Man & Boy
“No he wasn’t. There isn’t a God. Ask Mummy. Or Daddy.”
“You’re not going to go to heaven!”
“I don’t want to go to heaven. Heaven is boring. I’m going to the Elysian Fields.”
“Dad! Tell Kitty that Jesus is the Son of God and the Romans are baddies.”
And so, rather sooner than planned, came the moment when I had to explain that the Bible, like many books, and like a lot of ancient history too, is full of excellent stories that can be considered “true” without necessarily always being based in “fact”. And that some parts of it are truer than others. And that it is our job as readers to decide what is and what isn’t. (In later discussions, Sam would decide, for example, that somebody a bit like Moses probably did lead the Israelites out of Egypt, but that, on balance, Jonah probably was not swallowed by a giant fish.)
And then I tried quietly to move Sam’s attention away from the New Testament towards the Old, because I’ve always thought the stories were better and ought to appeal to a boy more than the girly, turn-the-othercheekery of the New. But also because Sam, whom I circumcised and named after his orthodox Jewish grandfather, is Jewish. Kind of. Just like I sort of am. And the Old Testament is our Bible. Sort of. Oh, I don’t know. It’s all kind of confused. I just wasn’t quite ready for my son to be an actual Christian.
So I read to him about the Creation and Noah’s Ark and Samson killing Philistines with the jawbone of an ass and… “Is Jesus in any of these?” Sam asked.
“No,” I told him.
“I love Jesus,” he said.
“That’s lovely, Sam, but in the Old Testament there are giants and lions and whales and great battles!”
So I read him the story of David and Goliath. “A cyclops could so kill Goliath! And David!” shouted Kitty from down the hall. I told her to hush.
“Is that true, Dad?” asked Sam.
“Actually, no. I’m pretty sure David could take down a cyclops.”
“See!” shouted Sam, running up to Kitty and sticking his tongue out and going, “Nyah nyah nyah!” When he came and sat down again he said, “Dad?”
“What about the Hulk? Could the Hulk beat Goliath?” “Well, now. I guess he could, yes.”
“Could David kill the Hulk?”
“Um. Well, I think the original Hulk from the Sixties, as first conceived by Jack Kirby and Stan Lee, would probably have been vulnerable to a slingshot, yes. But the one in these Avengers movies, who can knock down skyscrapers and jump into space, he’d probably give a small Jewish boy some trouble.”
“Except that David would have God on his side.” “True, Sam. That’s what the story is about.”
“So God could smash the Hulk?”
“Could he smash Superman?”
“Yes, he could smash him, too.”
“Could he smash all the Justice League and the Avengers put together?”
“Without breaking a sweat, Sammy.”
“What about Jesus? Could Jesus beat the Hulk?” “Hmm, Jesus I’m less of an expert on. I guess possibly not.”
“Well, actually he could, Dad. Because Jesus is not just the son of God. He is God.”
“Is that so?” I asked Sam, in genuine puzzlement. Because, as a Jew, sort of, I have never quite got to grips with the whole three-in-one thing.
“Yes, it is,” explained Sam. “So Jesus could definitely smash the Avengers and the Justice League with only his little finger.”
“Right you are, Sam. If you say so.”
“Except you know what?”
“He wouldn’t. He would just be nice to them. And then they’d all have tea. And Dad?”
“That’s why I love Jesus.”
‘Dad, so Jesus could definitely smash the Avengers and the Justice League with only his little finger.’
‘Right you are, Sam. If you say so’