Coparent Academy Podcast

Christian Indoctrination

April 25, 2022 Linda VanValkenburg and Ron Gore
Coparent Academy Podcast
Christian Indoctrination
Show Notes Transcript

In this episode, Ron and Linda talk about how parents with different religious beliefs can successfully coparent -- while teaching their child to think independently about those beliefs!

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Ron Gore:

We have a Reddit post here that we're going to talk about. And this one's about religions and will potentially be a little touchy.

Linda VanValkenburg:

Right.

Ron Gore:

So this is a situation in which the dad is concerned that mom and mom's family are indoctrinating their child. And he's got feelings about it. Some pretty strongly framed feelings about it. And it's gonna be interesting to sort of walk through all of the nuances of this, This is one of the ones that you picked... do you want to want to start us off?

Linda VanValkenburg:

Well, this has come up once again, in so many cases through the years and as a PC as well. This little girl's just a year old, and as the Father mentions here she is living with her mother and mother's parents. So that might be a little part of it, too, in that mother might do some of the religious things a little differently if she were living alone, I don't know. But you know, there are several things that father does have a problem with. He calls it indoctrination in that they do take the child to church, to children's church, have a little service at home, on Saturday, etc. And many times, like we've talked about earlier with the diet and nutrition and exercise, differences between parents frequently, they may have tempered the religious belief stuff when they were together. But now, it might seem to be two really extremes where the mother is a devout Christian and the father is a non believer, he says, so...

Ron Gore:

Well, and that, you know, the expression is being unequally yoked, is how I heard that growing up.

Linda VanValkenburg:

Yes, me too.

Ron Gore:

I can't just get past the idea at the moment that this kid's one, I mean, a one year old is not being indoctrinated, I'm sorry,

Linda VanValkenburg:

Right. And when she goes to children's church, they're just playing.

Ron Gore:

Right, that's just playing. They're not doing and not having ontological discussions.

Linda VanValkenburg:

Probably not until At least fourth grade or so....

Ron Gore:

Oh, well, that's when you get into post millennial dispensationalism. So, I mean, you have to segment this stuff out. But, so I do understand the idea that you get brought up in a community, And so in this community, in this home, in which this child is being brought up, she's going to just by osmosis take in some of these Christian practices and beliefs that he's concerned about,

Linda VanValkenburg:

Right. And no doubt, she believes that you should pray before a meal, and they're gonna let her start delivering the prayer as soon as she can speak...

Ron Gore:

and encouraging it. And who knows what that prayer will be. The, you know, his concern is that he doesn't have a good experience, I think with people who identify as Christian generally, but also, specifically, it seems like the mom's family in this, is more gatekeeping trying to keep him away from the child, whether rightly or wrongly. I mean, if it's the family, probably wrongly,

Linda VanValkenburg:

They're limiting his time with her.

Ron Gore:

So he's frustrated and angry and doesn't like these people.

Linda VanValkenburg:

And who knows they could have their own bias on the other side in that they don't want her subjected to his belief system.

Ron Gore:

Right. Exactly. I found it really interesting that he found it necessary to parenthetically describe Christianity, I think that most people have a sense of what Christianity is. And I just found his language interesting here, where he, he said Christianity and then parenthetically "a devout sect who practices the Sabbath, and believes that Jesus will return one day." I don't know about you, but when I read that, it just gives me this idea that this person is really othering this Christian family, and this is the same person, the same woman with whom presumably he chose to have a child. And so that just to me, it just jumped off the page as, I'm trying to message to everyone reading this what they are and what I am and that were entirely opposite,

Linda VanValkenburg:

Right. And you can have you know, it's kind of interesting in in the area where we live with the oil and gas industry being pretty large here, that we get people from all over the world and frequently they find each other. And, you know, I've had parents that were that were quite different. Remember a mom that was Southern Baptist and a dad that was from Iran, and he was Muslim. And he was definitely wanting his child to be of his belief system. And mom was just as fervent about her belief system. And the child had zeroed in on this. I spoke with her various times about the variations in the belief system. It boiled down to bacon.

Ron Gore:

I don't want to be...that's the first thing I was thinking. To me. It might be a food based choice.

Linda VanValkenburg:

It did-- it boiled down to specifically bacon. And she did and she was much older than this one year old. She was eight or nine when I first talked to her about it. And she, in fact, I even testified about the bacon in my testimony to the court, and the judge even wrote it in her summation that she would hope that the parents would give each other the freedom to let the child express what she wanted on on either side

Ron Gore:

Yeah. And from my perspective, that's what it's all about. And this a short sighted thing that parents do. I mean, it's like they've never seen Footloose. You know, if you try to force your beliefs on a child, they try to curb what they can or can't do, they're just going to rebel. So in this situation, the best thing that both parents can do is to provide a loving platform to give the information to educate on both sides of it. And then when the child is an adult, the child will make a decision for herself, that probably incorporates, hopefully, the best of both. But if one side is treating the other as heretical, and forcing the child to choose sides, then she'll either choose a side to the detriment of the other and herself. Or she'll choose neither. And leave them both behind.

Linda VanValkenburg:

That could be and the little girl in the in the bacon story. Yeah, she really, really enjoyed attending services with both parents, and she did almost every Sunday, attend the opposite services. And I thought it was really sweet how much she did seem to enjoy certain parts of each of the rituals of the different belief systems. As long as she got to eat bacon, she was happy.

Ron Gore:

Well, there's so much potential comfort there, too, From the different rituals? I don't know. So, I imagine. Not imagine. I have fear for this child as she gets older. And sort of the campaign, I can imagine this dad being on to try to convince her that Christianity is wrong, or whatever else, instead of letting her sort of discover for herself, and but again, I guess from dad's perspective, it seems like an unfairly waged war.

Linda VanValkenburg:

It's several against him, I think, the way he looks at it. I do find some hope, in his statement that while I don't agree with their beliefs, I also don't want to tell my daughter how foolish I think they are. She loves them, and will obviously look up to her mother and grandmother as she grows up. That tells me that no matter how strongly he believes in their foolishness, he does see how important the bigger picture is of her love for them. And that he hasn't, I think, already told his daughter how foolish that he sees that belief system.

Ron Gore:

You know what, you're exactly right. That's a great piece of hopefulness in there. Yeah, man. I think also, he was maybe venting a little bit and how he did the post because when he summarized it, he did his TLDR at the bottom there, the "too long didn't read." And he said, as a non-believer, what are some tactics you use to teach your child to think independently about religious beliefs? So that is a great expression a great question. And that doesn't have any of the same sort of tone as the rest of his post, And so I think he was working through the emotion in the post and then when he thought, "how do I sum this up, what I really think and what I'm really doing," it was, I think, a nicely worded, legitimate concern.

Linda VanValkenburg:

And that one touched a spot on me. I grew up the only child of a minister and a very restrictive and particular, as he would call it, sect, Christianity. And as such, my parents did not want me to think independently ever, about our religious beliefs. And while I questioned many of them, especially, the more daily, practical kinds of applications, I was never voicing it aloud, because I didn't want to seem to be in any way opposing my parents, and as the preacher's kid didn't voice them, of course, at a Sunday school class or anywhere like that. But as I got older, I even went for my undergraduate degree to that particular denominational college, because my parents didn't want me to be exposed to other belief systems, even at that age. And at that point, I was still going along to get along with my parents. And then I went to a state school for my graduate training, and on purpose I took a lovely class called transpersonal human development, where I got to listen to reel to reel tapes, believe it or not, also dating myself there, of Timothy Leary, and Aldous Huxley, Baba Ram Das, and some really interesting people, from the 60s and 70s, that I'd never heard of before while I lived under a rock at that point, and we didn't have a television. So I finally did get my exposure to and education in, you know, certain things like that. But I was not encouraged. I remember, in high school, I dated a guy that was of a, I would say, a cousin to denomination to ours and that was even with much begging that I was allowed to go to his church a couple of times with him.

Ron Gore:

Wow, perish the thought.

Linda VanValkenburg:

Oh, yes, exactly. Because I were afraid I would switch, I guess, denominations. So through the years, I've come to see If anything, it filled me with a desire to experience other religious beliefs. You know, I've visited mosques in different parts of the world, and, you know, I duck in every church I go by when I'm traveling, you know, I just really want to see how, you know, Greek Orthodox, and just I've just been totally thrilled by them, and how my spirit responds to the different places of worship that I go to. I have a very similar response to each one of those places, you know.

Ron Gore:

Right.

Linda VanValkenburg:

And so I would hope for this child, this little baby, that she is -and to answer his question - that that she is allowed to experience other religions with an open mind and her father will have an open mind to her doing so.