June 5th, 2011
01:26 PM ET

Letters to the President: #867 'Having faith'

Reporter's Note: The president has spoken often of faith, and now and then in my letters, I do as well.

Dear Mr. President,

Do you make your girls go to church? I realize this is a personal inquiry, but I feel as if we’ve traded letters long enough for me to say such things. Or rather, I have written to you enough. (Just in case you are wondering, “Did I write a letter back to Tom?” the answer is “No,” or as I like to think, “No…not yet.”)

I ask because I have seen a lot of parents in our generation wrestle with this very question. We grew up in a time of seriously shifting morality. Our lives have tracked the decay of the traditional nuclear family, the rise of divorce rates, the creation of Hooters, and a general “graying” of our values as a culture. I mean gray as in, “not clearly black or white, good or bad, moral or not.”

If you consider our whole nation’s views on a wide variety of matters that were once pretty much settled, you can see how they are far from settled anymore. Drug use, casual sex, lying, petty theft, deceit, cruelty; I guess most of us would still say most of that is generally bad, (see how I am already hedging?) but in practice many Americans clearly found themselves drifting across all sorts of lines in the turbulent 60’s, the disco-crazed 70’s, the rising 80’s, and the indulgent 90’s. So now, as parents, we look at our urchins and ask ourselves: “What should I teach my children about God, faith, and religion? After all, if I did not live up to the code, what right have I to get preachy?”

If you are dogmatic, the answers are easy. Admit nothing. Tell the rugrats to fall in line. Obey the rules. No questions.