An old conversation was recently resurrected with a friend of mine. The question goes like this: When a child is looking to faith, how much should the parent "push" their faith on the child?
Before we even start, we must recognize the bias of the way I worded the question by using the word "push." Surely "educate" or "share" would serve as well, but it characterizes the nature of the question when it is typically presented.
I can go along with this slated verbiage because the ending result is equally valid and the final point is quite extenuated by the introduction of the term.
We have three critical decisions to consider when coming to an answer.
First: What do you believe?
Funny, but many divertingly answer with "I believe people have the right believe whatever they want to believe" - (the whole position of childhood entitlement is a different discussion) but this is foolish since, tautologically speaking, people believe what they want regardless.
In reality, most people don't know what they believe or what to believe; but paradoxically most people know what they want to believe. Few consider these questions beyond an episode of Seventh Heaven. Naturally people don't want this same irresolution for their kids; they both don't want to curse their children with their failed answers and secretly hope that in their child's search they may uncover what has eluded them.
Then there are “the others.” Mine is a Christian worldview, but the alignment of this argument has nothing to do with that. The others are the ones who really do know what they believe. Not only do they understand it, contemplate it and believe it, but they also can articulate it, apologize it, and reproduce it.
This second group is not motivated by control. The second group is motivated by belief. They believe their worldview, their faith system, or whatever is true, right and best; it is then a motivation of love to transmit this through their family – a moral duty.
The pith here is that if you truly believe the veneer of faith you project, then you must "push" it on your children. Expose them to your views, educate them to your thoughts, empower them to question and doubt, and even (dramatic pause) take them to your church. If you really believe you can't disserve your children otherwise. But if you don't really believe, why bother messing with your kid's head?
Second: Is a child not a child?
A child, I think we can agree, is still a child. It's not a matter of size or capacity (although in some aspects these are contributors) but immaturity, inexperience and education preclude them from being entrusted with tasks like: piloting a jet, performing brain surgery, leading armies, writing novels, counseling the afflicted, or managing finances.
Now, consider expecting a child to figure out the metaphysical, psychological and philosophical questions of faith that have confounded the wisest, highest educated, smartest, most devoted for millennia. Without maturity, education, and experience - into the fire they go defining reality and purpose without context, tools, direction or the lessons of their fathers before them.
If your child is a child, who could expect them to - or even ask them to - take on the whole part and parcel of life's most illusive endeavor merely through bumbling in the dark without guidance and instruction or light.
It's like learning to drive by being put in the driver's seat on a freeway - you're more likely to just die (and hurt others). Sure it might be easiest for the parent, but what is best for the child? After all parents, I think we can agree, are still parents.
Third: Then who?
Even though experience, experimentation and contemplation contribute to a lot - we all learn most of what we know and believe from other people (and not just teachers). If you, as the parent, decide to withdraw from the position of faith educator – it is certain someone else will fill that void.
This tangentially relates to another interesting subject of public school versus private or home schooling. Society is disgusting. What it calls valuable and meaningful on television and magazines confirms its disgustingness. If what public school has to offer is "socialization" then I am not even sure I am interested.
I believe the formative years are "formative." I want my children to chase value over cost, mercy over justice, service over reward, sacrifice over pleasure, right over might, and everyone else over themselves. My voice as a parent will soon be drowned out by friends and experiences at school and play; I will form them while I still can.
I see few "higher values" in the world; secular people and children I meet through my kids, their school or church are pollutants at this young stage. Private school isn't a slam dunk; but public school's "socialization" offering isn't even on my radar screen.
Anyway, you get to decide who teaches your child their framework and platform of faith. If you don’t pick you, then you basically resign it to someone else. There are people with good intentions and people with bad intentions. You have to decide – do you step up or do you roll the dice with peers, other family, teachers, or people they meet.
You can either "push" your kid out into speeding traffic - victims of their own innocence and inexperience - or "push" them safely into an observation booth where they can watch, listen and learn, then decide when, where and how they're going to get involved themselves. Remember, people believe whatever they want regardless.