My Kid & Religion: Part 1 – Family First
This is the first post in a series on My Kid & Religion.
Religion can be such a divisive thing. I am struggling with how (or even if) I want to introduce and integrate religion into my son’s early life. I realize that it will enter his life at some point, but I’m trying to figure out how I want to take part in his introduction to it. I have had a love-hate relationship with religion, Christianity specifically, in my life. This lands me in an odd position. I want my kid to have the positive “Sunday School” experience with church that I had when I was young. But, I don’t want to expose him to the many negative experiences I had with religion as I got older.
Somewhere in the transition from a child to an adult I slowly started to no longer fit into the nice little conservative Christian box I had been told I should fit into. The more I thought for myself, the more I became frustrated with the Christianity I was raised to believe. When a point would be made and I’d ask “Why?” the answer from a church leader would often be superficial. When I’d probe the answer with deeper inquiry my questions and logical arguments were ignored and dismissed. Even worse, at a certain point of asking questions too often, I was labeled as “trouble” and ignored by so many in the congregation I had thought were my friends.
A perfect example of this was when my dad came out as gay. I was at a point in my life that I had never (or at least thought I’d never) interacted with a gay person. The only things I knew about the LBGTQ community were the stereotypes taught to me by my very conservative surroundings. Long story short, my dad and I had a disconnected relationship between my late teens and early 20s. This was almost entirely to blame on the anti-gay rhetoric I was surrounded by at the time. The Bible verse about not associating with Christians who were in blatant sin (1 Corinthians 5:11) was often misquoted to me in reference to my dad, because he was gay. I struggled with this for a long time. I missed my dad, but in the mind set that I was in I couldn’t see him without putting myself in a place of disobedience. Eventually that struggle became too much for me. I missed talking to my dad more than I wanted to keep the church happy. I decided family was more important to me than whatever my peers or “God” thought. I slowly opened my life back up to my dad. We spent many meals and conversations together after that. My dad showed me over the following years that those stereotypes I was taught were completely false.
My beliefs and questions have changed and matured in the last 10 years. I am a much different person than I was back then. I think I’m a better person in some ways and worse in others. I’m smarter than I was, but much more cynical. I don’t trust people like I used to. I’ve come to value critical thinking and want to share that with my son. Had I learned early on to hear from the authority figures in my life and then confirm what they told me independently I would be a much less damaged person now.
I don’t ever want my kid to have to feel like he has to choose between his belief system and the people that he loves. I’ve seen it happen time and again with my friends in the church. Disagreements over the meaning of a book (holy or not) should never cause a family to ignore each other or sever communication. I’m hesitant to involve my son in any religion that separates people versus includes them.
Part Two: “Sunday School” can be read here.