How I found myself enforcing church attendance

Uh-oh, this looks like trouble!

I suppose it had to happen eventually. I thought I would have a bit longer to prepare for it, but it’s rolled around pretty quickly – last Sunday, elder son decided that he wanted to stay at home with Daddy.

This is where everything goes Bizarro World, through the looking glass and into the Twilight Zone, to mix a few metaphors. My wife doesn’t want to end up dragging him off to church when he doesn’t want to go, and she was prepared to let him stay with me. One week off, if he was feeling like it, wouldn’t be the end of the world, and was less of a risk than turning Sunday mornings into a battleground.

ChurchI, on the other hand, was horrified. The very last thing I want is to have my family blaming me for my boys growing up as heathens. This would complicate everything by making me look like a bad influence, leading him astray by holding out the possibility of an alternative on Sundays. That sounds as if my main concern is personal and selfish. I hope it isn’t, and I don’t think it is, but that was the first thing that popped into my head at the time.

Here’s where it gets a bit sticky. Obviously, I don’t mind if he eventually decides on a position that’s more or less the same as mine (whatever it might be that week), but I want him to do it the right way, not on a whim or out of convenience. I wouldn’t be comfortable with him declaring himself an atheist just so that he can have a lie in, for example. Fortunately, he’s still at the age where he’s the one trying to drag us out of bed in the mornings.

But why should church be the default? Why shouldn’t he expect to stay at home and need a good reason to go out and be taught strange things? Because like it or not, it is the default for him now. It’s what he’s always done, and it seems reasonable (if not entirely logical) that he should need a decent reason not to go.

At the heart of all this, once again, is the awkwardness that comes from me having different ideas from my wife. We always used to think the same way, give or take, and there’s no disguising the fact that our growing differences are going to cause some problems. They’re also going to require a whole lot more pragmatic compromises between us.

Image courtesy of nicci, used with permission

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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.

6 responses to “How I found myself enforcing church attendance”

  1. Neil Rickert says :

    A true story about a family that I know.

    The mother regularly attended an Anglican Church, and took the children with her. The father never attended Church, but did attend a freemason’s lodge.

    One Sunday morning, the oldest son (who was younger than the daughter), decided that he didn’t want to continuing going to Church (which he found boring). So the father laid down the law. The son did not have to attend that Church, but he had to attend some Church. So the son (in fact both sons) started attending a nearby evangelical Church.

    I was that oldest son. I eventually dropped out around 10 years later. That was a very long time ago.

    I cannot tell what would have happened if I had continued attending the Anglican Church, or if I had been allowed to not attend at all. My guess is that my life would not be all that much different. My interest in science and mathematics was the major direction setter for me.

    I don’t begrudge being required to attend some Church. I supposed that I learned a lot about Christianity from that. I probably would have begrudged being forced to attend the Anglican Church, since I had found it so boring, so pointless.

    I don’t have any good advice to you, except that it is probably best if your son has enough say-so in the decision that he can own that decision and not blame it on one or both parents. Perhaps you could think about some sort of secular humanist Church as a possible choice.

    • Recovering Agnostic says :

      I’ve been thinking about this. Certainly, we need to agree about how we’re going to handle situations like this and stick with it, but I’m not sure about a humanist church. Bizarrely, I think that would cause more trouble with family than just not going to church at all.

      I’m sure I’ll be keeping you updated about any new developments.

  2. Heretic Husband says :

    I feel your pain. I’m still going to church, but still, I know that conflict is coming.

  3. Plasma Engineer says :

    I also feel your pain. I might be a little further down the road than you are and it gets no easier. Does Mrs Recovering Agnostic read your blog?

    • Recovering Agnostic says :

      Sorry, this comment got caught in the spam filter for some reason. Mrs RA does read the blog from time to time, but not religiously. (See what I did there? Ah, never mind.)

      To be honest, I’m feeling from these reactions as if I might have overstated things a bit. I know it’s going to be difficult, and I know we’re going to have to find ways to make it work, but right now, it’s not a disaster, just a general concern.

  4. Karin says :

    I wasn’t taken to church as a child, indeed when I occasionally expressed a wish to go I was forbidden, but my teenage rebellion was to start going to church and I’m still going, although not religiously. Forcing a child to go might put them off for a very long time, but adults will make up their own mind.

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