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.
But it is harder if you think about it more. It’s difficult not to feel like a hypocrite when a child suggests church is boring, especially when you stifled yawns throughout the service; it’s hard to talk to them about the right way to treat people when they live in a world where not everyone plays by those rules, and turning the other cheek may just get you a second whack.
Still, we go to church with our girls pretty much every weekend. (Well, I mean when they are both at home; but I must say I have been impressed by how much the college girl has continued to go to church even while away…) We determined a long time ago that it was simply a good thing to do. Do we agree with everything we hear there? No. And we discuss that with them. Do we see church people as inherently better company than others? No. And we discuss that, too. Do we think by going we are somehow cementing our kids into some unbreakable, blessed bond with God? Absolutely not. Such relationships can’t be bought by parents like a Barbie; they must be forged by each individual in his or her own time.
Nonetheless, I think it is useful to go to church and to take our children, if for no other reason, than to remind ourselves each week that there are things that are bigger than we are - greater good, greater love, greater need. We are Christians, and while not denigrating other faiths, we also make no apology for our own. To the contrary, we think it would be wrong not to share our faith and give our kids a sense of why we believe as we do.
Whether they remain connected to the church as they grow older is up to them. We will love them just the same no matter what path they choose - whether they follow another faith or no faith at all. But for now, we take them to church because - aside from the inherent reasons that drive Christians around the globe - the world is so gray, because finding your way and figuring out the right thing to do is awfully difficult, and it helps to consider the wisdom and faith of the ages. In a turbulent world, it is as very least a start.
Ah…what made me get so into it today? Heaven knows. Ha!
Ready for the big basketball game tonight? After that barn burner in game two, I’m fairly jazzed for it. And, btw, if it comes up in discussion, you can put me into the “Jordan was better than LeBron” camp. Maybe that’s another vestige of our generation. Ha!
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