Monday, March 17, 2014

How to successfully teach religion to kids

Normally I’m not a Doug Giles fan.  Scratch that – normally I’m REALLY not a Doug Giles fan.  I don’t agree with much that he writes, and on top of that he’s usually so arrogant.  But here, I am shocked to say I agree with him 100%.

In reading this, I see a couple big reasons that I probably fell away from the Church for a while.  For example –

“If you want to guarantee your kids will walk away from the faith, just make it an obnoxiously narrow, fastidiously legalistic, life-sucking, skull-numbing guilt trip.”

Yup – that was my upbringing, all right!  The worst of Catholic culture, inescapably up close and personal.  It was all about the rules with absolutely none of the softer stuff – no discussions about sensing God’s presence or seeing the fingerprint of God in every human being and all of creation.  Heaven forbid we attend a church where Mass had anything other than stodgy “sacred” organ music. 

“We never isolated ourselves.  Our friends were everyone.”

Growing up we were quite the opposite.  I was so isolated it was painful; I had to teach myself how to be normal when I left my parents’ house.  It’s still a work in progress.

“Lastly, our Christianity wasn’t anti-intellectual.”
Finally – the one thing my parents did right!  I read so many apologetics materials growing up that eventually I came back to the Church.  Regardless of how “the rules” just don’t seem to apply in the real world a lot of the time, I can’t escape the fact that the theology is really all there.  Not sure how to deal with that dissonance at the moment, so for now it’s in a little box in my mind.

So with my kids, I’m definitely doing things differently.  Having a particular faith is easy enough if everyone around you shares it.  But it doesn’t mean anything until you have your faith challenged by smart people who think differently than you.  Plus it’s imperative for kids to learn how to socialize with a wide variety of people, even if they don’t agree on everything.

Also, as Chesterton said, “Let your religion be less of a theory and more of a love affair.”  It’s a GOOD thing if religion feels good sometimes.  In fact, it should.  Doing the right thing is often painful enough, but if it’s ALWAYS painful, there’s something wrong.  Sunday school (which I help teach) can be fun sometimes.  Contemporary music at Mass is not a sign of the apocalypse.  And (horror of horrors) maybe sometimes it’s a good idea to get to know your fellow parishioners!  Shocking, I know.  My kids and I hold hands and sway during the music, I make sure they have good handshakes during the sign of peace, I help them find their place during singing and group prayers, and I point out things to look at and think about during silent prayer.

We’ll see how well this works.

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