Saturday, 17 January 2009


Jesus has been cropping up a lot lately.

The Engineer and I are tuning in for the excellent Channel 4 series, Christianity: A History, although despite our best efforts it took three goes before we could watch a full episode without both falling asleep. I must stress that this is no reflection on the programme but more to do with Snooks’ opposite ends – bottom and teeth – which are making the otherwise rather quiet early hours of the morning, quite a busy affair.

Also, I noticed Snooks observe him, (Jesus that is, not the Engineer) up on the cross when we took him to Mass recently. I quickly turned him around to look at Mary Magdalene instead, a lovely serene redhead smiling down on the congregation. I can’t expose my baby to images of torture just yet, though heaven knows, it won't be long.

And now we find ourselves singing about him (once again, Jesus) on a Friday morning instead of lounging around eating toast.

I was faced with a dilemma this week which forced the profound and as yet unanswered question ‘Who the hell am I?’

It came after a mumfriend suggested we come along to a new weekly singing session for babies. There would be toys and coffee and song – oh yes, and Jesus. The group is held in a church hall where Snooks already enjoys a weekly singalong with his friends but of a purely secular nature. You know, Old MacDonald and all that lot. Black sheep, Jack and Jill, even Contrary Mary - but no gods, Christian or otherwise.

The new group however would encompass a couple of prayers and a bit of mild bible reading. It sounded harmless enough but nevertheless produced in me an instant, internal resounding No.

Days later I was exhorted to take Snooks along to another event which fills the same Friday morning slot. (Having a full social diary is essential to maintaining one’s sanity while at home full time with a baby. No really. I am not joking. There is plenty of evidence that isolation is the main cause of post natal depression and yet the provision of services for new mothers is haphazard at best.)

This group is council funded, held in a ‘shabby’ hall on a 'dingy' estate. Three of the four helpers running the sessions wear a hijab. The fourth is a man who displays the kind of rapport with children usually reserved for bus drivers. Maybe that is his main job. Praising any lord here, at least audibly, would definitely not be on the agenda.

Yes I would do that I thought as I pushed Snooks’ buggy along the road, grimly noting that he would meet a more representative group of Londoners there than in the bright, sunny new church hall down the road. He is 10 months old.

I am a liberal inclusive type, I said (by now talking aloud to Snooks, who listens attentively). I want my son to know that everyone deserves the same respect and to not be frightened into racial stereotyping through ignorance of other cultures.

On the other hand, I had to admit, I had had him baptised into the Catholic church at the first opportunity, barely able to wait the few months it took to organise, in case he died and went to Limbo in the intervening period.

I had to admit it. Who am I kidding? I don’t want to take him onto a dingy estate to play with shabby toys. I want the bright shiny god thing for him with bells on. I want him to feel at home. Let someone else be inclusive for a change.

My mother would turn in her grave. My mother who dragged me along to every mind-opening experience she could find, who insisted I invite our Jewish neighbours’ children to join in the annual apple fight (hurling the windfalls at each other until someone got hurt) whether they liked it or not and who whisked away our toys before they were barely worn in, to give to a more deserving soul.

Well I would give it a try I decided. I would open my mind to all possibilities, putting aside my own embarrassment at publicly singing about God’s love (in the context of the Mass this perfectly acceptable, provided there is no hand raising) and let Snooks have a go at God-bothering. However, I would draw the line at any speaking in tongues and would run at a sniff of creationism. And on our return, the Engineer would read to him from On the Origin of Species for good measure.

In the end, he spent the morning making out with a giant Winnie the Pooh while I stood and made windmills with my arms to describe how the Whole World is filled with God’s love. Does that include the shabby hall down the road? I don’t know yet. We shall find out next week.

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