More Ways to Teach Respect for Religion
Incorporate Traditional Rituals Into New Ones
Religious rituals create a spiritual framework (and warm memories), so parents should observe traditional ones and then add a new twist that even others of different faiths can participate in together. Hang up a calendar that notes different religious holidays to guide families through a year of celebrations. This is an effective way to envision the year and give kids things to anticipate. "Kids love tradition because it's anchoring in a very unsettled world," Mogel says.
I have a Muslim friend who likes to break his daily fast during Ramadan with a falafel sandwich (instead of the traditional date) right after prayers, before heading home to an elaborate feast. It's his personal way of decompressing after a long day, and his kids love the informality. In my own family, we have an annual tradition my father created. On the eve of Passover, after burning the last crumbs of bread left in the house before switching to matzoh, we toast marshmallows. Our non-Jewish neighbors enjoyed being part of this ritual.
Discover an Area of Divine Connection
For some parents, the challenge is to find what one religious family has in common with other religious families. In homes where more than one religion is practiced, the sources and deities being observed may not be the same, but the concepts may be. Mogel believes that families should try "bending with grace in both directions," which balances following religious practices without dividing the family.
Yisrael Campbell (formerly known as Chris), a father of four and a comedian, converted to Judaism after being raised as a Catholic. "It's very important for me to remain in contact with my family, and that includes finding ways to make allowances within my belief system," Campbell says. "I changed so significantly that I have a greater responsibility to meet them somewhere; I have to find a way to participate in my family's life. I converted; they didn't."
Finding a common ground with his Catholic family can mean not making a fuss that his mother and sister still call him Chris, or arriving on Christmas day in the afternoon, to avoid some of the holiday hoopla. His mother, for her part, wraps her Jewish grandchildren's gifts in blue Hanukkah paper, while other gifts are wrapped in the traditional Christmas red and green.
As Presbyterian Christians, Rev. Baskin and his wife saw a universal hunger for God. Rev. Baskin remembers teaching his daughters -- now 20 and 17 -- to always set an extra place at the dinner table each night, complete with place mat, plate, knife, fork, spoon, and glassware, for the "sojourner" who might show up at our door. Rev. Baskin explains, "We would have friends drop by from time to time, and they would sit at that place, but we talked about the sojourner as the outsider who would also be our guest. We believe that all human beings are created in the image and likeness of God and that our common humanity marks us more powerfully than our differences."
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