Thursday, May 01, 2008

Comment on Krista Tippett

A comment I wrote yesterday to Krista Tippett, host of Speaking of Faith.
I first discovered your program when I found your episode "Restoring the Senses, Life Gardening, and Orthodox Easter." I was impressed, and being a father of two, decided to listen to your episode on the Spirituality of Parenting.

I am disappointed. I think that you omitted one of the primary spiritual issues that the vast majority of faithful believers actually have.

Rabbi Sasso offers many good insights. Her understanding of both the need to maintain an open stance with your children's spirituality and her suggestion that we teach our children out of the spiritual tradition in which we were raised, are balanced on the surface. But there is an undertone that seems to lean towards the idea that "spirituality" is exclusively personal, is pretty distant from religion, that all paths are equal, and we should allow our children to find their own way. This view is explicit in the recorded questions from parents that were interspersed through the program. Most, if not all of the questions or comments were "I have found a path for me, how do I make sure my children find their own path for themselves."

I don't think this resonates with the vast majority of religious adherents worldwide. Most faithful believers think that their spiritual and religious tradition is a rich and glorious gift they can give to their children. They also believe that there are spiritual dangers and they have to teach their children about them just as we have to teach them about other dangers. It deeply hurts my son's feelings when I insist he not step of the curb into the street and I try to be loving about the discipline, but I know there is a danger and wrong paths. But I also want to teach him to see danger for himself, understand risk, and govern himself. Likewise, there are spiritual directions that my Faith tradition assures me can lead down dangerous paths.

I think a more common question that most faithful have is "I want my children to see the beauty of our Faith that I see and I want them to maintain our faith and make it their own personally. I know that forcing it down their throat is not the correct way, but I also don't want to give them the impression that their spiritual path is an exclusively personal choice and that all choices are equal. How to maintain that balance?"

I have seen families negotiate this question well, who produced children who love God and have maintained the Faith they were raised with and I have seen families that botch this terribly and whose deeply resentful children bolt as soon as possible. This is most religious parent's single biggest fear.

I think that you failed to really discuss that.

I wouldn't bother to say anything if I didn't feel like both you and Rabbi Sasso are capable of intelligently addressing this question. I respect the quality of your work and the content of this program so far as it went, but this seems like a big hole in the discussion.

Thank you for listening.

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