To raise kids with instruction/teaching/exposure to the idea of God, or not? That is the question on my mind today.
In my Christian heydays, it was always vexing to me and to most Christians I knew to think about “mixed marriage” couples – you know where one person was a Christian and the other was, well, you name it: the wrong kind of Christian, Jewish, Muslim, or (worst of all) atheist.
Apart from the “it’s sinful to be unequally yoked” protest, the second objection to mixed marriages that I heard most often was concern for the existing or future kids: it would be terribly confusing to hear conflicting messages about who God is or to be raised with mixed religious traditions or worse, no tradition at all. In my Christian world, kids needed to be raised with consistent and firm teachings of who God is.
Now on the other side of the coin, some people are very vociferously against teaching kids anything about religion. Was it Dawkins who said that raising kids with religion is worse than physically abusing them? (Whoa. Strong words and for the record, I vehemently disagree.)
Right. Back on point: I am slowly developing a bit of paranoia around how I will raise any kids I may have in the future. Right now I couldn’t in good conscience teach them exactly what I learned as a kid. But what would I teach them instead? Right now, I have no idea.
And I have this nostalgia for the bedtime prayers I used to offer up at night. I got such a sense of comfort and trust through that nightly ritual that it’s something that still appeals to me even though my rational side thinks God completely sucks at answering prayers (i.e. doesn’t answer prayers). Yeah, so there’s a bit of a contradiction still working itself out.
Maybe I teach my kids to offer up gratitude to…to…the universe? To a possible God who might be out there? That I teach them that prayer is a way for them to figure out solutions to some of their own problems? (As in “Protect me from the bully at school, God” becomes a way for a kid to brainstorm how to deal with it, not a reason to sit back and wait for God to do something?)
And what's the story I tell my kids about why something is right or wrong? "Well kids, through billions of years of evolution, we learned that we do better in survival terms if we cooperate instead of compete. Now be nice and share your toy with Billy." Eh. That leaves me a little cold.
Here’s the other piece that worries me: my mom will undoubtedly view any godless or “watered-down god” childrearing I may do as seriously harming my kids’ ability to know and love and serve Jesus. And I imagine she will find ways to expose my kids to her evangelical brand of the faith, with or without my knowledge. The last thing I want to do is get into a row with my mom over this stuff, but I can definitely envision a bad scene in which I get mad that she tries to usurp my decisions not to expose them to certain kinds of teachings.
I realize this is really cart-before-the-horse kind of stuff to be worrying about, seeing as how I have no plans to procreate in the near future. I could imagine becoming a parent in the next 3-8 years, but that's a ways away. I guess it's just that I’m a planner, and like to strategize well ahead of time.
So: is there anyone out there with kids who has struggled through similar issues of (a) what to teach kids and (b) how to handle family members who want to teach them something else?