E Jane Dickson: God moves in mysterious ways

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The Independent Online

It is a sunny Saturday morning, and I stretch my toes luxuriously to the cool end of the bed, enjoying the golden hour before Dick and Dom shatter the calm with the shouty, hyperactive bilge that parent-hating programmers have decided is just the thing for children's weekend television. Ten minutes later, I am startled from blissful slumber by a shouty, hyperactive din coming not from the television set, but from Conor's bedroom.

"What's all the noise about?" I call, for all the world as if noise, when you're six, has to be about anything. Obligingly, Con thunders along the corridor to explain. "I was shouting out the window like I was God," he says and demonstrates with a ear-piercing view halloo from my own window. "This is God!" he calls, very much in the manner of Charlton Heston. "The world will end today."

"This is God's mother," I call in barely less awful tones, "and He's going back to bed this minute!"

Con has got the theological bit between his teeth, however. "Why doesn't God just tell the world what he's doing?"

I am half-intrigued by the idea of God as a kind of Butlin's redcoat, issuing his plans for the day over a celestial tannoy, but I'm more intrigued by the idea of going back to sleep.

"Oh, I don't know," I mutter. "God moves in mysterious ways."

"Like this?" says Con, executing a wriggly sort of moonwalk. "Yup," I yawn, "That's the kind of thing."

The god-complex continues over breakfast. "There shall be more sugar on my Weetabix!" decrees Conor, and I wonder if this is how the Empress Livia felt when Caligula started to go a bit funny.

"Actually," says Clara, a devout child who takes a strictly orthodox view of religion, "what you're doing is blast-phemy, and God will probably blast you into a million pieces for saying those things."

Con looks briefly chastened. "He won't, Mum, will He?" he appeals.

"Of course not," I assure him. "Blasting daft little boys for shouting nonsense out of windows is not what God's about." I am perpetually puzzled by my children's blood-and-thunder view of theology. I would like religion to be a comfortable thing for them and have, in our conversations, consistently majored on Jesus, friend of little children, and the sparrow-loving God. Yet here is Clara coming on like Billy Graham while Conor appears to view the godhead as a cross between Doctor X and the Green Goblin.

The matter is taken up again, a few days later, when Con rushes out from school. "Arjun says it wasn't God who made the world, it was the Big Bang," he tells me. Arjun is Conor's brainy friend, and, for Con, there is no greater authority. The walk home is taken up by a brief and very sketchy explanation of Big Bang theory. Clara, however, is quick to spot a loophole.

"Well," she says stoutly, "Maybe God made the Big Bang." After some discussion, we compromise on the notion of an all-loving, if somewhat noisy God. It's an idea that suits the three of us just fine.