in Rod Dreher's recent article "How To Get More People To Church," he deals with the complex issues of faith, family, and freedom: how can we best pass on our faith to our family - our children, while at the same time respecting their increasing freedom as they grow up?
Dreher list eleven points with a paragraph or two on each point, and at the end, he quotes Robert Louis Wilkins as follows:
"If Christian culture is to be renewed, habits are more vital than revivals, rituals more edifying than spiritual highs, the Creed more penetrating than theological insight, and the celebration of saints’ days more uplifting than the observance of Mother’s Day. There is great wisdom in the maligned phrase ex opere operato, the effect is in the doing. Intention is like a reed blowing in the wind. It is the doing that counts, and if we do something for God, in the doing God does something for us."
Below are the 11 points, and if you're interested enough, you can read the whole article!
- Accept that there’s no such thing as a foolproof program for this.
- Don’t outsource your kids' religious education.
- Practice your religion yourself.
- The life of faith is 80 percent formation, 20 percent information.
- Don’t shy away from the big questions.
- Encourage a sense of wonder.
- Help them to see the universality and the historic dimension of the Church.
- Beauty and Goodness are greatly undervalued as witnesses and teachers.
- Practice little rituals of forgiveness.
- It's not up to you, ultimately, but to God and to your child.
- Be the Church, not the World.
It's hard on parents (and grandparents) to watch their children (and grandchildren) grow up, because by nature we're protective of our offspring. We don't want to see any harm come to them. We pray and pray and pray for their safety and purity. And yet, we know that in order for them to grow up, we need to let them jump out of the nest and fly on their own. It's a dangerous world out there, outside the nest. Hawks and eagles snatch up little critters for a snack.
And back to the human analogy, when we're young we think that we're invincible, that nothing bad is going to happen to us because so far nothing bad has happened (because our parents have been looking out for us). So we tend to do "stupid stuff" thinking nothing bad will happen. I lifted big rocks - actually small boulders - while building a rock wall for our garden. I didn't see any sign saying -
"The Law of Gravity Is
Strictly Enforced Here!"
After a week or so of lifting big rocks, CRACK! I ruptured two disks in my lower spine. What I thought was saving $100 or so by not hiring a guy with a garden tractor or small bulldozer, ended up costing over $55,000 for back surgery. Yes, when we're young, we do "stupid stuff"! Now I do job counseling with young people at an inner-city mission. Several of them have done "stupid stuff" - committed petty crimes - so they have a record that will likely stay with them all their lives, just like I have two steel rods in my back and pain that will hang around for the rest of my life.
The risk of doing "stupid stuff" is part of growing up. It's called freedom. We must allow our children, grandchildren, and dear friends (my "clients" often become dear friends after I spend several counseling sessions with them) to make their own decisions. If they've done "stupid stuff," their options may be somewhat limited, but that doesn't mean they have no future ahead of them.
I once attended a conference where the speaker was a man who was in a car accident on the way to his wedding rehearsal. It left him a quadriplegic: paralyzed from the waist down. As he was sitting in his wheelchair up on the stage, unable to move his arms or legs, he said - "Before my accident, the whole world lay before me. There were probably 15,000 different careers I could choose from. Now there are only 10,000 careers I can choose." The audience cheered and applauded!
So don't ever think that if you've done "stupid stuff" you're all washed up, you'll never amount to anything. Remember the story of Joseph in the Old Testament? His older brothers sold him into slavery. While he was a slave in Egypt, his master's wife falsely accused him of attempted rape because he refused her trying to seduce him, so his master had him thrown into prison. But from prison, he became the top minister of all Egypt!
After his brothers (those jerks who had sold him into slavery) came to Egypt begging for food because back home there was a famine, Joseph said - "As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save many people alive. Now therefore don't be afraid. I will nourish you and your little ones." (Genesis 50:20-21)
So his father, his brothers, their families and servants all came down to Egypt where there was plenty of food. They were saved from starvation! But after 400 years in Egypt, a new dynasty of pharaohs arose who enslaved all the Hebrews. They had to break out of this situation. Often in our lives, whether we had a good upbringing or not, we get into harmful habit patterns - overeating, smoking, drinking, doing drugs, sexual addiction, etc. - things that can destroy us, our families, and society around us. In the New Testament, the Apostle Paul was recalling the falling back into slavery when he wrote -
The latest snare that the enemy of our souls, Satan, is setting for young people is the LGBTQ form of sexual addiction. Satan's siren song goes something like this: "You were simply born this way!" NOT TRUE! In the vast majority of cases, it's social conditioning (indoctrination in the media, our schools and universities) that causes young people to choose the gay path: only a fraction of one percent of the population are born with indeterminate sex.
Or the Devil whispers: "Whatever goes on between two consenting adults is nobody else's business!" Or: "What matters most is social justice; personal morality is a matter of one's free choice!" But social justice requires a society, so if one chooses the LGBTQ path, there'll be no society left - sex is intended for producing the next generation of society, but same-sex acts simply don't reproduce.
Or Satan's stupidest snare is this: "Come on! Everybody's doing it!" As my father-in-law used to tell his children, "If all your friends were walking off a cliff, would you do it too?" Millions of people have already died of HIV-AIDS: don't be the next one! The Apostle Paul wrote -
"Don't you know that the unrighteous will not inherit the Kingdom of God? Don't be deceived. Neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor male prostitutes, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor slanderers, nor extortioners, will inherit the Kingdom of God. Such were some of you, but you were washed. But you were sanctified. But you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and in the Spirit of our God. 'All things are lawful for me,' but not all things are helpful. 'All things are lawful for me,' but I will not be dominated by anything. 'Foods for the belly, and the belly for foods,' but God will destroy both it and them. The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord; and the Lord for the body. Now God raised up the Lord, and will also raise us up by his power." (1 Corinthians 6:9-14)
As Christians, we are called to be citizens of the Kingdom of God, not deceived into following the crowd. Just because something is lawful doesn't mean it's helpful: Getting drunk and smoking are legal, but everyone should know by now that they're harmful to our bodies. Sexual promiscuity now is legal, but the consequences for our bodies, for our families, and for society can be disastrous: think "Ebola" and "AIDS." People say - "If it tastes or feels good, do it!" But your belly or your bottom isn't where your brain is located - use your brain! God's goal for us is to resurrect and restore us into the glorious likeness of Christ's risen and glorified body. St. Paul continues -
"Don't you know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ, and make them members of a prostitute? May it never be! Or don't you know that he who is joined to a prostitute is one body? For, as it is written, 'The two will become one flesh.' But he who is joined to the Lord is one spirit. Flee sexual immorality! Every other sin that a person commits is outside the body, but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body. Or don't you know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God's." (1 Corinthians 6:15-20)
True freedom is only found in Christ: "Now the Lord is the Spirit and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. But we all, with unveiled face beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are transformed into the same image from glory to glory, even as from the Lord, the Spirit." (2 Corinthians 3:17-18)
Also, St. Paul wrote - "What then? Shall we sin, because we are not under law, but under grace? May it never be! Don't you know that to whom you present yourselves as servants to obedience, his servants you are whom you obey; whether of sin to death, or of obedience to righteousness? But thanks be to God, that, whereas you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were delivered. Being made free from sin, you became bondservants of righteousness." (Romans 6:15-18)
Choose Faith, Family, and Freedom!