Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Thank You for Taking Your Children to Church

For Christian parents, taking your children to church requires a special commitment.  Although there are more options for church attendance than just Sunday morning and dress expectations have been minimized, the very act of taking (not sending) your children to worship and (hopefully) Bible study is a witness to your own faith and a desire to instill that faith in them.  You are witnessing to the fact that there is something more to life.

I thought about this when I recently heard a rebroadcast of an On Point presentation  on NPR hosted by Tom Ashbrook.  He was interviewing Phil Zuckerman, professor of sociology and secular studies at Pitzer College on his book Living the Secular Life:  New Answers to Old Questions.  

Based on research of sociological trends, Zuckerman explained that people still want community but they want it without supernatural and mythological trappings.  His personal analysis is that religion does more harm than good, and secular humanity is seeking meaningful substitutes.

How does he handle the pull to transcendence that we see expressed by so many people today, especially young adults?  He labels this as “the nonreligious impulse you can’t explain.”  In a Washington Post review of the book, the reviewer comments:

 “Zuckerman describes the intangible glue he believes connects nonbelievers to the universe and to each other. It is something he calls ‘aweism.’ He calls it a ‘profound, overflowing feeling’ that he knows only in fleeting moments: playing on the beach with his young daughter, eating grapes from his grandparents’ backyard, sledding in the dark of a January night, dancing with abandon at a favorite concert.”

In the broadcast, Zuckerman said that his substitute for Sunday worship was going to soccer games where he could connect with all different types of people and experience community.  He could experience community without religious puffery.

Ashbrook also included Bill Leonard, professor of church history and religion at the Wake Forest University School of Divinity, for a part of the conversation.  Leonard seemed to surprise Zuckerman by not attacking him but engaging in thoughtful discussion of the topic.  A Congregational minister from New England called in and Zuckerman found his comments encouraging but only because the caller had “evidently embraced secularism.”  Maybe Zuckerman needs to broaden his understanding of the Christian faith and those who practice it.

Host Ashbrook pushed Zuckerman to accept the idea that secularism and secular humanism are only possible because of the foundation established by religious thinkers through the centuries.  Of course, Zuckerman’s response was that all of the moral and ethical teachings of the world religions were only the product of humanity’s creativity and reason rather than a response to a transcendent experience.

So back to my original statement:  “Taking your children to church on Sunday (or Friday or Saturday) is a statement of faith.”  In doing so, you are saying to them, there is more to life than survival, personal achievement, and living comfortably with your neighbor.  By experiencing worship of God and experiencing Christian community, you attest to the possibility of becoming more through a relationship with the Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer.  You are expressing a commitment to be part of the People of God.  Keep up the good work!  

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