Raising Kids My Own Way

I wish I had a dollar for every time a friend of mine intimated or straight out said they dislike how religious types blindly and uncritically believe things just because they always have.   I wish I had time to sit and talk with each of them and talk about how much I dislike that very same thing.  Blind believers don’t really do people of faith a lot of favors.

As a history teacher, my job is to teach people to think critically, to question everything and to effectively substantiate subjective claims in the most objective possible ways.  I do this because I think it is one of the most important intellectual skills a person can develop.  I believe my own set of skills in this regard are pretty honed and I tend to gravitate toward people of similar ability.

I have spent the better part of my life thinking critically about my faith and my role in organized religion.  Though this is a conversation for a different monthly topic, I have come through this self critique still deeply in love with God, God’s message of redemptive, sacrificial love, and the servant orientation of agape-spewing love for others that building God’s kingdom entails.  300 years after DesCartes, I questioned my faith, and I didn’t lose myself.  Existentially speaking, despite what fundamentalist preachers will have you believe, I peered into the abyss and I didn’t lose myself in it.  

We have a problem in organized religion today.  Most houses of worship completely ignore the hard questions of faith.  And many of the places that address those hard questions only do so through the narrow lenses of their own apologetics.  We do such a disservice to our youth when we don’t give them the tools to question their place in the world, to question their church and to question their faith.  What would it look like if a generation of people of faith admitted that it was okay to say “I don’t know?”  What would it look like if churches taught their members as Rilke famously said to “live the questions themselves?”

This isn’t radical.  Nearly every single “intro to religion” class in college does this.  A recent study has indicated that far and away the most important aspect of young adult’s views on religion and spirituality have to do with their parents’ views.  This far eclipses any youth group, church experience or any other variable the study measured.  This is enormously comforting because Liz and I get to model what our experience has been.  My kids will know that it is okay to question the assumptions of their church’s doctrinal statements.  They will learn how to test the words of snake oil preachers (and good ones, too) against their own understandings of God.  They will know of the false dichotomy of science and faith is just that: false.  And most of all, much afeared as this makes me, they will know that they are free to see the world differently from me and choose their own path.
What will your  legacy be with your children?  What has it been so far?  How would you change it if you could?

– by Jacob VandeMoortel

Jacob VandeMoortel is a managing editor at nonpropria.com.  He lives in the Chicago suburbs with his wife and three highly energetic kids.  He teaches history at a suburban high school and watches too much baseball.  

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