Dear Sister Sunday,
Our daughter is just a few months old. My mother is already on our case about getting her baptized. She’s a baby; who knows what she’ll want to be when she grows up? Shouldn’t we expose her to lots of different faiths and belief systems and let her make the choice when she’s ready?
A Rational Dad
I have noticed that the same parents who are content with the smorgasbord approach to faith make very specific menu choices when it comes to, oh, say, car seats and seatbelts (they WILL be worn), fresh vegetables and fruit (they WILL be eaten), teeth (they WILL be brushed), bike helmets (they WILL be buckled) and schools (test scores, anyone?)
I suspect that’s because those things — good teeth, sound nutrition, learning to read and the absence of closed head injuries — are so good, so important, and so necessary that they must not be left either to chance, or to the choice of an immature human being. A child who doesn’t develop certain habits early may not develop them at all. A child who never brushes may not have any teeth left to clean when he finally decides cleaning them is a beneficial practice.
When you’re willing to expose the baby to potato chips OR oatmeal for breakfast, looking at books OR staring at a computer screen, crawling around the inside of the car OR being buckled up — all so that she can make an informed choice when she’s older, write me again and we’ll talk. Because, the truth is, if you believe something matters, you will be willing to fight for it, and that includes imposing your values on your minor child. It’s only the things you don’t care about, the things that you don’t think are all that important that you will be willing to leave to the child’s discretion. Because leaving it to the child’s discretion means accepting, without a fight, that it may never happen at all.
So of course teach your child about all of the world’s peoples and religions, but don’t neglect to teach her about your own.