Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Lapsed Christian

I was going to write a long post about Jim D. Adkisson - the unempoyed truck driver who walked into the Unitarian Church of Knoxville Tennassee and shot dead two church goers in a protest agains the church's 'liberal' views.

It seemed perfect - a classic redneck gun-nut, all riled up on conservative Christian dogma, firing off a few rounds in church because 'these Unitarians are pro-gay!'

I figured if anything proved that the intolerent and deeply stupid beliefs the religious right desperatly cling to were wrong and dangerous it was this murderous madman.

But for the sake of journalistic integrity, it's only right that I tell you something about Jim D. Adkisson the TV news might not. He wasn't a conservative religious nutjob. He was actually a lapsed Christian, just like me.

The Knoxville News Sentinel actually reports that Adkisson was angry at Christians in general. Karen Massey, a neighbor to Adkisson, reported that the truck driver had actually got very irate after she'd chatted to him pleasently about her daughter graduating from a local bible college.

"He seemed to get angry at that," she reported. "He said that everything in the Bible contradicts itself if you read it." Massey also claims that Adkisson's parents "made him go to church all his life. He was forced to do that."

It's a very interesting statement, that last one. Especially since I've been discussing with a few of my Christian blogger pals about the question of my child's upbringing - and what part religion should (or shouldn't) play in that.

My wife and I have decided to introduce our son to religion, so he gets to experience Christianity and has the opportunity to make an informed decision about his own beliefs when he's old enough. Whether he decides to believe or not - that's his choice. I believe it's morally reprehensible to impose your beliefs on your child.

One commentator anonymously argued: "Says who? If you think your beliefs are right, then why would you not impose your beliefs on your children. Right from wrong, moral from immoral, good from bad. Your child is only what you make it."

Thoughtful and considered Christian CK quoted How To Really Love Your Children by Ross Campbell, M.D.:

"At this point, let's examine a popular misconception. It goes something like this: "I want my child to learn to make his own decisions after he is exposed to everything. He shouldn't feel he has to believe what I believe. I want him to learn about different religions and philosophies; then when he has grown up he can make his own decision."

"This parent is copping out or else is grossly ignorant of the world we live in. A child brought up in this manner is indeed one to be pitied. Without continual guidance and clarification in ethical, moral, and spiritual matters, he will become increasingly confused about his world."

My problem with both of these approaches is that they're utterly controlling and wrong. Belief can't be imposed. It's utterly impossible by the very definition of the term.

You either believe something or you don't. If your child didn't look at the big picture and decide themselves to believe in something, it's not a belief at all. It's brainwashing.

That's as valid an observation whether you force your child to say they believe something when they don't, or manipulate their expose to the big, bad world so your beliefs are the only ones they're exposed to. In either way, you're manipulating your child and the result is a falsehood and a fabrication. The child doesn't truly believe what the parent wants them to and the parent is lying to themselves if they pretend otherwise.

The reason belief is such a powerful thing is because it's a truly personal choice. It stems from within. It's something as inherrent to the core of your being as the color of your eyes.

If you impose your beliefs on an unwilling child - well, maybe the result will be the same as in the case of Jim D. Adkisson. An embittered, confused, angry man.

As a parent, all you can do is lead by example and hope your children follow - but don't judge or condemn if they don't. We're all here on this earth to follow our own path. Parents who refuse to accept that end up causing their child all sorts of misery.


Enemy of the Republic said...

I was pretty shocked by that shooting, even though it is de moda for certain scary members of the Christian right. The God they worship is cruel, judgmental and unforgiving. They wouldn't know Jesus if he knocked on their door.

I see faith as fluid. I get in great conversations with Muslims, Hindus, Wiccans, agnostics and Christians. It's when folks get rigid that the problems occur.

We had our son baptized but we didn't raise him in the Catholic Church. He used to attend church but he hates it and I was raised very religiously, so I don't want him to have that resentment. But I pray with him often and talk about God. I believe he will be fine. I worry about the rest of us.

Good post.

Mike Valentino said...