Children "Choosing" Religion

iVillage Member
Registered: 08-02-2004
Children "Choosing" Religion
20
Mon, 03-07-2005 - 1:01pm

I hear several friends, acquaintences, people on message boards, etc. say things like...

"I don't want to force religion on my children."

or

"My husband is Methodist and I am Catholic (or you are more likely to hear...I was raised Catholic), so we are going to expose our children to both and let them decide when they are older."

You've heard these yourself, I'm sure. So, I totally disagree with this. I think I understand the sentiment, but I don't agree with it. I think it is our responsibility as parents to raise our children with faith and religion. I don't leave it up to my children to "choose" other things, so why would I do this with religion? In some ways I think this is a way for people with "mixed faith" marriages to avoid the problems that might arise should they try to raise their child in one faith. I know that must be difficult...that is why I'm glad that God provided me with a great man, who is also Catholic! :-)

But, I'm not sure how to respond to this when I hear it. Maybe I shouldn't respond? I don't want to come across in such a way that I put someone on the defensive and they don't consider what I am saying, so I'm trying to come up with a gentle approach! This is not my strong suit!

Thoughts?

Martha

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iVillage Member
Registered: 04-01-2003
Mon, 03-07-2005 - 2:19pm

Welcome to the board. This topic was recently discussed---this topic is discussed rather frequently. It just amazes me how people can be so flipant about our Lord. People RUSH to wean their babies, rush to the potty chair, hurry through intorducing solids, can't wait to dump kids in "camps", pre-school, Rush to ballet, rush to karate, etc...Hurry, Hurry, Hurry. What they are telling me is that their children are not the gifts from God from which He has entrusted us to raise. There is no excuse. Someone here once said something that struck me and I use it in these little "arguements" in that ever constant push and pull "choice of religion" with others: There are thousands of langages in the world. I will NOT talk to my child in order for him to reach an age where he can pick his own language.

HTH! I know it's a little gem that sets people thinking when I toss it out there. We didn't choose the "language" of Catholicism, Jesus chose it for us.

Avatar for ruthv
iVillage Member
Registered: 03-26-2003
Mon, 03-07-2005 - 2:32pm

I LIKE that response! It drives me crazy when I hear people talking about wanting their child to "choose" his/her own religion. Luckily I don't run into it too much in real life since as baptism coordinator, the parents I meet up with have already chosen to baptize their child (hopefully for the right reasons).

Ruth

iVillage Member
Registered: 10-23-2000
Mon, 03-07-2005 - 5:24pm

I'm usually on the Methodist board but was lurking here today (don't know why!) and had to post...

iVillage Member
Registered: 04-01-2003
Mon, 03-07-2005 - 6:17pm

I like your example of illiteracy. Very nice! Without religion, the building block of moral value. I listened to Michael Savage (Fox radio Savage Nation) debate with an athiest once on how this athiest claimed he lived a moral life without God. And every example this athiest brought up, Michael Savage could credit either a Christian or a Jew. It was kind of comical b/c the athiest was backed into a cornor with no place else to run. He might have been a wholesome athiest but he has God to thank! LOL

Welcome to the board.

iVillage Member
Registered: 08-02-2004
Mon, 03-07-2005 - 7:34pm

I like the the analogy to reading as well...it hits on the other side of what I think and that is (as the PP said)...how can a child choose something if they don't have the concept or the knowledge from which to choose!


I also like the language response...well, my child might not like speaking English, so until he decides what language he would like to speak, I'm not going to speak to him!

iVillage Member
Registered: 01-14-2005
Tue, 03-08-2005 - 1:11am

I'm one of the last people to post ... so I'll be brief.


My reply:

 

 

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Avatar for mahopac
iVillage Member
Registered: 07-24-1997
Tue, 03-08-2005 - 8:40am

I agree completely with the analogy expressed already about not teaching your kids to read so they can choose their own language. ;) However, I think raising kids with no religion is quite different from exposing them to two Christian denominations that the parents practice. Couples compromise or agree to keep certain things separate so they can have a relationship, and then continue this into parenting. Of course, if they have the children baptized in a Catholic church, they are taking on an obligation and must take them to Catholic mass.

Generally, of course, it is much better to encourage than to scold. I have a dear friend who is agnostic, married to a non-practicing Presbyterian, and has a son who just turned 5. Since his baptism, they had not gone to church except on Christmas and Easter. For 3 years I talked to my friend about God and why I committed to raising my kids Catholic and how it is even important to my agnostic husband and tried to give him a sense that being Catholic is not something I do for an hour on Sunday, but something I am and practice every day. I would ask him occasionally when he was planning to take his son to Sunday school, but his wife was cool to the idea of doing anything on Sunday mornings. Then one morning, two months ago, he sent me an email telling me he was on his way to church! The only times they have missed church since then was for a snowstorm. My friend confided that I had made him curious and want to know more about this thing I'm so passionate about, and that it was my witness that made him want to try it. Of course I'd be even happier if he said he wanted to become Catholic, but my goal was to get him and his wife to raise their children in the faith they'd committed him to, and now they are doing it. Since she is Presbyterian, I am happy that they have found a church home they both like.

It is difficult to raise children in a mixed faith marriage (or in my case, a faith/no faith marriage). If neither has a strong faith, allowing children to "choose" religion is a statement that it's not important to them, which may well be true. I do not see the point in pushing people who aren't interested in raising faith-filled children, but if we can be of help to people who are lukewarm, then we can gently point out that kids raised with nothing will have nothing and ask them if that's what they want for their kids. Most lukewarm people will say no to that, and then we can help them strengthen their own faith to pass it along to their kids.

Kelly

iVillage Member
Registered: 08-02-2004
Tue, 03-08-2005 - 9:47am

You bring up a very important thing for me to remember...to "pick my battles". That language is too harsh, but the sentiment is the same! Perhaps I am better to learn to assess the situation more accurately and then engage in discussion with those who are "lukewarm" (I like this terminology!).

Other than that...I think you are also correct in saying that my everyday life should be a demonstration of my faith!

Thanks...you gave me a lot to think about,

Martha

Avatar for mahopac
iVillage Member
Registered: 07-24-1997
Tue, 03-08-2005 - 12:09pm

In the Cursillo movement, we teach about a method for evangelization that boils down to "make a friend, be a friend, bring your friend to Christ" - and remember that it is the Holy Spirit that pierces hearts, not our works, which can only help to open them a little. While we need all kinds of evangelizers in the world, this is the approach that works best for me.

Kelly

iVillage Member
Registered: 02-25-2005
Wed, 03-09-2005 - 4:30pm

Hi,

Since I'm Catholic, and DH is Protestant (Congregational), I just wanted to post our perspective. We had our wedding and our two baptisms at my parish, with participation from one of Eric's ministers every time. The children will either go to my parish school or attend CCD, and we all go to Mass every Sunday. We also go to the service at Eric's church nearly every Sunday.

Eric's faith is important to him, and we made a decision to respect each other's faith, and to worship as a family. We've gotten a lot of support from both churches on this decision. When the children are old enough for confirmation, they will choose which church to be confirmed in. Since their religious instruction will be Catholic, I expect that they will be confirmed in the Catholic church, but it really isn't up to me in the end. They will each make an informed decision on how to start their adult faith lives.

For the record, I think it's a mistake to deprive children of religious instrustion and example in order that they may choose for themselves. I would suggest that anyone who says they want to let their child choose should be encouraged to make sure it's an informed choice. For us, this means allowing our children to experience their father's spiritual journey as well as mine.

Maribeth

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