I am amazed that as humans we will teach our pets to go against their natural instincts and impose our beliefs on how we feel they should act (don’t bark, don’t poop here poop there, don’t bite, calm down when you see food) but as parents we don’t want to “impose” spiritual beliefs on children. I’ve heard many parents say that they will let their children decide on their own spiritual path when they get older.
However, we don’t wait until they are grown before we impose and even indoctrinate the children on our beliefs about education, music, politics or money management. We teach them. We train them. We expose them. We drill them. Why do we feel that it’s okay to let the children “decide” on their spiritual path? You won’t let your child decide whether he wants to go to school.
First off, we all know that there is a spiritual world. As a good parent your job is to teach them (or expose them to the teaching if you can’t teach it) about spiritual things. Even though science can’t prove it they are even fascinated with the unseen world. They are searching for Dark Matter and Dark Energy which makes up 95.1% of the total universe. Dark Matter can not be detected by our instruments but we know it’s there. They describe it the same way we describe God.
Part of being a good parent is teaching your children to be good people and the people who have had the most influence on our planet are those who were spiritual. From Gandhi, to Nelson Mandela, Mother Teresa to the founding fathers of America. They had deep spiritual roots that were tied to a particular religion. They were spiritual beings following a chosen religion because religion give us some structure to our spirituality.
I am NOT proposing that religion makes one spiritual. NOT AT ALL. History has shown that people can become very judgmental and violent in they name of their religion. We have killed and eradicated nations of people in the name of Allah, Christ or Jehovah. So I’m not advocating religion. I am talking about raising SPIRITUAL children.
A lot of parents say I do raise spiritual children, “ I teach them to be kind. We volunteer. We give to charities.” That’s great! But that’s teaching them to be good people. Nice, caring citizens. You’re SUPPOSE to teach them that!
I’m talking about SPIRITUALITY where there are spiritual disciplines that they learn. Disciplines like, fasting, prayer, silence, solitude, meditation, stillness, sacrifice.
Spirituality that is set in the context of a “school” provides rituals and routines.
With real spirituality there is the coming together with other humans at certain times to carry out those rituals and disciplines.
Teaching your child to be nice and kind is equivalent to teaching your child the abc’s. You’ve done the basics. But you go farther than that and you send your child off to school (or you homeschool). You now have put some structure and routine to the abc’s and you have put it in context. “The abc’s helps you to read. This will help you build a life for yourself. You will be able to start a business or work a job and contribute to society.” So impose and we send them off to school every day for 13years, whether they like it or not.
Sending your child off to spiritual school (Mosque, Church, Synagogue, temple etc) provides them with structure, routine and also places it in context. “All things start with The Creator. He has created you with a purpose. Live your life according to that Purpose. And, oh yeah, be nice and kind because The Creator is nice and kind to you.”
Going to a religious place of learning:
- creates a sense of unity
- answers life’s great questions
- gives reassurance during difficult times
Studies have also found that people raised with structure to their spirituality (i.e. religion);
- are happier and more satisfied with life
- cope better during crisis
- recover faster from illnesses & depression
Author Mary Eberstadt asks “is it in society’s interest to encourage Christian practice?” She then provides her own response. “The answer is: only so far as it is in society’s interest to encourage quality of life, enhanced health, happiness, coping, less crime, less depression, and other such benefits associated with religious involvement.”
When you take your children to “spiritual school” teach them how to question the learning and the people in a respectful and non-judging manner. Just because you go to a particular building doesn’t mean that you have to turn a blind eye to things. THAT’S RELIGION; walking like blind sheep and following blatantly sinful leaders or crazy doctrine. If your priest is molesting children, your pastor is having affairs or your teacher is telling you let’s go downtown and designate bombs in strategic areas, DUH, leave and report it.
Find another spiritual school-just like you would if your principal and the teachers were promoting crazy ideas at your local school. But don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater! “The church is filled with hypocrites, I’m never going back!”
When they get older your children may decide to walk away from their childhood religion-they may decide never to go back to school-but the spiritual lessons that they would have learned will be with them forever. The lessons will be greater than abc’s of life and therefore able to sustain them in hard times.
And thats the reason behind raising spiritual children. It’s to teach them that “life is bigger than you. And yet The Creator walks with you everyday. You can expect certain things from the one who created you and you owe certain things to the one who created you. When you pay up it causes more blessings to come to you. So you can’t lose when you live your life for the one who Created you. Don’t be afraid to live because He loves you. So live life to the fullest.” Learning to be nice and kind won’t teach them that.
So impose on them. Take them. Send them if you don’t want to go. But leaving it up to your children when they get older to decide if they want to be spiritual is akin to leaving it up to your dog when he gets older to decide if he wants to go to obedience school.
What are your thoughts?