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Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Raising Spiritually-Full Children Without a Specific Faith.

Brian and I have made no secret about our Agnosticism. We are both former Catholics who spent some time considering our own religious paths independently, only to come to similar conclusions around the time we met in college. Our beliefs are pretty simple in that we refuse to define them. We are not godless, so to speak; I believe that there is likely some greater force in this world. But I struggle in giving this force an identity. And despite what some may doubt to be true, I am spiritually full.

Interestingly enough, I teach in a very conservative and religious community. My students are church-goers and take pride in their faith. And I respect this. While it’s not what I believe, I admire the power of their convictions and the people they are as a result of their religious upbringing. These kids are honest, thoughtful, selfless, and hard-working. They are true Christians. They are, for all intents and purposes, everything I want my children to become. 

So when Atticus mentioned Jesus the other day, I realized it’s time to start thinking about faith and its role in my boys’ upbringing. I will not force them to ascribe to a certain way of religious thinking, but I will encourage them to be spiritually full. In other words, I don’t really care what they choose to believe so long as they’re thinking about it, questioning it, and ascribing to a system of beliefs that honors kindness, empathy, and compassion for those around them. We don’t know exactly what that’s going to look like yet; we’re still ironing out the kinks. But we do know that a few tenets that will guide us along the way:

1. Religious Education

The first step towards respect is understanding. In college, I was in the middle of a civil, yet somewhat heated debate with my devoutly-Baptist friend. When I asked him why he was so sure his faith was the right one and not, say, Islam, he plainly told me “I don’t need to know about that because it isn’t the true path to God.” I can’t abide cyclical reasoning and at that moment I ended the conversation. But I continued to be amazed by how many religiously righteous people new next-to-nothing about faiths other than their own. It astounded me. So my children’s spiritual education will involve visits to temples, mosques, churches, and other houses of worship. They will learn how people all over the world choose to honor their god(s), not just those who live in our community. I wish more young people took the time to explore other religions; those who acknowledge and respect differing outlooks are the peace-makers, the problem-solvers, and the pioneers.



2. A Commitment to service

One of the noblest aspects of organized religion is their commitment to service to those in need. Homeless shelters, food and clothing drives, and soup kitchens are often the work of religious groups because most religions preach the need for selflessness and service. My children will learn the value of self-sacrifice in an effort to help those less fortunate, and we will volunteer both our time and material possessions to see these lessons through. Because developing empathy and helping those in need is good for the soul and society. 


3. Open dialogue

I was always told to avoid conversations about money, politics, and religion at the dinner table because I could never change a person’s mind on any of those topics. And for the most part, I agree. I’m not going to debate the Book of Revelations with my colleagues over lunch, but I do want my children to feel free to ask questions. I want to erase the notion that religion is a taboo discussion, especially if it's conducted with a level of mutual respect. I want them to open their minds to the many possibilities. And if they choose to have faith in a certain dogma after exhausting every query, then so be it. I respect that. But to believe in something without questioning and searching for truth is not really believing in much at all. It’s apathy. The questions might never be answered in absolutes. Heck, they might not be answered at all, but at least they’re being considered.



4. Connecting with nature

With our over-connected world and the constant onslaught of flashing, buzzing solicitation, it’s easy to lose one’s sense of inner peace. I am a firm believer in the power of nature. In fact, I might even argue that nature IS my religion. So taking the time to literally smell the roses and find my inner dialogue is an important part of my spiritual health. I’m not anti-technology. My kids watch TV. We live in the smoggy inner-city and drive our SUV to work and school every day. But I also instill in my children the idea that nature has power. It is a reminder of where we came from and where we are headed. So we need to take time to be outside, walk to the park, hike in the mountains, camp at the lake, swim in the ocean. It’s when we realize just how small we are in this vastness of nature that we can truly begin to consider why we’re here in the first place.

10 comments:

  1. very cute your baby and your blog, greetings from Argentina

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  2. This is so true. I love this approach. All the best to you and your family Megan!

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  3. Wow. I don't know what you teach or really who you are, I just discovered this blog (due to a facebook link going viral) and cannot get over your style. You are so incredible with words and your fierce love and protection over your family is amazing. If you ever dabbled in writing a book I would certainly buy anything with your name on the cover!

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  4. Love this topic.. #3.. uhm yes!! I honestly couldn't agree more..I want my kids to ask questions. I'm loving your blog!

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  5. Hello! Yes, your story is going viral and I had to find your blog! After looking at the beautiful picture of your son outside I read down in the article and could not believe my eyes. As you know, there are always ignorant and "mean" people out there. They only make these comments to make themselves feel better (they must be miserable inside). Your children are absolutely beautiful and I can see how much you love them. :) Keep up the posts!!!!

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  6. One day those two boys will make someone extremely happy and proud of them.. Someone who's not their mommy, daddy or part of their family... They'll become great personalities!!!

    Love to read your blog, especially about all the difficulties with Quinns disability that make him see a doctor too often for such a young being... I always carry a picture of my deceased friend with down syndrome in my wallet.... He was probably the most honest person I've ever met.... Oh yeah and watch out for the boys when they hit puberty... With those eyes and smiles all the girls will fly for them :D

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  7. Wonderful family dear Megan!!!! And so nice to read your blog. Cheers from Poland! Mum of 2

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  8. Thank you for this! I love it also i shared on facebookI

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  9. Megan, Your love and compassion for the Jack*** that posted the nasty 4 letter word about your beautiful son is unbelieveable. Your son is such a special young man I find it hard to believe anyone can be so mean. I worked with the special olympics when they were held here in my home town. Those children have so much honest love it could never be measured. They really are special people. Cudos to you for your comments in your reply and for reporting his message. May God bless you and all your family.

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