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Question For Progressive Christian Parents


Topaz
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I live in an area of the country where "progressive" churches are just "less conservative," not deviating very far from traditional Christian orthodoxy. I struggle to make peace with this and to interpret church messages and my experiences in ways that are meaningful and authentic to me.

 

But I'm a grown up with an adult's ability to do this. I am very concerned about what a Christian church is going to teach my young children in Sunday School. I am extremely uncomfortable with a lot of emphasis on Christ's DYING for SINS, talk of BLOOD and BODY of Christ, tales of Old Testament vengeance, etc.

 

How have other progressive Christian parents wrestled with this? I tried to give up on Christianity and attend Unitarian services but that was spirtually unsatisfying to me. I can't seem to figure out the best option for my entire family.

 

A friend suggested that I just talk to my kids about what they hear and have discussions about how they are reacting to the Sunday School lessons. I've also thought of teaching at the Sunday School myself so that I could help to shape the messages there, but I haven't yet discovered how much flexibility there is in doing that. We are new in town and I'm a bit hesitatant to acquire the reputation as "that crazy lady who doesn't believe the Bible." :o

 

I would welcome others' input. What has worked for YOUR family?

 

Topaz

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Guest Michaeljc4

Topaz, I have some of the same fears as you. I have a baby girl, and I'm trying to figure out which church/faith tradition best approximates my own beliefs so that I can feel comfortable taking her there for services and for education (of course, she's only seven months old...so shoot me, I'm an over planner). I don't go in much for a lot of what makes up "standard" Christianity: dying for our sins, blood of the precious savior, etc., so I've been giving the Unitarians a hard look as well. For what it's worth, here is what I've concluded:

 

1. Going to church is a valuable exercise in spiritual discipline and community, as well as a great learning experience for kids. Figuring out which church, and which denomination, works for you is important. Don't give up! (I am speaking to myself as well as to you).

2. A large part of why I left the Roman Catholic church was my fear that I would have to unteach my daughter many things she would hear during Mass, and most things if she went to CCD classes. That said, no matter what church you go to, parents will be their children's greatest teachers. Find a place that you are comfortable with, even if it's not exactly what you believe, and help your children learn to wrestle with the mysteries in this life. Think what a great conversation you could have about what the story of Christ means after hearing the gospel, then fielding questions about what he/she learned in Sunday school. Teach them to think, Topaz, just as you do. And...think how cool it would be to teach other kids to think, and to question, as you do.

3. I'm not 100% on the Unitarians either, but there is a certain freedom of belief, and of thought, that I find very attractive. If my family does go the UU route, I'll take it upon myself to instruct my daughter in the stories, lessons, and morals of the Christian faith that I think are important (and there are many). We have a UCC church that I like, too...but I'm not sure that I want her to be a Christian in any traditional sense of the word.

 

Henry James said that "behavior proceeds conviction," and I believe him. I want my daughter to learn the habit of worship so that she'll accustom her mind to actively reflecting on the mystery, and the morality, of our human existence. No one faith tradition is a perfect fit, at least not for me, but I have found that there is wisdom in the act of worship that transcends the message being delivered from the pulpit.

 

 

Just a few thoughts, not a lecture (hopefully). :)

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I do believe you both have reason for concern but I bet the discussions that your children get from you at home will far exceed what they here in your church. Good luck and keep up the good topics. Sincerely Bob VE

 

 

This is very true. My parents corrected a lot about what we got from nutty Sunday School teachers... like the one who said we'd all be 33 when went to heaven because Jesus was 33...

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Guest Michaeljc4

My religious education was pretty much nonexistent. I went to CCD classes one day a week until I was fifteen or so, and I hated every single minute of it. The kids were unruly, the teachers were either angry old nuns or incoherent mother-volunteers, and I couldn't wait to be finished with the whole thing. Unfortunately, when I became interested in religion again as an adult, I found that I had absorbed a lot of nonsense, and that my thinking had been clouded by a lot of bad information.

 

At age 31, when I really began to think about God--for the first time since I was 15--I couldn't get the image of Charlton Heston in The Ten Commandments out of my head (that's a somewhat limited way to think about the Creator). I had no idea what any of "those Protestants" believed. I had never opened the Bible on my own, nor had I ever looked into non-Christian religions. For these reasons, I want to be as educated as I can about faith and traditions and ways of looking at God so that my daughter has a better experience than I did.

 

One thing we are definitely going to do together is volunteer work, as well as giving to charity. Another thing we'll do is read some of the "Spiritual Biographies for Children," which are great. They have easy to read books on Gandhi, MLKJr., Dorothy Day, etc. Also, and believe it or not, William Bennett's Book(s) of Virtue are absolute treasure troves of great stories and literature organized around different virtues. There is good stuff out there. You just have to look a little bit.

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On a personal note, promoting a way of life to our kids that is open to, and encourages questions (even ones that might sound stupid) seems to sit well with me (on ANY topic, not just faith).

It has its challenges though - being prepared to answer endless questions that start "but why???" and sometimes having no better or more complete answer than "I don't really know". I think this gives kids (and anyone really) permission to explore and develop their own ideas of faith and not just swallow what has been said (even by me!!) - that's challenging though.

Bottom line, listen listen listen and talk with your kids. A lot.

Best wishes,

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  • 2 weeks later...
On a personal note, promoting a way of life to our kids that is open to, and encourages questions (even ones that might sound stupid) seems to sit well with me (on ANY topic, not just faith).

It has its challenges though - being prepared to answer endless questions that start "but why???" and sometimes having no better or more complete answer than "I don't really know". I think this gives kids (and anyone really) permission to explore and develop their own ideas of faith and not just swallow what has been said (even by me!!) - that's challenging though.

Bottom line, listen listen listen and talk with your kids. A lot.

Best wishes,

 

I'm not a parent, but I was a child at one time. My parents also had the perfect vision on how to raise me in the faith that was best for me. Unfortunately children are not always like their parents so that what parents plan for the children is not always what works best for the children. I guess I've seen a lot of this, esp. when I read testimonies of people in their twenties. I realize that the things they are rebelling against or struggling with to unlearn are the very things that back in the eighties were cutting-edge new ideas that could not fail because they were so good.

 

I think the suggestion to listen and listen hard is very good. On the other hand, when my nephew was a very little boy I found that he asked questions for the sake of asking questions. He did not seem at all bothered when I directed his attention somewhere else.

 

For myself, I also found that my parents' teachings far out-weighed anything teachers could say.

 

Ruby

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I am very concerned about what a Christian church is going to teach my young children in Sunday School. I am extremely uncomfortable with a lot of emphasis on Christ's DYING for SINS, talk of BLOOD and BODY of Christ, tales of Old Testament vengeance, etc . . .

I would welcome others' input. What has worked for YOUR family?"

Topaz,

I don't address your specific question as to how to raise children, but I have been working for ten years on a web site to help adult Christians think rationally about Christianity and American politics. I suspect that you will find much there that will help you and perhaps indirectly, your children.

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