I’m hanging out in New York this weekend with my family. We are an interested mixed bunch, spiritually speaking. My oldest brother who is a surgeon has gone the very traditional route. He takes his family to church and sees it as a way to keep the family close and behaviors in check–after all he has three young boys 🙂
I do not attend a church at all anymore, even though I am a former licensed pentecostal minister (I know, I know). I am choosing to live and love freely, looking for opportunities to share authentic community with other friends of Jesus.
My other brother, who has not worked in 10 years (though he finally just a got a job working for a roof cleaning company in Battle Creek, MI) is not a spiritual guy at all.
My Mom, however, is a bit of a zealot. She goes to church several times a week: Monday night prayer, Thursday night bible study, Sunday worship, etc.
The problem is that my Mom is a bit of a hypocrite to be frank. She does not really have the “love” thing down and I suspect church for her is mainly a personal need thing. Like, “I need to feel forgiven and church helps me feel forgiven”.
I remember when we were shifting away from the traditional religious approach to Jesus when our daughter was 3 years old and my Mom was so upset with my wife and I that we were not teaching our daughter about “hell”. Really? So in order to help a young child understand a loving God I need to put the fear of hell in her? It caused a bit of a problem with our already strained relationship with my Mom.
It seems to me that trying to bring our children to God through the use of fear is real close to child abuse. It seems extremely manipulative. But most of all, it does not work. I know hundreds of kids whose parents put the fear of God in them growing up. Most of those kids ran as fast as they could from the church. Hopefully they will come back someday but most sadly will not.
On the other hand, I know some kids whose parents instilled the love of God in their kids first and foremost. Those are the ones that have stayed close to God into adulthood. That’s the approach we have chosen to talk with our children as well.