Yesterday our close friends baptised their baby in the Greek Orthodox church. We happen to know that the Dad is an atheist and the Mom, well, she may believe in God but I would hardly call her religious (let alone orthodox). Like many cultures, religion and family are intimately tied together and these celebrations are opportunities to do just that – celebrate. The ceremony was held at the same church where we attended our friends’ wedding – where he (a red-haired Scot) was officially baptised into the Greek Orthodox religion and partook in all kinds of weird ceremonial dress and dance to do it. It was a total blast to watch – nobody could help but draw parallels between what we were witnessing and the movie “My Big Fat Greek Wedding”.
Our daughter had never been to a church before and was full of awe, confusion and questions about what on earth was going on. In hindsight I maybe should have prepped her about what we were about to see but to be honest, I was more focused on the ouzo-infused after party than the event itself. As we sat in the hot and ornately decorated church (the walls are covered in gold, stained glass, pictures of haloed saints, complex imagery and oh, did I mention gold?), she asked me “Why is that man singing? What are they putting on the boy’s head? Why are they putting oil on his head? Why are there candles? Why do I have to be quiet? Why is the boy wearing that hat?” I am afraid I didn’t have many good answers for her. I couldn’t explain those things to an adult, let alone a three-year-old.
I explained that this was a church and that some people believe in God and they go to church. She knows that we don’t believe in God – that’s about as far as the conversation has gotten. When she asked me “Why do some people believe in God?” I sat there, baffled for a minute. “Because it makes them feel good honey. Just like you have pink blanky.”
She was happy with that and I realized, some of the tough questions really can be answered that simply.