Parental Indoctrucation

I’ve read and heard atheist critics who claim that parents who are believers are “indoctrinating” their kids with their religion and this is an unfair, intellectual crime. Parents should “give their children the chance to make a choice” by letting them decide their religious beliefs as adults.  The obvious point of all this is the assertion that religion would disappear within a generation if parents followed this sage advice.  After all, religion is nothing more than a delusional illusion buttressed by culture, a virus passed from parent to child.  They could be right…too right.  As per usual with any bigotry or prejudice, it’s the idea of indoctrination is more emotional, the primary emotion being hate, than reasonable.  If one generation doesn’t pass on its culture, which includes beliefs and values, to the next generation their culture would die out in a generation along with any religion.

But let’s take it back to parenting since I want to address this question of so-called indoctrination. I have a son and must steward him into a well-adjusted adult who can contribute positively to this screwy, sometimes dark and forbidding world.  And our world has lots of issues which I must help him navigate as he grows up.  Ch1ldren Now is “the leading, nonpartisan, multi-issue research, policy development, and advocacy organization dedicated to promoting children’s health and education in California and creating national media policies that support child development.”  The present on their website a list of tough issues for which they provide parents tips for discussing them with their children:

Whew!  Not exactly “How to Deal with Teasing” I know!  But what struck me was the list of general tips on how to work through these topics.  It perfectly highlights why this idea of “waiting until your child is an adult”, “indoctrination” is pure bullsh–err, foolishness.  Pay attention to the items emphasized.

  1. Start early.
  2. Initiate conversations with your child.
  3. …Even about sex and sexuality.
  4. Create an open environment.
  5. Communicate your own values.
  6. Listen to your child.
  7. Try to be honest.
  8. Be patient.
  9. Use everyday opportunities to talk.
  10. Talk about it again. And, again.

Now I try my best to be an intellectually honest person and more importantly a good father to my son.  My faith has direct implications on how I deal almost all of the tough topics above.  How am I supposed to talk about sickness and death with my child that doesn’t include God, the afterlife, etc.?  How do I communicate my values around questions of heaven or hell?  And remember what I do is probably as much if not more important as what I say.  If I behave as if my faith doesn’t impact on how I deal with sickness and death, I’m sending precisely the message those atheist critics want me to send: that my faith is unimportant in life and can be discarded.  What I find truly despicable is that those critics  claim I’m abusing my child by doing my job as a parent: communicating my own values, honestly, every day, again and again.


Ringing a Bell for Liberty

Archbishop Chaput holds forth:

The public discourse of Catholics needs to be guided by charity and respect for others, but above all by truth. The truth can be difficult, so we often want to soften its edges. But this just wastes time and compounds our problems. Candor can be uncomfortable in the short run, but it’s much healthier in the long run.

The point is this: We need to be frank with each other as Christian adults, frank in our public witness and frank in our own self-criticism. Again, we also need to be prudent and kind — but not at the expense of courage, and not at the expense of speaking the truth.

via Ringing a Bell for Liberty – Interview – National Review Online.

That right there is how bishops are supposed to behave and speak!  I was a bit proud of Chaput for doing speaking in a balanced manner.  Given the absolute mess here in Philadelphia left by his predecessors we need this kind of leadership.  He continues:

Christianity is a “political” religion only in the sense that it has wider implications than the individual. Christian faith is communitarian; it places both personal and social obligations on the believer. It requires certain actions. It’s never merely private.

Which is why this Fortnight for Freedom is kind of a problem for me. Mind you I don’t have any real objection to the protest itself since it is quintessentially American to act up and speak up for one’s rights.  And Americans have a right to do so!  The First Amendment is the first for a reason.  The Founders knew these rights were important.  Liberties are precious and ought to be defended vigorously.

But as the bishop said above, Christianity isn’t really about freedom or liberty in a larger sense.  As a disciple of Christ, I have certain obligations, specifically “charity, justice, courage, [and] mercy,” as the good bishop said. I have freedom in Christ, but I’m not free to do as I please.  The irony here is that the other side of this HHS mandate debate is also acting up about liberty specifically the fundamental issue of a woman controlling her own healthcare.   So when Chaput said this:

The central issue in the HHS-mandate debate isn’t contraception. Casting the struggle as a birth-control fight is just a shrewd form of dishonesty. The central issue in the HHS debate is religious liberty. The government doesn’t have the right to force religious believers and institutions to violate their religious convictions. But that’s exactly what the White House is doing.

I winced.  The entire reason the bishops are leading this charge for religious liberty is to resist the government mandating they provide contraception.  So how exactly is birth-control not central to this issue?  If the Catholic Church encouraged the use of contraception as good sexual ethics, would we be here right now?  Would the Church be lauding the government for supporting good morality?  I think we all know the answer to these questions.  So while I’m loathe to check Bishop Chaput, I’m going to follow his lead and say that claiming the central issue isn’t contraception is also “a shrewd form of dishonesty.”  Honesty demands better.

Fortnight for Freedom

The bishops in my church instituted a pitched campaign to resist the HHS mandate, as part of the overall healthcare reform known as “Obamacare,” requiring religious institutions to cover contraception to their employees.  The bishops teach that active contraception is wrong and argue that being forced to provide such violates the religious freedom of Catholics to practice their faith and live according to their consciences.  All this is par for the course in American politics. Our democracy is about a battle of rights, an ongoing fight about whose rights deserve protection and how.  If you are a constitutional buff, this is heady stuff and part of what makes this country great.  No guns, just words.

On the merits, this battle is worth fighting. Each side has a legitimate case to make.  And rights are at stake.  Make no mistake about it.  My problem has always been how the bishops have chosen to wage this battle as soldiers of Christ or as mere political prosecutors of war?

As a Catholic, this whole “Fortnight for Freedom” thing made me nervous. The timing of this battle, the vigor with which is waged, and the lack of compassion for our opponents once again demonstrates how myopic the bishops can be and how their credibility (and the Church’s as well) is withering before the rest of the country.  I am not alone in this view.  Here are the problems I see in a nutshell with trenchant humor from Jon Stewart to liven it up! Continue reading