Thursday, August 4, 2011

On raising a nonchristian child in our Christian world.

99% of our family disagree with us on our religious stances, or lack thereof.

I.E. We teach Oliver nothing religious and actively shield him from participating in overtly religious practices.

Why? Because. Because we think it's best, of course. We do everything for him because we think it's best. We don't hate Christians or people of any religion. If our friends and family believe it, that is their right and I'm happy for them. But for them, it's a major stressor that we don't share their beliefs and that just seems unfair.

Both Jared and I were troubled by religion when we grew up. I don't really want to speak for Jared's exact experiences, but I know we were both scared into belief by constant threat of hell. It was terrifying. I never believed any of the other things I was taught in Catholic school, yet I was still scared of hell.

I was taught, over and over again, that if I died with a mortal sin on my soul I was going to burn and suffer for all eternity. Life was never "good for you, you're a great person!" it was always "Good for you, you've avoided eternal punishment! ....For now."

Intentionally skip Mass on a Holy Day of Obligation? "Maliciously" lie?  Dishonor your parents? Feel those flames licking your skin - Or at least that's what they told me.

If I felt like Oliver could understand and process the information to make a decision and choose Christianity, I would absolutely allow him those influences.  But since he can't? It'll have to wait.

I don't want him to feel like I did. To be the only kid who really didn't believe, even in Grade 1. To feel that incessant guilt for not believing, despite trying. To never feel good enough because you don't believe. To want to believe just so everyone would stop bothering you. To try and try and try to believe just so you could fit in. To sometimes fake belief to get by.  To constantly feel guilty, afraid, unsafe - even when you've done nothing wrong and you're perfectly safe.

Worse still, I do not want other people  to lock him into a room and force him to accept Jesus as his personal saviour. I do not want other people to constantly pick at him, to wear him down on his beliefs before he is old enough, wise enough, sure enough to defend himself. I want him to know that he doesn't always need to defend himself, that sometimes it's okay just to know he's right. To know that his beliefs are his choice and no one can change them for him without his permission. I don't want anyone to make him feel like he is a bad person just because he is not Christian. All of these things I've personally experienced, and it hurt me. Jared has been hurt in similar ways.

We do not want that pain, that fear, that guilt for him.

Once he reaches an age where he can decide for himself - when he understands that not all grown-ups are infallible - well, then he can learn. Then he can decide. And if he chooses Christianity, Islam, Judaism... Great! We will not try to dissuade him of his beliefs. We will congratulate him on searching for himself and deciding what is true.

Until then, we're teaching him what we think is right:

Be nice to people, be nice to yourself.  Try to be fair when you can, but when you can't accept that that's life. Do not harbor hate, not towards anyone. Thank people when they give you something. Clean up after yourself. Eat your vegetables.  Take care of your family.  Try your hardest in everything you do. Accept what you're given and work with what you've got.  If you want things to be different, do something to change them yourself. Be truthful. Be happy in all things. Ask for help if you need it. Respect that other people's differences and similarities make them who they are.

Above all, we want him to do these things not because he is living in fear but because they are good. Because he is good, and he should know that.

If we instill those beliefs in him and he lives by those truths, what more could we ask of him? Oliver is a great, happy, loving little person right now, and I have no doubt that he will continue to be.  I think we must be doing something right.

1 comment:

  1. you are so cool. if more people had parents like you and jared, this world would be a lot healthier and happier.