If you are of a certain age, you probably recall that poignant line from a Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young song "teach your children well." Graham Nash began writing that song even before the group existed (I believe about 1968). He was looking a historical photos when the song coalesced into the hit and he enshrined those words into a song played out against a difficult couple of decades. We all know the wisdom of those words. But you may have forgotten a later line in the same song. "Teach your parents well." That does not quite stick in the mind like the first line but it is even more important.
I believe it was Harry Wendt who once contrasted our modern age with Jesus by saying that Jesus blessed the children and taught the adults while we today teach the children and entertain the parents. And it is true. So much of what we do in the Church is directed toward children. We have Sunday school, Vacation Bible, catechism class, youth group, youth events, etc... Ask for anything in any congregation and tell the people it is for the kids and you will have no shortage of money. We are geared for this and it is in our DNA -- everything for the kids. But. . .
The primary teachers of the faith to our children are the adults and that is where the whole thing falls flat. The average congregation has a smaller percentage of folks in Bible study and adult catechesis than it does children in the children's ministries. In effect, the adults have decided that it is enough to learn the faith from the Church as a child and that this is sufficient for most of your life. But is it? Is it enough to defer to the ministries of the Church to replace the parental role and leadership of teaching the faith to the children and are those parents sufficiently catechized to teach the faith well to their children?
We live in a world of choice in which people are less concerned about and less informed of what churches believe, confess, and teach and more concerned and informed by things like amenities, entertainment value, personal preferences for music or style, perceived welcome, etc... Can our parents defend such things as infant baptism or teach this cardinal doctrine in a world in which sermons are less doctrinal than ever before and teaching less dogmatic than ever before? Can our parents address questions and concerns about Biblical truth, historicity, authenticity, etc...? Can our parents explain the liturgy, the church year, why hymns are used and other songs not, etc...? Can our parents explain why we hold to marriage of one man and one woman, why we cannot normalize a gender fluid understanding of sexual identity, and why we are against cohabitation, abortion, etc...? Can our parents explain the essential truth of being saved by grace and not by works or confess faithfully the Trinity?
That is why teaching the parents well will help teach the children. It occasionally happens that the interest of a child will spark the interest of a parent to things religious but it is a regular occurrence that the faith convictions or doubts or disinterest of the parents will color the child for most of his or her adult life. In an age of relativism it is even more important for parents to know well the faith, to know well the catechism, to know the liturgy and hymnody of the faith, and to know what their congregation believes, confesses, and teaches. If we expect our children to be taught well, we will need to begin with the adults and not get around to adult catechesis when we have a spare moment.
"You, who are on the road must have a code which you can live by..." I've often considered this line when I hear opposition to creeds and other statements of faith, i.e. "deeds, not creeds". Nevertheless, the lyrics do support the notion that, regardless of one's opinion, we all have a code by which we live. Someone once said, "People will stand in line for what they believe in". Again, an implicit demonstration of what they believe in. All the more value to our statements of belief in the Apostles Creed, Nicene Creed, Athanasian Creed, and Book of Concord. They leave no question as to what we believe as Christians. The same holds true for our Divine liturgy. In a culture of moral relativism, it's nice to have solid doctrine on which to stand.
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