Talking to Pagan Kids About Christianity & Jesus

School-age children will ask about Christianity if they hear friends talking about it. Image by Digital Vision/Getty Images

If you're a Pagan parent, there's a good chance you're raising your kids as Pagan as well. And if that's the case, you can be assured that at some point, one of your children is going to start wondering about Jesus. It may be something perfectly innocuous, like "Why is that naked baby in the manger at Christmastime?" or it may be something with a bit more depth, like, "My friend Sam told me Jesus loves me, and I don't even know who that is." Either way, at some point, you're going to have to sit down with your little ones and discuss Jesus, Christianity, and the fact that your family is not part of the mainstream.

But how can you do this, without making your kids feel weird -- or worse yet, bad -- about your family's belief system? Here are some ideas on how to address the subject. Bear in mind that the specifics of the conversation will vary a bit based upon the ages of your kids.

Why Can't We Go To Church?

Here's the first one you usually hear. Junior spends the night at a friend's house on Saturday, and has to get picked up before 9 am the next morning because his buddy's family is off to church. Naturally, he's going to want to know why you don't take him to church too -- after all, there's lots of singing, and a bunch of kids from school will be there, so it sounds like fun, right? This is a good time to explain to your child that your beliefs are different from most of his or her friends' beliefs. You can try several different approaches.

For example, you might say "Well, we don't go to church because we're not Christians, we're Pagans, and our church is in our home/out under a tree/over at Aunt Bev's house." Perhaps you can tell your child, "We don’t go to church because church is for people who worship a different god than the ones we worship." However you choose to answer, be honest.

Don't just say "I don't know" because that doesn’t answer the question.

If your child is mature enough to attend the worship services of another religion without you present, you may want to let him or her give it a shot, and then talk about what he saw and heard when he gets home. It's a good opportunity to discuss the differences and similarities between your family's faith, and the faiths of other families.

How Come We're Not Christian?

This question comes up a lot. After all, once you've had the "why don’t we go to church" conversation, this one is sure to follow. Why, indeed, isn't your family Christian? If your child hasn’t asked yet, he or she will do so soon, because they are surrounded by Christians and images of Christianity fairly regularly. At school, they'll hear other kids talking about the fun stuff they did at Vacation Bible School or how much they love Friday Night Youth Group. Eventually, your kid is going to realize she's the odd girl out, and you'll need to be ready to have an answer for her.

Tell your child the truth. You can say, "Mommy used to be Christian, but discovered she was happier as something else." If you wish to use the god/goddess aspect of your spirituality, tell your kid, "We're not Christian because the gods we believe in are Pagan gods, not Christian ones."

A word of caution here -- no matter how negative your experiences with Christians, Christianity, or churches may have been, be cautious not to bash them in front of your child. Little kids have big mouths, and your off-hand comment meant to be kept private may get repeated in front of friends, teachers, or other parents.

The last thing you want is to be known as the mom who tells her children that Christians are dumb or bad.

Who Was Jesus, and Why Does He Love Me?

Kids will naturally be inquisitive about Jesus. He's all over the place, especially during the winter holidays, and the image of the Baby Jesus in particular is one that you can't avoid. There are songs about how much he loves us, and on some churches, his picture is visible on the sign when you drive past. At some point, no matter how Pagan you try to keep your household, your child is going to wonder about Jesus. So what do you tell him? Here's an idea of how the conversation might go:

Kid: Mom, my friend Sam says that Jesus loves me.
Parent: That's nice. Eat your broccoli.
Kid: So who was Jesus? Is he a god?
Parent: Well, some people believe that he was the son of the Christian god. No one knows for sure. A lot of people believe that he was a great teacher, and he tried to show everyone how important it was to love each other and be good to other people.
Kid: How come Sam says Jesus loves me?
Parent: Some people who are Christians believe that Jesus is still around, because he's the son of their god. They believe that he loves everyone, even people who don't believe in him.

… and so on. You can see, clearly, how this conversation can spiral from simple dinner time chat into a theological discussion with a six-year-old. Your child will have questions about "is Jesus real" and "if he died how come he still loves people" and "is our cat Lucy in heaven with Jesus?" Be sure that you phrase your answers in a way that will allow your child to form his own opinions, while still sharing with him what you believe. If Junior really wants to believe that his dead pet is in heaven with Jesus, and it makes him feel better, then don't tell him how ridiculous you think the idea is.

A smart idea here would be to draw parallels between Christian beliefs and your family's Pagan spirituality. You could tell your child, "Well, in our family, we believe that Lucy is in the Summerland with all the other cats and dogs that have crossed over, but some families think maybe Jesus and the pets are together in heaven." This gives your child some room to ponder things, and will be comforting no matter which way he decides to believe.

Our Family is Different, This I Know

It's not going to take long for your child to figure out that what your family believes is very different than what most of his or her friends believe. In fact, it may be a good idea to be pro-active -- talk to your child about Christianity - and other religions, as well - before other people do. Let him or her know that most of his friends and their families are in fact Christian, and that there's nothing wrong with being different. If you live in the United States or other country with religious freedom, be sure to stress that one of your civil rights is that of worshiping who and what you choose.

Because most Pagan families celebrate and worship at home, if your child is old enough to start asking questions about religion, he or she is probably old enough to include in family rituals and celebrations. You may also wish to take some time each week to work on some basic religious education. Use one of the books on the list of Books for Pagan Kids as a foundation, and build from there.

For some great tips on Pagan parenting, read one of these: