Sunday, September 20, 2009

Your kid is not spiritual

The following is completely true despite the fact that it never actually happened. In order to prevent friends and family from maybe getting mad at me, I've changed some names and relationships. Not only that, but I've taken two nearly identical stories and smashed them together into one and created completely fictional relatives of mine. I'm going to try my best to represent what the real people actually said without erecting some sort of strawman that misrepresents anybody's views. With that said, here is my fictional true story:

My brother, Angus, converted to Christianity recently. That's not necessarily such a big deal, but he's part of the really judgmental brand of the Christian faith that even many Christians find annoying. I also get the sneaking suspicion that he knows very little about The Bible itself. Instead, his head is just filled with dogma about being "saved" and how those who aren't are going to Hell ("eternal damnation" is what he calls it).

That's fine, I suppose - live your life the way you want to live it. The problem is that he's obviously brainwashed his children. Now, I realize that there's always going to be a certain degree of indoctrination that parents do with their children. It's inevitable, and for the most part, it's a good thing. After all, how can anybody fault it if you teach them things like the Golden Rule and other universally human values? I also don't fault a person for sharing their faith with their kids. Personally, I think that it's best to let kids make up their own minds, but sharing your faith and letting them think for themselves are not necessarily mutually exclusive.

This is different though. The kids are obsessed with Jesus and making sure that people are "saved". They annoy people with self-righteous platitudes. For instance, my nephew Seamus was getting on my Aunt Bridget's case about her smoking. My niece, Sabrina, always asks me if I believe in Jesus. When I say that I don't, she asks me why. My reply to her is that it simply doesn't make sense to me, but I tell her that it's okay with me that she believes. It's not like this was a one-time thing - she insists on talking about it every time she sees me. Oh, and I should also mention that Sabrina and Seamus pray for every little thing - including things as trivial as me finding a parking space when I take them out to see a movie.

When asked about whether he's brainwashing his kids, Angus replies that he's done no such thing. "They're just deep kids." he says. He saw my look of incredulity and insisted that "Maybe they've experienced something that you don't understand. You're not giving them enough credit."

Okay, let's have a little reality check here. Sabrina is five and Seamus is seven. I like little kids, but one thing they are not is "deep". Shoot, I like teenagers too, but it's a really rare case when I meet a "deep" one in my line of work. Sure, sometimes they're deep for their age, but generally speaking, kids do not comprehend profundity. I'd even go so far as to say that some adults can't either, but kids most definitely can't by the reality of the fact that their brains are still developing - well into their early twenties, in fact.

Your children will believe anything you tell them. Even if you try and get them to think for themselves, when they're little kids they'll pretty much just repeat what you think. I have another friend who tried this with her daughter on the subject of God's existence. She asked her daughter what she thought, to which her daughter asked mom what she believed. Mom said, "Well, I don't believe in one." Her daughter insisted, "I don't either." Of course, this might start to change by the time she becomes a teenager, but that's just the nature of little kids.

Let's face reality on this, okay? Kids will believe in the Tooth Fairy because their parents tell them about it. They believe in Santa. And when they believe in Jesus, they believe it for the EXACT SAME REASON. Sure, they outgrow the Santa and Tooth Fairy stories (some of us outgrow the Jesus one too) but when they stop believing, nobody threatens them with eternal torment for it. Also, it's not like their parents believe it, so the pressure isn't exactly the same.

The bottom line is that if you told a kid the stories of Samson and Achilles, Jesus and Dionysus, Satan and Loki, and then asked them to differentiate between which ones are "real" and which ones are fairy tales, they will not be able to tell the difference. Again, I'm not saying that you shouldn't share your faith, but don't be so delusional to think that it means the same thing to your kids as it does to you. It might mean something to them, but a kid's brain is not an adult's brain.


Ingrid said...

Lance, I am glad you are not talking about my side of the family.
Actually, just when should parents stop indotrinating their children? You say that children believe everything, or that children have to make up their own mind. If parents don't indoctrinate, as they do naturally, some stranger with even more strange ideas will have access to the childrens minds. As a parent you love your children, and want what you think is best for them.
I have seen parents who indoctrinated their children about Christian, Jewish or Moslem faith, and some who didn't tell their kids anything about religion. On both side were really screwed up people, and really emotionally healthy ones.

Lance Christian Johnson said...

I was trying to make it clear that it's impossible to not do some sort of indoctrination on some level or other. My point is just that these people seem to act like their kids "found Jesus" in the same way that they did. I just wish that people were more honest about the motives of their kids.

Lance Christian Johnson said...

Oh, and Angus is really upset that you've apparently disowned him.