Religion is a frequent and sometimes touchy subject in our home. As I write this, I am aware that most people are turned off by this subject: instantly defensive or excited to offer their thoughts and opinions. Whatever your experience of this institution, it’s an ever-present and an invisible force in American culture. Religion is a protective factor, offering families a community with resources that include financial support to ongoing emotional well-being. It’s all of these factors that encourage my commitment to raise my children with religion. To this day, I don’t know of a topic that brings up so much ‘stuff’ in our relationship, as well as provides some of the most enlightening moments.
Faith is an altogether different experience. Social work has an element of service that seems to attract like-minded people and we are no different. We met fifteen years ago in the field of anti-violence work, often exposed to some of the worst of human experience. It was also the place where I learned the most about faith, especially witnessing the trust of those who survived when hope seemed impossible. For the children I have met, their belief often becomes an awareness of their inherent worth and personal power. Faith exists when you don’t know. We can’t prove the existence of a divine being or verify the truth of one religious tradition over another. But, we can believe in something when life gets difficult, and life is often difficult. I want my children to have access to anything in life that will offer them comfort and joy. I also want to entrust them with the responsibility and expectation to simply treat others well.
Religion has not had a good track record in treating others well. History is history and yet, I am still interested in having this conversation in my home. A place we do agree and model as often as we can, is a sense of what is ‘sacred’. Our family and family time is sacred. We spend a lot of time in nature with an almost ‘religious’ fervor. If we miss ‘church’, it’s because we are on a hike or walking the trail. We take time in the details of life, encouraging our kids to talk about the things in their world that ‘amaze’ them. We treat others well and make amends when we fail in this endeavor (as we often do). We offer them opportunities and space to be vulnerable, encouraging this quiet and misunderstood strength.
In our home, we continue to debate and struggle with religion. We have and do agree that raising in faith and encouraging spirit is worth whatever path we chose. Hopefully our children will reap the benefits of our struggle.