Today’s guest post on faith and parenting comes to us from my friend Alise Wright, who I had the pleasure of meeting in Knoxville earlier this week. I can assure you that Alise is as delightful and funny in person as she is online. A mother of four, talented musician, wife to an atheist, and prolific writer, Alise blogs atAlise...Write! She is the editor of Not Alone: Stories of Living with Depression. You can follow her on Twitter and find her on Facebook. Enjoy!
“There are people who don’t like this music because they say that angels are the same as unicorns and elves.”
We had been listening regularly to the They Might Be Giants album, Here Comes Science. We loved the songs about the planets and the elements. But the CD also included a song called “My Cousin the Ape” and songs that discussed evolution. Songs that didn’t jibe with the standard line in our more conservative Christian circles. And at 8, our son was beginning to notice that a lot of what we embraced in our home wasn’t what he was hearing at AWANA or on Sunday mornings.
My best friend is gay, and I’m affirming, so my kids knew why I cried when Prop 8 passed, and why I cried again when it was struck down. Their dad is an atheist, so my kids know that one doesn’t have to have religion to be a loving, caring person. We live in a more racially diverse area of our primarily white state, so they hang out with kids who don’t look like them. We accept evolution. We vote Democrat.
Some might suggest that my kids are too young for such adult themes. They don’t need to know about homosexuality and atheism and racism and evolutionary theory. Why not just allow them to be kids? Save the grown up stuff for when they’re adults.I understand why people want to shield their children from these topics. Issues like theses are difficult for us to wrestle with as adults. There are complications that result from a stance on any one of them. Each one has shaken my faith in ways that I never could have imagined.
But much of the issue surrounding my faith-shaking was related to the fact that I had not encountered these differences when I was younger. I didn’t know how there was a path from Christianity to atheism. I didn’t know that you could be a Christian and accept evolution. I didn’t know that you could be a Christian and be gay. So when I encountered these situations as adults, my faith had to grow quickly to accommodate these ideas and these people, and that kind of growth can be painful. It can leave splinters in your heart and cause pain in your relationships.
By exposing my children to these ideas now, they have the opportunity to incorporate them into their growing faith. They can look at a passage like “Love your neighbor as yourself” and know that their neighbor may be the person sitting beside them in church, but that neighbor could also be someone who doesn’t even attend church. They have fewer preconceived notions about who is “in” and who is “out.”
The message that I want my kids to hear and embrace every day of their lives is that they are loved. Loved by me, loved by their dad, loved by their extended family and friends, loved by God. When my children see that love being extended to all people, it makes it easier for them to believe it for themselves.
Embracing that love is something that is appropriate for all ages. Even children.