Brain, Child this quarter featured a funny but ultimately unsatisfying piece by Moncia Crumback, who discovered that her son’s grandparents were plotting a secret baptism. Mother and father met at a Lutheran college and left that institution “a lot more liberal and a lot less Lutheran.” (I understand that those two “l’s” don’t go together in some people’s minds, but it irritates me that this sentence prompts no further explanation).
On the other hand, I find the author’s description of their spiritual plans for their children less than honest. They will expose their children to the stories of a variety of faiths, they say, and when their children are grown “they can choose.” I have heard this approach defended many a time, often from people who are equally clear that they would be appalled if their child grew up to, say, drive a Hummer or join the Republican party.
Let’s be honest. To expose your child to a lot of “stories” and “philosophies,” but no living community of faith or ritual practice, is to instill in your child a quasi-religious philosophy, namely one of secular skepticism. While it’s entirely possible that such children will grow to some day commit themselves heart and soul to a traditional religious faith, they would not be following in their parents’ footsteps as they do so – and odds are good that such a conversion would cause family tension. Their children will indeed choose, but their parents have made a clear bid for what they hope that choice will be.
Religion, ultimately, is a very human endeavor, a bit like language. I know some very committed interfaith families, but they work very hard at teaching their children more than one language of faith – and that includes interaction with community, holiday celebration, Scriptures, and ritual practice like worship. It is the difference between raising a child bilingually and saying you will expose them to a half-dozen languages and let them pick one later on.
I appreciate the respect the church is granted when people are honest to God. Let’s just be completely honest that non-belief is also passed down to our children.