My sons will probably be Colts fans. They will be raised Colts fans, probably a good chunk of it being to please me and spend time with me. We’ll cheer together and mourn their losses together. However, one day, they will have to figure out whether or not they like the Colts for themselves or even like football, period.

Or, my children will be sci-fi geeks. We watch Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Farscape together. They are taught from an early age that Star Trek: Deep Space Nine is the best of the Star Trek franchises. In a few years they will be going to the sci-fi tent revivals known as conventions.

One of the hardest things for parents to do is train their children how to critically think, to think for yourselves. Without the “indoctrination” or what amounts to spiritual coercion. To allow them to think through their faith, their beliefs, and keep stretching themselves – in other words, to allow them to keep asking questions.

It’s the parents’ job to pass on family, cultural, and even spiritual values. To instill our values through our actions rather than our words, even though we ought to be explaining our values to them. Passing on the faith, raising kids with faith, is a tricky proposition. Here’s our dilemma: in order for children’s faith to become their own, they need to connect to it on their terms in their time. What we’ve seen happen entirely too often is well-intentioned coercion as we manipulate kids to make “decisions for Christ”. Our spiritual journey is not about brainwashing our children or otherwise make them go to church in order to ensure their spiritual growth. My experience is more to the contrary: few things turn folks off of church and religion like forcing them to do it. Thus explaining the college/on their own backlash against church and religion we so often see.

Ours is a household of faith and our children will be “raised as Christians”. We, as parents, believe, we pray, we share our faith and our traditions. At our parents’ dedication, where we affirm in front of our church community our intentions on how we plan on raising our children, this was said:

By dedicating Reese/Malcolm, we are publicly affirming our desire as parents to submit (our son) to God’s protection and guidance. We are saying that we want God’s perfect will to be established in the raising of (our son). As parents, we are an instrument that God has chosen to be His tool to express to God and the congregation that our desire is to raise (our son) as God would desire. All we possess belongs to the Lord, this includes our children.

Also we received a baton symbolizing our faith that contains a letter, from our respective pastors at the time, which talked about our faith. On their 18th birthdays, they get to open the batons. Whether or not they have made our faith their own by then, who knows, that is up to them. I can only do what I know I am responsible for. Our children are going to grow to be who they are; we’re not in charge of what they’re going to be like. We create the ethos, the values, and the support structure for our children, guiding them while at the same time discovering them.

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