Free to Let Our Children Think for Themselves

One day I was at a friend's house and I was relating my experiences with her about how I have seen more and more Christians or put more broadly, believers in God become atheists or have heard them just seriously question whether there was the existence of God.  It was one of our many mornings spent together conversing about a myriad of subjects that were important to us while her children were about us playing.  The words atheist and doubting God strung off my tongue once again in our drawn out conversation and I was abruptly shushed by my friend while she glared at her children in the room.  She obviously didn't want her children hearing those words even in their proper context of our conversation.  I was conveying my words with sadness that people had been wasted by their religion or whatever belief system that had been crudely or wrongfully or disdainfully thrust upon them, so I wondered why I was being quieted.   

The word atheist has a meaning, maybe more than one.  All words have meaning and some of them have hidden or subliminal meanings depending on the teller of those words.  I use to be horrified by my kids hearing any cuss words at all by anyone.  My kids were perfectly self-righteous in their ability to see weakness or differences in others and rant about them to me in public and private as if we were some sort of morality inducing gestapo.  I had not in my mothering past taught them how to hear and observe logically or sympathetically or without condescension, but rather I served up regular, paranoid, schizophrenic style labeling, parenting and teaching all backed by the dishes of belief that were served up to me as a child and young adult.  The trickle down effect can be devastating, stifling and growth stunting. 

And I understand shielding little children from overall exposure to strong, unsavory people, scenarios and words, of course, as parents we should do that, but if they happen to encounter things that fly in the face of what you adhere to in everyday life, they must eventually be able to hear, see or experience anything under the microscope of thinking, critical thinking on every level.  And to critically think is to critically understand and to critically understand is to critically know and to critically know is to critically and honestly and fully live.  Yes, can you imagine a whole life fraught with critical living and doing and being?  And therefore leading to a life that critically thrives and fully loves.

Kids will never be able to understand things that they are not allowed to hear or talk about.  Kids will never fully derive their own honest and heart felt belief system or way of living on this earth without talking about everything and being allowed to ask all their questions, being unafraid to pose words in any order to parents whatever they may be.  To let the children hammer it out with the help from those that love them.  To go through the motion of understanding and belief hand and hand with them.  Hearing the words atheist and doubting God will not magically go into a child's head and forever shape their belief system for good.  It is an option, though, isn't it?  Being an atheist.  It's not one I would encourage my children to take, but it is something to talk about, isn't it?  One of many, many, many things we need to talk about with our children.  And talking with our kids takes time and the more you have the more time it takes to let each one go through the hearing, observing and thinking process out loud, raw in its original form and real, just really real.  And when this process occurs again and again and again at home just think of how well your children will be equipped to freethink and honestly convey their own thoughts when confronted with this world and all of its ideas and life and things, beautiful and unsavory.

Let's stop shushing our friends, hey, they are our friends for a reason, and more importantly let's forever cease the shushing of our children.    

Father, Forgive Them

I was running around town on my usual, busy Friday and here in the bible belt, the city that has the most churches per square mile than any other place in the entire U. S. of A, I read a sign.  Yes.  You read right.  I read a sign.  In fact, I read many signs.  In front of churches.  They are all over town.  Little quips, sometimes bible verses, but mostly quick witted, far sighted, closed minded groups of words on boards with removable letters.  The letters have to be removable to change what is said from week to week, month to month, year to year, decade after decade.  And I do believe I see more churches open now than I ever have before in this big town.  Churches in shopping centers.  Churches in movie theaters.  Churches on the beach.  Churches in huge complexes of many buildings and landscapes.  Tiny churches on little corners or way out in the country with open blue skies floating majestically above them.  Well, out front of one of these churches was a sign, there's usually a sign.  The sign read, "Father, forgive them."

And instantly I thought...subliminally thought, a quick, popped-up sentence in my head...yes, Father, forgive them for they know not what to do with the circumstances they have been handed in life.  I let that thought set for about three seconds in my mind and then I suddenly became angry.  Father, forgive them, people who many or most have suffered in life, or have been programmed for cruelty, some seemingly beyond any repair, who have been handed not what they asked for, and have had a trickle down effect of such circumstances that continue to flood down the stair of every generation of their familial life?  All due to Adam and Eve sinning in the garden?  All due to their wicked nature they were born with at birth?  I have had to recently grapple with these thoughts I have never even dared to think before.

Babies are born totally wicked, depraved and sinful or so I have been told.  Children have messy, evil, mistake filled lives, supposedly, unless we constantly intervene.  And all adults are bound for hell without seeing how lost they are without Jesus.  But is this the whole story? Is this fully true?  Are many in evangelical churches at large leaving wide open gaps of understanding left misunderstood?  Is it okay to ask questions without fear of retribution and abandonment in these churches?  I have been in church for the better or worse part of my life.  Questions that test the traditional belief systems were ignored or swept aside.  These questions leave you lonely with feeble, hallow answers that never settle the soul.  And I know that many questions we have about life, God, the bible and how it all works may never be answered and what it boils down to, is what do I choose to believe.  It's my choice.  And, yes, despite the questions I have posing a threat to many, many people in the great, wide world of the churched, I do want to make the right choice in the way I believe.  

Many things are unclear and I am human.  The journey I am on is hinged in many ways on these two elements.  Father, forgive me.  I am human.  I was born into a family.  I was born to a person who had an absolute design thrust upon my soul, etched in self-righteousness and piety, but no real personal kindness or love for people or life or family.  Father, forgive me.  Father, forgive me for being in churches my whole life that caused me to stare down my nose at the rest of the free world who did not fall in line with my particular belief system.  Father, forgive me, for spending years of my life isolating, criticizing and abandoning people.  And on and on.  On and on I could go.

And that board.  That board I read.  It's missing a few words.  Very crucial words...and how could you leave them out?  Tell us the whole story, not just part of it.  Jesus, the son of God, was crucified, and hanged on the cross in agony.  I believe He really did live and die for me.  I choose that belief for myself.  He spoke to His Father in heaven while being mocked continuously, spit upon...He could barely speak.  His mouth was dry, his body was almost done from the pain and it took every ounce of his effort to say these words and He didn't have to exert Himself to say them, but He did.  "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do."  Jesus could have said a lot of things.  He alone spoke a very few words while hanging on the cross.  No, He looked at grown men and women who were yelling, screaming, spitting, mocking, cursing, belittling, throwing what they could, words of pain, cruel shots of words into the atmosphere.  Adults.  They were old enough to know better.  But they didn't do better.  They were taught that Jesus was an absolute imposter, a threat to their God of the Old Testament and not the true Messiah.  Jesus knew that.  He understood that.   

"Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do."  They just don't know.