Raising Children in New England

A fascinating, yet saddening, article was written for January’s issue of Boston Magazine.  You can read it here.  I’d definitely recommend a read if you get the chance.  But since it is a semi-lengthy article, I’ll give you the quick summary here.  The author, Katherine Ozment, reflects on the challenge that people she labels as “Nones” (defined as those that check ‘none of the above’ when questioned about their religious beliefs) now face as parents.  How does a “None” go about raising his/her children in regards to religion?  The author rightly states that this is a “seismic shift” in the world of parenting.  Our country has long had strong religious roots of all sorts.  For the majority of our history, those roots have been sunk deeply in Christianity.  However, America has undergone a radical shift in a number of ways, including our religious roots, over the past 50 or so years.  In the 50s, it was a foregone conclusion that as parents, you would attempt to raise your children in the religion that you professed as an individual.  Yet, the “None” population – which has seen a dramatic increase over the past few decades – is now faced with a challenging question in regards to parenting.  How does a “None” not perform the same hypocritical move of forcing their religion (or in this case, lack thereof) upon their children that they have perceived from other parents (mostly Christian as a result of living in America)?

That was my best attempt at a concise summary of multi-layered and thorough article.  As I said at the beginning, I found this article to be fascinating and yet saddening.  It’s a fascinating article in that the author has hit upon a topic that will increasingly come to the forefront of parenting discussions since many in the “None” population are now entering parenthood.  Yet, I found it saddening in that the assumption is that parents shouldn’t pass on their religious beliefs to their children.  It seems that it’s acceptable to pass on the traditions and rituals of a religion to your children, but a parent should stop short of passing on their religious convictions.  Otherwise, the parent has become an intolerant believer in his/her own religion and has done the child a disservice.

As both a new parent and a firm believer that Christian parents should pass along the beautiful news of the grace of Jesus to their children, I found disagreement here with the author.  However, beyond my disagreement, I was saddened that the author is correct in stating that this is now the reality of an extremely fast growing portion of our population.  I believe this has two implications for us as a church plant.  First, we will increasingly encounter young people that have received little, if any, spiritual direction from those most influential in their lives.  Therefore, we should be ready and willing to love those well that are seeking truth.  We will find more and more young people that are open to the Gospel of Christ and yet have no significant framework by which to ground their new faith.  Therefore, we as a church have both the opportunity and challenge to “build from the ground up” with many new believers.

Secondly, as New England parents, we should recognize that our own children will be rubbing shoulders with these same young people.  And as parents in this context, it behooves us to both ground our children solidly in the truth-filled doctrines of the Gospel as well as prepare them to have grace-filled conversations with their non-believing classmates.

Honestly, as I read the article and began to write this blog I initially experienced sadness.  Yet, I now write with a hopeful heart at the possibilities of grounding ourselves as believers in Jesus Christ in this New England context.  God has a great mission for us to be humble and graceful, nevertheless committed believers in His Son as we interact with those that have yet to find a faith of their own.

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