Believe as I do?....
Updated: Feb 25
The prestigious Pew Research Center has recently published some findings which show that one third of parents in the USA say that it is ‘extremely or very important’ to them that their children have similar religious beliefs to their own when they become adults. Evangelical Protestant parents were much more likely to say this than mainstream Christian parents. Roman Catholic parents were less likely to believe this. Black Protestant parents were more likely to say this than their white counterparts. Only a small number of religiously unaffiliated parents said the same.
For us, it was never ‘extremely or very important’ that our children shared all of our religious beliefs – not least because we wanted the freedom keep growing and changing ourselves. We did hope our children might be ‘Christian’ (whatever that means!) But we have always believed that the ultimate sign of love is giving the people you love freedom to choose. In this case, freedom to choose not to be Christians.
But nobody should underestimate the difficulties involved in the business of balancing sound guidance while giving children freedom to be themselves. We have sat with friends at times when all our teenage children were just beginning to show signs of an independent spirit - and worried and wondered! We have seen in so many young people the disinclination to attend church services and/or be involved in religious activities - often part of children’s first efforts to separate themselves from parents and forge their own identities. And, we would say, almost through gritted teeth – they must have the freedom to do that.
At some level, we always knew that we must give them freedom, even if we found it hard sometimes to encourage them when they took it! It was important that they became their own persons not confined by our practices and preferences. And their growth in freedom isn’t all bad, by any means. We have also experienced pride at seeing them spread their wings and attempt things which we never had either the opportunity or the courage to do. Of course we wanted them to stay safe. Our secret hope was that as they lived their life the apples would not fall too far from the tree – especially in terms of values.
Now, as the generation wheels keep spinning, and our eldest grandchild is about to become a teenager, we recognise a tendency in our children in their turn to hang on to their own parental values! The wider world continues to change. Spiralling prices for everything. Unseasonal weather in growing areas like Spain – no tomatoes or peppers in the supermarket last night. A breakdown in the supply chain and not just because of Brexit. Talk of a third world war seems less idle than it once did. So it seems important for us to have certain building blocks in place so that the whole edifice of our human lives does not crumble.
In every generation the struggle must go on to transmit tried and tested values – honesty, loyalty, generosity, gratitude, respect, compassion, and independent thinking. We still believe that living and teaching these values may be a more important challenge than replicating precise religious beliefs in the younger generation.
And we're grateful that all the time there are still so many good things to share with our children and grandchildren – not least the tomatoes and peppers Helen found in the town market this morning!