Sunday, November 26, 2006

An Interesting Comment

A comment was left on the "House Rules" post that I find interesting:

Y'know, I only just read this post and what's more, I only just came by your blog, but can I ask a question about how you enforce rules with kids in your home? I understand completely the reasoning behind each one, except the church one - I assume it's to get kids to be involved in community and/or thinking about morality etc, but: is it only Christian churches? If kids are non-religious and find more meaning in, for example, a volunteer organisation, or a group that's focused on racial issues, or something like that, is this acceptable as well? If the kid's spirituality is all about making sure everyone has equal rights, do you think their Amnesty meetings (outside their 'other' extra-curricular activity) is an acceptable way to meet this need, or does it need to be Christ-centred? Is a church in the more traditional setting of a couple of people gathering and talking about their spirituality acceptable?
I'm planning on fostering (not immediately, but in the future), and although I wouldn't start up such a rule in the first place, it's the only one that confuses me so I thought I'd ask about it in order to figure out a little more where 'wiggle-room' would be provided in rules and how clearly a rule would actually need to be defined.
Some valid questions and comments. The reasons for the church rule in our house are several.

1) We believe that spiritual development of these kids is generally stunted. If their parents had been the kind to take them to church, they probably wouldn't need to be here. We have not seen ANY kids whose parents attend any church. We WILL give them at least the OPPORTUNITY to know something about God. We don't make them take part in church programs, or be active, or sing or even listen to the sermon, but they WILL be exposed to it. They can make up their own mind if it's something they want. We've already had it go both ways for different kids. Some like it. Some don't. That's their choice, but it's a choice they have the right to make an informed decision on.

2) It's in part a child care issue. We WILL go, and they will not be allowed to sit home alone. Therefore, either they go with us or go to their own church.

3) As you point out, it also serves the purpose of pushing them to get involved in activities outside the home. We've discovered that one common denominator among almost all foster kids we've had is a near-complete lack of interest in any extra activities of any stripe. I believe that's mostly because either they have had no adults that encourage or push that sort of thing, or the adults in their lives have created so many problems for them that it's all they can do to deal with what they've got on their plate already.

I most emphatically do NOT believe that being involved in groups focused on racial (or environmental or social justice or blah blah blah) is a worthy substitute for religion. At one time in life I almost did believe that very thing, but no longer. The Wife and I have volunteered at the Humane Society and Habitat for Humanity as well as going to church. They serve two completely different purposes, for us as well as for the community.

If a child showed the initiative to want to attend a church other than ours, whether it was another denomination of Christianity or even perhaps a synagogue or something, I would not really completely approve but I'd almost surely give them their own way on that one.

In short, we just simply feel that a person CANNOT be a well-rounded, complete individual without a healthy spiritual life, completely distinct from social consciousness (which, though necessary, all-too-often has been used as a weak substitute) or community activism (which a church can provide but which is not the primary goal of any worthy church).

We're here to help these kids in as many ways as we know how. This is just one more way that we know how. Your mileage may vary.

Some general comments not directly related to the comment above:

It's interesting to me how so many people (at least in most of the US and, from what I read and hear, much of Europe) are so skittish about religion in general and Christianity in particular. They'll do ten different kinds of tap dances around the subject, trying to figure out how to fill this need that historically has been met (again, in this country and Europe) by Jesus, or at least by God (G-d if you're Jewish, I guess).

If they could just step back from the situation and see themselves from the outside, I think they'd see what I see. What I see is people who know that there is Truth out there and don't want to face it. They would much rather caricature people like me as "religious nuts" since we attend church regularly and aren't afraid to admit that we love God. It's easier to do that than to honestly, fully try to understand the deep, yearning need that people have to know God on His terms.

I believe fully in evolution, contrary to what my clergy and some in my church believe. I believe evolution was the device by which God performed his wonderful Creation. A metaphorical reading of the creation story in Genesis is all you need to realize that Moses' account of creation and the scientific account via geology, evolution, etc. agree in most details. First came the separation of heavens and earth, then the oceans. The fish came before the creepy-crawlies and beasts, which came before man.

Big Bang? Maybe. There seem to be competing scientific schools of thought on that...but I'll go with whatever the scientists eventually decide. They have fatter brains than mine. It doesn't matter. Because when you get right down to it, there is very little intersection between science and religion. They address different issues. Science looks at how things happen, when, and in what manner. Religion looks at why, and who's responsible, and what obligations we have to them. Science leaves those questions completely open...except for the very narrow-minded scientists who insist that nobody could be responsible. How do they know?

They know that when you divide the circumference of a circle by its diameter, you always end up with ~3.1415927. They know that the effect of gravity varies indirectly with the square of the distance between two physical object. They know that light travels at ~286,000 miles per second. But they don't know--and don't claim to know and don't seem to care--who set it up that way. That's appropriate, I think. It's not the sort of thing science is supposed to address. Mixing religion and science is how you get situations like what's going on in Iran right now, where they seem to be pursuing nukes in order to fulfill what they see as a religious obligation to "wipe Israel off the map". I don't think wiping anybody off the map what God had in mind when He launched this whole Creation thing.

This is the sort of thing I think about as I sit and fish, or when I'm driving. I usually think of it as a form of prayer, but mostly I just marvel at the wonderful world that God created. And I guess that is the biggest reason we include some sort of religious instruction in our house rules.


At 1:41 PM , Anonymous Aunti J said...

My sister is going to love me for this..* Sigh* I do not attend church regularily and in fact have not gone to a church in some time but when living with her i did go to her church and you know what..I did find something in it that i still carry with me now. Some form of religion is a good thing for these kids to helps them make up their own minds about alot of things and i just want to say thank you sis....What you and your wonderful husband do for others blows me away...

At 11:52 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for the reply! It definitely answers the question and helps me to understand your reasoning, and I certainly agree with what you're trying to do for these kids with this particular rule.

I can't see any child 'building a relationship with God' if their religion experience is merely an aggressive power-play from a parent/carer, but it's quite clear you're not there to MAKE them believe (or act as if they believe) anything - merely to try to share with them the one big thing that has filled your life.

Being one of the atheists who believes that groups involved in racial/environmental/social justice/blah blah blah issues IS a worthy substitute for religion, I still wouldn't follow the same rule, but I find it a true relief to see people like you and your wife, who take these kids in and do the very best you can for them, and what's more try to create meaning in their lives. I don't even live in the same hemisphere as you, but thank you for what you do to better this world.


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