As with so many things pre-kids, I’ve mentioned before that my wife and I don’t attend church as often as we used to before we had children. Did I also mention that I feel really bad about this? Or, at least I try to feel bad, but most of the time I just feel guilty. There is a difference.
I feel guilty because I know that if I don’t make an effort to introduce my children to God, when they get older, they’ll inevitably fall victim to whatever view of God society has most successfully been able to foist on them rather than coming to their own view of God after having been given as much data as possible from a variety of sources.
So, I want to take my children to church, but taking children to church on the weekend is work! After getting up at 5:30 am for five days during the week, on Saturdays and Sundays I just want to get up, enjoy some coffee, maybe sit outside on the porch for a while, and just generally not be rushed to do anything. And taking kids to church is anything but relaxing. It’s basically like taking them to another daycare at this age (my oldest is 3 and my youngest is 7 months), which we don’t like doing since they’re in daycare the rest of the week anyway. We’ve also tried reading Bible stories to our oldest son but right now, unless the story involves danger (“Daddy, did the lions eat Daniel?“) or I can read the story using some heavily accented speech, he’s just not interested. And I’m sorry, but three years old is a little too young be dropping the whole, “Jesus died so you could be saved” thing on him. So right now, I just don’t see that it’s a big deal.
Looking back though, I’ve realized that this drift from church started before the kids were born; they just make a good excuse for behavior that we were already leaning towards anyway.
When my wife and I first met, we were both going to church heavily. I had fairly recently come off of a bad break-up (involving a wedding ring) and had turned to the church for stability since I had no family local. My wife had recently moved to town after finishing her B.A. degree at the U. of Texas and was living with her family while she worked on her MBA. Her family was strict Catholic, but has since embraced the lighter side of church–the Pentecostals.
After we got married, we continued to attend church, but with less frequency. A large part of that I believe is because of the difference in Catholic churches that my wife was used to attending, versus what I was used to growing up under the Pentecostal label.
See, Catholic church rarely lasts more than an hour. Catholics long ago realized, “Hey, we’re all sinners. Let’s get together for an hour on the weekend, break some bread, drink some wine, and then go and sin no more. E- Pluribus Unum…I missed the bus, you missed the bus…”
Pentecostals (Baptists, Church of God, Assembly of God, etc.), on the other hand, still labor under the belief that most of us are perfect and that to remain in a state of perfection, we should meet on Wednesday night and also on Sundays, and attend a church service lasting a minimum of an hour and a half and involving several uncomfortable situations for both the body and the mind.
So while my wife and I both began to drift away from regular church attendance before we had children, I believe it was for different reasons.
In my case, I got a heavy dose of God as a child. Then, as I grew up, studied texts outside of the strict Biblical tombs the Catholic church deemed acceptable several hundred years ago, and was able to decide for myself what I believed in given all that I had seen and heard, I came up with my own beliefs, which still include the basics of what I learned as a child…only more tempered with what I consider a healthy dose of skepticism.
Growing up also opened my eyes to the world of the church. The church today, while certainly offering those who need it, a sanctuary and a place of refuge, is also a business. It’s a business with a CEO (the Pastor) a board of directors (the deacons and elders) and worker-bees (the flock) without whom the church could not and would not exist. And while I believe many (possibly most) churches start out with the best of intentions, I also believe that a great many of them become self-perpetuating businesses with the same desire to succeed as cam be found in any corporate boardroom.
Am I jaded? A bit. Skeptical of “the church” as a whole-absolutely. Do I want my children to endure what I went through as a child only to watch my own parent’s marriage fall apart despite all of the holiness and platitudes they espoused throughout the week in their everyday life-a resounding NO!
Whoa! Where’d that come from? We went from talking about the church, to delving into my personal past. Hmm, maybe we should explore this some more.
(After this commercial break…like tomorrow maybe).
Part 2 on it’s way.