I just read “How to Raise a Pagan Kid in a Christian Home”, and thought I’d share it, as well as add some thoughts of my own. The article brings up some good points, and some that I’m guilty of in my own parenting.
I spent too much of my life telling my kids that my job was to ensure they “grew up to be productive members of our society.” I was wrong, and my only defense is ignorance. For most of my kids’ formative years, that was my understanding of life. As the author linked above states, “The only problem with this goal is that it runs in stark contrast to what the Bible teaches.” I didn’t realize that until about nine years ago. See, God’s goal is not to teach morality or ethics, so that we can be strong, upright citizens. I didn’t know that; in fact, I spent most of my life thinking that was the goal, and our reward for attaining the goal was a ticket to heaven.
The author quotes Veggie Tales creator Phil Vischer, who said:
“We’re drinking a cocktail that’s a mix of the Protestant work ethic, the American dream, and the gospel. And we’ve intertwined them so completely that we can’t tell them apart anymore. Our gospel has become a gospel of following your dreams and being good so God will make all your dreams come true.”
That first sentence describes me, and everything I taught my kids (except I was pretty light on the third part–mine would probably read more accurately if you substituted “Sunday school stories and Veggie Tales” for “gospel”). But I’m afraid that the author of the blog goes too light on what he proposes as the antidote. He says:
“or do you teach your kids that they will never be good without Christ’s offer of grace? There is a huge difference. One leads to moralism; the other leads to brokenness. One leads to self-righteousness; the other leads to a life that realizes that Christ is everything and that nothing else matters.”
While I don’t disagree with his point, I think that his description of “Christ’s offer of grace” still points to a message of “personal salvation,” one that tells you that if you accept Christ as your personal savior, your sins are forgiven, and you get to go to heaven.
Jesus didn’t die so we could get a ticket to heaven. Jesus didn’t preach personal salvation. He preached the Kingdom of Heaven. That’s not a ticket for your afterlife, that’s a new life, starting right now.
I believe that so much of the hopelessness we see in our world, particularly in kids raised in the church, is that we are told, “pray a prayer, get ‘saved,’ then after you die, God will make everything better.” That’s not what the BIBLE says! If you read the whole book, it’s not just a collection of morality tales, but a comprehensive story, a metanarrative of how the Creator God has planned since the beginning to make things right in his Creation, and how each one of us, under his Lordship, can participate in that story.
I made a mess of things when I tried to do it on my own, and when I tried to use God, the church, and Veggie Tales to make my kids “productive members of society.” Don’t get me wrong, I’ve got amazing, God-loving children, who have grown up to become productive members of society, and of whom I’m very proud. However, I way too late in life discovered that “the Protestant work ethic and the American dream” weren’t enough.
What makes my life exhilarating, and fully worth living is the fact that God wants me to be a part of his Kingdom, that he made a way for me to not only be a member, but to be an active participant in the Greatest Story, the one where he brings his fallen Creation back to relationship with him. That purpose was what I was looking for all my life, and only recently discovered. My hope is that my kids have that same purpose, and that other parents out there can raise their kids with The Story, rather than just the “ethics and reward” lessons I taught.