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Jesus in my classroom

Andrea Chacos
Guest commentary
A man carries a sign critical of the McMinn County School Board, Thursday, Feb. 10, 2022, in Athens, Tenn. McMinn County School Board unanimously voted to remove a Pulitzer Prize-winning graphic novel about the Holocaust, "Maus," from the district's curriculum, last month. (Robin Rudd/Chattanooga Times Free Press via AP)

“Do you believe in G-d?” my son asks while I hastily drive him to meet the rabbi for Hebrew school, after yelling, “Jesus Christ” to the sweet-looking senior in the left lane who looks like he is taking a Sunday stroll through the English countryside, and long before thinking through what I should say to my little seraph.

What I say shocks him, not because I turn off the radio and begin driving the actual speed limit, but because I gather my thoughts and tell him the truth. “I don’t know,” I say earnestly. I begin nibbling my nails worrying I may have said too much already.

I don’t regurgitate the evolutionary science that easily reinforces an atheist’s logic, nor do I give a glorious sermon from my vehicular pulpit, where many of my fist-pounding conversations occur these days. I’m not prepared for that, nor does it seem like this is what my son is asking to hear. I seize the moment, stay focused, and ask him his beliefs instead.



What comes tumbling out of his mouth next is nothing we casually talk about over tacos on a Tuesday night. “Mom, if there really is a G-d, what’s there to fight about?” and, “Why do people hate Jews so much?”

A few weeks later, I sit with a cup of tea and fine tune my answers. I want to share religion’s historical facts, its intended purpose and white-knuckled grip on society because I’m a modern-day mom, real and authentic, like an unfiltered beer made by Trappist monks in Belgium.




However, I have a secret love affair with my own religion, not for its strict doctrine, but for its warmth, generosity and unwavering inclusion, especially when I selfishly demand it. I think this is what believing in G-d feels like for me. I don’t want to overthink it or sound like a stoned philosophy major in well-worn Birkenstocks staring at the stars, so I keep my juxtaposing thoughts simple and leave it at that.

However, I still want to seize the teachable moment, talk about current events, and tie it all in with a big, fat red bow like a master school teacher easily does. I decide to circle the conversation back to race and religion using Whoopi Goldberg as my starting point. Her recent misguided, on-air comment is perfect.

A woman carries a sign critical of the McMinn County School Board, Thursday, Feb. 10, 2022, in Athens, Tenn. The McMinn County school board heard from concerned citizens about the removal of Pulitzer Prize-winning graphic novel about the Holocaust "Maus," from the district's curriculum at the meeting. (Robin Rudd/Chattanooga Times Free Press via AP)

A few weeks ago, the panel on “The View” talked about the Tennessee Board of Education’s decision to ban the graphic novel “Maus” for its too-graphic material about the too-graphic Holocaust. Without thinking (I’m giving her some credit here because I’m trying altruism), Whoopi blurted out, “The minute you turn it into race, it goes down this alley.”

All right, Whoopi, let’s talk about it for what it is and drive it home like Mario Andretti. Ignorance about the Holocaust is shameful, and best left to those living in Tennessee or some other confederate-loving state riddled with statues of white supremacists. The Holocaust was an attempt to exterminate whomever Hitler believed to be an inferior race. Period.

A survey done in 2020 states many young adults do not even believe that 6 million Jews were exterminated in the concentration camps ruled by Nazi Germany. No matter what your religious or political doctrine, admit that’s simply pathetic.

I end up telling my son religion is not what your parents or grandparents want you to believe, and that one sizzles the roof of my mouth to say aloud, no doubt a message from my grandmother, may she rest peacefully in heaven. It’s about learning the facts and then listening to your heart.

I finish my Sermon at the Dinner Table with another bite of pizza and say what Whoopi actually did get right, “It’s how we treat each other.” Yes, Whoopi, that’s a fine place to start.


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