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Sunday, 22 November 2009

Blessed are the Lukewarm!

From an advice column, in reply to a worried mother whose four year old has asked for baptism. Without comment, (but with emphasis):
Who can predict the obscure and myriad ways our children will find to try us? I may not have the answers, but I certainly come equipped with some experience on this one. At eight, in an act of direct rebellion against my atheist parents, I began secretly attending Mass. T... with the excuse of an innocent playdate, and for six months I embraced Rome with a fervour not witnessed since Isabella and Ferdinand ruled Spain. When my mother eventually found out she was furious at my "betrayal", but luckily I'd wearied of the sermons, hymns and Hail Marys, and was more than happy to embrace pastures new. A further period of devotion followed in my early teens, when my social life briefly revolved around prayer meetings, where we sang folksy religious songs. In mitigation, "Jesus Christ Superstar" was soaring up the charts at the time, so I wasn't alone in my addiction to God Pop, and it was no coincidence that the object of my teenage fantasies, Louis, was a signed-up guitar-strumming devotee. When I realised he preferred God to me I moved on.

I tell you all this not in order to cause death by dreary anecdote, but to illustrate that children are highly impressionable, and that their lives are made up of many phases, most of which they'll outgrow. They also tend to be motivated by forces not involving intellectual consideration; making them, in many ways, ideal fodder for zealots of all varieties.

Your son is lucky in that neither of his parents qualifies for the Z word
, although your ex-husband's determination to keep him free from religion could be bordering on the obsessive. It seems to me that prior to your kid's mystery conversion, the choice you jointly made regarding your offspring's right to choose was a sensible one. Your eldest professing to "hate" religion is as likely to change as your youngest's desire to embrace it. Your job as parents is to keep them updated with the facts while avoiding indoctrination....

Clearly, someone has been breathing biblical hell and damnation into your youngster's ear, or perhaps more seductive tales of lambs and salvation. My energy would be engaged in finding that propagandist rather than using the issue to score points against your ex-partner.

Theology is one of many ongoing areas of discussion for parents to engage in with their children. For those unconvinced of the merits of joining the flock, it's certainly sensible to allow your offspring to make their own decision. I suggest you continue to discuss all the possibilities with your son; he's clearly got a healthy interest in matters many of us neglect to consider. My five-year-old daughter, whose current favourite word is "amen", told me the other day that she thought "probably the world was made 50% by God and 50% by science".

Okay, one comment.
There is a four year old in Great Britain who needs your prayers.
Actually, a whole, albeit partitioned, family.

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