Sunday, February 18, 2007

How Not To Pray For Your Kids

Things come together from different directions.

A month or two ago, a friend gave me a catalog of Christian kitsch that she said had "bad karma" which I accepted with bemusement. I looked at it and thought, OK. It had some trust cues I look for and thought these guys were probably all right, but I probably wouldn't do business with them. They had lots of resources for home schoolers and were big time into supplying resources to help Christian parents raise their kids right. There were items that I thought were perhaps heavy-handed, but I knew the thinking that went into it and agree with what they're trying to do: raise your kids right.

But something nagged me. The bad karma comment rang true, but I couldn't identify what it was that bothered me about it. I shrugged and it remained a nagging question.

I go to a great church. Blythefield Hills Baptist Church does several things I dislike, but they do some things incredibly well. For one thing, they've managed the cultural shift very well. If you have been in a cave since the 1960s, you'll note there's been some changes to American culture and Blythefield had managed to stay on top of them. You may have also heard of the Psychobabylonian Captivity Of The Church, where the gospel has been recast in terms of psychotherapeutic categories that it is incomprehensible. However, Blythefield, specifically Louis has managed to synthesize the psychobabel and the Bible to come up with a Biblical message that leverages psychology's insights into human nature.

This happened this morning. The notes are available here. Louis hit some really great points that I won't repeat here, but encourage you to read for yourself.
His analysis of anger and fear being "check engine lights" belying wrong beliefs alone is worth the price of admission, but I already said, read the link.

The Bible passage was James 4:1-3 that goes like this:
From whence come wars and fightings among you? come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members?

Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war, yet ye have not, because ye ask not.

Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts.

And then Louis mentioned two prayers that I would have never considered in this context. Usually, when I read verse 3 of that passage I think of Red Corvettes and Beach Houses. But Louis mentioned praying for your kids. Praying for your kids and James 4:3? How does that follow? Oh. You know how everyone likes to brag about their kids. And if your kids are particularly pious, it reflects well upon your own spirituality, doesn't it? It's a big boost to the old ego and reputation among the other Baptists if your kid grows up to be as big a Baptist as you are. The chest swells with pride just thinking about it.

My sister-in-law is a Missionary. And I love her kids (who are all nearly grown up now) and I recall thinking when they were small how unfortunate it was that their family fortunes, their support levels, were tied to the kids' behavior. I don't know how heavy-handedly they were raised, but I cringe at the thought of what might have been. Similarly, I have friend who was a Christian school administrator (and my kids' guidance counselor). He's also got kids same age as mine. What kind of pressure did HE face when his kids were kids?

Now, I think I understand the bad karma remark. My friend who gave me the catalog added a word to my vocabulary last year: individuation. I've often told my own kids and whatever of my friends' kids I could get my hands on that "You have to decide for yourself who you are. You have to figure out for yourself what you believe. Your parents' faith has to become your faith." I thought that was just plain growing up, becoming mature. And my friend told me that is called individuation. I suppose this is one of those psychobabel jargon terms.

The bad karma is when you raise your kids and you pray for your kids for your own vain glorious pride. It's natural to love your kids and want them to exceed you. It's natural and wrong to use them as props in your own little stage play entitled, "look how righteous I am, and how my righteousness has infused my kids."

It is possible to avoid this anti-pattern when raising your kids. I think it starts with priorities: is God ahead of the kids? is your spouse ahead of the kids? are the kids ahead of your reputation? I wonder if my friend's "bad karma" came about because she's seen folks who put their reputations first. Then, acting from those mistaken priorities, sought resources that they misused thereby creating bad karma.

1 comment:

Christine Ansorge said...

Very interesting. The pressure on "ministry kids" is one way to gauge the reality of a group's faith. If the group insists that people's behavior be controlled, then they are a tad short on faith.