My ten year old daughter approached me a few days ago and said she needed to talk to me about something that had happened when she was playing online. Being that she is very into coding and online computer/video games my husband and I have had many conversations with her about internet safety- never using her real name, or providing her age, photograph or location when playing games online with people she doesn’t know. We have talked to her about online predators who might pretend to be something they are not in order to try to form a connection with her. So when she said something had happened in an online forum, the following story is not what I was expecting.
My daughter was getting ready to start a multiplayer online game on the Roblox website when one of the kids on the site asked her via online chat if she believed in God. My daughter answered that she did but suspected there was more to the question and asked if the real question was if she was a Christian. The girl responded by asking my daughter if she had accepted Jesus Christ as her Lord and Savior. My daughter replied that she is Jewish and that Jews don’t believe that about Jesus at which point the other girl told my daughter that her father had said they couldn’t play together anymore (even in an online forum).
My daughter told me that she asked the girl, “Are you willing to have a conversation about that -because if we talked about our faiths I think you might be surprised by how much they have in common.” The other girl said “okay,” so my daughter started listing ways their faiths overlapped. Typing away, she pointed out that their God is one and the same, that their sacred texts overlap, and that their faiths share many of the same values such as caring for the poor and feeding the hungry. The girl countered that all that may be true but their differing opinions about Jesus Christ made them opposites. She reiterated her belief that Jesus had died for her sins, and that if one did not accept him as their Lord and Savior that they could not go to heaven and that if my daughter did not believe this that they could not play together.
At that point, my daughter did not know what else to say. The girl logged off the game and my daughter played with someone else. Later, when she told me about what had happened, I asked her how she was feeling about it? She told me she was a little surprised but that she was comfortable with her faith and mostly she wanted to know if she had handled herself appropriately. I told her she could probably teach classes on how people could handle themselves more appropriately and that I was really proud that she had attempted to open up a dialog with this girl.
We talked about, too, how lucky we are, really, to have so many friends, family members, and neighbors of different (or no particular) faiths. My daughter adores her non-Jewish cousins and Aunts and places equal value on her relationships with them as she does her Jewish grandparents, uncles, and cousins. She has Jewish friends, yes, and she also has friends who are Catholic, Christian, and Muslim and I do not fear or worry about my daughter playing with any of them. In fact, I welcome it because it is through these relationships that I believe the world becomes a little bit safer for everyone. It becomes harder and harder to generalize about or hate entire faith groups, the more relationships you have with people of those faiths. At the same time, learning about other religions can have a funny away of bringing us closer to our own faith by making us think more critically about why we believe what we believe and be able to better articulate our own beliefs.
So, fear not. If your child comes across my child online I can assure you that there are no Jewish cooties (“Jooties?”) that are going to travel through the internet and negatively impact your child. It is entirely possible to both lay a strong foundation of your own religious beliefs at home and also allow or even encourage your child to interact with children of different faiths without prejudice or fear.