Friday, May 08, 2009
Teach them diligently to your children
Johann Hari pleads in today's Independent, "Dear God, stop brainwashing children" (link)This strikes a particular chord with me, as yesterday in the Bible study group I attend we had a free-ranging discussion on the concept of human rights. (I'm not entirely certain where I shake out theologically, but it's something along the lines of human rights being a useful political shorthand but pretty sterile for talking about morality.) In informal conversation afterwards, someone shared with me their worry that it might not be all that long before we see evangelism in predominantly Muslim areas banned because it could cause problems, or see the "indoctrination of children" banned.Now, it is true that Hari is talking about state schools rather than Sunday schools, and on the narrow point of state schools, I would tend to agree that making children participate in religious observances is not a good idea (although I, naturally, reason differently from Hari; and to my mind it is absolutely necessary for children to learn about different religions as social phenomena). My fear, though, is that Hari's logic applies equally well to Sunday schools, mid-week church children's clubs; in fact, anything involving proclaiming the gospel to children as a fact to be believed, a truth to be embraced and a person to be trusted.He argues that there is no such thing as a "Christian child", and that therefore children ought not to be taught any sort of religion at school. I question the premiss, but more unfortunately, that line of reasoning does not stop at the school gate. After all, if no child is a Christian, then no child anywhere ought to be taught to trust the Saviour.The Chinese ban the "indoctrination" of the under-18s: is it only a matter of years and decades before the UK does the same? I hope not.