The yearly invitation from our local Baptist church to attend their Christmas services has just come through the door. Every year I get excited about going to the candlelit carol service and every year I never go, mainly as S works a lot this time of year and I don’t want to go alone. But this year I figure I can take E. (Before anyone comments on the hypocrisy of never setting foot in church the rest of the year but going at Christmas, yes I know. But I do it anyway.)
I can tell my proposal to take E to church makes S a little nervous. He’s not, and never has been, a church going man. And so here we are examining the concept of organised religion into parenting.
I’ve had conversations about this in the past. Friends and/ or colleagues have discussed this and loudly proclaimed that if they ever have children they won’t be taking them to church because “I want them to have a choice.” I’ve often found that people with no experience of church going have this idea that very little goes on inside a church except brainwashing. Therefore if their child steps inside the church they will be lost to the forces of science and reason forever. Oh dear.
You cannot possibly be expected to make an informed choice if you have little or no knowledge of one side of the conversation. So I think a little church learning does no harm. And like it or not, so much of our modern life and politics and rituals (including public holidays and general celebrations) have quite a lot to do with religion so to turn your back on it completely ensures that you bring your child up ignorant of much that defines us.
The problem with debate on religion being centred around war, science, the Middle East and gender equality is that people lose sight of the nicer stuff. I should point out that I am not a believer in God. But there’s something to be said for the basic tenet of being nice to each other, of drawing strength from an unknown source. I want to try and explain to E, when she’s bigger, about why people choose to believe and what they get from it. I want to point out the poetry in church ceremonies that’s missing from civil ceremonies; I want to try and cover the longing you get somedays for there to be some bigger plan, that we aren’t just alone in the universe, scurrying around for no reason. And then I can point out the nasty stuff, about how it has been distorted and used as an excuse for evil go getting.
I don’t think I can have a sensible conversation with E about this if she’s never set foot in a church. So perhaps we’ll make the Christmas carol concert this year. She might sleep or cry through the service, but it’s a start.