The All-New Jesus Show

Older son’s at an age where he’s realised that some things aren’t real, but he doesn’t know which ones, or how to tell the difference. He’ll be watching TV and ask me if Mister Maker is actually real, and then I’ll have to explain that there’s a real man who really makes things, but he’s not really called Mister Maker, he doesn’t really live in a cardboard box, and no, he doesn’t live in the TV either, which then usually leads to a long discussion about how TVs work.

Iggle Piggle

“This is a toy, it’s a different Iggle Piggle on TV, and he’s not real either, he’s a man in a suit, but the man’s real…”

He can get confused by the strangest things – I once had to explain how I knew the Octonauts aren’t real:

Well, animals don’t talk, and they don’t wear clothes, do they? And they don’t live in huge motorised underwater mobile homes, and polar bears aren’t really the same size as cats and penguins, and there’s definitely no such thing as vegimals, and above all, it’s a cartoon.

It’s not that he’s stupid – in fact, he’s very bright. But he gets confused because things that are real are mixed up with things that aren’t. He knows that Octonauts teaches him about all sorts of really amazing sea creatures (and does it very well – you should hear him on the subject of Snapping Shrimps or Vampire Squid). So he expects everything else about the programme to be real as well, even the walking, talking vegetables.

And this is the boy we pack off to Sunday school to be told all sorts of implausible stories by real people out of a real book. How’s he meant to know what to do in a situation like that?

He isn’t, of course – that’s the point. He’s meant to accept that the stories are true, because they’re being told by a nice person he knows. And he knows that you learn true things at school, so Sunday school must be just the same, but on a different day. Deliberate or not, and regardless of whether Christians are right, this is indoctrination. He’s being taught “facts” which are highly questionable at best, at an age where he isn’t able to rationally assess them for himself. That makes me sad.

More than that, though, I feel guilty. I know this is going on, and I’m not doing anything about it. He enjoys Sunday school, there aren’t really any easy alternatives, and to be honest, I just don’t want to take on my whole family over this. I’ll keep trying to help him to think about things and not believing things just because someone he heard them from someone he trusts.

I just wish I didn’t have to face choices like this.

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About Recovering Agnostic

I'm Christian by upbringing, agnostic by belief, cynical by temperament, broadly scientific in approach, and looking for answers. My main interest at the moment is in turning my current disengaged shrug into at least a working hypothesis.

10 responses to “The All-New Jesus Show”

  1. Chris says :

    You’ll pull through. I can’t imagine how difficult this must be. I haven’t any kids… but I hope to within the next five years. I know that my fiancee and I think along the same lines but even with that I shudder to think about the subtle things that we disagree on and imparting them to a child. All one can do is be honest I guess 🙂

  2. theanxiouschild says :

    Your son actually sounds very smart. I think he will figure things out for himself faster than other boys because he is aready processing these things. My son just believed everything we told him.

  3. thesauros says :

    Well, you can pull him out of Sunday School. Just don’t make the mistake of thinking that isn’t indoctrination as well. Your attitude toward Church or Jesus or what Jesus talk is being soaked up like a sponge by your son. Words or no words, you, the dad are teaching your son. That’s why the song has the words, “Lord help me be like Jesus, ’cause my son wants to be like me.”

    • Recovering Agnostic says :

      So Protecting him from indoctrination is indoctrination? I think that’s a rather eccentric viewpoint.

      Of course, everything I do will have some impact one way or another, but to compare the act of minimising the amount of direct, specific proselytising (for any cause) that my children are exposed to with indoctrination is just nuts.

      • tomsk says :

        Not as nuts as you think. Educate is what enlightened old me does; indoctrinate is what those iffy types do. We all try to impart our values to our children. We try to prevent them developing values we disapprove of. I would say indoctrination is seeking to prevent thinking for one’s self.

        God doesn’t have grandchildren. We have to decide for ourselves. There is such a thing as religious indoctrination of kids, but i think often all that achieves is give people further to plummet.

        If what’s being taught is inimical to your values, OK. But brainwashing’s being sold time-share, not your average Sunday School (do they teach them how to survive the necessary nuclear armageddon in the Holy Land to hasten His return..?).

        I think there was a human rights case about secular types not wanting their children to be forced to go to a religious school. The court held that the parents could still influence their children. You can balance out what you’re uncomfortable with in junior’s world. You can also ask yourself if what you’re uncomfortable with means you think it necessary to stop your children being exposed to it.

      • Recovering Agnostic says :

        Educate is what enlightened old me does; indoctrinate is what those iffy types do

        Very true, and I do love an irregular verb. But however you slice it, keeping a child from being exposed to a very specific agenda != indoctrination. That’s the claim I object to.

        I want my boys to grow up understanding different points of view, so they can make up their own minds about all sorts of things. I don’t want to stop them from learning about Christianity, and I don’t even want to prevent them from choosing to become Christians if they want. But it’s very hard to give them a balanced view if they’re being told that the claims at issue are true, especially when their grasp of what’s real and what isn’t is rather shaky.

        In all honesty, this probably isn’t the biggest thing to worry about, but I don’t feel entirely happy about it either.

  4. theaspirationalagnostic says :

    I tend to present things as ‘some people think this is true’. We (9,6 and 4 year olds) were actually talking about God a minute ago. They were telling me their own personal versions of what ‘god’ is, and I told them that we can think about what we would like to be true, but we’re not going to know for sure until we die (if then).

    • Recovering Agnostic says :

      There’s plenty that gets covered in Sunday school – some of it good, some not so good. In fact, there’s room for Sunday school to cover some very interesting an useful subjects. But the reason for it existing is fundamentally to make more little Christians. He wouldn’t (or shouldn’t) get taught things like this as facts at school, but Sunday school’s an entirely different matter, and why not? It’s entirely voluntary, and exists for church children. In my situation, though, it’s also very complicated.

  5. duanetoops says :

    Reblogged this on The Alchemist's Imagination and commented:
    I haven’t been very productive with my blog as of late. My academic endeavors have been more than all consuming. I’ve even become increasing behind on the blog that I often enjoy reading. Through the process of catching up I’ve come across a few pieces that I’ve enjoyed or that have hit home and struck a chord with me and I’d like to share them.

    This blog is one such piece. I have found myself in almost the exact same position as this writer. As one has come of age in the throws of Evangelical/Conservative protestant Christendom, who no has two young children and who has also walked away from the church, faith, and theism, this seemed to me to be a very poignant essay which raises many of the very same concerns that I have had.

    Enjoy!

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