One day last December, I picked Zoey up from school and she was visibly upset. She sniffled and glared at her feet, refusing to  respond to my questions but holding tightly to my hand. Once we were in the car she settled into her booster seat and moodily began to pick at the grapes I brought her for a snack. I sat in the front seat worrying about all the things that could be wrong. Bullying? Something about adoption? Race? Oh. My. God. Had some kid with an older sibling told her how babies were made? I took a breath and steeled myself for the sex talk.

Finally, Zoey came out with it.”Mom? Lisa said Jesus isn’t a bear.”

I paused, confused.

“Lisa said,” Zoey took a deep breath and continued, “that Jesus was a person not a bear and that Jesus’ dad is not a bear. But I know Jesus is a bear and I told it to Lisa and she got mad and said I was wrong.” Zoey was holding back tears. “I am not wrong, right Mom?”

Let me pause and briefly explain. We have a nativity scene that my grandmother gave me many years ago. Except, instead of featuring people, the set has porcelain teddy bears. Similar to this:

Screen shot 2013-04-08 at 12.14.39 PM

Zoey loves this nativity set. During Christmas, she rearranges all the bears several times a day and often carries around baby bear Jesus in her sweaty palm for hours on end. She even sleeps with the baby Jesus on her bedside table. We never had the Jesus-is-a-person-born-of-the-virgin-Mary conversation. It, like, never came up.

Or something. The something is me. I grew up Lutheran and attended a Catholic and then Episcopalian school. I learned a lot about Jesus. And I think Jesus was a nice guy. Great, even. I admire a lot of his philosophy and respect his selflessness and good deeds. But I don’t believe he is the son of God.

This is problematic.

See, I believe in God and am attached to a lot of the traditional Christian church rituals and hyms that I grew up with. But I’m pretty sure they don’t let you call yourself Christian, or even Christian-ish, if you don’t believe Jesus is the son of God.  So finding a church is, um, difficult.

We’ve done the Unitarian thing. I love the Unitarians and their commitment to community and practical footwear. But their church service doesn’t have enough God in it for me. More conservative churches don’t work for me either–anyplace that uses religion or the Bible to exclude, well, anyone is out. In fact, it makes me gut wrenching, body shaking mad. I’m pretty sure exclusion, homophobia, and misogynism  is not what Jesus would do.

So. That leaves me, and by extension my daughter, without a religious/spiritual community. We need to find one soon because I told Zoey that Jesus could be a bear, at least in our house. That and I’ve got a “God shaped hole”* in my heart.




Do you have a spiritual home? How did you find it?

* I first came across this term in Jesus For The Non Religious, by John Shelby Spong, HarperCollins, New York, 2007.




11 thoughts on “Jesus

  1. Amber

    You took the my exact religious thoughts and feelings right out of my mouth. As you know, I don’t have an answer because I’m in the same boat. Luckily I have a little while until my son can start asking those questions but I have no idea what to say.

    1. joslyne Post author

      I’m glad to know there are others out there like me. We should start our own church . . . 🙂

  2. Natalie

    This is a touchy subject…people are very peculiar about religion. My husband is cradle Episcopalian and my parents like to say they are Lutheran (pretty sure they went to church one time…at my baptism…my mom was more concerned with the outfit, not the reason behind the service). That being said, when we were looking, we shopped churches just like you did. It took a while…after sitting through what was close to 10 different sermons at various churches we happened upon our current church where one of our rectors started his sermon with the “A**hole’s run the human body joke” – We figured if someone could straight faced tell an anus joke to an entire congregation and tie it back to the reading, we found our home.

    So…my advice…shop a church. Find a place you like and then ask the rector about your Jesus predicament…they love answering questions like that .

    I personally would ask my rector or you could ask – Bishop Gene Robinson -

    He’s a friend of our rector (tell them one of Father Murdoch’s parishioners sent you) and really loves to dive into questions on the bible and religion in general. We had a great conversation on how the bible might have gotten a few things wrong (slavery, gay marriage, etc…) and the ways we interpret them now. I am sure he’d have a good take on the Jesus dilemma.

    1. joslyne Post author

      Wow, Natalie! Thanks for all this great info. I did look at the link for Bishop Robinson but can’t figure out where he’s located. Would you mind sharing the website for your church? You can email me at joslyne at writingforeveryone dot org. I really appreciate your comments!

  3. katecotton

    I’m impressed that you can articulate what you know and don’t know yet about the topic. I think that if I tried to sit and write about it I wouldn’t make any sense. My daughter (and soon-to-be-born son) are still young enough that I don’t have to answer any difficult questions, but here you give me a helpful reminder that the topic will come up. Especially for us living here in the Bible Belt. Luckily we don’t have a bear nativity scene so that exact issue is unlikely to happen for us. Ha! But I know we will have our own version of such discussion.

    1. joslyne Post author

      You know how you don’t have teddy bear nativity set? Well . . . we can remedy that. Yes, we can! 😉

  4. Tyff

    Articulate, honest, and relatable. The shop-a-church advice sounds like the way to go, but I have not done so even though I keep thinking about it. The honest-to-goodness truth is I really like Sunday at home.

  5. mtmanner

    Jos ~ I’m coming late to the party. I just discovered your amazing blog and shared it with my wife. You are so spot-on, so raw and refined, so exposed and blended beautifully into the landscapes you share with us. I’m glad I found you here. btw, Jesus definitely was a bear — among many other things — and definitely would have laughed along with us and nodded yes, there’s no room for exclusion in this heaven on earth or anywhere else. We raised our daughters via Quaker Meeting believing that there is “that of God in every person” — that fills the hole in all of us.

    1. joslyne Post author

      I love this comment. “That of God in every person that fills the hole in all of us.” Thanks for sharing this.

  6. Suburban Snapshots

    We have a people Nativity. My mom has one that’s all white porcelain. Anna didn’t like it one bit and immediately ask if we could “paint the white people.” Would you believe that my mom found her a paint your own Nativity? Also if I ever have a band I’m calling it Jesus is Not a Bear,


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