“Forceful education is a form of violence…”

Just read an interesting post over at the Jesus Creed blog (Scot McKnight), and it reminded me of a post I did the other day about a children’s Bible that I bought to read to my son.

In this post, Scot is talking about a few books that he read recently concerning people who grew up in Christian families, but ended up leaving their faith as they grew older (an all too common occurrence, in my experience). He comes to a conclusion after reading these books, and here’s his main point:

“…we need to do better at a younger age at educating, at exposing to methods, at explaining alternative viewpoints, and at giving kids a chance to think outside the box. Forcing answers, squeezing evidence into a mold, shaping minds to think that it is “all or nothing” will lead to a bigger crash and burn of the faith than a more reasonable approach. Forceful education is a form of violence, and some respond with potent anger while others seem to leave the faith more gently…”

Frankly, I couldn’t agree more. It seems like parents & church leaders must be afraid that if they don’t ram Christianity down their kids throats, then they won’t grow up to follow Jesus… From what I’ve seen, the exact opposite is the case.  A lot of the kids I grew up with in church aren’t going anymore, while I know lots of people who are Christians now who didn’t grow up that way. So it would seem to me that maybe it’s time to start changing how we’re exposing our kids to Christianity…  Which might mean that we need to start being OK with having more questions than answers, and with teaching kids HOW to think/learn about God, and maybe not as much about WHAT to think about God…

I’ll end with another quote from Scot:

“What are your suggestions for the education of Christian youth?”

Well, what do you think?


5 thoughts on ““Forceful education is a form of violence…”

  1. I think one problem this argument doesnt cover is that it isnt really Christianity that is being forced down peoples’ collective throats. It is a twisting of it, making it to be what WE feel comfortable with.

    Jesus made some radical claims about himself. Are we as parents really living these claims out? What about people we know? I am not sure that we really are.

    As we come into adulthood via the teenage years, we suddenly become very aware of human institutions that dont make sense. Thus the mass exodus from churches and religeon and all kinds of things. We havent yet grasped the social implications of doing these things (appeasing our own guilt, social networking, family pressure, etc) and can therefore easily reject things that dont make mental sense.

    I dont think the problem is that our kids have poor logical thinking skills and therefore cant understand how to think through things. I think the problem is that we dont truly embrace God as he revealed himself and submit our lives to him. We dont truly ‘explain’ Christianity at all.

  2. Heather-
    “We dont truly ‘explain’ Christianity at all.”


    And all I’d add to it is this: Christianity isn’t about having all the answers, believing the right things, and having everything in life neatly organized and labeled…

    It’s about loving/following God, and treating those around us in the same way that we would like to be treated. How do we do that? By hearing and responding to the “radical claims” of Jesus (as you excellently put it)…

    THAT’s what we need to be teaching our kids: What did Jesus say, and how do we go out and do it.

  3. i ran across this list of questions recently, which Rick Gamache asks his children from time to time. i especially like the questions where he asks the kid’s opinion of how he is living out his faith. some say especially in the home, christianity is better caught than taught.

    # How are your devotions?
    # What is God teaching you?
    # In your own words, what is the gospel?
    # Is there a specific sin you’re aware of that you need my help defeating?
    # Are you more aware of my encouragement or my criticism?
    # What’s daddy most passionate about?
    # Do I act the same at church as I do when I’m at home?
    # Are you aware of my love for you?
    # Is there any way I’ve sinned against you that I’ve not repented of?
    # Do you have any observations for me?
    # How am I doing as a dad?
    # How have Sunday’s sermons impacted you?
    # Does my relationship with mom make you excited to be married?

  4. Scott-

    Thanks for sharing those! I especially like these ones:
    -Are you more aware of my encouragement or my criticism?
    -Do I act the same at church as I do when I’m at home?
    -Is there any way I’ve sinned against you that I’ve not repented of?
    -How am I doing as a dad?

    Even though my son’s only 2, I bet that if I reworded these a bit, I could use them even now!


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