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NOTE: For a complete list of articles related to this chapter... Visit the Main Index FOR this section.
My Child Wants to Attend Church. What's the Worst That Could Happen?
Article ID: 14219
Age Group: Adult
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Posted: January 9th. 2011
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My child wants to attend Church…what’s the worst that could happen?
I wrestled with this question for a long time; years before I actually had children. What would happen if their friends invited them to Church? What would happen if they just wanted to go to experience what it was like? Should I let them go? Would the beliefs and teachings that I had instilled in them be off-set by the teachings of the church? What would their Sunday school teacher say about Pagans? (We aren’t really held in high regard in any denomination.)
These are just a few of the questions that plagued me. If you have children, are planning on having them in the future or if you may date or marry inter-religiously you may want to ask yourself these questions as well because they will come up.
In my area of rural Indiana we have many denominations of Christian Churches. I am using the Christian Church here as my main example because they are the most prevalent in the area that I live in. Likewise there are multiple Churches for each denomination.
I have always been open to all the worlds’ religions. While I may not agree with all of their teachings I do support their right to practice what they believe, as long as it is not forced upon me and my family and it does not affect my lifestyle.
The first question I asked myself was; what if my child speaks about their Pagan beliefs and is ridiculed?
One thing that I have done since my children were born is to speak to them honestly about many things, religion being one of them. They have to understand that they live in a world filled with diversity. There is no one correct way to worship.
I have found that this is a good practice not only on religious topics but life issues as well. If they are being bullied they know to tell an adult. If they are having trouble with school work they know to tell me so I can help. So it is with religion. They know that different people have different views on Deity. They also know that Mom and Dad will answer their questions and concerns (Religious or not) honestly and to respect what we tell them above everyone else. It is key for your children to know that they can tell you and ask you anything and that you will answer them to the best of your abilities.
My children know that if anyone (Sunday school teachers included) says that they are wrong in their religious beliefs or world views to inform that person respectfully with facts of why they believe what they believe and to tell Mom and Dad afterward and we will provide them with our honest input on the situation.
You also have to tell your children at a very young age that there are people out there who believe in things so strongly that it blinds them and they will not accept reason. Let them know that at some point in life that they are going to encounter someone that they will just have to agree to disagree with.
I do not condone nor will I ever tolerate someone telling my family that what we believe and practice is wrong and we must change. That is unacceptable. I do however respect people’s rights to question it. I look at these moments as teaching moments rather than offending moments. How can we educate people about why we believe the things that we do if no one ever asks us why?
This leads me to my next worry. What if my child encounters a religious fanatic?
You must understand that there are fanatics in every religion. It is also your responsibility to inform your children of this fact. It is the fanatics that always seem to get the publicity and give any particular religion a bad name.
The attack on the World Trade Center is a good example of this. This attack was carried out by terrorists who were Muslim extremists. They were people who believed in something so blindly that they were able to be controlled and used to carry out a terrible end. Recently an abortion doctor was murdered in Kansas by a pro-life man who was also a Christian. He also took his beliefs to a severe level and thought that by killing the doctor he would save thousands of unborn children’s lives and that justified the killing. Let me add that the doctor was acting as an usher at his Church on a Sunday when this man murdered him. It was not Christianity that made this man kill. It was his warped sense of his understanding of his religion.
I have told my children that the best thing to do if they encounter a fanatic is to politely avoid that person and again tell Mon and Dad later about the situation. You can’t argue or reason with crazy. I have tried countless times, without success, to reason with people who aren’t willing or ready to hear what I have to say. I only wish that I had back the time that I have spent trying to explain things to people like that. In reality, it is your time that you are wasting and you will never get it back so it’s important to realize when you are grid-locked with someone like this, cut your losses and move on.
I myself attend Church occasionally with my wife who is a Christian. I have no problem going to Church with her or celebrating events in a Church with her family, as is their custom. I can do these things because I approach it with the same mindset and philosophy that I would approach any other religion with: I look for the truths and I accept the members of her church for who they are.
I know a lot of you just cringed after that paragraph. But why? Why should I have a predisposition of hatred and malice for these people? If I showed up at an open circle would you turn me away because of the color of my skin? I would hope not.
I settled the “attend or do not attend church” argument with myself years ago. We decided to allow our children to learn everything that they can about each religion. Now you might say “Well isn’t that contradictory? How can you raise a Pagan child with so much Christian influence?”
The answer is balance. My wife provides the Christian aspect and I provide the Pagan aspect.
One note here for everyone: This can be very confusing to young children if you do not educate them at every step in the process. For example, my family and I all love nature. We camp and go on hikes as a family and we all love spending time outdoors. My children are taught in Sunday school that the Christian God created nature and everything in it. I use this as a platform to expand on the subject. While I do not outright disagree with this version of the creation story, I will guide them toward a further understanding of the greater truth of the world that we live in and how it came to be.
If you do choose to allow your children to attend a Christian church, it is very important that you expand from what they are learning and not blatantly disagree with what they tell you that they have learned. Nothing will break your child’s confidence or morale down more quickly than having Mommy and Daddy tell them that they are wrong and that they don’t know what they are talking about. If you were going to do that, though I imagine that you would not let them attend in the first place and that is what I would recommend.
Inclusion is not the right choice for everyone. Understand that at some point in your children’s lives they will be asked why they are Pagan. They will probably (and it has happened to me on more than one occasion) be told that being Pagan is wrong and that some other religion is the one true religion. In these situations, it is your responsibility as a parent to prepare them with the knowledge to defend their faith and tell others why they believe what they believe in an educated, sensible way. It is that reason alone that we have decided to allow our children to attend church.
We have all seen the Christians whose only defense of their religion or behaviors is that ‘it is written in the bible’ or that you ‘just have to believe’. By the same token, we have all seen the Pagan who converted from Christianity and now lives to persecute Christians and can’t stop talking about the ‘burning times’.
I do not take either of these people seriously in matters of faith, education or wisdom.
If you cannot explain to me why you believe what you believe in an educated, well-informed way then my immediate question is: why are you following that path? How do you know that there’s not a better religion for you out there?
One of my children’s friends from school is also a Pagan and wanted to attend church with us. We agreed to take her as long as her parents gave their blessing, which they did. She enjoyed it very much; so much so that she now attends frequently with my wife and children. She comes to our house afterward to play for the remainder of the afternoon. Her mother is a Wiccan and her father an Atheist. Between the two of them they simply enjoy seeing their child have fun with her friends and I’m sure that they enjoy the time off on Sundays. They understand that their family tradition is strong enough to be the main influence in their child’s life.
One day their child even told me that she was not a Christian; she was just ‘visiting’ our Church. To understand that you believe in and follow one religion and yet you find joy in aspects of others… well that is a well-rounded child.
Allowing your child to attend church is not a decision to take lightly as a Pagan. That is assuming that you are not dead set against it from the get go, which some people will be. I started pondering this question a long time ago and I’m glad I did because it gave me a chance to think through as many scenarios as possible over a long period of time.
Just remember that at some point your children will ask about other religions, not just Christianity. Likewise their friends will ask them why they follow the path that they are on. These questions will come up; it’s not a matter of if but when. If you build a solid religious foundation for your children and they know that they can rely on you to give them good information to the best of your abilities you will become the point person for their religious queries. By doing this you will have also set the stage for them to be very well rounded and have an excellent world view through the help of your constant coaching.
Location: Greencastle, Indiana
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