Monday, February 1, 2016

I Won't Force My Kids to Go to Church - A Response

I hopped on facebook this morning to wish a friend happy birthday and got a little distracted by a post I read. It was an article called "I Won't Force My Kids to Go to Church" that you can read by clicking on that link. The article begins quite cleverly and compares the arguments of why some Christian parents choose not to force their children to go to church with the logic of a parent declaring they will stop forcing their child to eat three times a day, a parent stating they will stop forcing their child not to play in the street, or a parent deciding not to force their child to go to school if they feel their teachers are uninspiring and the children mean, for "Who wants to waste their time going somewhere they aren’t being fulfilled?" 

While this article has, at heart, a great purpose (to bring more people to Christ), it feeds a falsehood that I had to say something about--and I'll try to do so with only twenty minutes to write, so forgive the rough post. 

The falsehood is the assumption that at their core, every person is inherently lazy or desires what is not good, or what is not good for them. It strikes at an argument that has been going on a long time (here's a quick version of some of the ideas of Plato, Plotinus (Plato's follower), Augustine, and the Manicheans came up with that I found interesting and makes me want to learn more about how these minds grappled with such questions at the heart of this article).  

The author of "I Won't Force My Kids to Go to Church" presents two options: either I force my children to go to church, or I do nothing and let them choose what they want to do. It becomes clear that the author believes giving children a choice means that most youth will choose not to go to church.

I disagree. It isn't a choice of A or B. It's C. There is a third alternative. 

My faith and experiences teach me that at their core, every human being is a son and daughter of God with the potential to become like him. Because of this godseed within us, we are not inherently evil because of our body, we are here to shape and love and nourish the natural potential of our body--to train our dragon.  

We are not here because the earth was broken by Adam and Eve's choice. Adam and Eve triumphantly chose to leave a realm of bliss to experience a mortal world of opposition in their journey of eternal progression AND SO HAVE WE. 

Our Savior is not a victim willing to pay for our mistakes, he is the Prince of Peace, the Good Shepherd, the Anointed Son of God. He chooses to at-one with each of us individually, to get in the yoke with us, to pull with us when we are weak, to heal us from this world's woes, to guide us through the mists of darkness, to bless us with his enabling grace. Yes, he pays for our mistakes, but it is not because we are always messing up and he's willing to foot the bill, it is because it is ESSENTIAL to experience the bad if we are to know the good. And we cannot be forced in that journey, so he allows us our agency and the experience of opposition and makes it possible for all those mistakes to work toward our good--a glorious good. THAT IS WHY WE ARE HERE.   


Maybe our specific eternal journey doesn't always look like the perfect plan according to temporal wisdom, but I firmly believe that if left free to choose, and given exposure to eternal things, the godseed within us will guide us along the path of progression (not digression). As surely as a sunflower chooses to follow the sun, we will come to Christ and experience the gravity of His love.

The article in question is flawed. No child would naturally follow the Light of Christ to walk out into a busy street if taught the dangers (let's speak of children over the age of eight to simplify things). 

No child would choose (forever) to sit at home and eat bonbons all day and learn absolutely nothing if they weren't in a formal school building being forced to learn (you can't force real learning anyway, that's why God doesn't).

And what child refuses to eat? Only a child that needs healing of some other kind that forcing them to eat won't fix. 

It has been my experience with my siblings growing up, and with most of my children now half grown to adulthood, that when we are taught correct principles, and our agency is left unfettered, we choose things of Light--things that nourish the Godseed within us. 

It is when we are forced, coerced, or manipulated, that we rebel or do things that invite darkness (and seem to give evidence to others that we need to be forced to do good things). 

If we aren't making good choices, maybe we just need time to heal from our agency being restricted? From observing and imitating others acting according to incorrect principles? Maybe we need to be taught true principles. Maybe we are learning necessary lessons about darkness so we can more fully embrace the light? Maybe seeing our loved ones more diligently following truth and light would inspire us to act likewise sooner rather than later? 

Maybe we need our parents to trust us to God's care; to feel trusted to live and act as agents, not as servants being forced to measure up to false traditional norms. Maybe our children would find greater truths than we have with such an upbringing and we could learn from new truths they discover! 
However, if we always control and coerce them into following only what we know to be true (breaking correct principles ourselves), they will not progress further than us. Likely, they will wilt and diminish.  

This I know. I will not force my children to go to church. I will not force them to learn. I will focus my efforts and attention on nourishing the seed of godhood within them and protecting the environment they are planted in. I will trust God to guide me in that work. Then, I will trust their seed to the Master Gardner; I will trust that the seed will grow. For it is a good seed.   

Click here for part 2 of this discussion, "But What if God Isn't Enough?" 

1 comment:

  1. I know this is a month later...
    but when I saw your title, I had to check out this post.
    I was SO hoping that your conclusion would align with what mine has been.
    Sitting with a contented smile on my face, I can breathe a sigh of relief.

    Force is NEVER the answer.