Sunday, May 7, 2017
Properly catechized. . .
A comment on a post a while ago said, "If kids can learn calculus and chemistry, they can be properly catechized." It was a simple statement and yet so profound. Read through much of what passes for Sunday school, children's church, Vacation Bible school, and catechism curricula and you see that we prepare with the idea that much of Scripture and doctrine is beyond the children so that they must be entertained instead of taught. Yet at the same time you can hand a little child a cell phone and they can find their way to the video on it or the games they want to play. We send them to school and they are taught how to read and write in classes that stretch across the better part of a day. They can memorize lines from their favorite movies and recall intricate details of how to get past this or that obstacle in a video game. But in Church we assume the best they can handle is an object lesson from a children's sermon or a coloring book to play with while we adults do the real stuff of worship.
We are not losing our children into young adulthood because they have been too well catechized. We are not losing them because we have failed to teach them religion is fun and doctrine is fluff. We are losing them because we never really had them. We did not give them a chance. We offered them books with more pictures than substance. We gave them busywork to occupy them instead of nurture them into the faith. We had them sing in church to make us proud or bring a tear to our eyes (with a digital sound track designed to sound like what they listen to in their ear buds). Then when they wander from the faith we wonder what happened?
Someone a long time ago told me that if you gave a youth to a Roman Catholic Church until age 10, that child would remain Roman Catholic (at least in outlook) for the rest of their lives. One thing I do admire about Rome is how they expect the child to have a common perspective in catechesis and the mass. Watch a typical acolyte in a Lutheran church and you see someone generally bored or uninvolved unless are actually doing something. Watch a typical altar server in a Roman mass and you see reverence offered no matter what the altar boy is doing. Reverence expected is reverence given. I am not saying we should pander to things Roman but to learn the lesson. We do our children no favors by dumbing down worship and catechesis or by deceiving them as if church itself were as fun and entertaining as a movie or video game. In effect, we have taught them to take nothing of the faith all that seriously. And they learned that lesson well!
All our attempts to dumb down the things of church and school have not helped one bit to keep them in the faith or give them a solid education. They rise to the expectation we set for them. If we expect little, they will gain little. If we expect much AND give them real tools to learn through good catechesis, we will not lose so many of them as they move into young adulthood. Are we really losing kids who were properly catechized or is it more true to say we never had them, never gave them a chance, and squandered the opportunity their youthful interest and attention offered?