Brainwashing?

As I went through my nightly news round-up, I stumbled upon an interesting article on the Huffington Post.  A complete and total aside – I have to admit that lately, the bias on the Huffington Post has started to really irk me.  It’s so biased that it’s hard to tell if the news is reliable.  I miss the days of unbiased journalism and I know that my award-winning journalist grandfather is rolling in his grave, but that’s another story for another time I suppose.

At any rate, I saw this article and I read it and was relieved that there was a mother out there who knew what it was like to have young children in church.  At first, I was brought back to that day when the old man yelled at me in church for letting my kid color on the offertory envelopes that are left in the pews for visitors.  It was keeping her quiet and as one of the former high school kids who used to open said envelopes, I wouldn’t have cared to come across an envelope colored by a kid.  It was nice to see this article almost giving some comfort that there were others out there who had the same moments of embarrassment when bringing kids to church. Most recently, my moment of embarrassment came in the form of my daughter critiquing a girl in the children’s choir who had just completed a solo by saying “that sounded horrible.”  If I could have shrank down to the size of a fly and fly right out of that church, I would have.

This article showed me, however, that I’m not alone.  There are other mothers and fathers who do the same thing every week.  These parents bring their children as their parents brought them when they were children.  It was reassuring.

Then I read the comments.

Man – people harbor such hatred of organized religion.  The insults that hurled on those comments were just uncalled for.  At one point, someone said that parents were brainwashing their children and teaching them to not think for themselves.  I suppose that is when I really got annoyed.

You see, I was raised Catholic.  One of the reasons I chose my undergrad college was mainly because it was a Catholic college and I knew that it was going to offer what I needed.  Yes, there were a lot of things over the years that caused me to question.  The sex abuse scandal.  The treatment of women in the church.  Some of the rules the church abides by were just nonsensical to me.  For a while, I stopped going to church altogether.  It just didn’t feel right.  Everything I had grown up knowing had been severely shaken and every time I stepped into a church I didn’t feel like I was being true to myself.  However, during all that time, I didn’t stop believing in God and still had faith in the things I was taught as a child.

I remember one day, when I was making my daughter’s baby quilt with my aunt who was dying from cervical cancer, we started talking about our faith.  She knew that I had stopped going to church.  She knew that I had some issues.  I let her know that I was going to baptize the Daughter.  I could almost instantly see the relief in her face as I finished the sentence.  We then had an amazing conversation about faith.  I asked her how she could reconcile being a Catholic and not finding some questions about it all, because by definition of the pope at the time (I believe it was the Nazi Pope – sorry I have no love for Benedict…) meant accepting EVERY tenant of the doctrine, including the ones that almost contradicted the teachings of Christ.  I believe the term “cafeteria Catholic” has been used to describe people who pick and choose which parts of the Catholic doctrine they want to follow and practice.

She surprised me with her answer, surprised me in a good way.  She said that we should question it.  We have our faith and the belief that everything happens for reasons we may not always understand and we have our belief in His love.  But we can question the teachings and the interpretations.  There is always room to better ourselves and if we don’t ask the questions we’ll never be able to get to a better understanding of the whole picture.  Religion is just a piece. Faith is the bigger picture.

I remember driving home that day thinking about what she had said.  The Husband doesn’t practice any religion.  He says he believes in God but just doesn’t want to be brainwashed.  Some of the comments on that HuffPost article reminded me of things the husband has said.  I don’t care though.  Tomorrow morning, the Daughter and I will go to church and we’ll say our prayers and sing the hymns.

hands praying

I know that I cannot force her to believe anything.  All I can do is introduce her to what I believe and then I will take a page from my mother’s play book.  You see, when Catholics get confirmed, they are finally seen as adults in the church (that’s the basic explanation of that sacrament).  Only those who truly accept the teachings of the church should be confirmed, though lots of kids do it just to appease their parents.  My mother, however, took each of us aside when we came to that year and told us that while she had hoped we would get confirmed, if there were any other religions we might want to look into before we made that choice, she would help us find out information.  I didn’t take her up on the offer, but Brother 2 did.  My mother followed through with the offer.  She got him information on eastern religions and offered to help find someone for him to talk to if he wanted.  I thought it was cool that my mother offered to do that and actually did it when one of us asked.

We were not taught to blindly follow.  Maybe we are an exception.  Maybe we grew up in a more liberal minded home.  I know that even though I hope that the daughter accepts what I’m currently exposing her to, I know that I cannot force faith upon her.  She must come to it on her own.  I will answer any question she may have along the way though.  And I pray that she asks questions.  How else can she learn to think for herself and make an informed decision on her own.  Oh yeah, and to the comments that thank the people for raising their kids to be scientists…I hope my child can achieve her dream of becoming a doctor and still have faith in something.

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1 Comment

Filed under Family, Family Activities, Tales of Parenthood

One response to “Brainwashing?

  1. What a wonderful piece of writing. So thoughtful and respectful. Sure, kids might be brainwashed in a church while they’re growing up, but kids are brainwashed in all sorts of ways growing up. At least they’re learning how to sit quietly and be respectful, spending time with their family, and experiencing some sort of tradition. My daughters are teens now and they’ve gone through phases that your daughter might: attended church with me, listened to their atheist father, dropped into youth group, dropped out of church, joined Young Life. I’m glad they’re thinking and changing and growing and making decisions. It is what I ultimately want for my children and I can tell that you do, too.

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