Yesterday’s post sparked discussion about a specific situation we will surely find ourselves in (and maybe some of you are currently). The situation is that of their friends pressuring our teenage children to join their religious group.
Fran was the first to mention “peer pressure for Jesus”, and then Cassandra, from The Atheist Mama, expressed one of her fears:
But when you have 14 year olds (for example) asking to go to church with their friends – well, Iâ€™m not so sure how I feel about situations like that. Young people are so easily drawn in to things, especially when it looks like a good opportunity for â€œhappinessâ€ and â€œacceptanceâ€ and â€œforgiveness.â€
When teenagers are starting to search for their beliefs, and themselves, I think that stepping in and steering them in the right direction may be important.
I watched a 14 year old boy join the Mormon church. His family (xian, but not really church-goers) was dumbfounded. It all started when he stayed at a friend’s house one night and went to church with them the next day, just to hang outâ€¦
I know that in the past, some have suggested exposing our children to other peoples’ religions. I can see the benefits of this, especially when our kids are young and we are there with them to explain it the way we see it. But what about sending them with their friends? Cassandra is right that those formative teen years give the child a desperate need to find a cause that is separate from their parents’. They need to belong somewhere where they will feel accepted. The “acceptance” they will encounter at churches will be alluring, but deceiving, because the acceptance comes with unrealistic and manipulative conditions.
Having been a Mormon teenager myself, I have witnessed numerous times how teens take on a martyr-complex when their parents don’t allow them to get baptized. I’ve seen how the church members feed that complex; how church members pit the child against the parents by insinuating that the parents are fighting alongside Satan against God’s will.
I had already decided that I would never allow one of my children to get baptized in a church of their choosing as long as they are not legal adults. I already anticipate this problem because Mormons dominate our city (Mesa, Arizona). I have already told my son, Blake, who asked about getting baptized when he attended his cousin’s baptism, that joining a church is a decision for mature adults, not children and teenagers. I had not really thought about the inevitable times when their friends will invite them to church after sleepovers, or to activities during the week.
Do we outlaw all participation in church services and activities? Will that seem paranoid? Does that matter? Do we let them go and then talk about it with them afterwards?
After thinking about my experiences as a teen, I feel inclined to not allow it at all. But maybe I am reacting to the anger I am starting to feel at my memories.
What are your thoughts and experiences on the matter?
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