Taking My Children to Visit God at the Zoo

It was a sunny Saturday morning with just a tease of autumn’s crispness in the air. A splendid day to take my children meandering through a park full of caged animals. So we packed enough lunch for our carnivorous appetites, smeared on a liberal amount of sun screen, and drove to the zoo.

The zoo is one of those popular places in the city where you can pretend to have an encounter with nature. My children had an Animal of the Month kind of interest. In January it had been monkeys. In May, giraffes. In August—for reasons I never grasped—it was spiders. I hate spiders.

@@It October, the Animal of the Month was God.@@

It took us forever to get to the Almighty’s exhibit. We had to walk past the pachyderms, through the safari, and all the way around this marathon loop to get to the back side of the zoo. But we did. For the kids.

I have to admit: the God exhibit was pretty cool. Though the glass was extra thick, everything inside was crystal clear. The star-studded ceiling. A mini Eden in the back corner. Gold-clad cherubs suspended in midair. I was impressed.

Smack dab in the middle of the exhibit was a bejeweled throne. God sat there, his white beard hanging low. He was looking all regal and bored. One of those handy brass educational plaques was hanging outside the cage. I read it to my children:

GOD (Deus): A being who created the world and keeps a watchful eye of humans. Wants people to be good, fair, and nice to each other. His goal is for you to be happy, to feel good about yourself. He will occasionally be involved in the lives of humans, but only if they have a really big problem. He welcomes good people into his native habitat of heaven when they die.

“Oh, he sounds nice,” my daughter said.
“Can we feed him?” my son asked.

Now I’m not a particularly religious person, but I thought the exhibit did a good job with God. It was something I felt comfortable showing to my children.

I mean, the zoo could have gone way overboard. Tried to Christianize the deity or something. Made God into some really personal being who’s all up in your life or died for you or showed some real interest in you.

But this exhibit, it was safe, fair, balanced, objective. This was a divinity I felt at ease with. Of course, the cage helped.

“So we can’t pet him or anything?” my son asked.
“No, he’s really just to look at,” I replied.

We went a few times to the zoo that October. Every time we made the long walk to the God exhibit. Honestly, as a dad, I kind of grew to appreciate it. I want my children to be well-rounded. And, like it or not, religion is a part of this world. But this exhibit put everything about God into a proper perspective. He’s interested in people, but only from a distance. He just wants us to be happy. He’s there to help, but only if we really need him. And, if heaven is real, then he’ll be there to welcome all the good people when they die.

The God at the zoo, I think I can believe in him.
He’s safe, remote, welcoming, bored.
@@There’s something appealing about a caged deity.@@