My son got his first bible last summer. He had moved up to the first grade boys class in Sunday school at a non-denominational church not far from our home. So my husband thought it would be a good time to add a bible to his little library. His first bible looks a lot more fun than the ones I had to read as a kid. I like that it is textbooky and has lots of practical projects and life applications. Science, world history and biographies are of great interest to my son and I love that he approaches them all with voracious curiosity. I admire children's innate curiosity. Seeing it in my son, inspires it in me.
As a homeschooler, it inspired me to always respond to his questions with more questions. During his school application process, one head of school described him as a deep thinker, and that is so true. He is a person who asks why until either the ultimate answer satisfies him or until he has had enough time to process more information to come up with more questions, sometimes days, weeks or months later.
In his Sunday school class last summer, every other week they brought home daily assignments and readings for the week. Once, when looking over his assignments, he asked me if all kids have bibles and "church homework". That was a springboard for an awesome conversation, the first of many I hope, about the impact of geography on religion and the ways that most kids his age--in Turkey or India, for example--most likely don't have bibles and are likely learning about their own parents' religious beliefs, since religion is usually passed down through families. He asked questions and talked about Jews and Hanukah and Christmas-- bits he remembered from previous conversations we'd had. During our last few weeks in homeschool we did a unit on Asia and had many discussions about the history of religions in Asia and India. I didn't even have to point out to him that the three religions we discussed all seem to have the same central tenet: Be kind. I think that was a pretty good connection for a seven year old to make. A lot of religious adults would do good to remember that one.
I'm happy that my kid is learning about Christianity with a much broader context than I did. I am sure there must have been a unit or two on world religions in middle and high school, but I didn't have my first impactful world religions class until I was in college.
We use the bible to reinforce lessons about the benefits of having good character (we also use Aesop's Fables for that). Exposing my son to Christianity and the bible at this age is a convenient tool to help him learn about character development, mostly...and to reinforce good character with the power of holy guilt and shame.
Big ups to agnostics and atheists who raise decent humans without holy guilt. This parenting thing is hard all by yourself!
I would be remiss not to say the biggest impact that growing up Christian has made on my life is the guilt. Yes, it would be nice to say my good decisions resulted from strong morals, but nope, I was afraid of disappointing God and disobeying my parents and death. I think a great dose of guilt and shame go a long way in influencing sound choices. My teenage years were very dull and boring, but I have no regrets and have become an expert at avoiding negativity and protecting my peaceful chakras. It's true what they say about delayed gratification. I made all my morally questionable decisions as a responsible, tax paying adult. So when my son (or whosoever else comes after him) retorts, "But YOU have tattoos!" I get to say, "Sir, I was 29 years old with a GOOD paying job when I got my first tattoo." #shutitdown. I blame religious guilt for the time to mature with my chakras undisturbed and a perpetual side-eye to peer pressure like-- Do what now? No sir, I'm trying to make it to heaven.--and am grateful I had it in my teenage years. Thanks, mom. I'd be nuts not to at least try to give my kids the same gift of holy guilt. I digress.
If I'm being honest, I can't say I think about religion in absolutes. I think God is a real mystery and humans have been really trying to figure out which path is actually The Path to God or wether a path is even necessary since the beginning of human life on earth. I'm a Christian who says I don't know. Maybe that's where the hope and faith part comes in. You hope that what your religion believes is right. I don't know. Learning about the history of the construction of the bible and what was included versus what was excluded and speculations about why, just makes it all a bigger mystery. Ultimately, Jesus is a pretty cool dude to model one's character after in terms of how he treated people similar to those we have a tendency to shame and shun. A lot of religious adults would do good to remember that as well.
Anyway, I imagine if my son ever decides to practice a different religion as an adult or chooses to be more spiritual than religious, I'd respect his decision, knowing he'd made an informed choice vs an emotional or inherited one. I don't speak for my husband, but lets just say, if Jesus wants you for a sunbeam, my husband is chairman of the sunbeam committee. I admit it's refreshing to know someone who is so sure about their spiritual beliefs. I have questions, and while I'm sure it drives him nuts, he gives me space to explore them. Again, I digress.
What about you? Who chose your religion? Who gets to choose the religious path, if any, for your child?
Continue reading for pics and mini-reviews on the children's bible my son reads and the book that first introduced him to a deeper understanding of other world religions.
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