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Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Let Them Choose When They Grow Up

Beth was the bookkeeper in the office I was in that day.  She knew I had been a pastor, so for whatever reason, she believed I was some religious authority and came to me for counsel.

"Steve, I was wondering about something.  These kids at Little League keep inviting my kids to Awana.  Do you know what that is?"  I said, "Yeah, it's a program for children that many churches run.  Many kids like it.  Did your kids go?" 

"Well, not yet.  I'm hesitant to let them go.  I grew up Catholic and had to go to CCD classes and hated them and never wanted to make my confirmation but my mother guilted me into doing it.  I promised myself way back when that I was never going to force some religion on my kids when I had them.  I'm going to let them choose their own religion.  I believe that's what's best for them."

I said, "Do you really? Do you want him to grow up to be a fundamentalist Christian who hates gays?" "Well, no." I knew she didn't want that. "Do want him to grow up Muslim and have 4 wives?  You would have 4 daughters-in-law all at once. Won't that make family gatherings interesting?"  She laughed and commented about how she might like having all those grandkids.  "How about one of the indigenous groups that smokes pot at their gatherings?"  I smirked.  Before she could answer I said, "What about the UFO cult? Santeria? I know, I know, those are a little far fetched. How about something more mainstream? How about Christian Science? Jehovah's Witness, going door-to-door with literature and religious sales pitch?  Are you good with any of those?"

She crossed her arms and contorted her face at me.  I knew what she meant and said so.  "I know what you mean.  You think I'm just playing with you."  "Exactly.", she said. 

"In truth I'm not. I just want you to see that you really don't want your kids to grow up and choose their religion when they are able to.  You really don't.  Maybe you never verbalized it before but you really don't.  For their safety and welfare and for the welfare of the community and human race, you really don't.  Does that make sense at all?"

"Yes, but I don't want to force mine or anyone else's religion on them."  I interrupted. "I understand.  You don't want them blindly following something they don't believe in.  You want them to participate not out of peer or parent pressure but because they genuinely believe."  "Right," she said, "And I want them to understand ... to be old enough to understand.  Who is to say one is right and the other is not?"

"But Beth, that was part of my point.  All religions aren't created equal.  There are literally hundreds of religions and variations within religions.  Some are bizarre yet benign.  Some are wicked, filled with hate.  Then there is the crown jewel of all religions -- yes, I'm biased -- Christianity, with a god who is the lover of all humanity.  But bottom line they are not all the same.

"Being a lunatic fringe Christian in the KKK, or an extremist Muslim or Hindu, or a follower of David Koresh, is not the same as being Anglican or Wesleyan  or Jewish. Some religions hurt people. Agreed?"  "Well, yeah sure. I mean, I don't really know what all those religions believe. But I don't want my kids believing it's OK to hurt someone."

"See Beth, the truth is that you have standards for what beliefs are good and not.  Even though you may not have known it, you do not believe all religions are equal.  And you really don't want your kids to grow up and choose whatever religion.  Some would scare you."  "I guess your right." she said. "I just want them to be happy."

"Awana won't kill them." I said, "But maybe it's time for you to start investigating what you believe."  She's going to give that some thought.

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