For the rest of the week, I worked hard on my research report. I talked Mom into taking me to the library twice. Henry came with us, and he helped me find some books for my report. He also found a book about rocket ships, and we had fun reading that together. I had to keep reminding Henry that I didn’t have time to play, but finally on Saturday, I was tired of doing research, and I really wanted to play. I called Faith and asked if she could come over. Her mom said yes, but I had to wait until after lunch. So Henry and I started playing Escape from the Black Hole by ourselves.
We made my bed look like a rocket ship as best we could. At the end of the bed, we put my red, white, and gold quilt to make the fiery rockets. We used Henry’s blue comforter as the body of the ship. We sat on pillows for our pilot and co-pilot seats, and we took the video game controls when Mom and Dad weren’t looking to use as our steering wheels. We also had windows, more buttons and levers, but you had to use your imagination to see those. My dresser was the black hole, and the rest of my room was the planet Earth!
By the time Faith got there, we had set up my room for the game and had escaped one black hole. Henry agreed to give up being co-pilot and be the engineer so that Faith could co-pilot. It was usually more fun that way because Henry got to fix all of the things that would break down as we tried to escape.
We started off by having tea on Earth when we noticed a dark spot in the sky that was getting bigger. Because we were scientists, we rushed to our science lab and telescope to see what the dark spot was. Soon we realized that it was a black hole coming straight to Earth, and the only way to escape was to get into our rocket ship and blast off. But the rocket ship wasn’t ready yet, so Henry, Faith, and I had to hurry up and get it ready before it was too late.
“Do we have enough gas, Tony?” I yelled. Tony was Henry’s name in the game.
“No, Dr. Storm. There isn’t enough. Hold on while I go get some more!” Henry, or Tony, yelled back at me.
“Let me help you, Tony,” I said.
“We don’t have time you two! We have to go with the gas we have!” Faith said. Her name was Dr. Penny in the game.
“Just get the computer ready Dr. Penny, and we’ll have that gas!” I screamed at her.
Finally, we got everything set, and we blasted off. “Oh no! Dr. Storm,” Henry cried, “A hose is broke. I have to go outside of the rocket ship and fix it!”
“Hurry up, Tony!” I said. “We haven’t escaped the black hole yet. We need that gas, and we need it now!”
Faith and I tried to steer the spaceship as Henry rushed outside of it to fix a few things as quickly as he could. Then he yelled, “All fixed!” and hopped back on the bed which meant he was back inside the spaceship. “Punch it Dr. Penny!”
Faith put her foot on the gas, and we were all knocked backwards as we barely escaped the black hole. “We were lucky to escape,” I said, “but everyone left on Earth is now dead.” I hung my head down and gave a fake cry.
“Don’t cry Dr. Storm,” said Faith. “They are with God in Heaven now.” And she patted me on the back.
Henry and I both looked up at her a little confused, “Huh?” we both said.
Then I said, “What are you talking about?”
“Oh, you know, Aurora: Heaven. The place you go when you die.”
“You go someplace when you die?” I asked.
“Of course you do,” laughed Faith. “Didn’t your mom and dad teach you about God and Heaven?”
“No,” I said, “not about Heaven. I mean, I kind of know about God. He’s this made up person that some people pray to.”
“Made up!” Faith was surprised and a little mad. “God isn’t made up. God is real! My mom told me so.”
“Well, my mom said that he’s just made up, but some people think he’s real.” I said.
“How can you say that?” I knew Faith was mad then because she jumped off the bed and flapped her arms up and down as she talked to me. “If there is no God, then what happens to you when you die?”
“I don’t know,” I said. “I never thought about it.”
“Well, you should think about it,” Faith warned, “and you better start believing in God or you’ll go to Hell, and you definitely don’t want to go there.”
“What’s Hell?” Henry asked.
“A place you don’t want to be,” Faith said. “It’s where the Devil lives, and he’s real mean, and he’ll do mean things to you forever if you don’t believe in God!”
“Wow!” Henry and I just looked at her for a minute, not sure what to say. Then I said, “So all I have to do is believe that God is real, then I get to go to Heaven? What’s Heaven like?”
“No,” Faith answered, she was still upset, but she stopped flapping her arms and instead put one hand on her hip while the other hand counted off the things we should do. “You have to do a lot of other stuff like pray and go to church. If you do those things, then you’ll be a good person and God will love you.”
“Well I’m a good person,” I said.
“Me, too,” said Henry.
“Isn’t that good enough?” I asked.
“No, Aurora, you have to believe, pray, and go to church!”
“But my mom doesn’t believe. What will happen to her?” I was starting to get concerned. Faith sounded very serious. Maybe she knew something I didn’t.
“Your mom will go to Hell, and she will have bad things done to her by the Devil. That’s how it works,” said Faith.
I didn’t like the idea of my mom going to Hell. She is the best person I know, so why should she have bad things done to her, so I said, “That doesn’t make sense.”
“Of course it does!” Faith was getting upset again. “It says so in the Bible. And if you don’t believe me, then you’re going to Hell too, and my mom says that I shouldn’t play with kids who are going to Hell.”
“What!” I asked, but almost screamed it at her. “You’re not going to play with me anymore? Why? What did I do?”
“I don’t know,” Faith said. She started putting on her shoes. “I better go home and talk to my mom. Maybe she knows of a way to keep you out of Hell, so we can play together.”
I didn’t know what to say, so I said, “ok,” and watched Faith leave. Henry was just as speechless, and after Faith left, Henry went to his room and played by himself. I sat in my room thinking. Mom and Dad had told me about God and that some people think he is real, but no one else ever really talked to me about it. So I guess I thought most people believed the way my parents do. I was confused, so I decided to go talk to Mom.
I found Mom outside reading. “Did something happen between you and Faith?” she asked without even looking up from her book. I stood there for a little bit, not sure what to say. Then Mom lowered her book and looked at me, “What’s wrong?”
I was trying not to cry, so I looked down to the ground and said, “Faith doesn’t think she can be my friend anymore.” I started crying anyway and ran to Mom for a hug. She let me jump in her lap and squeezed me tight.
“I’m sorry sweetheart. What happened?”
“She said that I have to believe in God if I want to be her friend. I said I didn’t know what I believe, but she said that I had to or the Devil would get me and he’ll get you too!” I couldn’t stop crying. My face was soaking wet along with Mom’s shoulder. “I don’t know what to do.”
“Well, that certainly is a problem, Aurora.”
“What should I do?” I asked as I breathed in.
“Well there might not be anything you can do. Faith believes in God. Not only that, Faith believes that God punishes nonbelievers with the Devil. Because of that, her beliefs tell her what she should do and who she should be friends with.”
Mom tried brushing the tangles out of my hair with her fingers. It hurt, and I said, “ouch!”
“Sorry,” Mom said and patted my head instead. “She uses her religion to help her make those kinds of decisions. It doesn’t make sense to you or me because we make decisions differently. For example, how do you know what is right and wrong?”
I was mostly done crying, so I picked my head up off of her shoulder and looked at her as I answered her question, “Well you taught me that things that are right are things that make me and other people feel good or don’t hurt anyone, and things that are wrong are hurtful or make people feel bad when you do them.”
“Right, Aurora, and we can add more to that definition of right and wrong. Faith uses her religion to tell her these things. Someone told her ‘this is right and this is wrong.’ She probably hasn’t thought much about it beyond that because her religion tells her that she doesn’t have to. You and Faith may have come to the same conclusions about a lot of things, but you got to them in different ways. And because you got the answer in different ways, you can also sometimes apply them in different ways. For example, Faith might view a new situation as wrong because she wasn’t taught about that situation yet. Faith was taught that anyone who doesn’t believe in God is bad and will be punished by the Devil. Then she meets you. You guys are good friends, you have fun together, and she thinks you’re a good person until she finds out that you aren’t sure if you believe in God. Now, she doesn’t know what to do. Does she judge you based on what she was taught or judge you based on your actions? At the moment, it seems that she is judging you based on what she was taught. You judge people differently. You didn’t realize that Faith was so religious, but you saw that she is a good friend and that you have fun together, so you knew exactly what to do and that’s to continue the friendship.”
“Ok, I get it,” I said. “But I want Faith to be my friend. How do I get her to be my friend again?”
“Well, honey,” Mom said, “we can’t make people be our friends, and now Faith isn’t sure if she wants to be your friend. What concerns me is what will you do if Faith says that she’ll be your friend only if you agree to start believing in God and going to church. What will you do then?”
“I don’t know. Is there anything wrong with going to church?” I asked.
“No,” she said, “But you need to go to church for the right reasons. You shouldn’t go to make or keep friends. You should only go if you truly believe.”
“Then Faith might not be my friend anymore?” My eyes started to tear up again.
“That’s a very real possibility. What will you do if that’s the case?”
“I don’t know,” I said. Tears were running down my face, and my mom put her arms around me again.
“Just remember that a good friend doesn’t require you to be anything other than who you are. But they can also challenge you to be a better person. Believing in God doesn’t make you a better person, and anyone who tries to tell you that probably isn’t a good friend.”
“No,” I was mad that she said that. “She is a good friend. I just have to help her see that I am a good friend too.”
“I hope that you can, Aurora,” Mom said, and she gave me a big hug. I started to climb down off of her lap. “What will you do now?”
I wiped the last couple of tears off of my face, “I think I want to be alone. Can I go outside?”
“Of course you can,” she said. “Just let me know if you decide to leave the yard.”