Monday, May 7, 2012

The Faith of Our Children

As we get older, we get more sophisticated. We learn things and we unlearn things. We become disenchanted with certain other things. We lay down beliefs of certain kinds and leave them behind, especially the ones we had as children. But I wonder if that means we should take those beliefs away from our kids simply because we have outgrown them.
Clear, unambiguous and un-sarcastic statement: I believe in God.  I’ve said it before. In that respect, I have not changed since childhood. My concept of who God might be has evolved, certainly, into something much more complex than it was for me as a kid, but this is not a theological blog, so I won’t get into it. Let it suffice to say that my views have evolved into something much more logical than they once were.
There are many people, however, who lose their belief in God, even if they are people who once did believe, without questioning. For them, it would be hypocritical – perhaps even disturbing – to teach their children to believe. I get that.
But what about those who were brought up to believe who still kind of believe but…not for sure – the ones who have evolved into questioning things on a deep level – the ones who have come to question the things they were told as kids? What should they do with their kids?
I’m afraid these people might wind up depriving kids of the comfort and sense of purpose that faith once gave them as children. Maybe it would be a good idea for these people to lie just a little – to teach their kids some of the concepts they have “outgrown.”
Let’s use pseudo-realistic holiday personages as an example.  (See what I’m doing there? – not that too many littluns are reading this blog, but I like to play it safe.) Let’s consider one particular crimson-clad, basso profundo chuckler of the yuletide persuasion. I never got mad at my parents for keeping my belief in him alive when I finally learned the truth. What I got out of that immature belief was years of happiness and a feeling that someone “up-north” cared about me enough to give me wonderful things.
Those who believe that they have evolved past the things they were taught in church (or synagogue or temple, etc.) are in danger of depriving their children of the benefits that they, themselves, got from those childhood experiences with faith.
On nightmare nights, in my childhood, I remember my dad kneeling by my bed to comfort me and help me get back to sleep. He has never been much of a churchgoer, but I remember him telling me that Jesus would watch over me – that as long as I believed in Him, nothing could hurt me.  And, so, I slept. And so, I was at peace. I know now that, Jesus notwithstanding, bad stuff can happen to me – and it has. But, regardless of this adult perspective, I would really hesitate to steal that level of comfort from my own kids.
If they "outgrow" certain aspects in faith, they do. But if that happens, they will have had years of stable, comforted development on which to build their new philosophies and, then, they and their mother and I will be able to sit and talk out our up-to-the-minute ideas. That will be cool.

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