I’ve talked about this before—this being the religious rights of young children and infants. Circumcision, where it is not medically necessary (in most cases, it is not), should not be practiced upon infants or upon children too young to give informed consent (if you’re too young to have a say in which parent should have custody of you in a divorce, you’re too young to consent to minor elective surgery).
And I have mentioned that infant baptism is creepy as hell. And please do not misunderstand my meaning—if you are fifteen or twenty and you decide that you are a Christian and want to dedicate yourself to whichever denomination of that faith, more power to you. Get baptized. If you decide on Judaism or Islam, then, by all means, get circumcised. At such a time as you are capable of making that decision for yourself.
I understand the mechanics of baptism—which, depending upon the denomination or the family, ranges from a pledge by the family to raise the infant as a Christian to claiming the child’s soul for the Christian God to divinely cleansing the infant of spiritual evil (sin) believed to be inherent to all humans. As with all religious rites, some members of faith communities treat these as expected social events and give them no more thought than one would a bridal shower, while others hold baptism and other early religious rites as being of vital spiritual importance—as well as mandatory.
Please stop it. Like the title says—it’s not your life. It’s not your soul. This extends beyond infancy and early childhood. If you are a Christian and your thirteen-year-old wants to start reading about Theravada Buddhism or another denomination of Christianity or otherwise does not believe what you do—that’s normal.
Adolescence is a standard time for children to begin striking out on their own in small ways—questioning the political views of their parents, seeking alternative activities ( Like the cliche: “But you love football.” “No, dad. You love football! I like ballet!”), discovering where they fit in socially, and very likely reconsidering their religious beliefs. Atheists may take up an interest in Jesus. Reform Jews may look into Orthodox Judaism. Agnostics may start reading about contemporary Paganism.
It’s called being in high school. Students are more open about it in larger schools, when greater diversity makes them feel more comfortable being honest with themselves (my school had about a dozen Pagan students and you were likely to have an openly LGBT classmate in every class, especially by senior year—but, in college, I met people who never met a non-Christian until high school).
It’s also called growing up.
If you’re a Methodist and you are worried that your child may leave the church because he or she is reading about Buddhism in his or her free time, relax. Sometimes, students just read about their friends’ beliefs, or for school projects. And sometimes looking at other faiths can help you to put your own into perspective—and to strengthen your preexisting beliefs. Faith is not worth anything if it cannot be challenged.
Now, in some religions (namely, the Abrahamic religions), being outside of the faith is believed to have severe consequences—beyond simply making one’s parents uncomfortable. I’m a Pagan. Specifically, an eclectic Revivalist. If my child became a Buddhist or an atheist or a Christian, my response would be mild, mostly silent, disappointment. I would much prefer that to a child who did sports, dangerous drugs, or worse, was an otherkin. That’s it. I would never raise my child to be a member of my faith. I would not withhold affection or financial support or dangle incentives in the hopes of getting a hollow admission of adherence.
Why? Because, in any religion, accepting a label and having genuine belief and devotion are radically different. Going through the motions without true belief is completely meaningless.
You can lead a horse to water, but you cannot make him drink. Your children are not equines—in this metaphor, you can recommend your favorite drinking spots and watch them figure it out for themselves. That way, if they choose the same one that you chose, whether they are in middle school or college or later in adulthood, it will actually mean something.
(Christians are certainly taking notice of drops in church attendance and religious adherence among their children who go to college and, for the first time, find that they have a choice. Give them a choice earlier on, and they’re more likely to make one that will make you happy. Even if they make another choice, it will still be their choice.)
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