I don’t make my kids go to church; I want them to make up their own minds about religion.” I overheard the line from a parent sitting at a nearby restaurant table, and have heard the adage countless times. Freedom of choice is every American’s birthright, and Americans have several religions from which to choose. Non-Christian religions have increasing visibility, and Christianity itself has numerous denominations. Teaching our children a particular form of religious expression may seem something like teaching them to eat only one kind of cheese on a smorgasbord of limitless options. With so many religious alternatives, how can we help our children choose? Read more here. . .
So one more author enters the fray over the idea of religious choice -- in particular the choice of our children and what we can or should do to inform that choice. This time the author begins with a question of whether a child can make such a choice. It is perhaps a good place to begin. We spend our time hopeless arguing over the wisdom of choices parents make for their children in so many different aspects of life. The sad truth is that many parental decisions are not so much choices or informed decisions but paths of least resistance -- both for them and between them and their children. I have personally encountered more than a handful of families who were Lutheran before they moved here but, in the course of choosing their battles and finding so much bite back from their children, this time let their kids choose the church the family would attend. Really!?
Let me as you parents. If you do not think the church you attend is the best one for your children, what in the dickens are YOU doing in that church? If you are comfortable making all sorts of temporal decisions for your children (vaccines, health habits, dietary options, etc...), why do you shy away from a decision when has eternal consequences as well as temporal? If you are willing to give in on the eternal future of your children and abdicate your roles as the leaders of the faith of the household, why do you strive so hard to get them into a good preschool or get good grades or do well in sports or a thousand other things which may or may not give them a better life today but have almost zero impact on eternity?
I was always told that parents have to choose their battles. We were rather lenient about hair styles. We did not fight one of our three who insisted upon wearing shorts all winter long (though the school called us a few times to warn us of our parental failure). We did not choose their vocations (though we did have strong ideas about them). But we did choose their church, chose to have them baptized, chose to raise them in the faith, prayed with them through teenage years and still, and made it clear that, no matter the age, if they lived under our roof, Sunday mornings were spent in Church! My parents gave me no choice and my wife's parents did the same. In the end, it was their most lasting legacy to us all!
I have no patience with parents who wimp out on raising their children in the faith. The truth is that many of them use this excuse to justify their own doubts or disinterest in the faith. That is an even worse reason for not attending worship. We treat the trivial as valuable and the eternal as of little consequence. It is no wonder that our children seen through our indifference to the faith and act as indifferently to religion and faith and the church as their parents.
What is wrong with us? Grow up. . . If there is something wrong with the church you are attending, find one that is faithful to the Scriptures and to the catholic tradition. Stay there and stick to it. Get involved. Worship faithfully. Pray regularly and together. Listen to the sermons and teaching. Model faith to your children. Unless you do this, you give them no choice at all but NOT to believe. Every child can reject what their moms and dads taught them. They can refuse to brush their teeth and use the toilet just as they can refuse to believe. But it is surely less likely once they have grown up with an 18 year tradition of being part of the faith and among the faithful. College and life may test their mettle but if you give them something solid to hold onto, they will have something to return to when the silliness of what passes for intellectual curiosity and academia gives way to real life.