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January 28, 2013

Why I Raise My Kids with God

A Christian response to TXBlue08’s popular CNN blog post on rearing children without a belief in God.

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TXBlue08, a Texas mom of two, recently set the internet buzzing with her article, “Why I Raise My Children Without God.” Read by more than 750,000 people so far, thousands are enthusiastically recommending her article, while others find her assertions so offensive they’re asking CNN to take the article down.

TXBlue08 outlines several reasons why she decided to stop perpetuating the “illogical legend of God” with her kids; instead she’s chosen a path of intentional honesty, teaching her kids what she has come to believe about life and religion.

Unlike many of TXBlue08’s internet detractors, I don’t find her article offensive. In fact, several of the “bones” she has to pick with religion are issues that bother me as well. Her questions are good ones, and many of her criticisms are valid. But as a mom of three, I choose to raise my kids with God—to purposefully grow them up within the church and Christian tradition. It’s not because I’ve been fooled by a myth or because I simply need a crutch like God or a fictional heaven in order to feel good about life.

So why do I raise my kids to believe in God?

Because we are more than blood and bones. Atheism offers us this inevitable conclusion: We humans are ultimately nothing more than blood and bones, animated matter, carbon and water and nitrogen. Our sense of “self” is merely a perception caused by the snapping neurons of our brain. But this naturalist view of the world discounts what cultures worldwide, on every continent and throughout the centuries, have all acknowledged through various expressions of religion, mythology, poetry, and art: There is a spiritual side of life. We humans are more than mere matter, and this life is one of joy, longing, beauty, and a searching after truth. I raise my children with God because I affirm what they inherently experience to be true: Life is imbued with meaning that strict naturalism cannot even come close to explaining.

Because of human dignity. I raise my kids with God because I want them to deep-down-in-the-gut know that every human life is sacred. From the fetus in the womb to the physically or mentally handicapped to the elderly and infirm, Christianity affirms the essential dignity and significance of every human life. This pro-life understanding is about much more than opposing abortion; Scripture’s radical assertion that all humans are made in the image of God is what led people such as Martin Luther King Jr. and his fellow civil rights activists to fight against racist Jim Crow laws and Mother Teresa to tend the sores of outcast, “untouchable” lepers. It’s what mobilizes throngs of Christians today to actively combat human trafficking and what unites environmentally-concerned Christians in an effort to fight climate change and its devastating effects among the world’s poor and marginalized. This belief in human dignity is particularly critical as I raise daughters in a world still fraught with sexism. As a follower of the Christ who boldly confronted sexist cultural taboos, I aim to raise my daughters with confidence in their own God-given value.

Because we need to face ourselves. No matter how much we may try to evade or ignore it, the reality is that each of us will experience moments in which we’re horrified by ourselves. We’ve lost our patience, acted selfishly, profoundly hurt another, or done something we’re deeply ashamed of. Though I believe essential God-made good exists in every human being, a worldview that lacks an acknowledgment of what Christianity calls sin is inconsistent with actual human experience. Along with the message I repeatedly share—that God deeply loves them—my kids also need to know that Scripture speaks the truth about the human condition: We’re all broken, prone to self-centeredness, and in deep need of grace.

Because Christianity compels us beyond ourselves
. TXBlue08 rightly critiques narcissistic religiosity . . . but of course so does the Bible! God invites us, over and over in Scripture, to forego selfish ambition, to live in humility, and to focus on serving and caring for the needs of others. In a sickeningly me-me-me world, Christianity demands we see that life is not all about us, or about accumulating the most toys, or winning the rat race. Instead, God calls us to help those in need, to speak out for victims of injustice, to offer compassion to the hurting, to welcome the stranger. And so I aim to keep journeying, with my children, on the path away from self-centered living ever toward a more Christ-like way of being.

Because I love my children, I share my faith life
. I could engage in a tit-for-tat debate against atheism here, elucidating dozens more reasons why I reject the conclusions of secular humanism. But alas, there isn’t space. (You can look to theologians and philosophers such as Plantinga, McGrath, Chesterton, Pascal, and countless others for a rigorous discussion.) But ultimately, just as TXBlue08 has chosen to share with her children what she’s come to believe about this world, I too choose to raise my children with God because it is the truest way of sharing who I am.

I agree with TXBlue08’s rejection of pithy or noxious expressions of religion. I too think that parents should not feed their children a superficial myth or what Christian theology professor Roger E. Olsen, in his book Questions to All Your Answers, calls “folk religion”—a pop Christianity based on cheesy, over-used clichés and feel-good, seemingly spiritual hogwash. Like TXBlue08, I too refuse to pass on to my children a two-dimensional folk-tale-faith that can’t stand up to the test of real life.

There’s more—much more—to Christianity than the folk-religion stereotype perpetuated in the media and critiqued by atheists like TXBlue08. There’s a robust intellectual tradition, a compelling history of profound contribution to the liberal arts and the sciences, and a philosophical and theological canon that does not turn a blind eye to the tough questions (such as some of those TXBlue08 posed), but rather engages them with biblical acumen, rigorous scholarship, and spiritual honesty.

I believe in God in faith, but certainly not blind faith. Unlike the stereotype of unthinking, unquestioning automaton believers that atheists and agnostics rightly reject, the God I believe in welcomes honest human questioning, and is present in this world with divine fingerprints all over it. The God I believe in doesn’t ask us to fear or reject science, but rather to welcome and pursue scientific discovery as an avenue of learning more about God and about God’s world. And the God I believe in does not offer superficial pat answers to the deepest of human sufferings, but rather is present with us in our suffering and offers us a real spiritual hope.

Why do I raise my kids with God? Because in a world of pain and confusion, echoing with questions but also brimming with wonder and beauty, I find Christianity to be the sonorous ringing answer to the deepest questions of the human condition, resonating with Truth where secular humanism rings hollow.

Kelli B. Trujillo is a Midwest mom of three and the author of Faith-Filled Moments: Helping Kids See God in Everyday Life, The Busy Mom’s Guide to Spiritual Survival, and the new Flourishing Faith series for women. www.kellitrujillo.com. Twitter @kbtrujillo.

Related Tags: belief, child-rearing, children, faith, parenting

Comments

Kelly, this is outstanding. (Your dad just put me on to it.) Even some Christians at our inner-city church have been duped by this "no religion" approach.

Excellent article, Kelli. A much more rational response than many of displayed in the face of this popular article. And a real affirmation of faith.

Such truth here. Thank you for taking the time to write this article. As a new mom I know that I want my children to believe but I can only say because I do. This article helps me pick apart individual reasons & points. Thank you.

I completely agree with your response to Texas mom's well read article, and I have been asking myself how Christians should best engage in this discussion. The most interesting aspect of her article was the reaction of like minded readers who applauded her courage to speak out as an admitted atheist. (I recently wrote about this on my own blog.) Apparently atheists and the irreligious feel pressure to conform to the expectations of the religious majority. Many Christians feel they are on the margins of a secular majority in our culture, but perhaps we don't realize what it feels like to be on the margins of religious life in America. Interesting to consider.

It's always interesting when I hear people's arguments against Christianity or organized religion. I wonder if the CNN blogger's "path of intentional honesty" with her kids includes Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, and tooth fairy.

Thank You! For me, this breathes fresh life into an otherwise stale "dialogue." Though I empathize with TXBlue08 I am largely reminded of Rachel Polonsky's observation on Ivan Karamazov (and Pavlov): a "mind dominated by logic which seemed to freeze the impulses of his heart." You rightly identify the crux of the matter, offering an explanation to real human experience.

Kelli,

Thank you for taking up the cross and challenging the CNN article with clear concise thoughts and sound reasoning. You did so in an honorable manner. As parents it is our responsibility to nurture our children's faith and lay a foundation that they can build upon as they grow into adulthood. This world is filled with darkness and troubles and they will learn that all too well. That's why a solid foundation is so important. Well done and well said, dear one! May God bless you richly!

There's beauty in your writing, Kelli.

What always intrigues me within the God or NO topic is the seemingly unstoppable urge to call the issue game over. Let's all move on and be done with it, set it to the side and keep it in its place, so that we can move forward with modern life. A life that - more or less - holds efficiency as its primary religion. Or more accurately its replacement for religion.

And yet this is the main human issue going back to...all the way back. Ebbs and flows depending on the civilization at hand, but always there.

While I'm still working through what I personally believe on the topic (which is, frankly, irrelevant anyway), I'm struck by just how many serious scholars and historians point to the loss of spiritual life as the major red flag signalling the decline of a society. Empirically.

Wonderful writer and perhaps the most prolific historian Will Durant (with co-writer and wife Ariel) stated, flatly: "There is no significant example in history, before our time, of a society successfully maintaining moral life without the aid of religion."

And in various forms this concept has been presented by many others, from Arnold Toynbee to Pitirim Sorokin to Ellul.

Whether I agree with these heavyweights or not - and they are certainly completely out of style in 2013 - their ideas give me pause.

So, some of us may want the topic of God to stay "in Church where it belongs" - but I'm skeptical that it ever did, or even could if we wanted it to.

Kelli - such a powerful mix of truth and grace. Well done, and well said. Such a great piece!

Hi Kelli,

I read the original article to this story and I have read your well written reply.

Truly Christ is the shepherd who knows His own and His own know him.

For the scriptures states in John 1:14-15

"I am the good shepherd, and I know My own and My own know Me,even as the Father knows Me and I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep.

And the imagery that is conjured up in regards to sheep in John 1:1-13 do not reflect of those with high intellect, nor does it take a high intellect to understand.

""Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter by the door into the fold of the sheep, but climbs up some other way, he is a thief and a robber. But he who enters by the door is a shepherd of the sheep. To him the doorkeeper opens, and the sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he puts forth all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice. A stranger they simply will not follow, but will flee from him, because they do not know the voice of strangers. This figure of speech Jesus spoke to them, but they did not understand what those things were which He had been saying to them. So Jesus said to them again, "Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. "All who came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them. "I am the door; if anyone enters through Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture." "The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly. "I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep. "He who is a hired hand, and not a shepherd, who is not the owner of the sheep, sees the wolf coming, and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them." "He flees because he is a hired hand and is not concerned about the sheep.""

And we also know from scripture the following from Luke 18,

"But Jesus called for them, saying, "Permit the children to come to Me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. "Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it at all."

Again this brings up the imagery that one must have faith of a child to enter, which includes the trust to that to a Father and a child's mind is not yet matured to develop an intellect. In contrast to the rest of the message of Luke 18 who are "rich" and although the context is that of a monetary terms, it is true of the those who are rich in mind, i.e., the intellect who have trouble accepting Christ. On a larger scale it is the things we put value into that we can not let go of that blocks us from a relationship with Christ.

Nothing can repel the Truth, which is Christ, and who came in the world to save us from our "sin" and thus the references to scripture to support your reply speak well to the perspective you hold because it is based on His words.

But in regards to the statement, "Unlike the stereotype of unthinking, unquestioning automaton believers that atheists and agnostics rightly reject" who are you to give the right to rejection towards any portion of the body of believer's in Christ, and who are these stereotypes exactly? Are they the ones who have no more than an 8th grade literacy level and are not able to write as well as you?

Does maturity in Christ equate to a high intellect where one needs to go outside the scriptures? Thus do the ones who state because the "Bible tells me so" or use the truth in their replies be rejected?

"Jesus answered and said to him, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God."" Later he states, "The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit."

Did not Simon Peter cut off Malchus ear? Did not Peter deny Christ three times and yet was to be called the rock of Christ's church?

Thus it is the fruit of each man's testimony that is important and the only way to know the fruit is to the know the tree correct?

Thus the street corner preacher is called to evangelize as you and although the style and way the message is conveyed may be different in presentation, the message of salvation is the same for one and all. Again who are you to say what is forceful or harmful? Thus being a vessel of God means that you are revealing the Truth which is Christ, and thus His truth, and it is not the "the God" you "believe in" but the Christ who came to save all.

Those who reject a brother in Christ, reject Christ Himself. Be careful not to reject any "believer" who has claimed Christ as their personal Lord and Savior or discredit the way He is called, but you are to rebuke in love. Be careful of disembodying Christ's church, i.e., those who know Christ as Lord and Savior of all, out of your own gifts of an intellect, for you do not know how the seed is be planted by God, nor how He uses an individual to sow that seed, nor the development of the maturity of that believer.

For there are those who have succumbed to themselves, denying the "essential God-made good" which "exists" inside them, and this occurs both inside and outside the body of believers. This is sin. But those who denounce the Holy Spirit are the one's who are like the fruit that has fallen from the vine and rotted, and are like the fruit that will never reach maturity.

In Christ Love, John

Thanks Kelli...well written, and positive...
Pauline Kurtz

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