I’m not gonna lie to ya, the response to my post from last Monday floored me. If you haven’t read Why I Would Never Force my Kids to go to Church, you might as well read it now. Be sure to read some of the comments as well. I was floored at the number of shares, views, and comments in response to the article. If you’ve read any of the comments, you know very well that while there are a number of people who agreed with the premise of the post, there are also many who do not. That’s to be expected, certainly. There are a number of beliefs and worldviews out there that are vastly different from my own. But what surprised me was the recurring use of one word by those who disagreed with my article. Brainwashing.
To have a decent discussion about brainwashing, one has to start with a common definition. To quote Inigo Montoya from The Princess Bride, “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.” (Admit it, you just read that in a fake Spanish accent, didn’t you?) So let’s start with the dictionary’s definition of the word “brainwashing:” A method for systematically changing attitudes or altering beliefs, originated in totalitarian countries, especially through the use of torture, drugs, or psychological-stress techniques. Hmm. That doesn’t sound like anyone I know. Not one single Christian parent I know fits that description. Think Hilter Germany. The Hitler Youth? Brainwashing. How about the David Koresh’s infamous cult in Waco, Texas, which ended in a final and fatal standoff on April 19, 1993? Brainwashing. Loving Christian parents teaching their children about a loving Savior? Not brainwashing.
Okay, maybe brainwashing is a bit too strong a word. But at the very least, you’re denying your children the right to “free thinking” and the beauty of exploration and choosing their own set of beliefs.
Let’s explore that a moment then, shall we? Let’s change things up with this blog format and have some interactive participation. I’m going to list different scenarios and I want you to answer for yourself whether each instance is denying a child the beauty of exploration and the gift of choice.1. A parent who passes on loyalty to a certain sports team, giving their child apparel, pennants, and gear from the team of the parent’s choice from a very young age, thus raising their child to be a fan of the same team the parents like. 2. A symphonic violinist who starts his child on violin lessons at the age of 5, thus ruling out the possibility of the child exploring woodwind or brass instruments. 3. A Olympic gymnast who signs up her child in gymnastics from the age of 3, thus denying the child the chance to explore other options like ice skating. 4. A parent who teaches his child the theory of evolution as fact, thus denying the child the choice of learning about creation as well. 5. A vegetarian parent who passes on the vegetarian lifestyle to her children, thus denying them the exploration of many types of meat.
I could go on with other examples, but let’s stick with five for now. Your answers may be different from my own, but here’s the bottom line. If you believe that a Christian parent who passes on their beliefs to their children is denying their children the “beauty of choice,” then you have to agree that all the examples above are denying their children the beauty of choice as well.
You see, I cannot do anything other than pass on my faith. Living out my faith and passing it on to my children is just what I do. It’s like speaking English. It just comes naturally. It’s my “native tongue,” so to speak. Am I denying my kids free choice by speaking English in the house? What if they’d rather speak Italian? Do you see how ridiculous this gets? Just as I speak the English language without a second thought, so do I speak my language of faith, Christianity.
Some of the comments from last Monday’s post accused me of threatening or scaring my kids into behaving by talking about hell. This is simply untrue. If there are parents out there who do this, it’s a dangerous tactic that will almost certainly backfire. My husband and I do not threaten them with, “You know, you’re gonna burn in hell for lying to me like that.” Absolutely not. That’s unthinkable. So what do we teach them? I’m glad you asked. It’s quite simple, actually. It comes down to two main categories.
1. LAW. In order to have a proper understanding of the second category (Gospel), one must start with this. Here is where many people bristle, and sadly, if you can’t get past the Law, you will never be able to experience the beauty of the Gospel. The Law basically tells us that we are all sinners. Yes, I said it. You’re a sinner, I’m a sinner, my kids are sinners. Everyone is a sinner. Does it hurt your pride to hear me say it? It should. No one likes to be told they’re wrong, and here’s where a lot of people fall away. “I don’t need a religion that tells me I’m wrong or tries to make me feel guilty.” Ah, but stay with me, dear ones, because if you stop reading here you miss the best part! When did you teach your kids to lie, hit each other, fight, etc? What’s that? You didn’t teach them these things? Exactly. That’s because we are all sinful. We truly can’t help ourselves. No matter how hard we may try to be “good,” we will all fall short. God demands perfection. 100% of the time. No one can live up to that. Ever. But this isn’t the end, because look with me at number 2 now.
2. GOSPEL. You see, God wasn’t content to sit in heaven and watch us ruin ourselves. He sent His only Son, Jesus, to this earth as a human being. Imagine, the God of the universe taking on human flesh! It’s unbelievable. I can’t comprehend it myself, but I believe it and give thanks to God for it! Jesus came down to earth and lived the perfect life we could never live. Then He was crucified for all the sins of everyone in the world, and three days later rose from the dead. His victory over death assures all believers that they will live with Him eternally. Again, I can’t comprehend this. Does this make sense? Well, truthfully, no. And that’s the beauty of it. If someone had made up Christianity, they would have made up something that was “logical” to our finite minds. Give us a set of rules to follow to gain heaven. Let us earn our own way somehow. But the “foolishness of God is wiser than men,” as I Corinthians 1:25 asserts. You see, God’s “foolishness” is the message of the cross, as I Corinthians 1:18 points out: “For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”
Friend, I don’t know where you are in your beliefs. Perhaps you look at the cross as “folly” and think all Christians to be foolish and ignorant. Perhaps you know the cross to be “the power of God.” You fall into one category or the other. As for me and my household, we believe. My children know the message of the cross and believe it as “the power of God.” We don’t brainwash them to believe this. We simply teach them about their living Savior who was willing to die for them. The Holy Spirit works faith in their hearts. I pray He works in your heart as well.
Author’s Note: The comments from my original blog post, “Why I Would Never Force my Kids to go to Church,” varied greatly, but there were a number of them that were blatantly rude. If you’re going to leave a comment, please be considerate. I don’t insult you if you don’t believe what I believe. Please grant me the same courtesy. If you wouldn’t say something to my face, don’t say it anonymously through a blog comment. Thank you for your thoughtfulness.