Your Kid Will Respect You More If They Explore Other Religions

Janelle Harris

PrayerI have a friend who has more than likely, at some point in his life, practiced just about every one of the major religions under the sun and probably a few that would send me on a Wikipedia look-up. He’s adventurous and a bit restless, and that combination produces questions about life that haven’t been answered by any one organized assemblage to honor God.

He’s been Muslim — both Sunni and Nation of Islam. He’s been Christian, Hebrew Israelite, and Buddhist. And he’s also observed an African faith, though I’ll never remember the name. And that was all before his junior year of college.

Now he’s content just being spiritual. But he credits his devoutly Christian parents for being open-minded enough to allow him to research and experience other religions. I would only hope I could be that flexible if Tween Girl suddenly wanted to skip Bible study to sit in at the mosque or ditch Sunday service for temple. 

If the opportunity to dabble in other beliefs gave him a greater worldview and made him more open to other’s needs — he truly is a giving person — then I would like to think I’d be all for it. Ultimately, I just want her to find what works for her and so long as she isn’t in a cult or sacrificing living creatures, I don’t think I’d have a problem with letting her see what else is out there.  

I am a born and bred church girl. So as a kid coming up in an actively Christian family, I knew my Sundays — at least from 10 a.m. to around 2 p.m. — were on reserve for the Lord. My Nana was a super sweet, easygoing woman but she was also serious about her Jesus, which meant I was free to hang out with my friends on Friday, free to schlep in front of the TV watching cartoons on Saturday.

But come Sunday morning honey, I’d better brush my teeth, throw on an appropriate dress, and be ready to park my rear end in a pew of Mt. Sinai UAME Church, no questions asked. Christianity is all I know because it’s worked fine for me my whole life. And of course, that’s how I’m raising my daughter, led by the principles I’ve picked up through the Bible and just growing up in the faith. But that’s me, and everyone is different. Even my own kid.

The important thing to me is that she builds a genuine relationship with God, not that she gets “churched,” which means mastering all of the habits and traditions — including being able to recite scripture back and forth — but never really connecting with the Lord. That would be missing the whole point. Last week, I overheard her listening to a gospel song in the midst of her hip-hop and R&B lineup. I think my heart skipped a beat. 

But I do realize there is more out there. And if, at some point, the Word isn’t speaking to Tween Girl’s spirit, I would want her to find out what does. Religion, even when you’re living under your parents' roof and observing their rules, is still a matter of personal preference. Most of the time, kids don’t feel comfortable enough to confess that they aren’t really feeling it, but I’d much rather her explore something that does that just going through the motions of the faith I imposed on her. That’s not fair.

Of course, I say all of this through the rose-colored lens of a hypothetical situation. I might just clutch my chest and have a real undignified Fred Sanford moment if she were to come and express her intent to convert to Islam or Judaism or something that doesn’t fall under the Abrahamic circle of religions. That might be just as much of a test for me as it would be for her. But for now, I’m keeping an open mind and encouraging her to figure out her own way to God.

Would you be OK with your kid practicing a different religion than you do?


Image via Lel4nd/Flickr

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