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Posts Tagged ‘kids’

As we’ve discussed before, many religions are struggling to keep their flocks. However, all is not gloom and doom.

For instance, there’s a cute article this weekend in the New York Times about a non-religiously-raised kid who suddenly insists his (ex-monk) dad start taking him to church on Sundays:

He did not want his mother to come. Dianne Sweeney, 50, a customer service manager for PepsiCo, had grown up without religion, and a few times when Ryan had mentioned the pope, she had rolled her eyes.

“He thought I didn’t have the right attitude,” Ms. Sweeney said.

What follows is a touching story of redemption. Little Ryan joins the confirmation class; his dad stares at the beautiful stained-glass windows; even the mom eventually tags along and volunteers to bring a carrot salad to the church picnic. (Shrewdly, the article manages not to bring up theology, which might have made it controversial and/or interesting.)

At this point you’re probably wondering if there are any lessons your church can learn from this story.

Among the many reasons Ryan wanted to go: he’s a big reader, enjoys fantasy literature and has seen theories suggesting the world may end in 2013 due to the configuration of magnetic forces. In that case, he said, it would be nice to be on good terms with God.

None of these are traditional elements of church outreach, but they could quite easily be incorporated. Therefore, churches that are hurting for parishioners might consider one or more of the following:

The obvious caveat is that, if parents were to start teaching their kids that fantasy books are fiction and that the Mayan prophecy is nonsense and that “the reason we don’t go to church is because your religion is false,” these plans might not work. But what are the chances of any of those?

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Do you know about the Silver Ring Thing? Don’t feel bad, neither did I until a few minutes ago. I think that means we’re old.

Basically you wear a $20 silver ring to demonstrate that you’ve sat through a 2-hour pro-abstinence stage performance incorporating “high energy music, special effects, fast-paced video, personal testimonies, and comedy all delivered in a concert-style approach with which teenagers can respond and relate.” (It would be a real shame if you went and ordered one of those rings despite never having participated in a SRT program. A real shame.)

While it may seem like a strange accomplishment to commemmorate with jewelry, it is apparently popular enough that a bunch of secular kids felt left out and have created their own Secular Pinky Swear:

I, First Name, Last Name strive to live my life according to progressive, secular values, not dogma or superstition.

Wait a minute. “Progressive values”? Where did that come from? What does that have to do with secularism?

Digging deeper, it looks like it’s part of Principle #6:

Without losing sight of the importance of diverse viewpoints, I will encourage others to appreciate the value of reason, compassion, equality, and other enlightened principles that make the world a better and safer place for humanity, now and in the future.

“The importance of diverse viewpoints”? If there is one thing we don’t believe in here at YRIF, it’s “the importance of diverse viewpoints.” Actually, can I have that back? If there’s one thing we don’t believe in, it’s god, but if there’s a second thing then it’s “the importance of diverse viewpoints.”

The following are all “diverse viewpoints”:

Do you notice what else they have in common? They’re all colossally stupid. The only “importance” secularists ought to recognize in them is the importance of pointing out that they’re not true.

Kids, if you’re going to go to the trouble of proclaiming secular values, don’t half-ass it. If you want to be “courageous in the face of cultural pressure,” then be courageous! Supporting “diverse viewpoints” in the abstract means you’re supporting just about anything!

Might I suggest that you substitute my principle #6a:

In appreciation of the importance of non-stupid viewpoints, I will encourage others to appreciate the value of reason, compassion, equality, and other enlightened principles that make the world a better and safer place for humanity, now and in the future.

Doesn’t that sound better?

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Kids are naturally “spiritual.” They frequently have imaginary friends. They like to make animal sacrifices, often involving anthills and firecrackers or snakes and BB guns. They are typically pretty ignorant of science, and most often they don’t really understand causality either.

They believe that a birthday cake can grant wishes if you blow out its candles, that monsters live in their closets, that a fat man magically brings them presents once a year, that a “fairy” puts coins under their pillow when they lose a tooth, and that an oversized bunny (not unlike the one from Donnie Darko) was somehow involved in the resurrection of Jesus.

Despite all these things, it’s possible that you’re staying up at night worrying that your kids aren’t “spiritual” enough! And if that’s the case, Ariane de Bonvoisin has got some advice for you:

Spirituality for children is really about teaching them who they are, reminding them daily of their connection to something greater than themselves, to the universe, nature, the energy that flows through all of us.

Although it has been many years since I took science classes, I still kind of remember learning about the energy that flows through all of us.

If I am not mistaken, it starts with the phototrophs, who convert sunlight into glucose and adenosine triphosphate. These products then make their way up the food chain, until decomposers return the energy to the ground.

I suppose this is not an unreasonable thing to teach children, although I worry that without adult guidance they might themselves attempt autotrophy and end up with sunstroke or skin cancer. In any event, it’s hard to see how teaching kids science will make them more “spiritual.” But the advice doesn’t stop there.

And one more note, whatever your child feels or says is completely fine. If they start talking about angels, presences, invisible people, stay open. It’s critical for them to feel heard, accepted, and validated for anything they want to talk about that has to do with God and Spirituality.

So next time your kid suggests that Holy Scripture is “infallible”, that he witnessed a miracle on the playground, that the universe needs to have a “first cause”, that a being “than which nothing greater can be conceived” must necessarily exist, or that the enormous complexity found in nature can only be explained by an “intelligent” designer, make sure you validate him. Otherwise he might learn to think critically, and then you’d no longer be able to use the threat of Candyman to keep him from staring into mirrors all day long.

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