Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Kids Don't Learn Faith: They Catch It

Quite a few years ago, I heard someone say that kids don't learn religious faith from their parents: they catch it.

I think there's something to that.

Even though I was raised in a nice, normal, mainstream Protestant household: and converted to Catholicism. I wasn't abandoning my parents' faith so much as tracing it back to its source. And that's another topic.

I've heard and read those sad tales of children who abandoned the church their parents had dedicated themselves to. Each of us has free will, and people have shown a capacity for making some really daft decisions as the ages rolled along.

'They were Such Good Church People'

Then there's the 'good Christian' couple who team up to run their church's Bible study. Nothing wrong with that, of course. Reading and understanding the Bible is important.

These aren't any particular people, by the way. I'm merging quite a few stories I've heard and read into one hypothetical couple.

They're well-known for their selfless community service. Each of them does volunteer work four nights out of each week, they're on every church committee, and each election year they're out campaigning for the candidate of their choice: all this while operating the neighborhood recycling program.

When their child goes to college, drops out, leaves the parents' church and moves across the country, they're shocked and saddened.

Maybe the kid made a bad decision.

Maybe the parents should have reviewed their priorities.

Like I said, we've all got free will.

Kids Catch More Than They Learn

I'm going out on a limb here, but I've suspected that children 'catch' more from their parents than they learn.

Putting that another way: a mother and father can talk till they're blue in the face about how important honesty is. Their kids will hear what they have to say: kids, I think, pay a lot more attention to their parents than they let on.

If the parents practice honesty, well and good. If the kids notice that their folks are practicing 'creative accounting' at tax time - and the kids will notice - they'll see the disconnect between what mom and dad say, and what they do.

Odds are that what the parents do will trump anything they say. My opinion.

Maybe that's an extreme example.

Acting As If God Matters

If 'religion' is something Mom and/or Dad do for an hour a week on Sunday - unless there's something good on television - the kids will notice.

If belonging to the 'right' church is more important than being in a church that's right - the kids will notice.

If parents say that the golden rule is treating others the way you'd like others to treat you, and act as if it's 'the one with the gold makes the rules' - the kids will notice.

Have you heard all this before? Probably.

You've probably heard that a cloudless, dust-free sky is blue, too: but that doesn't make it any less true.

Me, a Practically Perfect Parent? HA!

I've made an effort, over the decades, to have time blocked out for the kids: and to make what I say I believe match how I act. I'm no male Mary Poppins, though: 'practically perfect in every way.'

My oldest daughter's creating a comic, Mary Quite Contrary, based on her experiences while growing up in this family. Her November 30, 2009 strip shows you a bit of what sort of father I can be. What can I say? The family's provided her with a great deal of material to work with.

Perfect? No. Hardly. The kids know that, so does my wife: and I've been aware of my lack of perfection for as long as I can remember. We're pretty much on the same page with that idea.

A committed parent? Yes. My kids know that I can't stop loving them: it's in the rules. Sometimes I may not like them all that much - and more often I'm not too crazy about what they're doing. But I am their father, and some responsibilities come with that position. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1655-1658, for starters)

That may sound cold and rigid. It's not. Or, rather, it's the sort of solid bedrock that gives us the assurance that, no matter what, we're a family. And allows us to enjoy the 'extras.'

Like reading some Garfield comics tonight with my son. It's a routine we have.

God willing: between reading Garfield; watching me learn about my faith and pass along what I pick up; and good decisions on their part; my children will continue to work at conforming themselves to what God wants them to be.
I was going to get into how important it is to read - and study and understand - the Bible, but this post is getting over-long as it is. Besides, I've written about that before.
Related posts:
A tip of the hat to JeffCavins, on Twitter, for a remark that reminded me of that 'kids catch faith' remark.

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I block a few of the more obvious dubious advertisers.

For example: psychic anything, numerology, mediums, and related practices are on the no-no list for Catholics. It has to do with the Church's stand on divination. I try to block those ads.

Sometime regrettable advertisements get through, anyway.

Bottom line? What that service displays reflects the local culture's norms, - not Catholic teaching.