Internet Monk has a very thought-provoking essay on his blog this morning about raising our children in the faith: He's writing as what he calls a "post-evangelical" but nearly all his points seem to be one that serious Catholic parents are dealing with except #2.
(As I travel, I've listened to hundreds of Catholics moan about their children and grand-children who have left the Church, many for evangelicalism. In fact, I've started tracking the number of Catholic families that I met, all of whose children are practicing as adults. I think I'm up to seven. Fr. Mike's family is one of them. But I almost never hear Catholic parents openly worrying about the ultimate salvation of their children.)
Here's Internet Monks' points:
When we look at our children, several major highways come together:
1) Our belief that the family is supposed to love, nurture, protect and discipline children in the knowledge and fear of the Lord. In other words, raise them in the faith.
2) Our belief that our children are, by nature, lost, rebels and sinners who must be converted, i.e. “born again,” if they are to have eternal life.
3) Our desire to protect our children from the worst aspects of culture.
4) Our desire for our children to participate in the best aspects of culture. Few evangelicals see the “Amish option” as viable, though from what I can tell, it’s making a lot of progress in some quarters.
5) Our ambiguity, as a religious movement, over public education. In short, we believe in it as a public good in a nation with over 40 million kids who need to be educated, and we hate/fear/loathe it as the primary competition for the minds and values of our kids. All at the same time. (Things seem to be tipping very strongly toward the hate/fear/loath side.)
But there are several warnings we need to heed:
1) Building a moral fortress will not make our children Christians, and the evangelical culture warrior’s version of “normal” may be more of an illusion than we want to admit.
2) Withdrawal from culture is much more difficult than we tend to think, especially in this information savvy age.
3)The building of an alternative culture that is safe for our children does not necessarily resemble the movement Jesus initiated in history.
4) Christian history teaches us that our calling to make disciples must extend to our children, and discipleship today calls for intentional, intelligent, interaction with and influence of culture.
5) Our anxieties about our children often make us vulnerable to manipulation, especially by those seeking political power, money and cultural influence. Can we be true to our desire to love and care for our kids and not become the unthinking dronish supporters of political demagogues, fear-mongers and salesmen?
6) We should beware of mis-reading scripture. God’s promises to our children are generous…but they are not absolute. Morality, isolation, saturation in a Christian ghetto and so forth does not make the Gospel true or Christ precious to a single person. Many Christian parents do not know the way the covenants work or how the Gospel promises to families work. Many of those parents will be greatly surprised and disappointed.
7) The evangelical strategy of making the church a collection of children’s and youth programming is a well-motivated, but highly flawed, response to these concerns regarding our children. It speaks deeply to how much we are willing to pay and do to assuage our anxieties. Evangelical young people are, to be blunt, doted over and spoiled by mega-churches. They are seldom asked to mature in ways the larger culture avoids, and the approaches we take in working with them often ship in much of the culture’s worst characteristics.
8) Many of these anxieties have roots in some of our own religious and psychological issues as a movement and as individuals. Our families are not the pretty pictures we see in church advertisements. . . Our children have the same disorders, the same addictions, the same frequency of medication. It is rare for a church not to have to deal with some issue of domestic abuse or sexual abuse.
How can we raise our children as intentional disciples?