The course I’m teaching the semester, Faith and Leadership, includes what I’ve unimaginatively called “F.L. Moments” to begin most classes. We set aside a few minutes each day to discuss a current event having to do with faith and leadership. My hope is that most of the topics come from students’ suggestions, and (as has happened thus far) these FL Moments become informal reference points for our readings and other classwork.
For a recent F.L. moment a student suggested we discuss the CNN iReport by TXBlue08: “Why I Raise My Children Without God.” The post has certainly hit a nerve as it has over half a million views and upwards of 35,000 recommends. In class, we participated in what I took to be a short but helpful discussion on the challenges of parenting in a culture with persons of many faiths and those of no faith.
Cultural commentators say today that we are in a period of new faith-related (and interfaith) dialogue and discovery. I see the signposts at the college.
Chris Stedman visited campus recently to speak on his new book, Faitheist, in which he argues for an atheism that plays well with others, especially people of faith. Concordia students have submitted the paperwork to launch a secular student organization on campus. The movement in support of robust interfaith dialogue on campus is growing. Our new course, Faith in Dialogue: Interfaith Leadership has a waiting list a mile long.
It is not without some serious whiplash, then, that I read TXBlue08’s secular parenting blog post on CNN. While I respect the writer’s struggle, and do thank her for the post, I have to say it strikes me as pretty shallow work.
Now I need to be careful here, as I am very aware of the danger of atheist-bashing in our culture and I want to encourage open, healthy conversation about the dangers of religion. It saddens me that the post has been flagged by many users as “inappropriate” via CNN’s site mechanisms, labels ordinarily reserved for truly offensive or illegal posts. And, of course, blog posts are not the ideal medium for such challenging topics. All that said, I cannot but want to ask TXBlue08 more.
Does TXBlue08 realize the working understanding of God she seems to be refuting is also lacking from most mainline churches?
Does she realize her straw man, sort-of-Christian religion referenced in the post leaves unacknowledged the faith of millions of non-Christian believers?
Does she really think the workable solution is for religion not to go away, but somehow just be confined to home and church?
Too often church leaders invoke the line when speaking to or about atheism, “Tell me about the god you don’t believe in; chances are I don’t believe in that god either.” The line is sometimes (usually?) used as a crutch to avoid real, difficult conversation. It can also come across — and be delivered — as condescending.
In the case of this iReport, however, the phrase may, in fact, be spot-on Which leads me back to the importance of teaching religion in the first place: to increase religious understanding, model healthy debate, and broaden perspectives of what religion and faith is and how it functions in society.
For this religion professor, my fear is not that parents will raise their children without God, but that they will raise them without the skills to address faith, religion, and diverse culture. That’s the truly scary proposition.
image by Milan Jurek