Monday, July 6, 2009

E.F. Briggs: An Ignoranus (Yes, the misspelling is intentional)

Now, when it comes to horrifically ignorant signs like these (and there are many spread across the United States), I can completely understand, and sympathize with why secularists would desire the abolition of religion.



If religious people are so willing to publicly mischaracterize their fellow civilians because they may, or may not believe in God, what does that say for a) the integrity of their beliefs; and b) their desire to see an actual united civilian loyalty?

Or, as my wife pointed out to me, "God is certainly not a patriot. You don't have to believe in God to be an American." So there's really no correlation (or at least, a stupendously wide gulf) between what a person believes and how loyal they will be to their country.

More unfortunately, the sign seems to suggest that a civil war could be warranted if atheists don't repatriate by becoming believers. I wonder if these same believers would be just as quick to throw the switch, or pull the trigger as a punishment for treason, if in fact they actually believe non-belief is as much a danger as treason? Wouldn't that be an abrogation of the 5th Commandment (6th depending on your tradition)? How would they legitimize such an action? Personally, I don't think they'd do it. Which is what makes Rev. E.F. Briggs's statement the statement of an ignorant blowhard.

35 comments:

Robert J. Moeller said...

Hey, I randomly found your blog today and I'm glad that I did. Very interesting stuff. I'm a conservative blogger and seminary student in Chicago (rjmoeller.com). Keep up the good work!

Tag-photos said...

Well Chris, remember America is a much more religious, specifically Christian country than Canada.

Should have heard some of the stuff on the radio driving through the mid west!
Then of course I ran into the westboro baptist church.

Nowhere in this sign or anything else do they state, or imply, that god is America. They simply state that being anti-god is anti-american.

Other way of saying it, all true Americans are Christian, or at least believe in God.
That is at least how it seems a lot of Americans would seem to believe.

And yes of course I know how dumb that belief would be, but no less valid a belief than any others.

After all the arguments that have been made on this blog about knowledge being faith based....

Their faith tells them this is true, that they know this as a fact.

Anonymous said...

I'm surprised this doesn't qualify as being hate literature (if that term applies to a sign).
This does nothing for the cause of Christ. I am sure this grieves the Spirit of God.
Since God created us with free will -- the freedom to believe or not -- this sign goes against His creation.
I hope that Christians speak out against this kind of religiosity and that that will be the blessing. I know that God can bring good from this and that He desires to do that.
This reminds me of Saul before He was transformed as Paul. He was convinced of his zealousness ... convinced that he was honouring God.
I had to check this out on Urban Legends because it is so hard for me to believe.
J

Tag-photos said...

J


I saw similar signs with my drive to Missouri from Ontario. I think Ohio was the worst I saw though.

And nothing like a 100 foot tall cross at the side of the road to remind you of where you are :)

Anonymous said...

TP,
I was thinking about our use of the cross, this week. It was an instrument of shame and torture, but I wonder now about the way it is displayed everywhere.
This was brought to my attention this week when a friend said, "Can you imagine wearing a chain with a guillotine around your neck. The cross is kind of the equivalent of that, even though it symbolizes our new life.
But it is hard for me to choke back the idea that humanity is so senseless, so thoughtless, so judgmental, so cruel.
If we do not respect the free will of others, than we do not respect the way God mad us and the gift he gave us in free will -- regardless of what we think about what others believe.
This almost seems like some kind of vigilante, redneck religion.
I would not want to be associated with it. No wonder people have difficulty seeing the grace involved in grace.
It also is a wake-up call in my own life to demonstrate the love and grace of Christ in every situation I am in. To ask myself what that means. To live it, not just talk about it.
J

Tag-photos said...

I see the cross as a symbol of love and sacrifice, when used in a religious context.

Of course it was an instrument of torture and execution, much worse than a guillotine, imo.

Sorry very frustrated nad had a bad day or I would comment more.

Anonymous said...

Tag,
I hope your day gets better.
You are right, the cross is a symbol that is dear to the redeemed.
J

Tag-photos said...

While I am not one of th redeemed, I can understand the belief.

Yesterday I responded right after a program crashed and I lost about 5 hours worth of work. Very frustrating.
Luckily it was work for a friend, not a paid job, still very frustrating.

Tag-photos said...

J "I'm surprised this doesn't qualify as being hate literature (if that term applies to a sign)."

Makes me wonder where the line is drawn. When does free speech turn into hate speech.
Maybe the censors have a magic list of words and if none of those are in the message it passes as free speech.

What gets me though, considering this is sign is very moderate and conservative, in my opinion. Is what this reverends congregation is teaching the children.

Adults have the ability to research and make their own decisions. Based on education, research and soul searching. Children know what they are told to know, to a large degree.

These attitudes are the basis for things like the Manifested Glory Ministries exorcism of gay demons from a 16year old boy.
Or children wearing shirts with slogans like "priests rape boys"
http://tag-photos.smugmug.com/gallery/8512050_RU9fv#560304415_iUEUo

But these parents are doing the best they can. And in their minds will be doing the best for their children and teaching them right.
Gonna stop here before I go on a rant about parents forcing their beliefs on their children and other such stuff.

Anonymous said...

Tag,
It grieves me what is said and done in the name of religion -- and not just "religion", but Christianity.
I once listened to someone pray to cast demons out of a sweet girl with Down's Syndrome. Her mother stood by helplessly, trusting that those who were her spiritual leaders knew what they were doing.
I was young, and young in my faith -- too young to say, "Stop."
I believe in healing, but I do not believe in "a demon behind every bush".
I am sad for the 16-year-old boy who experienced this.
My daughter has sleep problems, and people, in their well-meaninged way, have prayed to cast demons out of her. Mind you, as a parent, you wish there were an easy answer, and after no answers come, you are just about open to anything. Suffering will do that to you.
We often look for the escape hatch instead of looking for God in our sufferings.
Having shared these experiences and having heard your view and your experience with this, I want to say that I know far more gracious believers and believers who truly love deeply from the heart (and from some place that seems much deeper than even that), than those who act in ungodly, ungracious ways.
But, my circle is small.
I can only do my part, which is one day at a time, one person at a time, and pray that that will somehow make a difference -- not as "notches in my belt", but just sharing the love and joy and peace and grace of Christ as I have experienced it.
I hope it may cause others to investigate this man (Jesus) and answer his own question, "Who do you say that I am?"
The answer, if people understand, will bring with it a life of joy and peace -- and love beyond measure.
Sorry, getting carried away here.
I am sorry for the sign, and for all others like it. Words are powerful. They can lift up; they can tear down.
I would like to step into the gap and ask forgiveness for this kind of spirit.
I hope you can accept that from me.
Thanks for your thoughts.
J

Tag-photos said...

"It grieves me what is said and done in the name of religion"

Problem is that these parent truly believe what they are doing is what is right for their children. So much so that they would feel they are being neglectful if they did pass these teachings on to their children.
No matter how misguided their beliefs are it is still their beliefs.
This of course can lead to the question of who decides which beliefs are misguided.

J I do not know you so I will use a common denominator as an example. Hope Chris and Sarah don't mind too much :)

As an atheist, of my particular breed, I value the choice of religion, freedom of religion. As such my wife and I have decided to allow our children to find their own religious path. Regardless of where that path leads them.
Obvious exemptions apply though. Like cults that hurt themselves, religious groups like the KKK, hate groups like Westborough baptist church. Exceptions like that. Hopefully though if we do our job right as parents our children would never consider a group like that anyways.
That is my belief and it is shared with my wife.

For Chris and Sarah on the other hand (correct me if I am wrong here guys) they are teaching their children that god does exist. They are raising their children as Christians.

Different belief and in their case no real harm, because neither of us are truly extremist in our views.
As in extreme Christian groups like the KKK or West borough baptist church.
Likewise I am not an extremist atheist running around trying to preach to people that god does not exist. Makes for interesting conversation though.

But our beliefs are no more true to us than the parents of the poor WBC kids, or the kids growing up under the white hoods of the KKK, etc...

So who is to decide which beliefs are right?

Anonymous said...

Tag,
(Part 1: this won't post as a whole.)
"This of course can lead to the question of who decides which beliefs are misguided."
Of course we were created with free will. No loving God would do otherwise.
Hence, I believe that any loving parent would allow their children to find their own "religious path". That is the loving thing to do because it recognizes the worth of each person and realizes that faith, just as love, is a free choice or it is meaningless.
But, I am glad that you said that "obvious exemptions apply" such as "cults that hurt themselves, religious groups like the KKK" and that "if we do our job right as parents our children would never consider a group like that".
Those are the thoughts of a loving parent. I share those. Our children are adults now.
I know Chris and Sara somewhat; I am getting to know them better -- but I believe they agree that free will is essential (and unavoidable).
There are the obvious things that you won't allow in order to keep your children from harm (darting across a street, putting their hand on a burner, going off with a stranger).
But, getting around to my thought this morning that I wanted to share with you ...
Believing in Jesus is more than just believing. It is a relationship with a living Lord who loves us unconditionally (talk about unconditional positive regard! ... something we all strive for as parents).
And because it is a relationship, it changes who we are. It transforms us.
So what we communicate to our children is not as much a set of "beliefs" as it is a way of being. There is a song that I love and one of the lines says, "Let my life song sing to you".
Someone, a wise man, once said to me, "Don't ask Jesus to show you the way; ask Him to BE your way."
Just as He is my way, following him is about "being" in that relationship ... something naturally communicated to children as they watch you, day by day, as your "life song sings to Him".
So teaching is translated through being -- through living day by day.
If you love dogs, your children are going to observe that by the way you act around dogs: you pet them, you treat them kindly, you talk kindly to them.
If we love God, our children are going to know that by the way we talk about God, by the way we treat others, by the way we live our lives in all ways because that relationship has radically transformed who we are, by a deep inner peace that remains despite of our circumstances. You are teaching your children by who you are in every situation in life.
Then they choose. They may decide at some point that they want this relationship. They may grow to understand the gift that is being offered and may choose to accept it.
But, if they do not choose to accept it, you keep loving them just the same ... just as Christ loves those who have never accepted Him. How could you not love someone you created, that you know intimately. How this happens is beyond our comprehension ...

Anonymous said...

(Part 2)
I can't say what Chris and Sarah believe, but I have a bond with them because our lives have been changed by this amazing love and grace ... so because we share that, I can wager a guess that this is how they believe -- by being and allowing their children to see that.
And, of course, if you've found the most wonderful thing in the world that brings peace and joy ... of course, you would hope and pray that your children would someday decide they want that, too.
I appreciate your thoughts on choice and being a loving parent by respecting that free will -- no loving parent would do otherwise in matters of faith.
One more thing: "But our beliefs are no more true to use than the parents of the poor WBC kids, or the kids growing up under the white hoods of the KKK, etc."
The difference is that they are following a set of codes/guidelines/rules and perhaps are even brainwashed.
Following Jesus is not about rules or codes or "guidelines". Transformation takes place in our lives because we were loved first and we believe that. Then a relationship follows that changes our lives. No other belief claims that kind of relationship -- where the one we believe in gave his life for us and rose again just to have a relationship with us -- total selfless sacrifice -- and an invitation for us to have that relationship.
No greater love ...
"So who is to decide which beliefs are right?"
I can't decide for anyone else. We can't decide for our children.
But I know what is true because I have experienced it and it has changed my life ... not in a hateful way like the groups you describe, but in a way that grows more loving as I get older.
I appreciate your honest thoughts on this. Your honest questions.
"So who is to decide which beliefs are right?"
You are.
I am.
Our children are.
As we have been given the gift of free will. And, if you believe that, why not consider the gift-giver?
My thoughts on faith and choice.
J

Tag-photos said...

"If you love dogs, your children are going to observe that by the way you act around dogs: you pet them, you treat them kindly, you talk kindly to them.
If we love God, our children are going to know that by the way we talk about God, by the way we treat others, by the way we live our lives in all ways because that relationship has radically transformed who we are, by a deep inner peace that remains despite of our circumstances. You are teaching your children by who you are in every situation in life"

In my experience this is not the way of the church, any church I have seen or been to. Yes I still associate religion to the places of worship. Christian to church, muslim to mosque etc... I also know that individual beliefs vary widely within most churches.
That said though...

Baptism.... A ceremony that forces catholicism on your child.

Dedication.... A ceremony that forces Christianity on your child.

I have stood witness to both of these ceremonies. I am not aware, although willing to bet, that other religions have similar ceremonies.

The dedication is actually why I stopped going to church as a mid to late teen. I saw it as a disgusting first step in brainwashing a child into believing the parents belief.
I actually preferred the baptism. Then again I am fascinated with over the top ceremonies :)

I honestly doubt that any Christian parent does not overtly tell their child god exists. It is part of teaching your child what you feel is best.
Personally I hope I never make the mistake of telling my children that god does not exist. When they get older and have a better understanding of things, if asked I will tell them that I do not believe, but that is a personal choice and they should believe what their heart tells them. I will then offer to help them learn more about god by attending church with them, sending them to pastors or others that can help them with their decisions etcetera.
Just like the Christian telling their child god exists and loves them, I am simply teaching my children my children what I feel and believe to be right and best for them.

J, I ask you now. When your children were young, say under 10, did you ever tell them that God exists?

I don't think I ever doubted my parents until around 8 years of age, even about things like Santa and the Easter bunny.


"The difference is that they are following a set of codes/guidelines/rules and perhaps are even brainwashed."

On youtube at the moment, I think, is a video with an interview with Fred Phelps grandaughters. Two of them at least. I am sure if you asked them if they were brainwashed they would say no.
They are old enough now to have made decisions and set their own mind as much as any other teenager. The difference is the teaching that they had growing up, as well as how they grew up. I believe they were also home schooled. Not that home schooling is bad in itself, but it can limit experiences and integration with others. of course public schooling has its major issues as well :)

But Christianity has it's own rules, codes, and guidelines. The numbers of Christianity are helped by generation after generation teaching their children that is the correct belief, many going so far as saying any other belief ends in eternal damnation.
If a person grows up with their parents, the most trusted people in the planet, teaching them that god is real and exists, then how is that any different than teaching them blacks are inferior? With the obvious exception of current social acceptability.

Christopher said...

"If a person grows up with their parents, the most trusted people in the planet, teaching them that god is real and exists, then how is that any different than teaching them blacks are inferior?"

I think with this kind of skewed reasoning, TAG, you're going to have to justify why teaching anyone anything at all is justifiable. To be honest I'm not sure how you move from teaching children that God exits to equating that, or just drawing a parallel with teaching children blacks are inferior. How does the positive net effect of teaching that God exists in any way amount to any form of parallel whatsoever that racism is fine, too?

I'm sorry, but your line of logic there seems absurd to me.

Tag-photos said...

The whole thought that racism is inappropriate and wring is just a current cultural trend. One that I do happen agree to.
100 years ago it racism and segregation was the norm.

100 years from now cultural trends might feel that teaching any form of religion is similar to racism now. I highly doubt it, than again if you told a person 100 years ago that there would be things like affirmative action they would think you crazy as well.

I am only talking about teaching your children what you believe and in turn they believe it as well.

I hardly have to justify teaching people things, or passing on knowledge. That is not what I am talking about at all. Those were simply examples of extreme beliefs. Of course we are going to teach our children what we feel is right. We are going to send them to people who will teach them as well.
It is current cultural trends that will tell if these teachings are appropriate or not.

To be specific though...

" I'm not sure how you move from teaching children that God exits to equating that, or just drawing a parallel with teaching children blacks are inferior."

In both cases the parents believe that what they are teaching their children is correct and the best for their children.
That is the parallel, that is what makes these teachings equal.


And yes that reasoning can and is applied to everything taught.

So hopefully my reasoning seems more reasonable with the lengthy explanation.

Christopher said...

TAG,

You made a comment to Jo-Anne that I found interesting on a couple of levels:

1. It provided me with an insight to a couple of misunderstandings you have;

2. It provides me with the opportunity to ask you a formative question.

So let's take a look, shall we?

"Yes I still associate religion to the places of worship. Christian to church, muslim to mosque etc... I also know that individual beliefs vary widely within most churches.
That said though...

Baptism.... A ceremony that forces catholicism on your child.

Dedication.... A ceremony that forces Christianity on your child.

I have stood witness to both of these ceremonies. I am not aware, although willing to bet, that other religions have similar ceremonies."


I'd like to point out a couple of things here:

1. Your continued effort to understand and interact with religious philosophies and worldviews is commendable. It must take some patience to push for more understanding, and continually challenge religious people in an area you have admitted previously does not actually interest you.

That being said, I would like to clarify a distinction between 'religion' and 'worship'. That you associate religion to the places of worship seems to me to be a mix-up. While religion encourages worship, it is not a direct association. Religion is an umbrella term describing beliefs, and inculcations practiced as a means of invoking a deity, or evoking a deity's favour. Worship, properly speaking, is an activity within a certain religion that ascribes worth to this-or-that deity.

So while you can associate a religion to a place of worship, the association is not clear unless you make known which religion you are speaking of; e.g., Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism. And at that point, you will find that worship takes on very different forms within a certain religion, thus making the association of place and name loose, at best.

A lot of this is simply semantic clarification. Still, I want to make sure that we have the same definitions in mind if we're to engage in religio-philosophical conversations. Semantics assures we're up to the same antics! ;)

Christopher said...

2. Baptism is not strictly a Catholic practice, nor is it a forcing of Catholicism on an individual. It is a Christian practice, and is something that pretty much all Christians, no matter their denominational stripe, adhere to in some form or another.

3. The decision to baptise a child is not an aggressive act against the child such that doing so can legitimately be considered a 'forcing'. Many decisions are made by parents for children before those children are able to reason accurately enough to make the same decisions on their own. This is the first stage in guiding a child into what the parents believe is the proper way to be in the world. If a child walks away from such a practise when s/he is older, so be it. However, when innocuous decisions (such as initiating a child into a household with a common faith) are made on behalf of a child, catch words that incite anger and hostility -- e.g., forcing, force, coerce, etc. -- no longer apply. It is no more a force-based situation for me to baptise my child than it is to require them to eat. From my point of view, as a Christian, baptism is just as essential as eating. And no harm comes of either of those practices being intiated by the parents.

4. 'Dedications' are no more a forcing than a baptism, and just as innocuous. How can a public declaration to raise your child in a Christian manner be a 'forcing' in any way? Should the parents live their lives out of context for the sake of avoiding references to Christianity in front of their children? Should parents offer no perspective just in case it ends up having a Christian taint?

More though, dedication is a reaction to, and rejection of infant baptism (pedobaptism) on one level, and a preparation for believer's baptism (credobaptism) on another level. In either case, dedication is a quaint ceremony, but it overlooks the fact that dedication is part of the traditional formulations for infant baptism. Essentially, it's keeping the baby and throwing out the bathwater. It's a way of taking the 'sacra' out of 'ment'.

"The dedication is actually why I stopped going to church as a mid to late teen. I saw it as a disgusting first step in brainwashing a child into believing the parents belief.
I actually preferred the baptism."


I'd like you to defend the notion that raising your children according to your values is in any way 'brainwashing', please. Because if it is, then you'll have to admit to one of two things:

A) You're brainwashing your children, too;
B) You're neglecting to teach your children what you believe, and thereby depriving them of some scope in the world.

Take care,
Christopher

Tag-photos said...

"That being said, I would like to clarify a distinction between 'religion' and 'worship'. That you associate religion to the places of worship seems to me to be a mix-up. While religion encourages worship, it is not a direct association. Religion is an umbrella term describing beliefs, and inculcations practiced as a means of invoking a deity, or evoking a deity's favour. Worship, properly speaking, is an activity within a certain religion that ascribes worth to this-or-that deity."

I meant my statement about association of church and religion as a kind of confession of ignorance.
I understand religion mainly through the practices and general teaching if a church. It is the way that I can relate to the religion as a group. That is my basis.
Mainly through this blog and chats with you, Chris, I understand that individual beliefs vary greatly. One of the frustrating things about talking about religion. No two people within the same religion believe the same thing :) Well close anyways.

I also understand that lots of different groups use the same place of worship. Such as all the different forms of Christianity using a place called a church.

Using the teaching of an average church is basically what I use a starting off point in conversations. it would be impossible to begin a discussion based on your own personal religious beliefs.

Tag-photos said...

2. I understand and realize that baptism is not strictly and exclusively a Catholic thing. The only Baptism I have been to has been Catholic though. Also from my limited knowledge Catholicism is where baptism is most prevalent.

3. It was my understanding that once baptized the person considered Christian, or catholic, or simply belonging, or one with the lord. Basically once baptized the person is part of the church.
Other religions, from my understanding, just mean that the person baptized can be saved by the lord.
This is the largest difference and why I prefer baptism over dedications.

4."'Dedications' are no more a forcing than a baptism, and just as innocuous. How can a public declaration to raise your child in a Christian manner be a 'forcing' in any way?"

Not from what I saw. The dedication I saw claimed to all in the church that the children would be Christian. Not just raised in a Christian manner.

"Should the parents live their lives out of context for the sake of avoiding references to Christianity in front of their children? Should parents offer no perspective just in case it ends up having a Christian taint?"

Of course not, and I never said that either. In that particular example (Christianity), teaching that belief is culturally (In north America) acceptable.

My point is and always has been that parents pass on their beliefs to their children. Whether it be socially acceptable (Christianity) or unacceptable (racism)
The common factor is that the parents are doing what they believe to be in the best interest of their children.



"I'd like you to defend the notion that raising your children according to your values is in any way 'brainwashing', please. Because if it is, then you'll have to admit to one of two things:"

First let me point out that I was not the one that began using the term "brainwashing". I think that the term is inappropriate, but I am flying with it.


"A) You're brainwashing your children, too;"

Absolutely correct. I am 'brainwashing' my children with my beliefs and values, like all parents that take any sort of active role in their children.

In context to this conversation so far:

a) I am 'brainwashing; my children to determine their own religious beliefs.

b) You are brainwashing your children to believe that God exists.

c) A racist, for example a KKK member, is 'brainwashing; their children to believe that non Aryans are inferior.

In the cases of (a) and (b) though it is socially acceptable, in the case of (c) it is not, hence the beginning of the use of the term 'brainwashing; in this discussion.

"B) You're neglecting to teach your children what you believe, and thereby depriving them of some scope in the world."

I already admitted to (A) :)

Anonymous said...

Tag,
(Part 1: again, because of length)
I would like to respond to your last comment to me. You mentioned associating "places" to religion, which is only natural because you can see those places. They are a "marker", although Jesus called people "the church". The church is actually not a place; it is people, but, of course, we meet in places, whether it be buildings or outdoors -- anyplace is a place.
And it is a misunderstanding of the word "worship" that it is contained in "places of worship". That is never what God intended.
He asks that we offer ourselves because "that is our reasonable act of worship".
So, we do.
All of life is worship. It just happens to be that when we come together corporately, that we worship corporately as well as individually -- it is a celebration of life together, so to speak.
I am sorry that you seem to have such bad experiences related to faith and worship and place. It is not supposed to be that way, but we live in a broken world.
You are not forcing anything (Catholicism) on your child because they have free will. Of course you make decisions about what they will do and where they will go when they are too young to make those decisions.
Our children went to church just after they were born, but that was a wonderful experience for them. And only they could experience it; I couldn't do that for them.
Of course your children are going to observe and hear about what you believe in, what you value -- but hopefully with an understanding that you value their individuality and their choices.
"Dedication" is misunderstood as well. That is a commitment being made by parents who wish to parent them in a way that honours God. It does not force the child to believe. Also, it encourages the participation of friends and family. It is also a celebration of that child's life.
In most cultures, people come together to celebrate the birth of a child and recognize their part, as well as the parents' role, in raising that child.
J

Anonymous said...

Part 2
I think it would be good if you consider what is meant by brainwashing.
Our children are 23 and 27. I don't remember ever saying to them, "God exists." I do remember saying that God loves them, that God is love, that God created them and everything in creation that they see, that God gave them hands to create with and play with and work with, that God wants us love one another and share with one another -- 10-year-old stuff.
But what spoke loudest to our children was that we prayed, that went the extra mile in being loving to those around us and helping those around us and that people where we worshipped were kind to them and loving to them.
Actions usually do speak louder than words. We put a lot of stake in words. I often hear it tied to intellect, but you don't even have to speak to be intellectual.
You don't have to use words to know God or be known by God.
And even if you don't believe in Him, He loves you. Even if you don't know that He hung on a cross for you, He did it anyway. That is the wonder of this "religion" that is really about relationship.
When something gives you great joy and you know that it would give your children great joy, of course you share it with them. What parent wouldn't?
I think you are talking about an extreme that definitely doesn't apply to Christ-followers, and that extreme is mind control, brainwashing, manipulation, which I'm sure takes place in cults.
I didn't tell my children that Santa was real, because I only wanted to ever tell them what was true. I didn't want them, one day, to say, "Why would you tell me Santa Clause was real?" or, worse yet, "How do I know you're telling me the truth now?"
Christianity is not about rules, codes or guidelines. No one is telling me how I must live. Real change does not take place in someone's life unless their is internal motivation -- and that's when real transformation takes place. Anything else is out of fear.
I believe because I accepted a gift of love. It changed my life. I have watched it change the lives of countless others.
When you love someone, it is only natural to want to enjoy that relationship, enter into activities that the two of you would enjoy together, and it is no different in a relationship with the Lord.
Those are not rules. It is about relationships -- with the Lord and with each other.
If it were a set of rules, codes and guidelines, I would not want it (but, then, it would not look like Jesus, either, and it would not be a Father I could relate to).
Do you teach your children out of rules? or do you teach them out of a relationship?
Thanks for your thoughts and question.
J

Tag-photos said...

"Of course your children are going to observe and hear about what you believe in, what you value -- but hopefully with an understanding that you value their individuality and their choices."

of course. And my disbelief in God will affect their beliefs as well. They will grow up knowing that I do not attend church, etc...

That influence though is passive. I am passing on my beliefs to my children through their observations of me.
That is different, in my opinion, of someone actively passing their beliefs on to their children. Such as the atheist teaching their child God does not exist, or the Christian teaching them that God does exist.

""Dedication" is misunderstood as well. That is a commitment being made by parents who wish to parent them in a way that honours God. It does not force the child to believe. "

Again this is in direct opposition to what I have witnessed in church.
What I have seen is parents of a newborn tell the other church goers that their child is and will be Christian.
Believing that they will be actively trying to make that child Christian and doing every thing in their power to remove that choice from them.
Of course they are doing it out of love and doing what they feel is best for their child.
I will also wager it is similar to the way you raised your children and Chris and Sarah are raising theirs.
Again this is not malicious, quite on the contrary. You are doing what you feel best, and that is to teach your children what a gift God's love is. By actively teaching this to them though you severely hinder their ability to make that decision themselves.

Anonymous said...

At the end of the day, you teach by example.
We did not sit down and state our beliefs with our children.
As we looked at flowers, we might say, "Look at the beautiful flowers God made for us to enjoy" [because He did]. It was natural. But that is not brainwashing.
If you say, "Look at the beautiful flowers" or even just "Look", you are teaching because children learn by experiencing things with their senses.
I don't know what could be more natural. But, at least you could take comfort in knowing that loving parents who believe in a loving God are, essentially, teaching their children about that love -- about their worth and about the worth of others.
Isn't that what it's all about? I know God is pleased when you teach your children that they are loved and that they should love others (actually, teach it best by showing them).
I can't help what you heard. I hear all kinds of things, too, but that doesn't make them right or true (that's that good ol' freedom thing, again). We love it; we hate it.
And it is not loving to manipulate or control, unless, of course, it was spoken out of a sincere hope as in, "We believe they will be ... we have faith that they will be ... we hope and pray that they will be."
You can wager, but you would be wagering wrong (again, I can't speak for Chris and Sarah).
Teaching your children what is real and beautiful in this world does not hinder them.
When our children were quite young, they decided to go to another "place" to be with people they could relate to better. We could have insisted that they go with us, but that would have just hurt our relationship and would be keeping them from exploring a relationship with God (which is really theirs, anyway). We let them go. That is love.
God offers. Then He lets us go. (It doesn't mean He isn't standing there waiting and watching for us.)
Back to work.
Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this.
You do have some serious misgivings, I understand, and they come across in your thoughts. It's only natural, though, not to understand something you don't believe in.
J

Tag-photos said...

"I don't remember ever saying to them, "God exists." I do remember saying that God loves them, that God is love, that God created them and everything in creation that they see, that God gave them hands to create with and play with and work with, that God wants us love one another and share with one another"

That is actively teaching them that God exists.

Again let me reiterate that I am not opposed to teaching your children your religion, as long as those religious beliefs are based on love, compassion, and tolerance for others.
I can however see direct parallels to teaching them about a kind god and a hateful one. The methodology is the same and that is my point.

"But what spoke loudest to our children was that we prayed, that went the extra mile in being loving to those around us and helping those around us and that people where we worshipped were kind to them and loving to them."

And that is the passive part of teaching your children. This is the part that I can not avoid in raising my children. They will see that I do not go to church, or pray, or talk of God's existence.
What I can control is the active teachings in that I choose not to tell them God does not exist.


"I think you are talking about an extreme that definitely doesn't apply to Christ-followers, and that extreme is mind control, brainwashing, manipulation, which I'm sure takes place in cults."

Actually I was talking about racism, KKK in particular. That is not what I would call brainwashing, but it is the phrase that you coined and I flew with it.
What I would call members of the KKK are loving parents that are teaching their children the values that they hold dear. They also teach their children about God's love. For last I read about the KKK you had to be a patriotic American Christian. Yes the KKK have branched to others countries like Canada a well.
I would also say about the KKK is that they are a bunch of whackos with screwed up values.

But to them no less valid than yours or mine.


"Christianity is not about rules, codes or guidelines.'

May not be about those things, but it certainly has those things....


"unless their is internal motivation'

making your parents proud.... That could certainly be internal motivation.


"Do you teach your children out of rules? or do you teach them out of a relationship?"

Not sure what you mean here?

I have rules for my children, not like hitting you little brother. Those rules also extend to a guideline for creating and maintaining relationships, don't hit your friends. it also extends to simply a guideline on interacting with strangers, don't hit strangers.

I base those rules I have for my children based on what I believe is right and what is best for them. Primarily what is best for them. Such as doing everything I can to not influence their beliefs on religion and letting them find their own path, as well as helping them find guidance on their path.

Tag-photos said...

"We did not sit down and state our beliefs with our children.
As we looked at flowers, we might say, "Look at the beautiful flowers God made for us to enjoy" [because He did]. It was natural. But that is not brainwashing.'

Again brainwashing was your term that I don't fully agree with but flew with it anyway.

In that example you are most certainly stating your belief in the existence of god to your children. They will learn that ad that will seriously bias them to believing in God. Not out of their own thoughts and introspection, but because of what their parents are teaching them.

In a similar example, if my son asked me if God created that flower I would reply with something along the lines "What do you think?".
Of course the concept of God has not been introduced to him yet, learning of god is an external influence.
If he were much older and asked the same question it would be a much simpler answer, "you tell me?" or something along those lines.

"Teaching your children what is real and beautiful in this world does not hinder them."

Couldn't agree more.

My whole point this entire time is what is real? Who decides that?

To a racist parent the fact that blacks are inferior to them is as real as the sun in the sky.

I started talking that parents raising their children racist was similar to parents raising them Christian, which is similar to a parent raising their child atheist, to a parent raising a child to believe that all people are created equal, which is similar to a parent raising a child to believe women are inferior, etc...

It is all the same. It is the parent raising their child to believe what the parent believes.

In the end as a young adult and later in life that child does have a chance to turn away from their parents teachings, but it is hard. That is the life they have known, the way f the world that they have always known.
If those teachings are based on love and compassion it would be nearly impossible to turn your back on those teachings, because why would you even begin to question them.
If those teachings are based on hate and pain than it would be easier to question them, then turn away from them.

In the end though it is up to current cultural trends as to what teachings are morally, ethically, socially acceptable.
On the larger scale of things.

"You do have some serious misgivings, I understand, and they come across in your thoughts. It's only natural, though, not to understand something you don't believe in."

Please tell these misgivings and misunderstandings.

From what I have seen so far is people basically trying to defend the notion that their teachings of love and compassion, are different than the teachings of racism and homophobia based on the content of the teachings.
I am saying that the reasons and methods of those teachings are similar. Even though the social acceptability of those teachings are polar opposites.

I also have nothing against teaching your religious beliefs to your children. I just personally value free choice in religion more than teaching my children my belief.

They why is simple in that....

I do not know if I am right.

I know it is right for me, I also know it is not right for everyone. I will never know, in life anyways, if my beliefs are absolutely true or just relatively true to me.

So far the best argument for belief is a quote that I can only roughly paraphrase here. I mean VERY roughly paraphrase. I am sure Chris will pull it out of his hat in seconds though :)

"If there is a God and I believe I get eternal life, If I don't believe I go to hell. If there is no god than it doesn't matter if I believe or not. So it is far safer to believe"

Sarah said...

Hi all.

There is a third option in this.

To split hairs, by way of a preface, I am not raising my children to be Christians. I have no practical understanding of why anyone would do such a thing and the lengths to which one would have to go to ensure that it 'works.'

My belief is entirely intertwined with my connection with God, and my love for Him and His Son and His toward me. It is just as impossible for me to hide that as it would be for me to have a secret relationship with Christopher in their presence.

(I know that nobody is arguing this point, but I wanted to count myself in. :)

What I believe and live is not Christianity, even if this label suffices as shorthand for others. Christianity is a system used to understand God, to relate to others who do, to institute doctrines and delineate and segregate wherever it is deemed necessary by system-policy-makers and upholders to support the system. I have no faith in such a thing as a system, let alone one that seems to be established to mimic something authentic, such as faith in the Creator, Almighty God. I do not participate in that system- anymore that is (my time was relatively short, but enlightening and not often in favour of it).

The third option regarding family life, eluded to, but not defined, is that it is possible, and imo, preferable that in the midst of sharing my whole life with my little newbie life-navigators, I encourage (in the realm of metaphysics specifically) critical thought, development of the instinct and understanding of it, understanding of emotion and expressions of these things as well as an abiding appreciation for the spirit, creation, the universe, etc....

I can both share my belief with my children in a way that doesn't allow space for them to deny me my faith, and that encourages and gives room to them to grow and love in the way that they will and do.

I have no fear of this willy-nilly approach because human beings have been seeking God since the beginning, and finding all manner of things and stuff out in the meanwhile. As J wrote, their experience and understandings are their own and I cannot be in them. I believe that the heart of a human being is tied intimately with that of the Lord, and so whether or not my children come to love Him is never going to be something I can or would want to control.

Yes, I do share everything I learn and believe and it would be very difficult to know that a son of mine chose to do life without acknowledging God. It would be very hard for me to see them choose to not receive what is freely given.

Tag, Pascal's wager doesn't really work. There's no password or pass-phrase into the kingdom of God. It wouldn't work for a husband to evoke the affection of his wife by only relating by telling her that he married her, as though that was sufficient. It's a start, but it has no foundation or honest believability without there being more to it than the wager and substance-less declaration of it.

The wager-maker couldn't withstand holding to such opposing polarities as 'I believe' and 'I don't believe.' It's one or the other- maybe every three seconds it changes, but it's still one or the other.

I've enjoyed reading this discussion just now. :)

Anonymous said...

Sarah,
That is exactly what I was saying about living what you believe.
Your children will see it lived out in front of them and then choose for themselves.
It is not a contrived or manufactured thing.
It is, as I said, about relationship, not religion.
I have appreciated the dialogue here.
J

Sarah said...

J,

;) Yup, we agree!

I just wanted to add what I believe about a small aspect of this topic so that there wouldn't be any need to parenthetically disclaim knowledge of what Sarah believes. :)

That, and I wanted to participate in this very not Christian discussion, lol.

There's no skirting choice. And a choice not held in the heart is a choice for the opposite, or at least something else.

My choices reflect my upbringing in the way that they are opposite to/reversed from the image of my childhood. And I think it's true what Tag wrote, that it is easier to turn away from a perceived 'bad' indoctrination and much easier to stick with one we perceive as 'good.'

This is what I have working in my motherly favour and I intend to exploit it fully. :D It's a pretty tall order, and one that requires constant diligence to pull it off. I have to share my life in a way that my children actually want to carry on! I'm being cheeky, but I mean it nonetheless.

:)

Christopher said...

Okay, I'm going to throw some more stuff. May as well bring this conversation up to 30 comments (and hopefully still counting). ;)

Anyway, TAG, you wrote: "So far the best argument for belief is a quote that I can only roughly paraphrase here. I mean VERY roughly paraphrase. I am sure Chris will pull it out of his hat in seconds though :)

'If there is a God and I believe I get eternal life, If I don't believe I go to hell. If there is no god than it doesn't matter if I believe or not. So it is far safer to believe'"


As Sarah has already identified, this is Pascal's Wager. The notion of wagering on God's existence occurs at note 233 of Pascal's Pensées (literally, 'Thoughts').

And as you've already noted in your paraphrase of the Wager, TAG, the idea is that "It is better to believe in God and find out that he doesn't exist, than to not believe and find out he does." That is not a direct quote from Pascal, but it is the best summation of his famous Wager that I have heard, to date.

I'm not a fan of the Wager, personally, for a number of reasons, one of which Sarah has already identified: citing the options of polar opposites (belief and unbelief) is not a reasonable premise for me to choose either of those polarities. I already know as much.

On top of that, however, I question the relevance of determining whether this-or-that thing is 'better' than another without having any real content to demonstrate such a claim. For example, simply stating that cheese is better than non-cheese tells me nothing about cheese that I should consider it 'better'. Similarly, telling me belief is better than unbelief tells me nothing about the content of 'belief' or 'unbelief' that I would consider one or the other 'better'.

As a conclusion to a well defined argument, the Wager can have its place. Still, Pascal's Wager is wholly dependent on having a rational, well-placed argument to render any meaning or purpose to wagering at all. And, incidentally, Pascal was not attempting an argument when he penned his famous wager, nor did he consider his Wager to be a sufficient premise to bring about salvific understanding. Pascal simply intended the Wager as an observation of the fact that people are ultimately make choices; and the existence of God is just another choice about which someone can be right or wrong. Thus it is a wager, and not an apologetic.

Unfortunately, the Wager has been used as an apologetic in and of itself to coerce people into making a decision for or against Christ. Sadly, the few times I've seen this tactic used one of two results occur:

1. The person feels anxious and afraid that they may choose wrong and suffer some terrible consequence -- hell, or some other uncertainty about death and after-death.

2. The person becomes riled and considers Christians to be a batch of noisy idiots.

So, as a tool for evangelism, I've yet to see Pascal's Wager have a postitive effect. It's simply too confrontational on a deeply instinctual level, and people feel deeply insulted to find themselves in the position where they have to gamble on eternity without any real understanding of why they're gambling. As a finishing pen-stroke for a well-honed apologetic, it can be used, but it does beg certain philosophical questions that weaken its seeming strength.

Christopher said...

I'd like to add that the whole concept of brainwashing children because you teach them about God is utterly stupid.

I don't know who brought it up, and I don't care. I do know that people like Richard Dawkins (a prodigiously useless philosopher, even if a brilliant biologist), Christopher Hitchens, and Sam Harris all consider teaching children about religion an abuse. They also consider it brainwashing.

My contention with the notion of brainwashing is that brainwashing requires there to be some kind of understanding already in place, some kind of stain that would need washing, as it were. So taking an innocent child and teaching them sincerely what you believe, and what is socially acceptable and lawful is in no way a brainwashing. Unless children have somehow been tainted in a way that would require they have their brain washed, then what you teach your children is simply indoctrination (literally, established teachings).

Tag-photos said...

"I'd like to add that the whole concept of brainwashing children because you teach them about God is utterly stupid."

I agree...


"I do know that people like Richard Dawkins (a prodigiously useless philosopher, even if a brilliant biologist), Christopher Hitchens, and Sam Harris all consider teaching children about religion an abuse. They also consider it brainwashing."

Their belief is valid to them though. Perhaps as wrong as the KKK parent that may consider me teaching my children that Jews are equals to us.


"My contention with the notion of brainwashing is that brainwashing requires there to be some kind of understanding already in place, some kind of stain that would need washing, as it were."

I agree again.. That was actually my thought and I had planned on addressing it but earlier when I had a few minutes to try to sneak in a response here before house hunting I screwed up and lost that message.

"So taking an innocent child and teaching them sincerely what you believe, and what is socially acceptable and lawful is in no way a brainwashing."

I mostly agree here.

The contention I have is that even if what the parents is teaching is socially unacceptable, possibly even unlawful it is still not brainwashing.

It is still simply a parent trying to teach his children what is best for them.

"Unless children have somehow been tainted in a way that would require they have their brain washed, then what you teach your children is simply indoctrination (literally, established teachings)"

I agree again.


I think we have been too hung up on the word brainwashing. Also that word brought out a defensive reaction. Instead of talking about the original topic, which was roughly what is socially acceptable and who chooses that.

sarah said...

I think that people, collectively, have been wrong about a lot of things, but most notably when they've ignored their consciences and gone with 'the flow.'

I do not teach my children according to what is socially acceptable. Most of what I do and believe isn't, so that would be rather disingenuous of me since 'teaching' for me is a life lived authentically and openly, and not an activity set apart from our family life.

So saying, I do tell them about what others do and why because the three older ones have been noticing and questioning since they could formulate questions verbally, and we have been addressing their queries. They notice disparities between what we do and what they see others doing.

More to the point though, is that I am not even slightly concerned about whether what my children learn is socially acceptable. I am ultimately concerned that what they learn is true, honest, authentic, and that the pursuit of such things is valuable beyond the attainment of them in most cases (since we cannot know anything absolutely, the pursuit must continue).

So, who decides what's true?

Here as an aside, I must point out that in the various and numerous horrific regimes of heinous crimes committed against nature and human beings throughout history, there have ALWAYS been dissenters.

There is no excuse for hatred and blind submission to hate-filled agendas just because it is the prevailing and popular opinion. It wouldn't have mattered when and where I was born and raised because I would still be me and would still not have been able to tolerate oppression and destruction.

This is a what-if game, but I do not believe that people lose a conscience when a 'leader' declares immorality as virtue. Everyone chooses and has chosen for whatever reasons.

I also do think there are absolute morals, regardless of their origin. Even an evolutionist would have to agree that certain morals are selected based on the natural drive for further survival of a species.

Purposeful killing is immoral and has always, excepting some small and extinct cultures, been considered so by human beings as far as we have records.

Lying isn't absolute and we see examples of situations that warrant it and within which the consequences of lying brought/bring about the consequences which determine whether the act of lying was moral or immoral retrospectively.

For instance, it is immoral for a husband to lie to his wife by telling her that he is going to work when he is instead spending time with another woman (the consequences illuminate the immorality- the lie may or may not be immoral by itself), but it is not immoral for a husband to construct an annex for hiding hunted people who would otherwise perish at the hands of a severely derelict dictator, lying to anyone who asks anything about it, including his wife, if need be.

So, yes we 'teach' what we believe, but it is essential that our children have the freedom to learn to discern and determine the proper course and beliefs according to their consciences, according to the situation. The situation isn't popular opinion, but actual life circumstances that demand action or decision.

Without that freedom, they are left trying to figure it all out anyway, so why not just provide the space and support for doing that while they are young and while we can be their support when they make the biggest mistakes of their lives?

It is my hope that my children can make those while under our care or at least that they will be willing to accept our support while they dig themselves out of the holes they create in their lives (we all dig those).

Perhaps this is a discussion about the use and benefit of morals and teaching/learning methodology, more-so than about the content of these.

What do you think?

Tag-photos said...

I never wanted to overtly discuss the contents of the teachings. Simply that the methodology and reasons for teaching your children is similar despite content.

So Sarah I think we agree.

The discussion seemed to get sidetracked, severely, when opposing examples were introduced. Without those examples it is a simple statement.

Parents teach their children what they feel is morally correct in a manner that they feel is best for their children.

The unfortunate thing is that applies to all decent parents, regardless of beliefs.

Tag-photos said...

On a side not Sarah, I think we have hut a turning point in our online conversations.


We agree :)