A couple years ago my son Sawyer decided that he hated all religions. Religions were an example of what was wrong with the world. Religious leaders were always telling people how to live their lives, and people who believed in different religions invariably thought that the best way to settle their differences was to kill one another. My wife and I tried pointing out all the good that religious thought and religious people had brought about in the world—the end of American slavery, for instance, was spearheaded by some of the North’s most fervently religious men and women—but Sawyer would have none of it.
So I decided to go to the source. As a part of our homeschooling we cracked open The Bible, page one, In the beginning. I hadn’t thought of it until rereading the creation story with Sawyer that everything God creates, from the light and the dark to the things the creepeth and crawleth, is good. The whole of creation, top to bottom, day and night, fish and fowl—good.
Then we came to Adam and Eve and The Tree. I seemed to recall that The Serpent convinced Eve to eat from The Tree of Knowledge. Growing up in a secular family, this made sense to me, as it mirrored what I perceived as the public debate between scientists, who valued knowledge, and religious people, who valued faith.
Yet in the version of The Bible from which Sawyer and I read it was not eating from The Tree of Knowledge that got Adam and Eve booted out of Eden, but The Tree of Knowledge of Good and Bad. This made perfect sense to me. As soon as I divide the world into good and bad I have created a threat from which there is no rational escape. If I divide the world into good and bad, then anything could be bad, including me.
Which is exactly what happened when I started seeing Sawyer’s pretending and humming and flapping as a problem. Now this behavior was no longer simply something he was doing, but something bad he was doing. I was out of The Garden, and I hated it. Everything of value grew in The Garden, but nothing grew in the broken world outside of it. All I wanted was to be back where things could grow, including my son. In this way, Sawyer became a kind of portal into what I most wanted in my own life. To judge him was to be excluded; to love him was to return.
I am in and out of that garden every day. Meanwhile, I have noticed that Sawyer no longer sees religion as the source of all that is wrong in the world. He has moved on to other issues. For a time both Obama and The Tea Party were the problem. Now it’s ISIS. I don’t know what it will be tomorrow. No matter. He’s looking for his own gate into a world where he need never worry again that what he is doing is wrong.
I am the author of Fearless Writing: How to Create Boldly and Write with Confidence, and Write Within Yourself: An Author's Companion. Learn more here.