Wednesday, December 8, 2010
Kids and Faith
Now, by nature, Lutherans are pleasers. We have an inbred desire to try to get along and not be offensive. Garrison Keillor has a good living over the foibles of Lutherans so self-conscious of their faith they will defer to almost anyone before standing up for themselves. So when these other denominations invite our kids to youth group activities or sports programs or musical events, we gladly send our kids. We think church is church -- at least they are not out there fornicating or something. So we peel off a $10 and tell them to pick up some ice cream after it is finished. And we think we have done the right thing. But have we???
Most of these other church bodies have well ingrained the fear of others into their children and parents. If we have youth group activities or something else, they are often hesitant to send their kids and if they do, they warn them about those Lutherans and their unChristian ways. Their kids may come to our worship services or parish events, but their guard is up and they view things with a fearful gaze that something must be wrong there. The parents are sure they are doing the right thing by putting this fear into their children because not all those who claim to be Christian are really Christians, if you know what I mean?!
God forbid you have a smart, talented, good looking Lutheran teenage girl in a school full of these other Christian types. Or a handsome, athletic, and intelligent boy. They will hook up with some fine individual of the opposite sex and get invited to youth group or Sunday night church (Lutherans never have plans for Sunday evening) or a Wednesday sports league. And since the gal or guy they fancy will be there, the Lutherans are not far behind. And they are pleasers. They don't just sit there, they participate. They pay attention. They get involved.
Next thing you know, they come home with questions or maybe they decide to go to the boyfriend's or girlfriend's congregation on Sunday morning, too. Next thing you know, they start talking like, well, somebody who thinks Lutherans are not the only ones who are right or maybe not even all that right about what Scripture says. Finally, they want to be baptized as an adult because they don't even remember that infant baptism and it wasn't really anything anyway since infants and small children cannot believe. Then when the communion tray comes around the pews, they pick up the glass of Welch's grape juice and piece of saltines and toast the Lord with joyful remembrance but without any sense that Christ could be in that bread or that cup. And then we have pretty much lost them. Even if they don't marry the high school sweetheart, the damage is done. They have been set adrift from their moorings and are loose on a sea of choices without a solid Lutheran dock in sight.
Maybe I am just an old curmudgeon. I am at the point of saying, "Parents, don't let your children grow up to be nice when it comes to the faith." Teach them to know what they believe and to stand their ground. If they have friends or date outside their Lutheran faith, require that the friend or date come to Lutheran services and events at least as often as your kids go to theirs. Draw the line early on. Lutherans are Lutheran. We are a Lutheran family. As a Lutheran family, we worship together as a family. Don't be thinking that you can go to church somewhere else and call it good. It is not a matter of judging others (but why not, they are judging you) but we are Lutherans and Lutherans stay close to home -- church home that is.
Okay, I did not tell the truth. I am not at the point of saying this. I am saying this. Lutheran parents -- wake up! You are not fulfilling your parental duties and keeping the promises you made in your kid's baptism when you let them exchange their Lutheran identity for another -- at least not while they live under your roof. Stand up and be counted. We are Lutherans. Period. This is who we are and what we do. Period. As a family. Period.
Rant is now turned off... but the sentiment expressed is real and it continues. Call me rude or unrealistic. I just don't care at this point. Lutherans are losing out on this court of public opinion by being nice when we need to stick to being Lutheran. (By the way, if you think that another pastor of one of those Baptist, Nazarene, or Church of Christ congregations has not already had this talk with parents and kids, you are fooling yourself.)