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Stephanie Sandberg

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God On The Spoon

Posted: 07/26/11 11:25 AM ET

"Is God on my spoon?" our 4-year old daughter asked at the table the other day. Over the last several weeks she's had questions touching on the literal side of the spirituality question. Recently in the car, my spouse and I were chatting in the front when from the back the same daughter said, "Excuse me, but can God see me now?" Yesterday we were taking a walk and she said, in the middle of a discussion about frogs, "Is he right in front me now, God? Is he right here?"

Someone at that age naturally is both curious in the way that grown-ups find touching, if not profound -- is God on my spoon? Wow, I never thought of it that way! -- and disarmingly naïve, in their need for a literal touchstone to abstractions impossible to reconcile with their understanding of the world as they've experienced it to date.

With the four-year-old, clearly a product of my spouse's and my "robust child-rearing and reproductive philosophy," to borrow a commitment quote from the marriage vow in the current political-candidate pledge popular with the Bachmann/Santorum set, it's understandable -- she's only four. (And I take the path that feels the most honest: who knows? Could be on your spoon, could be staring you in the face, could just be a feeling you get that's warm and supportive, and boom -- God.)

With grown-ups like Bachmann and Santorum, it's harder to come up with an excuse. Why the need for a literal take on what makes a marriage in this century, when of course so much else from the rich and instructive stories and suggestions the Bible provides us don't quite fit today's moral and civic landscape (stoning the adulterers, etc.)? Why turn your back on the notion of a loving commitment of grown-ups to be life partners -- the ones who can't happily, or honestly, find such a partner in the opposite sex?

Answer: it works for their worldly success, even though they are outliers of the spirit of the Christian church, corrupters of its original intent, and meany losers, lining up the other 'fraidy cats behind them. They're making off like bandits, finding the lowest, coarsest common denominators and playing them to their political advantage.

The practicing Christians I admire -- as opposed to those like me who show up for holidays and the occasional need for silence and a framework for thoughtful reflection -- take their faith and apply it to the world, from the big city/big church minister to the small-town Catholic who went back to take her vows to my mother and her mixed-salad approach to positive thinking. They seek to alleviate the world's heartache, in addition to finding support for themselves, basically in that order. Faith in God to them is a window to that world, a welcome to its citizens, some hope for provision of comfort.

The Bachmann/Santorum church committee shuts the apertures. The "marriage vow" cements them closed. Banning porn (starting where?) and women in combat are squishy and ironic offshoots of the kind of Sharia law the pledge also seeks to avoid, but the insistence on a family construct that is no longer even the norm -- a mother and a father, eternally faithful to one another and a number of children of that robust child-rearing and reproductive viewpoint under one roof simultaneously -- becomes desperate when it tries to pencil gay families out.

Enter our 8-year-old, seeing protest marches on CNN against gay marriages, since many New York judges took the day Sunday to kick them off. "What's that about?" As I explain that there are people who disagree with same-sex marriage, she says without missing a beat, "They probably think that the earth is the center of the universe, too." When I say that well, most of them are past that, she says, "You know, they used to not let African-Americans drink from the same drinking fountain as white people."

And what to say except it's a Constitutional issue, so will win out eventually because it's what the Constitution was made for, but it will take a while, as it did for folks who staunchly insisted that the earth was the center of the universe -- OK, pre-American Constitution but part of the cover-your-eyes community -- and for those who thought black people weren't equal citizens.

The gay families are in, our children are watching, and you just know that they're reporting back to the Big Gal in the sky, from place-settings, car seats and pond walks everywhere. Really, everywhere.