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"Halibut Be Thy Name"
By Dave Kiffer

July 29, 2005

Ketchikan, Alaska - I've always been amused by parents who tell me their toddlers are religious.

Sure, First Communions are very important in some families as are declarations of faith (such as being "born again.") But those are for older children, not three and four year olds, no matter what their parents might think. For the average four-year-old, "Sleeping Beauty " or "Power Rangers" is about as close to deity worship as they come.  
jpg Dave Kiffer Column

For example, our four year old has been singing " I want to be like Cheezus" for the last few days. It is a song he is learning in a week-long summer class at Holy Name Pre-School.

At first, I thought he was singing "I want to be like Cheez Itz." He's often picking up little ditties like that during the time he communes with the Disney Channel and PBS Kids. The more you watch Kid TV the more you start to see that every second of air time is intended to inspire the "buy that, Daddy, pllllleeeeaaaaazzzz" reflex.

But come to find out, Liam is really singing "I want to be like Jesus." When I mentioned my confusion to one of the other class parents, she thought for a minute.

"I've often pondered 'What Would Cheeze Itz Do?' " she replied with a smile.

My wife and I aren't overtly religious. She comes from a long line of communicants to the "Cathedral of the Blessed Skeptic." I gained most of my religious training at "Our Lady of the Turn-Around Jump Shot" AKA Ketchikan Church League basketball in the 1960s.

But Liam is already taking to the religious life better than his parents have. Given the choice of "job" at pre-school he often selects "prayer leader." He cheerfully sings about "cheezus." He really enjoys concerts at the church. When we see a performance, he'll sit quietly for a few minutes and then get up.

"Where are you going?" I'll ask.

"Daddy," he'll say. "I want to go see the God."

By that he means the Christ on the cross in the little side chapel near the confession booths. I notice the other toddlers like to do this as well. They chase each other around the side chapel - everyone communes with The Almighty in their own way - until someone's parent breaks up their fun and makes them return to the pews.

Liam's mother recently took him to see the Philadelphia Boys Choir which was traveling through Alaska and made a brief stop here for a lunch time concert.

As usual, Liam decided to make himself comfortable by lying down in the middle of the aisle right in front of the choir. I've heard that lying down on the floor is a sign that a toddler is comfortable in his environment. Either that or taking off his or her clothes. Fortunately, Liam has not chosen to disrobe in church..yet.

Anyway , he was stretched out enjoying the show when intrepid Daily News photographer Hall Anderson spied a great shot. Liam had his arms stretched out and was - we assume inadvertently, but then again maybe OUR toddler IS religious! - mirroring the Christ on the cross above the church altar and behind the choir.

Anderson snapped a picture that will now forever be a part of Liam's toddler scrap book. But the story doesn't end there. The picture didn't run in the local newspaper but it was sent out over the Associated Press photo network.

Liam's "pose" appeared in several newspapers including the Anchorage Daily News, the Juneau Empire and the Seattle PI. It took up half of the religion page in the Midland (Texas) Reporter-Telegram. It may have shown up in even more papers than that but it's not possible to know for sure. What I do know is that if you go on the internet and GOOGLE Liam Kiffer and religion, you get a whole bunch of hits. If he turns out one day to become the next Billy Graham, you could say it all started out with the Philadelphia Boys Choir and being like "Cheeze Itz."

Apparently, this sort of thing runs in family - even it did skip his parents generation.

Liam's grandmother was very amused by his "wanting to be like cheezus." She said it reminded her of the days in the mid 1920s when her family lived at the foot of Austin Street and she and her sisters attended a nearby Sunday school.

The barely school aged girls came home one day with a truly child's eye view of the Lord's Prayer. Mom's younger sister Alice was very interested in food even at that age. As the family was reciting the prayer at dinner, she loudly proclaimed "test passes the daily bread" and stuck out her hands to receive the bounty .

My mother said she had fishing on the mind, because shortly before that she had gone jigging with her father off one of the local docks.

"Our Father who are in Heaven," she prayed loudly, "Halibut be thy name."



Dave Kiffer is a freelance writer living in Ketchikan, Alaska.
Contact Dave at

Dave Kiffer ©2005

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