-Fill those pews people! That’s the key! Grab the little ones as well. Hook ’em while they’re young
-Kind of like the tobacco industry.
-If only we had their numbers.
Cardinal Glick (George Carlin) and Rufus (Chris Rock) in Dogma
Hello Hand of Ananke readers. As promised Sundays will be for discussions about belief in general and faith in particular. In light of this being our introductory post in this feature I thought it would be of interest to talk about introducing faith into someone’s life. Specifically I would like to discuss how one goes about teaching one’s child about it.
I have no children, but I do know my mind and worries and I have had enough discussions with people who do have children that I understand that raising a child is a balancing act between passing on those values you deem important and allowing them to develop into their own people. This has to be particularly difficult, both psychologically and socially, when passing on one’s faith.
Push too hard and you risk either alienating your child, or turning them into the sort of practitioner of faith for whom their religion is a simple, reflexive action with no deep connection to that belief. Lay off entirely and your child will not learn about an important aspect of your being, and in many cases a beloved family tradition. Even teaching them about your faith but making them aware they are free to make their own choices comes with difficulties. Endless questions of “why wasn’t Colin in church today,” “is Mary OK,” or “are you alright with this” no doubt leave a church going parent questioning their own devotion both as a parent and a believer.
For my part I got off lucky as a kid. My parents were proud to march to the beat of a different drum, or better yet, to two different drums and did not often tolerate others telling them how to raise their kids. We were free to explore our own belief, or lack thereof. They both explored Eastern Religions and New Age when I was teenager, and encouraged us to join them if we like, but it was made clear that it was all our choice and it was about finding peace within ourselves, not adhering to some dogma.
For others, though, these faith traditions go back generations. They have internal and external pressures for which they have my undying sympathy and which I wish I could take from them. Unfortunately I cannot, there really are no easy answers to these questions. The only thing I would ever suggest is don’t take it lightly. Don’t deprive yourself or your child an honest assessment of the meaning and necessity of your faith. They will be happier, you will be, and in the long run, so will your church.