There is a great dichotomy out there that society (and other Principalities, but we’ll save that “crazy talk” for another blog) wants us to accept desperately.
This dichotomy is that there are two kinds of people: “Free Thinkers” and then, there are “Christians.”
The idea is simply that despite how educated, how well studied, how intelligent, how “worldy,” cultured, and irrelevant of background, parental influence, economic status, educational opportunity, etc. you fall directly and exclusively into either camp. Period.
Some view the Christian faith as so irrelevant and “fairytale”esque that they go so far as to assert that raising children under “Christian influence” is considered everything from “brainwashing” to “child abuse.”
I, clearly, as a Christian mother, would have an emotional rejection of this assertion.
No mother anywhere wants to be labeled as not having her childrens’ best interests at heart and certainly any suggestion that her methodology would be, not only a hindrance, but a type of abuse obviously tugs at those heart strings.
However, I would like to discuss why I find fault with that accusation from a more theological / intellectual stand point (and, yes, I just “slashed” the words theological and intellectual. Deal with it.).
Number One: It implies that raising children within a “universal moral” mind-set is abuse
A “universal moral” is a general term that suggests that there are some things that if done, or if not done, are widely accepted as “moral” or “immoral.” One example of a universal moral that society generally accepts today (though, if you pay attention these.do.change, because they’re based on changing societies and changing societal standards) would be that “rape is always bad” or “generosity is always good.”
Many secular families and religious families alike fall into my favorite “category” of parenting: intentional parenting.
This type of parenting isn’t about co-sleeping or “being crunchy” or “not saying no” or any other dividing rational.
“Intentional parenting” simply means that whatever you’re doing, you’re doing it intentionally.
You have accepted these children as more than accessories to glorify on social media, to dress up, to show off, to parade around, and you see them as actual people with actual potential and world influence.
You take that role seriously and you (on your good days) don’t see them as a burden, but a vessel to pour into and fill up so that they, in turn, can go out into the world and generally make it a better place.
There isn’t a universal style or a method to do this.
You simply do what you believe is best for your family and your child and you integrate everything from avoiding painful situations you may have experienced and you emphasize rewarding and character building experiences within your walk with your children.
When a secular parent implies that there is a universal truth “be kind to your neighbor” by disallowing their child to wallop another child at the park with a shovel, I see a parent that is intentionally raising a child to yield to a truth that they believe is an actual truth.
I see no difference with Christian parenting.
I imply to my children when I take them to church there is a universal truth that there is a governing God and that spending an hour on Sunday as a family to worship Him in community is a good thing that is worthy of our time.
See, my real problem with this postulate is that people often spout that teaching universal truths prohibit the child’s ability to “think for themselves.” But really, in my opinion, this is hog wash.
The parent at the playground would never tell the other parent of the child being walloped by a shovel “Oh, I’d discipline Tommy, but really, he needs to figure it out for himself.”
On principle, raising your children to adhere to your family’s network of “universal truths” (when those truths are politically and societally governed and sanctioned)” clearly isn’t inherently damaging by society’s standards. So why is it damaging to do so through a Christian lens?
The logic just isn’t there for me.
Consider these two statements:
Socially acceptable: “Tommy, be kind to Jasmine. Why?? Just because, ok!?”
Socially unacceptable: “Tommy, we need to be kind to our neighbor. Why?? Jesus taught us that in the Bible!”
Some would argue the difference is the WAY we speak about being kind. I.e. that we should assert our children be nice “just because it’s the “right thing”” and somehow because it rests on zero standards other than socially accepted norms, that’s more “free thinking-y” then by referencing a book that has existed long before our society, or our society’s accepted norms.
That assertion doesn’t work for me, personally.
But, that’s the argument in general. If you get there on your own (does anyone REALLY) you’re super awesome. If you get there by reading an ancient (Holy) text-- you’re weak!
Number Two: it implies that I believe I am in control over my child’s salvation
The idea that I am “shoving Christianity down my child’s throat” is generally accepted to be a reaction to my “fantastical idea” that my child is worthy or needs salvation from a higher power.
The world would see my Bible studies and church going and prayers over my children as an attempt to control them; as if, if I just say the right thing in the right way or threaten them in some way or brainwash them in some way that I will feel better about their eternal destiny.
Ask any Christian parent EVER and this could not be further from the truth.
God, is such a good God, because he didn’t send out dictators and he didn’t come to enslave us.
He came to free us so that we might be free. Period.
A (true and healthy) relationship with Jesus does not, it just does not, create a desire to beat the love of God into anyone, ever.
Least of all our children.
I bring my children to church because, yes, I want them to have a relationship with Jesus because, as I have experienced, it is the only way to 1) be saved 2) be TRULY joyful and experience all the wonder that God has for us on this Earth and in the next.
But saying that I do it to coerce some sort of “blind little Christian army” is just preposterous.
My children are humans. I am a human.
I can no sooner force behaviors of any kind on my children in an effort to create a relationship with the Father than I could experience God myself through a laundry list of “good things I’ve done.”
Relationship with God just doesn’t work that way.
My children have free will (good GOD do some of them have more generous doses than others!).
Praise the Lord for that.
I can bring a horse to water, but I can’t make him drink.
That’s a hard pill to swallow for someone who believes that their children’s souls are being fought for every day with real eternal consequences.
Ultimately, it is between the Father and each of my children. Am I to encourage my children? Yes.
Could I force them even if I wanted to? No way.
I can throw my kids in a car and drag them to church (luckily not something I have to deal with right now, they love church, but it's still a lot of bubbles and singing songs right now).
But I am under zero illusion that will “save” them in any sense of the term.
They don’t need to “be kind” and “go to church” and “sit nicely” and “eat their veggies” and “take communion” and “pray” and “memorize Bible verses.”
They need Jesus. The Risen King. The Lord of Lords.
If you’ve met my oldest, I don’t have any idea how you could assert that he is a Christian because I “forced” him or “coerced him” to be.
So, call my Christian home a waste of time, or silly, or careless, or a waste of money, or Amish, or weird.
But, my Christian home is not abusive and certainly not brainwash-y.
My kids will always be encouraged to think hard and think long (think left and think right, right Dr. Suess?).
We will not avoid the hard questions. We will not skirt around the issue.
We will give them solid answers to solid questions based on a text that we believe to be in the infallible word of a Living God, King Jesus.