Choosing your child's religion

The Rev. Nurya Love Parish reflects on how even those who say they want their children to decide what religion they want to follow are actually choosing a religion for them. Responding to KJ Dell’Antonia of the New York Times Motherlode blog, Love notes:

There are a few points worth noticing in her argument:

Religion, as described by Dell’Antonia, is not a meaning-making language necessary for a full life, not a set of practices for the growth of the soul, not an irreplaceable force for good in the world. Religion is roughly equivalent to “community.”

Because Dell’Antonia understands religion as community, it is optional. People can find their way into any community they choose. There is no significant difference between a religious community and any other community.
....

I am raising my children in a religion because I believe that I would deprive them of something as necessary as food or water if I did not: I would deprive them of a language for life. English works, but it only goes so far. The stories and rituals of Christianity are the truest language I know to describe the purpose and meaning of human existence. There is no doubt in my mind that I would be a smaller and worse person if I had never become a Christian.

I can be (and hope I am) a practicing Christian without condemning or cutting myself off from those who practice other faiths or none. The idea that raising my children in one religion precludes my ability to accept them in adulthood if they choose another is fallacious.

Dell’Antonia believes she is raising her children “outside religion” and that they may choose their own religion later. She does not seem to recognize that she has chosen a religion for them. It is the religion of secularism. I was raised in this religion also. Only in hindsight do I see its tenets:

Organized religion is unnecessary.
God doesn’t really matter.
To be a success in life means that you get a good education and a good job. If you want to get married and have a family, that’s ok too.
Also, be honest and kind.
We celebrate holidays because… we celebrate holidays.

Over that, I’ll take organized religion any day.

Read both articles - what do you think?

Comments (2)

My Mom raised us Episcopalian as she was born in England and was Church of England. She always told us that when we became adults, if we wished to choose another religion, that would be up to us. When I was in my 20's, for a couple of reasons, I became Roman Catholic.

While I was RC, I earned an M.A. in Theology and worked in a few parishes. One of my jobs was to run RCIA. During the sessions, I often heard from people who came from mixed religious backgrounds and their parents didn't raise them in either faith, preferring to tell them that when they were older, they could choose. Many of them felt that they had been denied a large part of what should have been included in their upbringing. They said they would have preferred to have been taught both religions, rather than none. A few of them were quite angry at their parents for this.

So I believe it is necessary to raise a child in a religion. If they choose to change when they get older, that is their decision, but in the meantime, they need a foundation on which to build.

I was very happy that I had my foundation, as last year I returned to the Episcopal Church and am very happy that my Mom gave me the foundation she gave me, as when I needed it, I had something to return to.

I love that post, especially the part about giving people "something as necessary as food or water" and "a language for life." I think it's really, really important to say this out loud - and to keep saying it.

As the man said: we don't live by bread alone. The unfortunate thing at this point is that, from what I can tell, the church itself doesn't know the value of what it offers; perhaps that's because people who've always been involved in it aren't aware of what it's like to live without it.

Anglicanism is a gentle kind of faith; it's not "bad religion." It really can and does help people. Maybe that's its actual charism, in fact: to remind the world that religion, just by itself, can help people....

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