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.
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.