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I have to start by saying I’m not a parent yet, but my husband and I definitely want a kid in the future. If you’ve read my religious background, you may understand why I’m a little torn on the subject of how to religiously bring up our future offspring.
The topic of religion and what we plan on passing on to our kids (if anything at all) has come up many times in our marriage. For the most part, I think we agreed that he’s okay with baptizing the kid as a Catholic, just to have a religious basis, but to let him or her decide for themself what they want to believe in (or not believe in, if the case may be).
This agreement has since brought up many other questions: who would we choose as godparents? Would my husband then agree to convert to the Catholic faith? What about the godparents?
The idea of godparents are also a strange one. Traditionally, godparents are chosen to help the child in his or her religious education and to support that child spiritually. More often, though, godparents are seen as the people who take over guardianship should the legal parents become incapacitated.
One thing I have to disclose is I’m sorta kinda (okay, fine, REALLY) obsessed with the TV show Gilmore Girls. I’ve watched the entire series at least 5 times over and can probably tell you the entire plot of an episode after only 3 seconds into it. I tend to talk about the characters in the show like they’re real people sometimes. So relating posts to Gilmore Girls episodes may happen more often than not. (I promise this is going somewhere…)
There’s one episode that I remember when Lorelai (the mother) and Rory (the daughter) are asked to become godmothers to Lorelai’s best friend Sookie’s two children (Did you follow that okay? Sorry about that). Neither Lorelai nor Rory are terribly religious (they’re pretty accepting of everything), but both felt like they were under a microscope when they were presented with godparent responsibility. They engage in a one-upping “I’m holier than thou” contest in front of the pastor who’s giving all the godparents a “religious interview,” for lack of a better term. The comedic conversation goes as follows:
(Taken from crazyinternetpeople.com)
REV.SKINNER: So, I always like to take a few minutes before my baptisms to get to know the godparents a little bit. Of course I already know you two, but I just want to touch base and make sure you understand the obligations of what you’re getting into here today. Now, basically, godparents are responsible for the spiritual upbringing of their godchildren. I certainly hope the parents throw their two cents in, but the godparents are vitally important figures in a child’s life. So, tell me, what are your religious affiliations?
LORELAI: Oh, well, Reverend, you’ve known us forever.
REV.SKINNER: Well, yes, I have, and I still have no idea what your religious affiliations are.
LORELAI: We’re a bit lapsed.
REV.SKINNER: Yes. From…?
LORELAI: Well, um…religion. But, you know, I can’t speak for Rory, but I have a strong belief in good…you know…over evil. I mean, if I was asked to choose a side…
RORY: I read “The Lion, The Witch, And The Wardrobe”.
LORELAI: I have a bible. Although I may or may not have accidentally given it to Goodwill, because I’m remodelling. But Goodwill is a religious organization… I think. But even if it’s not, good will. It’s in the ballpark.
RORY: I buy tons of girl-scout cookies.
LORELAI: I have two “Mary is my homegirl” T-shirts.
REV.SKINNER: Well, these are all very positive if somewhat irrelevant things. And it seems like your hearts are in the right place.
REV.SKINNER: And it says something good about you both that when a friend calls you up and asks a favour, you come through like this.
LORELAI: (obviously having figured something out) Right, right.
REV.SKINNER: Shall we?
RORY: We shall.
This brings up an important point. Above even spiritual upbringing, I’d look for good role models for my children. If they are good people and their hearts are in the right place, then I think that’s who I’d entrust my children to. But what happens when the people you want to be your child’s godparents are atheists? I would feel bad forcing someone who didn’t believe in God into such a religious ceremony. And what would the church think? Or would we all just try to cover up the fact? Has anyone out there with kids ever run into this problem, or know what the solution is?
Then comes up the religious upbringing itself. If our kid is baptized Catholic, he or she would then eventually be expected to participate in the other sacraments: confession, confirmation, and communion being among them. We’re both a bit wary of our kid going “that far” into the Catholic religion. At that point, we’d feel like we’re forcing only that one belief on our kid, and he or she wouldn’t feel quite comfortable exploring other religious/non-religious avenues. So why even bother with baptism, you ask? I guess I’m not so sure myself. To me, it’s just something that I’ve been brought up with…a ceremony as much of a rite of passage as getting a driver’s license or graduating high school. It’s as logical to me as a first birthday party when it comes to normal childhood events. Of course, this isn’t true for everyone.
What happens as the child grows up? We’re both afraid of the time when the child is old enough to realize that Mom & Dad don’t go to church together. How to explain that awkwardness? Would I even bother to take the child to church if we want the child to be free to choose their own belief system?
In the end, I think we both want to provide our child with something to believe in, no matter what that may be. If there is anything we both agree in, it’s that it’s important to learn faith in something, if in nothing else but humankind.
What do you guys think? Do you think it’s important that both parents have the same spiritual/non-spiritual background? How vital do you think religion is to a child’s development? If a child is left to their own devices to figure out what they want to believe in, do you think this will just end up in them being spiritually confused or lost?
I know I’ve asked many more questions than I usually do, and that I’ve wandered in thought much more than I usually do, but it’s a conversation I’ve been wanting to start for awhile. And I believe that the best conversations have lots of questions!
Here’s to believing in something,