Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Kids and Faith

I live in a community in which the predominate flavor of Christianity is Baptist, Nazarene, or Church of Christ.  There are a few other choices offered but the previous versions are by far the most popular.  Most of these folks do not consider Lutherans real Christians.  They see us variously as cult or worshipers of form over Christ.  They often reject us as Catholics -- something so instinctively offensive to Lutherans that they will often do anything to avoid being so labeled (including rejecting major portions of their faith and choosing a Protestant identity and practice over anything that might cause them to be equated with the Church of Rome).

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.)


Dave Lambert said...

Excellent advice for raising our 13-year old son. My fervent prayer is that other LC-MS pastors would express the same viewpoint to their congregations.

Dr.D said...

The really big problem comes when they go away to college. There you have no control over who they fall in with, and it can be a pretty awful surprise. My son wound up in the Roman Catholic Church because his drinking buddies at college were all at the Newman Center; it was just that simple.

JLuChr said...

Kids are still young, and there's no stopping them from being curious.

I think it's sufficient to: #1. Teach your kids enough so they know the Lutheran beliefs well, and can defend them in an argument. #2 To teach them that it's important to constantly work hard to get a better understanding of how we should think and act as Christians.

As long as the religious teachings they are investigating are still Christian, and will still make sure my kid is saved, I say they need room to be intellectually curious.

It was this type of critical investigation, after all, that caused Luther to break away from the Catholic church.

Anonymous said...

Lutheran kids ask questions. Answer them honestly. Answer them doctrinally. Don't just tell them they weren't raised Baptist, Nazarene, etc. Really raise them Lutheran (catechize them).

And parents, you aren't free either. Catechesis is to be lifelong. Learn with your kids.

Anonymous said...

Ha, ha, ha.

I was that girl who got invited to the "other church" only it was the other way around. I was the baptist and he was the Lutheran. No way would he ever let go of his beloved Lutheran worship. I think he would sooner let me loose! So, I never tested it.

Anonymous said...

If the bottom line of the Pastor
Peters' post is that

If the bottom line of Pastor Peters
Post is that Lutherans should marry
Lutherans, then that is unrealistic
expectation. Most Christian parents pray that their children will marry a Christian. When the
first Pentecost was celebrated in
the Book of Acts there was only one
Holy Christian Church, and when Christ returns on the Last Day there will still be only one Holy
Christian Church as we confess it
in the Apostles Creed.

Anonymous said...

Ouch. Your post really hit home. I was basically raised LCMS but I sent my children to a Baptist church affiliated school and allowed them to attend Baptist youth events with their friends. And now my children attend Baptist and Evangelical Free churches.

I spoke with my children about what Lutheran's believe and how it differs from the typical evangelical denomination (e.g., infant baptism, the real presence in the Lord's supper, rejection of the rapture, etc.) And I've asked them to seriously study these differences for themselves. They said they will and I believe them.

Perhaps I failed as a parent. However, would it be better that they attended no church at all or, even worse, a non-Christian church. That's an easy one for me. I would rather my children attend a Baptist or E-Free church (even with some incorrect teaching) then to abandon the Christian faith altogether.

Your post really did hit home. I sometimes have doubts about not being more forceful with my children regarding their Lutheran roots. Perhaps I erred. God will judge me accordingly.


Pastor Peters said...

No, Lutherans marrying only Lutherans was not my point... just not being so nice about sending our kids to non-Lutheran churches with their friends assuming it is all the same... it's not... require their friends to come with them to the Lutheran church as much as they go there and teach them what and why of the difference...

Anonymous said...

...rather have my kids attend a Baptist or Non-Denom church than nothing... NO! I DON'T THINK SO!
I will teach my children at home if a LCMS church is not available. I will search the internet for the LCMS teachings to assist me. I, for one, will not encourage my children to just go to church (just because it's a church). False doctrine is the fast road to hell and we all know it.

Anonymous said...

"I, for one, will not encourage my children to just go to church (just because it's a church). False doctrine is the fast road to hell and we all know it."

Anonymous, one day your children will leave home. They will choose a church on their own. Your efforts to instruct them in sound Lutheran doctrine will certainly have an influence but it's no guarantee. I am not suggesting that "any church" will do. There are clearly false churches out there claiming to be Christian. Discernment is clearly needed. But are you saying there are no other Christian churches out there except LCMS? The LCMS website clearly acknowledges there are Christians other than Lutherans. (In fact, LCMS leaders just met with Anglican leaders to start a dialogue and possibly recognize them as fellow Christians.) Yes, there is error but they are my brothers and sisters in Christ as well. And my children maybe one of "them."

Some Lutheran Christians can be very harsh at times when discussing non-Lutheran Christians.