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theology and child rearing: influence of theology

My intention in this little series is 2-fold - to express my opinions on the matter because I haven’t really brought it up before and it’s important to me…and this is my blog and I can damnit ;) and to provoke some thought on the matter. I would esp. like to challenge those people in my current tribe (namely - the emergent folks) who uphold ideologies of non violence, peace making, radical grace etc. to think about theology as it relates to our treatment of children - not just OUR children but ALL children.

I don’t want to debate the whether or not spanking is ok - - if you want that debate, I can guide you to lots of resources. What I wanted to think about here and encourage others to join with me, is how our engagement with our God affects our relationships with children.

The initial theology that I think comes into play with regard to parenting is our belief about original sin.

Because I do not see my children as “little sinners” who do everything out of an inborn impulse to offend God, I view their behavior in a different light. That does not mean I allow the behavior but rather, my choices about how to deal with it is different because of my view on this issue. In addition, my children’s misbehavior doesn’t terrify me as much as it does others I know who hold a different original sin theology…primarily, I don’t feel responsible for driving sin out of my kids.

This cascades nicely into views about how God interacts with our wrongdoings. I do not believe God orders the universe to punish us and I do not believe (as I mentioned in a comment before) that a parent spanking a child can be paralleled with the Spirit convicting me of sin.

Other views I think that affect our treatment of children are issues of justice, power, human rights, personhood, etc. I do not believe that I have a theologically supported moral imperative to use my position of power (not just physical strength but vocal, monetary, etc.) to shift things my way. I do not believe it is fundamentally right to use force as the swiftest way to accomplish my end unless I am giving my power away to those who are being oppressed. I don’t want my children to learn that when something isn’t right, you just use your strength to  force it to go your way.

In our family, we emphasize the value taught by Jesus of being “the last” and elevating the other (not necessarily at the expense of the self). Of advocating for justice and being the voice of those who have no voice.  When I remember that my child is fully human, a complete person and apply the golden rule to her, I treat her differently. If someone hit me to try to get me to do or not do something, it would be called hitting. It would be violence. Why we do not call it the same in regard to powerless children continues to mystify me.

There are many other theologies that affect our treatment of children but I’ll end this installment there.

our theology and child rearing: a history
theology and child rearing: what is discipline?
theology and child rearing: the Bible
theology and child rearing: influence of/on theology
theology and children: conclusion - how I want to live

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  1. Pingback - Swinging from the Vine » our theology and child rearing: a history — February 8, 2009 #

    [...] and child rearing: the Bibletheology and child rearing: influence of/on theologytheology and children: conclusion - how I want to [...]

  2. Heidi — February 8, 2009 #

    Again, thank you! I laughed out loud when I read this post because it parallels a post I wrote recently about the original sin doctrine and “believing the worst” about ourselves and our children.

    My post is here if you’re interested:


    I’m bookmarking your posts to go back over and think more about…I love the idea of advocating for justice and being the voice for the voiceless - modeling that with kids. It seems like such a “no duh” to me now but I remember when it wasn’t.

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