own sinfulness in particular? What does it mean to repent? To change? What consequence does any of that have on our faith in God?
And, as with so much of parenting, I think the other key is not to rely solely on ourselves. This is a time to lean heavily on the wisdom and tradition of our faith communities. The story of Christ’s betrayal and execution is told to us – and told by us – in the liturgies of Holy Week, preparing us to feel the full of force of the joy of Easter morning. Children can join in that journey, surrounded by loving and helpful adults, in church.
Finally, I would suggest that church is a far better place to learn about the injustice and evil of a world that is still capable of crucifying God’s own Son. At least in church, our children will also learn about the victory of love that was revealed on Easter but is all too often hidden from view in our daily lives.
My prayer for my own son, and for all children, is that Easter will be the lens through which they understand the six o’clock news and their own schoolyard and their own hearts. That would, indeed, be cause for a resounding Easter “Al****ia!”